Last weekend, located in the gorgeous San Francisco Bay, I attended the annual two-day Treasure Island Music Festival. Headliners included Atoms for Peace, Beck, Little Dragon and Animal Collective, among others.
Now I had never been to this festival before, and had only been to FYF Fest this past summer, so with little to compare it to, it was truly a special event. From my novice point of view, it had a lot to offer with a Ferris wheel, bubbles floating about, pirate women on stilts, food trucks, arts and crafts, vendors and of course mind- numbingly good music — needless to say it was a sensory overload.
What made this festival different from others was its location. Despite the fact that the rest of the tiny island was hauntingly deserted, the festival was practically on the water and felt like an escape. Anyone who’s been to San Francisco can attest to its distinctly unique energy, which is difficult to find anywhere else. I felt as though I could walk up to any random circle and feel welcomed and at ease. Even with the biting chill, there was little to complain about, because it only motivated my group to nestle closer to the middle of the crowd in search of warmth.
I went in with the intent of seeing as many acts as possible, but unless you have an incredible stamina then it’s nearly impossible to catch all of them. So, as any festivalgoer knows, pick and choose some favorites and be prepared to make some sacrifices.
The only sacrifice I wasn’t willing to make was a front and center spot at Little Dragon and Atoms for Peace, arguably the best acts of the weekend. Little Dragon came on first and delivered with their jammy R&B/jazz/electro/ twist. The lead singer, Yukimi Nagano, danced and belted classics like “Little Man” and “Ritual Union” amidst the changing red and green lights, which was incredibly sexy — not in an overtly sexual way, but more in the subtly soulful way. They even played a new track from their upcoming album, which left me excited for what is to come, knowing I will certainly want to catch them live again when they tour.
To end the first night, the righteous Thom Yorke, Nigel Goddrich, and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers came together as Atoms for Peace and absolutely killed it. Thom’s tight, twitchy dancing and Flea’s African tribal inspired arm swings were truly some irreplaceable memories. Playing nearly all of Amok and some of Thom’s The Eraser, the hour and a half set, including two encores, felt oh so short.
The second day certainly had a different feel to it. Starfucker put on quite a production and got the crowd moving with their funky upbeat songs, like “Medicine” and “Julius.” They were by far the most theatrical, having sumo wrestlers, astronauts and bunnies dance on stage — even going as far as throwing blowup sex dolls into the crowd.
A surprisingly good performance by James Blake, who I had previously found difficult to get into, moved the festival into the nighttime. It became apparent that his bass reliant music required a live performance to be truly appreciated as you enjoyably felt your whole body vibrant from the bold sound.
Animal Collective took the stage before Beck closed the night, and the performance left me a bit confused, to say the least. I couldn’t tell if it was because I hadn’t really listened to them before or because they were just really bad, but I don’t think anyone listens to their music with the intent of understanding it. With a very psychedelic feel, they projected all sorts of trippy, colorful images onto the stage as the lead singer screamed into the microphone.
After their baffling set, I was hopeful for a good performance by Beck and was disappointed once again… he didn’t even play my favorite song, “Everybody’s Got To Learn Sometime” (from the Eternal Sunshine soundtrack). He did play other classics like “E-pro,” “Lost Cause” and “Loser” though. Even if you were never a huge Beck fan, his music was a staple of the 90s/00s rock scene, making anyone nostalgic for that time. His set was slightly bizarre though, as he played Michael Jackson, attempted a terrible moonwalk and overall spent more time being goofy than actually singing, but Beck is kind of weird so I guess that was expected.
Overall, Treasure Island was a successful weekend, filled with some incredible music, some surprising acts, and some disappoints, but it was all a beautiful dreamy experience in the renowned San Francisco fog.