Treasure Island Music Festival may have been marred by the unavoidable cold and fog on Sunday but all other cogs in the wheel to this excellently put-together affair, augmented by acts like Palma Violets, Haim, Japandroids, Sleigh Bells and Beck who did their best to warm the cockles of festival-goers. And by the end of the night, the happy throes filed into buses and their cars leaving the island snug and satisfied, if not completely elated.
This was in a big way thanks to festival headliner, Beck who came on a little later then anticipated but jumped right into it with the crowd-pleaser “Devil’s Haircut”. Mid-way he threw in the lo-fi “Loser” and further down the set, just the opening chords of “Lost Cause” was enough to bring on the goose bumps. He also kindly obliged at the end as he finished off his encore with “Where It’s At?” enough to send us home high on a very happy vibe from his sheer warmth and generosity as a performer.
In this case, the weather might have worked in our favor. Wrapped up in a scarf, red velvet jacket and the fedora - his choice of headgear for sometime now, Beck felt our 'pain' promising he was going to warm us up immediately after his second tune, the bluesy-rock of the “Black Tambourine”.
Beck Hansen was ever the class act, going seamlessly from hits off his career-spanning genre-bending albums to mashing covers of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love”, Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” refrain and Michael Jackson's “Billy Jean”. Clowning around with “Billy Jean” he teased he wouldn’t be doing the moonwalk though he made a fairly good attempt much to his own amusement. And us, the doting audience, we just lapped it all up. What weather?
In another surprise, he invited onstage Alexis Krauss from Sleigh Bells who had just closed the Tunnel Stage with their outstanding dance set, a definite highlight of the festival. Loud and energetic, Krauss managed to move crowds on opposite ends of the grounds like a pipe piper beckoning all who had limbs to break out the moves with the hand banging sounds from “Crown on the Ground,” off their debut album and “Bitter Rivals” the eponymous track of their latest.
An act so unlikely as a foil for Beck who I would have suspected fitted more on a stage collab with Animal Collective but there you go, he is Beck and we have come to expect the unexpected from him. As Krauss rocks up on stage in her leather and leopard-print gear, Beck announced that they would be singing a song that has never been performed live. It was “Let’s Get Lost” his Bat For Lashes collaboration that appeared on the third “Twilight” installment’s movie soundtrack. And when it ended, he joked, “well, there you go that was our power ballad,” – poking fun at his own reputation for encompassing all spectrums of the musical color wheel.
On the whole it was a stellar day from start to finish. It kicked off ironically with Beck’s old guitarist, Jessica Dobson whose new band, the aptly named, Deep Sea Diver has just released their debut record, “History Speak”. As mid-day hit, the morning fog had not burnt off leaving the festival grounds chilly but Dobson’s enchanting vocals punctuated with a chorus of ‘heys’ and winsome lyrics on “You Go Running” - “frame by frame/in a flush of shame/ you drop your head like a guillotine…” seemed the perfect accompaniment to the fog. And with the sun peeking there was still promise of a warmer day ahead.
The fun then shifted to the smaller Tunnel Stage with IO Echo whose lead singer, on the other hand seemed visibly affected by the cold and even joked that they had requested for the cold ‘Goth fog’ in their rider and were ‘happy’ that San Francisco obliged.
For the next four or five acts, people were able to just fold up their blankets and alternate between the two stages. Brit garage-rock band, Palma Violets was the first of the day’s highlights warming the crowd up against an impossibly blue sky with a rousing cover of “California Sun”. Their energetic set featured NME's Best Track of the Year for 2012, “Best of Friends”; “Step Up For the Cool Cats” where their tour manager Doug took to the stage with a fetching poncho and maracas; while for their closing track they even got one of their best friends and fifth Palma Violet, Harry Violent who has a bit of fire in his belly, to get up on stage and add to the harmonious shrieks.
Back over to the Tunnel Stage for LA band, Cayucas who seemed less bothered about Bay Area weather as two of the band members hail from here. Their sunny musings of high school lovers and loopy drum beats were the perfect sountrack to the chilled afternoon vibe. You could also still sit on the grass comfortably and see the band on stage. But by the time, Haim the next act slated for that stage goes on at 3.35pm it is nigh impossible. The grounds were visibly busier and it was obvious that many had made it a point to come see this buzz band.
And they didn’t disappoint inviting the audience to use their imaginations and allow the sisters to take them back to their family living room where all their jam sessions had taken place. And though the wind was blowing a howling gale through their long locks, members of the audience were peeling off layers and scarfs as the afternoon sun was beginning to give even some pale faces a slight tan.
