Review: Treasure Island Fest 2009, Day Two; 10.18.2009
words by Andy Pareti
The first precursors of winter finally reared their ugly head on Sunday above the mostly-underdressed and shivering crowd. The only people that seemed to be dressed for the unexpected chill were those in costume – Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, motorized cupcakes, a Stormtrooper, a creature from Where the Wild Things Are, and several monsters were among those kept warm beneath their signature threads.
Sunday’s lineup was a refreshing celebration of instrument rock – a more traditional, organic music than the cold electronica of the night before, and a combination that helped create some warmth for the concert-goers. This was especially true of Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, a new band formed by Ima Robot frontman Alex Ebert. The nine-member ensemble that was present on Sunday paraded through the band’s recent debut, Up From Below. A barefoot and shirtless Ebert danced around the stage maniacally, leading the band through the fantastic “40 Day Dream” and touching “Home”, the latter a love song duet between he and girlfriend Jade Castrinos.
Following the raucousness that was the Magnetic Zeros was Grizzly Bear, who phased down the audience’s energy with its meticulous brand of brainy post-rock. Despite possessing some of the most raw talent of any band at the festival, Grizzly Bear still managed to suck some of the life out of the buzzing crowd, due partly to the bad timing of performing after Sharpe. Opening their set perplexingly with “Cheerleader”, one of the more placid songs on Veckatimest, the band put on a typically well-executed performance that just seemed a bit out of place amidst the freak-flow of fans counting the hours until the Flaming Lips and ravers still high from the night before. Even so, they treated fans to exceptional cuts like “Southern Point” and “On a Neck, On a Spit” before ceasing their slightly buzzkillish set.
The Bridge Stage was then home to a double-dose of gypsy-folk rock with Beirut and The Decemberists performing back to back. Beirut’s horn-heavy mix of world music and folk provided an eccentric change of pace for the weekend, while the Decemberists continued their recent trend of playing their latest concept album, The Hazards of Love, in its entirety. As a result, every flaw that marred that studio album also showed up during the performance, though it should be said that the bombastic prog rock of this recent Decemberist output simply transfers to the listener better in a live setting. Also, vocalist Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond) can never have enough opportunities to prove why she has one of the best sets of pipes in the business.
Meanwhile, sandwiched between these two acts was The Walkmen, performing at the Tunnel Stage. The New York City/Philadelphia-based indie rock outfit provided one of the only instances of straightforward, no-frills rock all weekend, complete with the exaggerated rock star bravado of lead singer Hamilton Leithauser. Following them was alt-rock granddaddies Yo La Tengo, who played a handful of songs off their latest album, Popular Songs. Singer/guitarist Ira Kaplan repeatedly swashbuckled with his guitar amp, lurching over it with his guitar until it screamed back with feedback.
Yo La Tengo wasn’t even finished with their set when a roar from the crowd emerged from over at the other stage. Wayne Coyne appeared to do his own mic check and help set up the stage for The Flaming Lips’ performance. When all seemed to be in order, the lights were dimmed and on the giant screen behind the stage, a giant, psychedelic-colored silhouette of a woman appeared and spread her legs, a bright light emanating from between them. A slit in the screen appeared inside it, and out emerged the Lips, in all their embryonic glory. The band exploded into “Race For the Prize” as Coyne entered his signature, giant inflatable ball and rode the masses under a shower of confetti and streamers.
When Coyne returned to the stage, he glowed with the gaping smile of someone in love. Twirling a fistful of streamers around in his hand like a windmill, he danced around the stage radiating pure bliss. If there was any doubt that the show would be any more than a circus act, it ended right then, at the close of “Race for the Prize.” Coyne and the Lips got serious (well, at least as serious as these guys can get) and trekked through a staggering set that spanned the Lips’ entire career. From obscurities like “Enthusiasm for Life Defeats Existential Fear” to a cover of the military song “Taps” to hits like “Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”, “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1”, and “She Don’t Use Jelly”, the band slogged through their catalogue so thoroughly they ran out of time for their encore.
Coyne decided that the band would run off stage for a few moments and run back on for the last song, in typically nutty Lips fashion. As if sensing there was no doubt in what the song would be, the band immediately dove into “Do You Realize??”. “You realize the sun doesn’t go down/It’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning round,” sang Coyne, wrapping up another perfect Lips performance with a sweepingly philosophical bow on top.