Day two of the Treasure Island Music Festival didn't start out in the best of ways: that morning I had two friends bail out on extra tickets, I was extremely tired for having arrived in San Francisco the night before at 1:45 a.m., and I witnessed one of the most vile displays of harassment between two transit riders on my way to the shuttle tent. But, you know, since I'm an eternal optimist, I put on my best game face and decided to have a posi experience.
I arrived at Treasure Island Sunday with time to kill, so I walked around shooting and watching hipsters get wasted. I've never seen so much flannel, tight pants, and aviator sunglasses all in one place before. Wanting to take full advantage of my photography pass, I inched my way to the photo pit for M. Ward on the main Bridge stage. The problem of shooting shows when you actually enjoy the musician who's before you is that you risk having blurry photos since you're dancing so much to their tunes; but I think I did okay.
I was interested to see Ward's transition from interior stage to outdoor festival, having caught him in a number of smaller venues over the past few years. His quiet piano, raspy voice, and delicate strums - would they be swallowed by the PA system? Ward's folk approach to pop music was a success, still sounding intricate and wholly personal but now being projected beautifully to 6,000 people. Armed with a baby grand and an assortment of guitars and band members, Ward ripped through a cohesive sample of his catalogue, switching it up from selection off Post War to old favorite "Flaming Heart," an old school jam I remember witnessing back in 2003.
Thanks to the foresight of festival organizers, each day's schedule promised no overlap and time in between acts to shift positions, so I comfortably walked over to Sea Wolf on the Tunnel stage where I was punched in the face by their string arrangement. Singer Alex Brown Church offered his soft yet confident voice in "You're A Wolf," adhering to a sweet and truthful brand of indie pop. After fessing up to being from San Francisco but moving to L.A. for the band, Church addressed the Northern California versus Southern California debate, telling the crowd "Everyone here hates L.A., it's fucking hilarious," before declaring the band would now shut up and continue on.
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah was opted out in favor of the vintage video arcade again, as we just couldn't stay away from Super Mario Bros from the '80s, but not before watching the monsters dance with people trying to get their beer on. After we got our fix we headed back to the Tunnel stage for Devil Makes Three, who were not as polka-folk-psychedelic as anticipated, rather using elements of a grandiose orchestral experience and coupling it with acoustic guitar to produce a precise and melodic sound.
After problems trying to get into the photo pit for indie vets Built To Spill and picking up the BFF at the front gate, dinner was ordered while watching Film School. Curious to see if the departure of N. Lannon would impact the dreamy shoegaze band, the SF natives pulled through an initially messy start with woozy guitars to finish strong, layering for an intense wall of sound. A secret show posted the next day at Hemlock Tavern also proved to be successful.
To our satisfaction, Spoon ended up being the sunset band on the Bridge stage, Brit Daniel's breathy vocals over deep bass in "Don't You Evah" a highlight of the festival. Watching a orange beauty of a sunset while "I Turn My Camera On" seemed ironic, but I obeyed the law of the land. I was nervous that the Austin outfit was going to be burnt by the time they stepped foot on the island, having played in other festivals during the weekend out of state, but lots of rest seemed to pay off for them and they delivered a solid set. We bounced back to the Tunnel stage as Earlimart took their places, all of the stage and their instruments adorned with acorns and festive Thanksgiving-looking decorations. We watched a few songs of pop and synth before making another trip back to the arcade - seriously, we couldn't get enough.
I always, always forget how much I like Modest Mouse, if not for Isaac Brock's stellar voice or the fact Johnny Marr likes them too - I forgave them for arriving on stage eleven minutes late and they made it up by absolutely tearing apart their guitars in pure shredding, bouncing from singles like "Dashboard" and "Float On" to more obscure B-sides and older material. There wasn't a whole lot of talking in between songs, and Brock occasionally looked up at the crowd to smile and thank them, but that's all we needed - infectious guitar, killer vocals, and a superb percussion section, Modest Mouse is good driving music, good making out music, and good conversation music and have been able to appeal to both the main light rock radio station and the pretentious indie hipster, and for that I applaud Brock and co.
After a breather in the VIP tent, home was our next destination, and coupled with getting back to San Francisco way faster than the night before and a warm breeze floating through the festival grounds, we also got free ice cream on the way out. How did you know I'd like a cold refreshment, Treasure Island Music Festival? Tired in our seats on the earth-friendly shuttles, we talked on the way home about how we were just apart of something monumental; inaugural things are never easy, but the Treasure Island Music Festival passed with flying colors. Here's to more.