Though Wild Beasts' brand of baroque, sensual dream-pop is better suited for a dark and smoky bar, I consider it an honor to catch the UK band in any setting. A sizable crowd gathered around the Tunnel stage at Treasure Island Music Festival to enjoy songs from this year’s Smother, along with older material like breakout hit “The Devil’s Crayon.” Hayden Thorpe’s heavenly falsetto rang out over chiming guitar provided by Ben Little.
“This song is about fucking,” Tom Fleming announced before launching into “All The King’s Men” from the 2009’s Mercury Prize-nominated Two Dancers. At this point, visible swooning ensued among a group of devoted female fans with a handwritten sign praising Fleming’s velvety baritone. It was the final show of a month-long stint in the States for this English bunch. As they directed our attention to the glittering bay behind them, I became quite certain it would be remembered fondly by band and audience alike.
Over on the Bridge stage, seasoned alt-rock vets Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks shredded super hard. Malkmus’ sharp-tongued stage banter kept me giggling between songs. However, anyone standing near where I was won’t need me to recount the wildly distracting antics of the boy dancing with a giant plush hot dog. Also, I’d be curious to hear from the burner brave enough to follow up on bassist Joanna Bolme’s request for “herbal cigarettes.” In an act of genius scheduling, Beach House took to the Bridge stage just as the sun began to set against the San Francisco skyline. The sky took on a surreal orange hue that fit all too well with the Baltimore, Md., ensemble’s hazy, dreamy tunes.
I’m not sure which was more jaw-dropping, the epic sunset or Victoria Legrand’s stunning features displayed on the jumbo screen behind her. Couples embraced and swayed to the melancholic arrangements of Alex Scally’s wailing guitar and Legrand’s organ; a few audience members were reduced to tears. Although I didn’t cry, Beach House’s flawless delivery of “Take Care” just as darkness fell over the island was, hands-down, my favorite TIMF moment.
Maybe I’m getting old, but all the excitement, running between stages, and daytime beers left me exhausted. Sorry Death Cab, Explosions In The Sky served as my TIMF grand finale. I had reservations about the instrumental rock band’s ability to hold my attention for a full set, and previous acts had already set the bar pretty high. However, my expectations were thwarted as the Austin, Texas post-rockers completely blew me away. Members of Explosions In The Sky threw themselves into the mini symphonies, sometimes sitting down due to the physical demand of their elaborate instrumentation. About halfway through the performance, a swarm of illuminated white fabric jellyfish appeared overhead and gracefully bobbed through the crowd. I watched the giant screen in awe as Munaf Rayani open-handedly slapped the strings of his guitar with dramatic emphasis to produce a piercing, eerily dissonant sound. Then Rayani and the band finished up a melodic masterpiece and the audience erupted into wild, reverberating applause.