So Austin and Denver both got music festivals the same weekend as San Francisco's Treasure Island Music Festival, but I ask this: did those fools have a Ferris wheel, a photobooth, or zero-emission luxury buses in addition to fantastic music? I don't think so...
I had my doubts about this festival initially, as concert go-ers had to be shuttled to the island from San Francisco, from a parking lot behind the Giants' stadium to alleviate parking congestion - worries about being stranded on an island or being left behind was a major concern. In addition to a "green theme," where environmental awareness was being pushed by using bio-friendly materials for food and drink consumption, it seemed there was a lot going on for such a short weekend. But I casted my doubts aside to embrace the unknown after I stepped off my earth-friendly shuttle and picked up my photo pass in the press tent on day one.
Upon entrance into the festival grounds I was bombarded with such a cluster of color it was hard to concentrate. With two platforms perpendicular to each other across a field, aptly named the Bridge and Tunnel stages, I set off to explore while West Indian Girl took on the Tunnel stage. The good people at Another Planet and Noise Pop partnered up for this two-day celebration, and I wrote about the latter's hosting skills back in February: these are people who don't fuck around when it comes to partying. The aforementioned ferris wheel was in effect; people in strange, grotesque monster costumes were pacing up the walkways finding targets to hug and/or hump; a variety of individuals in Victorian garb on stilts were sweeping through the crowd to find dance partners; and a vintage arcade sat near the entrance of the festival for those seeking to kill time in between sets. Wait, there was music too? Damn dude...
I found a friend of mine by chance, who dragged me to the ferris wheel with her boyfriend and daughter. Caving in to my childhood indulgences, we were whisked around on the ride at a considerably fast pace and were also subjected to quite possibly the best seat in the house.
By this time, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist were on the decks on the main Bridge stage, spinning old gems from each performer's catalogue as well as current radio singles from friends' bands alike. I heard Justin Timberlake's "Damn Girl" re-interpreted with horns and trumpets followed by a house-version of Bloc Party's "The Prayer," with the Foo Fighters' "Everlong" coming after - all set to an Alicia Keys video being projected behind them. Another friend of mine tipped me off to to the DJs' use of strictly 45's as a part of their hour-long set, which only enhanced the crowd's energy.
After we touched down and grabbed some beer, it was back to the Tunnel stage with Chicago's Flosstradamus. Never before have I seen a crowd so pumped by music emanating from the speakers - it looked like someone had decided to throw the kegger of the semester at their parents' house senior year, and everyone showed up to dance on the tops of the counters and tables. It was like my dream mix CD: Kanye West's "Stronger," Daft Punk's "One More Time," Benny Benassi's "Satisfaction" cover, Eric Prydz's "Call On Me." Just when I thought I was going to stop dancing, they started in again with Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin" and went on to throw on a Klaxons track, "Smack My Bitch Up" by the Prodigy, and then spun some Kelis and her "Milkshake" for good measure. Each song was greeted by thunderous yelling and clapping, the Flosstradamus DJs yelling "Hey, it's our last song! Act like a fucking fool!" at the end of their set.
After a quick stop at the Imeem photobooth (always a favorite), it was time for Gotan Project and to take advantage of the VIP area. I have a theory about outdoor festivals that was born from my first Coachella a few years ago: whatever band plays the sunset of the festival usually ends up being the one you fall in love with. That Coachella, it was Air; at Curiosa the following year, it was Interpol. My theory held up in the case of Gotan Project, as the only analogy that I feel is appropriate for this band is if Gabriel Garcia Marquez's poetic, passionate, and deeply sensual language was woven into music. Having never heard of Gotan, a Parisian-by-the-way-of-Argentina band, I literally had my mouth open for the majority of their set - I have not been impressed by a band so much like them in a very long time.
It was tango music meets electroclash, accordion meeting break beats, some tunes with a soul singer who crooned in Spanish, others by a rapper who looked about 19. The sheer amount of sex appeal and tight-knit talent exuded by the members of Gotan was off the charts. Opening song "Diferente," colored with a vibrant string arrangement, and traditional-inspired "El Norte" complete with a mariachi-esque vibe put them easily as best in show in my book. They by far won my heart and I furiously dug up any audio on them I could when I arrived home.
I decided to venture out back to the Tunnel stage to catch Kinky after picking up a dear friend at the gate, ultimately getting distracted by the video game tent and us playing three quarters each on "Area Site 4," one of the best shooter games ever instead. We also passed by Dave Eggers' brainchild McSweeney's/826 Valencia tent and saluted in spirit of being at a festival on an island in which gold lies in the foundation dirt.
I scurried to the photo pit to make my cutoff to take Thievery Corporation's pictures; with a sitar as a main instrument paired with synthesizer, I knew some awesomeness was going to occur. Sure enough, the tour belly dancer came out every other song, and the crowd stayed through most if not all of the Washington, D.C.-based outfit's set. There is something about seeing live music with a lit San Francisco skyline in the background, with ships sailing by and the soft bristle of the bay air on your skin. I know I had fought the festival originally being somewhere else that was not in the city limits of San Francisco, but watching Thievery with a backdrop of such luminescence was ridiculously beautiful. I knew the next day was only going to be sweeter.