For those of you who missed it, another year of the Treasure Island Music Festival started with a bang on Saturday. First off – this festival is probably my favorite place to see music. The lineups are usually pretty stellar (while they’re not 100% my cup of tea, I can certainly appreciate the high-level talent this festival is bringing), and the setting is flawless. Seeing The City from Treasure Island as the sun sets gives you an amazing feeling; wind in your hair, SF looking all 1989-Gotham City-esque, music rising over your head… it just doesn’t get much better than that.
As always, the staples were there; silent disco (I NEVER miss a silent disco, brah), great food, gross Heineken, art installations and bubbles. Oh yeah, and a bunch of awesome music. This year they also added a comedy tent near the entrance of the festival but none of the acts could entice me or my friends from the music.
The big names came to play on Saturday, so we decide to focus on our favorite moments, but make sure to check out the gallery for more stellar acts.
Run The Jewels
Coming out to Queen’s “We are The Champions,” Run the Jewels wasted absolutely no time getting right into the grittiness that we all love them for. I believe Killer Mike’s first words out were, “We’re gonna burn this stage to the mothafuckin’ ground.” And that they did as they jumped right into “Blockbuster Night Part 1.” One great thing about this group is not only their unique, grimy beats, but it translates incredibly well to the stage. With songs like “Sea Legs” and “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”, the energy was high – and almost everyone in the crowd seemed to know just about every lyric to every song. I remember learning about Killer Mike when I lived back in Atlanta, and it’s amazing to see him come this far and making this kind of music – in your face, yet poetic, with tons of gusto.
If we had to file a complaint, it’s that we didn’t get a taste of any of the tracks off their new remix album Meow The Jewels.
Sound Tribe Sector Nine
STS9 was the band that I came to see. I grew up with this band, and their transition from the days of a “woo-woo’ing” Murph (their former bassist who left the band last year) to the master of thump, Alana Rocklin, has been flawless. While they were playing mostly newer song (something that several Tribe fans I know would have definitely be poo-poo’ing, not woo-woo’ing), this 2.0 version of the band brings the old familiar energy with a new blistering heat from Rocklin. The most important thing to come out of this was that the band got some great exposure in The City (did I mention that scary amount of people at that festival didn’t know who Tribe was?), especially since the band recently announced new dates at the fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland on January 29th (presale tickets go on a sale this Thursday!). I’m hoping that they delivered a 50 minute dose of wake up call for electronic fans here who should probably get edumicated, but hey – if not, more room for me to party in January I guess.
It’s always a huge trip for me to see Big Boi in the flesh. Growing up a young buck in Atlanta, Outkast was almost a way of life. Everyone had their Outkast stories – friends seeing Andre 3000 in Waffle House, Big Boi at Lenox mall… things like that. But for some reason it wasn’t until last year that I actually got a chance to see them live (well, I guess that hiatus had something to do with it, but still shame on me). That’s why when Big Boi and Phantogram dropped this new album, I was excited. The album was great – but knowing that they’d be perform this year at TIMF is what really got me excited.
An obvious highlight here for me was the “Miss Jackson / Mouthful of Diamonds” mashup, which had the entire crowd bouncing. It might not be the most cutty Outkast song, sure, but damnit that song is great. The band brought out Run The Jewels for the popular (and vulgar) tune “Born to Shine,” which was energetic and on point as it was vulgar. The energy between Big Boi and Sarah Barthel is electric and (as a very casual hip hop / electronic listener) seems to be an obvious match. I did hear a bit of chatter about Big Boi “coasting” and that this was an “easy fit” for him, but whatever, fuck that – I thought it was pretty cool. Throw a “CPU” in there and I’d say they left the crowd satisfied and pumped for the next Big Grams tour.
FKA Twigs was a definitely an outlier at TIMF. Sandwiched between Hudson Mohawke and the debut of Big Grams, one would think there would be a lot of pressure to try to match their over the top style. But that’s not FKA Twigs.
A late substitution for Robyn, FKA Twigs put on a show that was sparse, forceful and haunting. Hiding in the shadows she emerged to deliver breathy lyrics and demonstrate her advanced training in contemporary dance. It was not for everyone, with some in the crowd understandably confused by her act. It was however one of the only acts I have seen in awhile that didn’t rely on a light show to visually stun the audience.
The Deadmau5 fans were out in force Saturday, some even had their own homemade “mau5” helmets. I have to admit it was my first time seeing Deadmau5 and while I’m cool with electronic music, I’m not the type that goes to the big DJ shows. That being said I have always respected his skill and honesty in and industry were marketing can often become more important than music.
Three years ago Deadmau5 dropped some real talk with a blog titled We all hit play in which he talks about the limitations of the live show and started some debate within the DJ community about what “live” is. I think that in the past three years we have actually seen a lot of electronic acts add more live instrumentation to their acts but the DJ set is still the major driving force.
So how does one pump up a crowd by pressing play? With amazing musical and visual production, and Deadmau5 has that in spades. His set started with him within a weird geodesic dome rig on a DJ platform and the set opened up as he played crowd favorites like “Ghosts ‘n’ Stuff” and “Strobe.” I was amazed at just how many fans were going crazy even towards the back of the crowd.
If the goal of TIMF day one was to get people to move their asses, they definitely accomplished their goal.
Paul Chalker with reporting by Bob Patterson
Photos by Pedro Paredes-Haz