Space Mayans and techno-African kuduro: Treasure Island, day one


Treasure Island Music Festival rewards the stout of heart and non-possessive of blanket space. The way the island fest is set up, no two concerts overlap – if one feels up to it, one can traverse the 100-some meters between the Bridge and Tunnel (get it?)  stages to catch any given day's entire. Music. Lineup. Upshot? I spent a solid hour in the press tent with my feet on a card table, tapping away on my smart phone as though taking notes, incredibly unstout.

But the music!

We got there on one of the first, cushy shuttle buses of the day. Chair foursomes facing each other over tables with cupholders? A bike workshop run by Levi's was set up next to the SF Bike Coalition's valet services at AT&T so our cycles were tuned and gleaming by the well-deserved end of the festival day? Clearly, TIMF is doing it's best to ameliorate the rage caused by the long shuttle lines one must endure after the headliner's close.

Our haste was due to one man: Aloe Blacc (though we managed to catch the also-rad performance by local indies Geographer). Blacc might have been a slightly unconventional choice for the electro-dominant festival but it is, after all, not a bad idea to provide refuge from driving beats and plaintive whines for just a moment. He appeared onstage the embodiment of dapper, and went out of his way to inspire audience participation (singing and soul line) for his singles “You Make Me Smile” and “I Need a Dollar.” A late-in-the-set switch to reggae showcased his range.

Then: ferris wheel. If you want to really see this festival, you will do it from the whooping, screeching heights of an amusement park ride ($5, meh). Do this early in the day because by the time it gets dark, you'll have lines all the way out to the Burning Man shipping container area (where the bonneted "grahamas" handed out graham crackers and freaky faux-old-woman coddling). Also, do the Silent Disco early in the day for the same, line-related reasons.

Shabazz Palaces was great, the Naked and Famous were great. Battles, I was tickled to learn upon reading my program prior to its set, holds in down in New York for “math rock,” which surely you can imagine as the climbing and descending wash of sounds that it is. I felt the unexamined logarithms washing over me... but it was time for Dizzie Rascal.

Why has this emcee achieved more renown in the United States than nearly any of his non-US peers? (Which I typed out just before being reminded by Wikipedia that Drake is from Canada) It's been a long time since his 2003 debut album Boy in Da Corner. The Ghanian Brit gave us dubstep because he heard “Americans like dubstep,” got everyone dancing to the sound of police sirens, and generally set the international stage for Portugal's Buraka Som Sistema, which jounced around the stage in a techno-African kuduro whirl.

One thing. Why is Native American the design motif of choice at festivals these days? I blame Urban Outfitters, but the numbers of TIMF-supplied teepees didn't help, and to a lesser extent, neither did Workshop's adorable and well-meaning dreamcatcher classes. Kids, dressing up as an ethnic group you do not belong to is a total no-no, even if you LOVE that neon feathered headdress. Just say no. I saw an awesome group on the Jumbotron whose crowd-locator totem pole had a plush broccoli strapped to it -- you are welcome to try an animal, vegetable, or mineral theme. Chromeo turned in a good show, even if the duo doesn't seem to have switched up its song retinue much since 2007's Fancy Footwork album.

We stayed at the larger Bridge stage after that to begin the slow push to the front for the Australian end of the day one-two punch: Cut Copy and Empire of the Sun. This was the end of the day, and the well-prepared among us was revving up for the night while the rookies were drooping and falling backwards onto me every fucking time I was looking straight at their wobbly backside.

Can we talk about Empire of the Sun? I'd like to hear a reaction from someone in the back of the audience during that show, because honestly I feel bad for you. If you couldn't see the costumes that the gaggle of space Mayans onstage were sporting, what was that like? If the epaulet-wigs weren't easily visible flying through the air, if you couldn't pick up the subtlety in the way the dolphin head dancers were cutting through the stage's energy currents – the Jumbotron was tuned to the group's Stargate-esque visuals instead of the close-up shots of the performers that had shown on it for every other show. Anyway, we were at the front and I will tell you right now what the show was like: awesome, even if most of the people around us were frozen looking at the stage in place of actually moving to the beat.

That was it. Then we waited in line for the shuttles. Which was fine, because we had a lot to talk about, like how there was no way in hell we'd be able to do this again the next day. (Unstout).


Click here for day two.