Treasure Island Music Festival
Treasure Island, San Francisco, CA
MGMT, Girl Talk, MSTRKRFT, The Streets, Passion Pit, Murs
I expected two things out of the first day of San Francisco’s Third Annual Treasure Island Music Festival: a sea of hipsters and a day of full-blown dancing, Northern California’s smaller take on Coachella. I was not disappointed, and while Treasure Island certainly cannot compete with the larger festivals like Bonnaroo or Outside Lands, it was a rewarding mini-blowout complete with ferris wheel, fireworks, a sunset beyond the San Francisco skyline and Golden Gate Bridge, and great music. Most importantly, it confirmed the status of dance and electronica in this country: enduringly popular, and here to stay.
We arrived just in time to see LA-based rapper Murs take the stage. He covered a standard amount of original material about girls, pot and his dreadlocks, with his DJ spinning bouncy electronica infused hip hop beats complete with heavy synth breakdowns. Proving that electronica would be the focus of the day, he then performed a Crookers remix of his rap-over-electro collaboration with Busy P of Ed Banger Records, along with rapping over a Dubstep tune his DJ threw on. He also provided the audience with such moral gems as “Don’t pop your pills until sundown” and “Steal music—it’s free!”
After a bathroom run and quick tour of what the art exhibits and booths had to offer (trampolines, a mural with artwork by professional San Francisco artists, a mini freak show, free hugs), we came back to the main stage to watch Passion Pit. I was not impressed. The lead singer’s voice carried over the grounds like a hurt kitten, and besides that, nothing about the group or their performance stood out. Dan Deacon took the stage next with a cacophony of musicians and instruments, including two full drum kits. However, this style of experimental electronic music walks a dangerous line, and the show was not anything worth noting. Sure, there were some songs that made me want to dance, but ultimately there was nothing to keep me entertained enough to take part in his interpretive audience-inclusive dance, and we left to grab some beer.
Next up were The Streets, who took the stage with a new addition, a reggae hype man. They performed a good amount of songs off their most well-known album, A Grand Don’t Come For Free, although the addition of a reggae sound seemed out of place, and the new guy shouted over Michael Skinner’s soft spoken choruses, drowning out the best parts of their songs. As DJ Krush came to the second stage we went to refuel on alcohol and food, and we could hear his trip hop beats drifting over the grounds. It was a pretty inspired set, and although we didn’t pay too close attention, the mixture of hip hop, electronica, dubstep, and electro that he played perfectly set up the mood for what was ahead as the sun started to sink in the sky. At this point while we were wandering we saw a kid dressed up as Max from Where the Wild Things Are, complete with gold crown. There was also a Star Wars storm trooper and someone dressed up as a dalmatian, giving out hugs and taking pictures with people. We skipped Brazilian Girls and LTJ Bukem featuring MC Conrad to lie on the grass by the fence and watch the beautiful sunset just beyond the city skyscape and prepare for MSTRKRFT, the group I went to this festival to see.
As MSTRKRFT took the stage, the audience swelled and expanded rapidly, and soon we were in the middle of a huge dance party. From talking with people throughout the day, I established that a good amount of people there didn’t know MSTRKRFT or even electro music. In light of that, MSTRKRFT did an amazing job of getting the crowd going. Or maybe everyone just wanted to dance. Either way, everyone within eyesight was getting down. They played a few of their own songs, such as “Heartbreaker” and “Vuvuvu” off their new album, Fist of God, and wove their remix of Justice’s “D.A.N.C.E” into The Chemical Brothers’ remix of Daft Punk’s “Too Long.” Then, asking the crowd “Do you guys like house music? ‘Cause we wanna play some house” and getting an overwhelming response of yes, they transitioned into some standard nineties house track before finishing it all off with an amazing rendition of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” that had every single person in attendance singing along. While it was not the best performance of MSTRKRFT’s I’ve ever seen (Coachella 2009 being the best), it was truly great and the perfect group to get the dance party going once the sun was down.
Up next was Girl Talk, and while my friends took a break to relieve themselves, I stood by the back of the crowd to see what he has to offer this time around. People have mixed opinions of Girl Talk’s live shows, saying that once you’ve seen him once, it’s enough. He doesn’t really change up his set, and I wanted to see if that applied, having seen him last April at Coachella. It didn’t. Girl Talk blew me and, judging by the massive dance party that was going on even way at the back of the crowd, everyone else away with spanking new mash-ups that had been added to his repetoire since the last time I saw him, weaving them in with some of the premier excerpts from Feed the Animals; laying new pop songs (Phoenix, Lady Gaga, Kid Cudi) over rock classics (Van Halen, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Smashing Pumpkins) with plenty of rap excerpts to top it off (TI, YoungBloodz, Ludacris) to create a unique set, closing over an awesome display of fireworks thirty feet from the stage, just barely higher than the lit up Ferris Wheel, that got everyone jumping to his rendition of “Shout.” It was a sight, with the stage crowded with girls and people in costumes. The whole festival gathered around the stage, singing along, fireworks going off for a good five minutes just 50 feet up in the sky, smoke blowing down into the crowd, and ash hitting our faces as each firework burst, and the song changed into a “Tiny Dancer”/”Juicy” remix as the fireworks tapered off.
As soon as the final beats faded into silence the opening chords of MGMT’s “Time to Pretend” sounded, and there was a mad rush to the other stage, everyone singing along and dancing as they ran over. They played all of Oracular Spectacular before slowing down and performing about 30 minutes of more experimental jam-band new music.
As we waited (for over an hour) in line to get on a shuttle back to our car in the city, we saw what was the coolest art exhibit of the day: a man holding a chain of balloons with LED’s in them that stretched up over the island for hundreds of feet, swaying in the wind. We could hear the distant thumps of the unannounced performance of DJ Morale, playing pitch-perfect electro, house and dubstep to wrap up the night. –Jessie Wood
Treasure Island Music Festival