We realized a couple things after part one of the fourth annual Treasure Island Music Festival:
1) Everything is much the same as years past. There’s still the solid network of free shuttle transportation to get you to the island. There’s still the same layout: two stages, Ferris Wheel and assortment of art and fashion stops. And there’s still the spectacular sunset over the Bay, framed by the Bay Bridge and that beautiful fog-shrouded city skyline.
2) The wind blows. On an island rising out of the San Francisco Bay, there’s no hiding from the elements. Plenty of festival-goers, sporting their skimpiest outfits for the dance parties and Deadmau5 were forced into submission by the cold. But it’s Fall. In the Bay. What could you expect?
3) The older you get the classier you get. Was LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang sipping a vintage chardonnay between songs? Whatever it was, it was sophisticated–an approach that comes with age. Mr. Kruder and Mr. Dorfmeister dressed in sharp suits, displaying class that’s been brewing ever since since they emerged in the early 90s DJ scene. Even the older photogs in the pit had some swag. One guy snapped away, with his 8-month old baby in tow, headphones and all.
4) Baseball scores travel like wildfire through packed crowds in a city that hasn’t had a contender in seven years.
5) Saturday is as danceable as ever. From Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s striptease to Nic Offer–lead singer of !!!–exploring the studio space, TIMF2010′s Saturday was a dance party that was just asking to be ignited. Of course with LCD and Deadmau5, and solid early sets from the likes of Holy Fuck and Wallpaper, there were plenty of sparks to start the blaze.
A few recaps of Saturday’s highlights after the jump…
Within the first beats of Holy Fuck’s opening, lead keyboardist Brian Borcherdt was simultaneously playing an antique film strip—yes, that stuff used for movies–and swallowing a mic. The almost-electronic band avoided the laptops and loops of their more digital compatriots, incorporating instead a 35-mm film synchronizer, a slew of kids’ keyboards and a top-notch live bassist and drummer (clean and technical, drummer Matt Schulz earned his keep). What resulted was the optimistic “Fallen Allen,” crested by a sweetly seesawing keyboard strain, and the syncopated and funky “Red Lights,” which had the four Canadians hunched and enthusiastically bobbing in unison.
Jamaica was a wildcard for festival organizers. Sure they had the backing of Daft Punk’s sound technician, Peter Franco, as well as the support of Justice’s Xavier de Rosnay, but they had only played two previous shows in the U.S. before their TIMF2010 appearance, and those were in the last two days. It was even more confusing when the duo’s bassist Florent Lyonnet went missing due to injury and had to replaced with a temp touring member a matter of weeks before their appearance. But all fears were erased with the first throwback chords of “Cross the Fader.” Antoine Hilaire, the other half of Jamaica, pulled it together with his touring members to produce a jamming 40 minutes of head-banging material. Jamaica played songs all from their debut, No Problem, and were quite shocked to find that even though the album hadn’t been released in the U.S., there were still a handful of fans who knew the words to songs like “Short and Entertaining” and “When Do You Wanna Stop Working.” Hilaire was also grateful for the small crowd’s dedication, despite the cold. “You look so beautiful in your t-shirts and your white arms,” he said, wrapped in a scarf and multiple layers to keep out the chills.
Where to start with Die Antwoord? With three shows in a span of 24 hours in the same city, rumors spread like shockwaves through the crowd: They did what at the Independent? Hoping to enlighten themselves, eager festival-goers gathered at the Bridge Stage at 3 p.m. to witness South Africa’s next great cultural creation. What they were treated to was simply a mindfuck of antics. Yo-Landi Vi$$er complimented her helium-powered voice with bouts of water spitting into the crowd, suggestive dancing and a knack for baring her butt for all to see. Ninja followed up with his own debauchery, displaying his infamous hip thrust and getting intimate with the crowd with an impromptu stage dive. Oh, and the music was top notch. Ranging from “Evil Boy” to “Rich Bitch,” the threesome embarked on a mixed language rap journey that even saw Ninja break out into a spontaneous freestyle. “Beat Boy” was especially impressive, as a winded Ninja rapped for 10 minutes straight, spewing some of the most expletive lyrics of any genre of music. “Be happy!” Yo-Landi said as they exited. We’re just happy we’re not that nutters.
