SONIC REDUCER Oh, island music the soft swish of silky trade winds, the gentle rustle of swaying palms, and the way-organic click-hop drone of crickets. From where I'm lounging at press time, in a humid picture-postcard tourist paradise outside the '20s-era pink pachyderm of the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, it's also the sound of a few bruddahs playing a 12-string and electric bass version of "Brown-Eyed Girl." That was my island soundtrack growing up in Honolulu, along with the music of the Rascals and Earth, Wind and Fire, though surprisingly little Beach Boys, who had the vocal interplay Hawaiians adored but sounded like they probably didn't really surf.
The Beach Boys just liked the idea of it, but then, don't we all, buying into the seductive constructs of island fantasias, though we native born have always had a complicated hate-love relationship with the visiting cultural imperialists who drive the tourism-focused economy. Little surprise locals use the term transient like it's a dirty word.
Speaking of island music, locally we have the Treasure Island Music Festival, the first two-day music event of its size on the human-constructed isle built to boost San Francisco pride by proximity and buoy the 1939 World's Fair. The lineup, by the way, banishes memories of pop-period Van Morrison (though not fond thoughts of Hawaiian music materfamilias Aunty Genoa Keawe, who still plies audiences with her dulcet falsetto every Thursday at the Waikiki Marriott's Moana Terrace) and includes Modest Mouse, Thievery Corporation, Spoon, Built to Spill, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, M. Ward, Gotan Project, MIA, Ghostland Observatory, Dengue Fever, and Mocean Worker, in addition to a bevy of talented locals like DJ Shadow (with Cut Chemist), Two Gallants, Zion-I, Honeycut, and Trainwreck Riders.
Noise Pop founder and IODA CEO Kevin Arnold, 38, told me the event has been a long-cherished dream for himself and Noise Pop co-organizer Jordan Kurland. The organizers had expanded NP in the past, to Chicago, before pulling back; they're now venturing out again, working with Another Planet Entertainment. And why this fantasy island? "Because it was there," Arnold says. "We spent a lot of time looking around San Francisco and where people have been able to stage concerts in the past and make the event stand out. The island has all of that going for it: the location is pretty idyllic and beautiful, and it seemed like a fun thing to do."
Arnold and Kurland had come to a turning point with Noise Pop 14, and lately, he says, "we felt like it was time to really go for it and see if we can expand and actually make some money on what had been a large hobby for a long time. [Noise Pop] had broke even but had not done much more." So they took a loan out, hired staffers like general manager Chris Appelgren, Lookout! Records' last head, and are now in addition to coproducing a series of music-oriented City Arts and Lectures talks putting on an event that, at an estimated 10,000 attendees per day, threatens to consolidate SF's rep as a ground zero for must-catch music fests. And who can resist the chance to see these acts with an open-air backdrop of the city, glistening across the water? "I think for a lot of people, it's this big question mark in the middle of the bay what is it?" Arnold says, recalling that he witnessed a Robot Wars event there a decade ago but has never tangled with the military police once positioned there (ask a certain Oakland hip-hop star about that). "I think it's a neglected space, and it'll be good to educate people about what the island is."
SHAPE-SHIFTING CLUBLAND Venues come and go and morph radically hey, maybe Treasure Island will become our next no-parking Speedway Meadow. Thus, while the Make-Out Room has been getting a makeover, to be unveiled Sept.