Words and photos by JENZ
Armed with a bottle of bubbles, my camera, and more snacks than a fourth grade field trip, my friends and I tumbled into the Treasure Island Music Festival early on day one to soak in the sight and sounds. But I had life-changing, brain-probing questions: would I see the creepy carrot again? Could I take excellent pictures in the photo pit while donning an eye patch? Was my butt showing in the dress I decided to wear? Questions abounded as we shuffled off our shuttle and through the festival gates.
The main layout of the gig was the same as last year; booths filled with delicious food to eat and things to buy lined the right side of the grounds, as tents with art, apparel and services filled the middle and left side (free haircuts, what?). The aptly-named Bridge and Tunnel stages sat perpendicular to one another, and organizers promised that every note of the bands booked would be heard. As a bonus, I found I could walk from the front of the festival all the way to the back in about 12 minutes. Sadly, no old-school arcade was on hand to provide distraction, but the photobooth was back in effect, and we all know I love me some photobooth pictures.
We sat down to have a light lunch as Long Island native Aesop Rock played the main stage. His conscious hip-hop anthems provided a great start to the day, already punctuated with stunning weather. Nortec Collective on the small stage was next to bring the beats; if some kids from Mexico City decided to weave Daft Punk with some of the traditional Mexicali music I listened to growing up, it'd sound like these guys, who had a small pocket of people upfront headbanging the fuck out and raising their hands. There were minimum vocals to accompany the dance party, and words chosen were heavily outfitted in auto tuner. At one point we saw instruments that sort of looked like Etch-a-sketches that we think did distortion, but I was too busy toe-tapping to confirm.
As we waited for Foals to bring their sharp dischord alive, I noticed some figures ominously gliding through the crowd. Big Nazo, who were responsible for the creepy carrot of yesteryear, had outdone themselves this year by producing a fantastical alien parade full of astronauts and warped intergalactic creatures, and they were bouncing through the crowd humping and hugging each other and audience members. I literally screamed when I saw them, running over as they waltzed down the main drag of food concessions. As I began to take pictures, one of the aliens, a starfish with fleece tentacles, walked over to me, grabbed me, caressed my face, and then hugged me. We're now dating.
Drugged with alien love, I walked back to the Tunnel stage to catch UK act Foals, who opened their set with surfer mathjam song "The French Open" and ripped into more shoegaze-meets-dancepunk material as well. The stage, completely powered by solar-panel energy caught by the bay's rays, dropped out of sound a few times during the day, but the thought was still congruent with the day's theme of being green. There was so much glorious reverb from their set that at one point I accidentally laid my chest on one of the amps and my heart skipped a beat from the massive vibration. Woah, Foals. Woah.
I was pumped up to dance, so I was initially disappointed that Hot Chip's 50-minute set started out so stiff. Co-frontman Alexis Taylor looked half-overwhelmed, half-distant as he set up shop front and center. But as he and other co-frontman Joe Goddard began to rip through tracks like "And I Was A Boy From School," crowd favorite "Over and Over," and "Ready For The Floor," they eased up and took note from the audience below them to dance. The thing I love about Hot Chip is that live their studio stuff never sounds the same; they spin their classics and non into something new, and keep that same sense of danceability while adding blips for the better. They ended strong while I watched girls with neon hula hoops time their hips to the beat.
Some downtime was chosen, and we loaded onto the Ferris wheel while Amon Tobin played below us. Do you know what is heaven? Seriously? It's drinking beer while riding a large spinning apparatus. I think it's the happiest I'd been in a long time, being up there with my friends and watching everyone below me have such a great time while the Pacific Ocean gently waved hello. I'd dye my hair back to a normal color if it meant being back up there.
Once back on the ground, it was business time, and electroglam Goldfrapp provided a nice breath of fresh air amidst all the male-fronted bands we'd seen that day. The ribbons off Alison Goldfrapp's satin white dress seemed to float in time with her synthpop loops as she sang barefoot. Third song "Satin Chic," backed by a band adorned in all white against a setting sun, was phenomenal to see. "Train" and "Ooh La La" brought the level of sexy up a notch as well.
I decided to sit off to the side for Mike Relm, and wished I wasn't beginning to wind down so much; the SF-by-the-way-of-Daly-City was seriously spinning some stellar grooves. Though he was missing his trademark projection show behind him, the last bit of sunset provided a better backdrop instead. I mean, who else can boast both Does It Offend You, Yeah's "We Are Rockstars" and the Peanut theme song in one set list? He dedicated his set to fellow spinner DJ AM and renowned drummer Travis Barker, urging concert goers to look up what had happened to them when they got home in lieu of Relm spilling the bad news. (We had a moment of silence upon coming home and learning of their accident.)
After watching TV On The Radio's Tunde Adebimpe hip thrust his way through the first half of their set and stopping by the photobooth to get our fix, I watched Lovefoxxx from CSS climb on stage in a costume obviously learned from the Bjork School of Design and Fashion. It sort of looked like the whole confetti aisle from Party City threw up on her. Regardless, the rock element from new disc Donkey didn't project well onto the audience, but the craziness factor is still there. And while I personally prefer the electrorock types of "Alala," "Music Is My Hot Hot Sex," and "Let's Make Love" from their first album, the diehards still rocked out to whatever the Brazilian girls were turning out. As we ate churros, we noted that Lovefoxxx's scream-of-a-voice was more entertaining than the live show.
[ Tunde Adebimpe]
Had I not decided to stay sober for the duration of the day, I would have been inebriated like no one's business; my decision to be clean was sorely challenged when Justice came on. That light show is so unparalleled to anything I've seen at an electronic show (and the cross is much brighter in person than in pictures). The Parisians were total cockteases though, not playing in full their "D.A.N.C.E." or "Stress" songs in favor of adding a remix tinge. Admittedly, it was much better than their March Concourse show in San Francisco, but sadly there were no Thai hookers that we could spot.
We skipped out a bit early during a downtempo mix of "We Are Your Friends," literally dancing all the way to the gates. After snagging free ice cream and settling into our zero-emissions shuttle, I thought about how earlier I could not even imagined having more fun than last year â€“ how were the good folks at Noise Pop and Another Planet going to possibly even top 2007's fiesta? But it happened. Getting off and on the island? Easy. Dancing with strange costumed personalities? Epic. And watching some of the best electronic music of 2008? Priceless. As we pulled away from the island, I looked out onto the San Francisco skyline and felt such a sense of romanticism for my city, for the moment, and for the music we create and host. I love you so much, San Francisco. Sophomore attempts can be brutal to trounce, but the Treasure Island Music Festival just goes to prove that too much of a good thing can still be first-class.