Review: Treasure Island Fest 2009, Day One; 10.17.2009
words by Andy Pareti
The early morning fog that had rolled in by the Golden Gate Bridge was all nearly dissipated, and the sun beat down hard in a last stand against the looming winter while hundreds marched into Treasure Island – or as Wayne Coyne called it, “Zonk Island” – for Day 1 of the two-day Treasure Island festival. A mean little festival, Treasure Island’s grounds are actually quite small. Its pair of stages – the Bridge and Tunnel stages – are practically within throwing distance of each other, and one can easily pick a plot in the grass and have a decent view of both stages. When one stage ends the other immediately begins, like a volley between two tennis players. In between them, and framed by the metal scaffolding and speakers on either side, is the San Francisco skyline just ahead in the distance.
The festival’s two-day lineup, as has been the custom, is separated into a dance/hip-hop/electronica lineup for the first day and a rock lineup for the second. In keeping with SF’s traditions for all things freaky – and the pirate theme that decked out the site – you could call Saturday’s booty ecstasy and Sunday’s acid.
This idea took off like a rocket when the sun went down, but we’ll get to that later. Murs was the first highlight of Saturday, prodding the growing masses with banter between slugs of booming hip-hop artillery. Passion Pit followed soon after, attracting the first truly large crowd of the day. The band galloped through much of their highly popular debut, Manners, though for much of the set singer Michael Angelakos’ voice was a bit off, sounding frail and buried under the layers of synths and keys. The audience didn’t seem to notice, though, jumping up and down to fan favorites like “The Reeling” and “Little Secrets”.
Following Passion Pit, in one of the weekend’s standout sets, was Dan Deacon. In complete defiance of the DJ-heavy trend of the day, Deacon played a Bromst-heavy set that was teeming with musical life. Crowding around him on stage were two xylophone players, three guitarists, four (!) keyboardists, and three drummers. In the middle, looking like a dorky Monday Night Football fan in his 49ers jersey and thick, blue-framed glasses, was Deacon, waving his arms like a deranged conductor. He led the crowd through an elaborate dance competition where the winner supposedly was awarded “free tickets to the Treasure Island Festival forever.”
The Streets took the stage next, spending nearly the whole set pacing around the front of the stage, waving and pointing at people. After priming the crowd with “Sharp Darts”, off of 2002’s Original Pirate Material, Streets leader Michael Skinner decided to get cozy with the audience, suggesting everyone get naked and later diving into the crowd, presumably to check that they had all complied.
The sun was beginning to tuck away behind the skyline when Treasure Island blossomed into a freakout dance party, starting with Brazilian Girls. Dressed in lingerie covered in black lace stockings and lace top, and adorning a giant red heart fastened to her chest, lead singer Sabina Sciubba slinked around the stage seductively. When the band broke into their anthemic “Pussy”, which seems to draw directly from the mind of every college boy, the entire mass of music fans, party-seekers, costumed freaks and dazed and confused wanderers thumped along in unison.
It only spun out of control from there. MSTRKRFT pounded the masses with deafening house beats and remixes, particularly a rousing techno mix of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Girl Talk then revved its brand of puzzle-piece song splicing while a healthy collective of females danced around him on stage under a torrent rain of toilet paper. It all culminated with the last date of MGMT’s tour, which they used to play their wildly popular debut album, Oracular Spectacular, in its entirety.
Physically, the band was stagnant, remaining firmly at their respective microphones for near the entirety of the set. The music had a bumpy start too, as opener “Time to Pretend” was briskly glossed over with little zeal. But the band managed to pick itself up after the initial fumble, particularly for the one-two punch of “Electric Feel” and “Kids”.
After Oracular, the band returned for an encore of all new material from the upcoming followup, Congratulations. The material promises an interesting new avenue for the band, which seems to majorly abandon dance grooves in favor of rock licks, quirky Americana and country flavors. It was not MGMT’s best show (and in fact, a good chunk of the crowd left after “Kids”), but its live emphasis on rock instruments – particularly the intermittent guitar solos – was an appropriate segue into Sunday’s lineup.