Escape to Treasure Islandby Taran Moriates on Oct, 18 2012
Put on your shades, kick back, and listen to live music for 10 and a half hours in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. This is the gist of the two-day annual Treasure Island Music Festival that was held this past weekend. Originally, I impulsively purchased my one day ticket for Sunday thinking it would be a way to take advantage of where I am now living and after seeing that The xx were headlining—the source of the majority of my excitement, for, you see, me and The xx have this special connection, the kind that books and songs are written about. No, but really, I’ve been dying to see them live for years.
After attending the other grander and more commercial San Francisco music festival, Outside Lands, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this smaller—in physical size, lineup, and popularity—event.
The first few hours consisted of leisurely making our way from one stage to the other, which were both in close proximity of each other with bands alternately playing in order to prevent the life or death decisions of which group to go see in the case of conflicting set times like in other festivals. In many cases, we claimed a place on the grass under the shade or easily made it up close to the stage. There was more of an atmosphere of casually enjoying the live music and environment rather than the cut-throat fans and overwhelming crowds prevalent in other places.
Hospitality’s smooth melodies, Ty Segall’s lo-fi rockers about doing acid on a hill in San Francisco—his words, not mine —The War on Drugs’s slurred, jean jacketed guitar melodies, Youth Lagoon’s computer nerd appearance and dreamy pulses, and Joanna Newsom’s harping baby talk all meandered along perfectly with the slight breeze and clear day. It was all easy listening that could be enjoyed just as much when you pick up a teriyaki chicken bowl from one of the many food tents or peruse the merchandise or take a joy ride on the ferris wheel as when you are in the very front row.
However, as the sun began to set behind the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline, the island became noticeably more crowded for the main acts: Best Coast, M83, and The xx. This made it necessary to withstand hours of standing in front of the same stage jammed up against strangers. I was jammed up against sweaty and smelly strangers to be exact, just to get a decent spot.
After Best Coast’s beach-y, sunshine tunes and the most non-rock-and-roll banter between songs ever—so, how bout this weather, eh?—M83’s lasers and electronic beats filled the night and ignited dancing feet instead of the rest of the day’s simple swaying feet. Their set flowed with interludes between songs where they would jam with one of the members shuffling while banging on a xylophone and a saxophone man appearing on stage and shredding.
With the city’s buildings completely lit up in the background, the main headliners took the stage at last. The intimacy and atmospheric tones dominant in The xx’s music was flawlessly translated despite the wide open space and festival setting. The trio sailed through a mix of tracks from their classic debut album and their recently released successor, Coexist. They put twists on almost every one of the songs they played from their first album, making them new and fresh for the live show while still maintaining that record quality. Romy Madley Croft’s and Oliver Sim’s voices flowed together as seamlessly as on the albums and their melancholy and somewhat serious stage presence only contributed to the overall mood instead of being a downer. They gave off a strange paradoxical sense of being a band poised to take over the world while still being perfectly content with playing smaller shows like this and with only having a mass of loyal fans instead of widespread popularity.
The comparatively smaller and unknown nature of Treasure Island combined with the appearance of some notable and solid bands resulted in a chill and unique experience. With the Bay Area sunshine, postcard worthy backdrop, local foods, and prime people watching, the event was a good change from the congested and hectic Coachella-type festivals. It was a day surrounded by people who wanted to have a day out and appreciate the perks of live music. And that’s exactly what they got.