Then dancey-acts such as STRFKR and James Blake start to make an appearance between the more guitar-driven acts like Vancouver’s Japandroids who just let it all go, on their “House that Heaven Built” track sounding like a more kick-ass Bryan Adams with the hard working rock feel of Bruce Springsteen.
The blurred lines between dance and rock acts seem to please festival-goers.
Jennifer Martin from Louisville, Kentucky who loves dance acts such as Phantogram and Sleigh Bells said: “I have seen Sleigh Bells twice, once in a bitty bar and another at a festival and they were fantastic at both. I am really looking forward to seeing them here. And Phantogram last night was life-changing. But I also came to see Beck, I mean he is like a bucket list artist, you just have to see him.”
But festivals are as much about the bands you came to see as much as the ones you didn’t know from a bar of soap. Dane Kelly from Orange County, California arranged a vacation to San Francisco with a mate so that they could attend the festival for EDM favorites, Disclosure, Major Lazer and James Blake while taking in the sights. He admitted that it was cold but he was dancing so much at Disclosure and Major Lazer on the first day, that he hadn’t even felt it.
Taking a moment to charge his phone at the Express bar, he said “I wasn’t any where near the stage but I really liked the sound of the three sisters, Haim. They sounded so different to a lot of the music I have seen so far. And sounded like a great act perhaps you had to see them live? But I’ll definitely be checking them out on Spotify now.”
The Executive VP of Productions at Another Planet Entertainment, Allen Scott who together with Noise Pop Productions curates the event said in an earlier interview: “You may come for the headliner but you discover other bands. A good festival gains the trust of its audience. No matter who is playing whether they know the bands or not, there is a sense of trust in the festival to give them a good overall experience.”
And organizers here do everything to make sure this happens from the food on offer; to a double-decker bus kitted with beds that you can lie down and take shelter from the elements; and of course the restrooms. Not long ago a visit to a concert at the America’s Cup Pavilion left me in the cold when the sinks in the porta toilet areas were all emptied of water at the start of the night. Is there anything more foul? And the food lines ridiculously slow and long.
At Treasure Island, on the two occasions that I visited The Cove's restroom area, I noticed someone filling the water up. And festival food favorites like the hot paella; to tacos; and the soy chicken wings with chips combo from the different food vendors were all relatively easy to get to, and pleasant even, in the queues with the trippy slow-burn of James Blake wafting through the cool night air.
Explained Scott, “We are completely involved in every aspect of the festival right down to where the bathrooms are located. We are not a multi-national company, we are very hands-on. We are fans of the music and if we weren’t putting this on, we would be out there attending these events." Scott has also mentioned that he thinks this year Treasure Island has had their best lineup yet.
Many would agree given the sheer quality of the bands but APE also have a deft hand when it comes to last minute changes to its lineup. At this year’s Outside Lands, when R & B star, D’Angelo had to cancel, they replaced his set with Chic featuring Nile Rodgers. Enjoying a second lease of stardom as a result of his work with Daft Punk, many felt that Rodgers’ performance superseded everyone’s expectations and dare we say, might have been better than the original billed act.
This year, trip-hop progenitor, Tricky had to pull out days before the event due to visa issues which was a big disappointment for many fans. He was replaced with the debauched sounds of Detriot rapper, Danny Brown which seemed a very odd fit at best. Though Brown has his following and many at the festival were happy to groove along to his quick hip hop beats, others did not take as well to his oftentimes misogynic and excessive drug-referenced lyrics.
But that’s what so great about festivals, you need the acts that you don’t want to necessarily see so that you get a chance to do Silent Disco or explore the village bazaar-like atmosphere of The Chest. Camp D.I.Y. presented by Workshop SF had a great vibe offering free hair braiding, face-painting, make your own friendship bracelets or hippie floral hairpieces.
Jaine Williams, a volunteer at Workshop SF who gets to see the festival with a few hours braiding hair at the stand said: “This is my second year as a volunteer at Treasure Island. Kelly Malone who owns Workshop SF usually sends out an e-mail to her community offering us the chance to volunteer and see the festival. My fiancé is here as a volunteer too.”
Continuing the Bay Area tradition of music and festivals, Scott added: “The Bay Area is filled with music worshippers and has a rich history of festivals. We are so blessed to have so many great venues and festivals today. We hope we have added to that landscape and will be able to keep carrying on with this tradition.”
To keep up with Bay Area's vibrant music scene, please feel free to subscribe to Celine Teo-Blockey. To contact with regards to Bay Area music news, reviews, happenings, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org