Following the guano-jacked Die Antwoord, the New York duo Phantogram brought a more ethereal and brooding intensity to the early afternoon. Gliding through this year’s Eyelid Movies, keyboardist Sarah Barthel’s breathy and haunting vocals wove in and out of Josh Carter’s guitar, though the pair sounded best when both were manning the mics, as in the throbbing “Bloody Palms.” The pair’s lush cadence had girls swaying in the Treasure Island breeze, only interrupted by the flashes of feedback that organizers were eventually able to tame. Phantogram’s choice as of late to add a real drummer in their live act paid off for the high-hat heavy “Turn It Off” and the Carter-led “You are the Ocean.”
!!! brought the funk, picking up where Holy Fuck left off a few hours before. But instead of the hunched over odd noisemakers, the Sacramento-by-way-of-Brooklyn band, featured Nic Offer (see: video above), a lead singer who was “made for the camera.” And he proceeded to show it, rivaling Yo-Landi Vi$$er’s feigned striptease, dancing behind the Bridge Stage’s decorative sails and grinding on fellow vocalist Shannon Funchess. The moves incited mini crowd dance parties as audience members shuffled their feet to favorites like “Me and Giuliani Down By The School Yard” and recent hit, “The Hammer.” Even a lack of sleep couldn’t stop !!!, who had played in Tokyo the night before. “Tokyo at night, San Francisco in the afternoon. Three hours of sleep. That’s how it goes,” Offer hollered as the band closed their set.
On the Tunnel Stage on Sunday during the evening sets it was a tale of two decades. First up, Kruder & Dorfmeister, the Austrian electronic pioneers, took the stage, backed by a massive LCD display and the best visuals of the day. Introduced by two hype men, Mr. Kruder and Mr. Dorfmeister were reserved, remaining behind their stereo fortress as they spundown tempo house mixes to a laidback crowd. Deadmau5, was second up, and arguably the most anticipated act of the day, judging by the amount of mau5 heads in the crowd. Standing behind his now infamous broken cube platform and with his own set of hi-tech visuals, Deadmau5, aka Joel Thomas Zimmerman, varied his set mixing newer dub experimentations with favorites such as “Ghosts N Stuff.” The crowd was particularly rowdy for this one, addressed by a gracious Zimmerman who lovingly flipped them the bird before exiting the stage.
Miike Snow was slotted at the Tunnel stage behind Deadmau5, and fans had to decide whether to relinquish territory for LCD or be content with hearing the Swedish outfit from afar. The latter folk missed a fog-and-light, wall-of-sound display that boasted six masked men arranged on equipment eerily similar to the film “Metropolis.” The set, minus the kick-ass closer, was drawn from the band’s eponymous album, though the live songs abandoned the gloss and cheerful recorded elements and instead turned up the lurking bass lines to full sonic tilt. The slowed down chorus of “Cult Logic” and brooding “Burial” set the majestic and ominous pace for the night, morphing into the pounding instrumental at “Black & Blue” mid-song. Favorites “Silvia” and “Animal” produced the expected dance pits, but it was the quirky closing cover of Vampire Weekend’s “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” that lit up the San Francisco skyline, singer Andrew Wyatt intoning, “Kids… don’t… stand… chance” to exit the night.
LCD Soundsystem’s Saturday set proved to be a set of contradictions. Closing out the Bridge Stage on day one, they were the only headliner on the main stage not to use the massive LCD display behind them, opting for a simpler approach with flashing spotlights. So much for the name. On the audio front, the band opted to play a smattering of offerings from newest album, This Is Happening, opening with the popular “Dance Yrself Clean,” and later playing “You Wanted A Hit.” “You wanted a hit, but maybe we don’t do hits/ I try and try, it ends up feeling kind of wrong,” sang James Murphy, in his trademark ice cream suit.
But glancing around, at the thousands harmonizing with the DFA co-founder, LCD definitely created some hits, a bunch of them. It’s taken a couple years, but LCD has finally risen out of the pages of Pitchfork and indieland name-dropping to become household names, hit-providers if you will. And it wasn’t hard to see why. From Murphy playing a double cowbell to Pat Mahoney’s frenetic drumming to Nancy Whang’s keyboard command, these seasoned vets have created music that’s inescapable and infectious in a style that’s unmistakably their own. Who else could write a song which has the crowd screaming “Yeah” for 10 minutes? And for the final contradiction of the night, the band played the beautiful “Home” when no one really wanted to head for the exit, unable to play an encore and eventually walking off stage into the cold San Francisco night.
Treeswingers’ Top Three
LCD Soundsystem- Home (download)
Vampire Weekend- The Kid’s Don’t Stand A Chance (Miike Snow Remix) (download)
Die Antwoord- Beat Boy (download)
-Ryan & Marisa
A version of this review appeared in The Stanford Daily on Friday, Oct. 22.