Ever since the massive success of Coachella, it seems like multiday cross-genre festivals are popping up everywhere. The San Francisco Bay Area has gotten in on the fun with the Treasure Island Festival, held on September 15 and 16 on a small island in the bay just minutes from downtown. Promoters of Noise Pop and Another Planet Entertainment put together a stellar lineup that spanned indie-rock, electronica, and hip-hop, including Thievery Corporation, Modest Mouse, M.I.A., Zion I, Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow. It was a potent musical experience in a beautiful and breathtaking setting.
Upon arriving at the festival site via the free shuttle, I grabbed a free ice cream and entered the event. The festival grounds were not too big, but that was a good thing. The show maintained a level of intimacy that is missing from massive fests such as Coachella. There were two stages: the larger one at the far end of the grounds and the smaller in the middle. Vendors, food stalls, bars, and a Ferris wheel filled out the rest of the space, with the San Francisco skyline in the background. And the promoters scheduled the timeslots perfectly: Only one stage had a performance at any given time, so if you wanted to you could catch every single artist on the bill. The quality of the bands was truly consistent; the event seemed to put music over big names.
As a dance-music enthusiast, I liked the first day more than the second. Day one was all about dance music, electronica fusion bands, and deejays. For every Thievery Corporation, there was a relatively unknown band such as Ghostland Observatory, which was one of the day’s best discoveries, with its androgynous, bass-heavy rock-tronica. Mocean Worker was the perfect complement to the gorgeous weather with his jazz-infused electronica, and Flosstradamus mixed a variety of styles, from house to hip-hop.
But the day really belonged to M.I.A., who was reveling in the success of her sophomore release, Kala. M.I.A.’s performance was pure magic from the moment she walked onstage in her gold tights and oversized shirt. Running through the best tracks from her two albums, the performance contained liberal amounts of booty popping, walls of bass, and crowd interaction. During “Bird Flu,” M.I.A. invited female audience members onto the stage for a joyous dance party, and at one point she found herself climbing up the stage rigs. The one disappointment: a disjointed and technically sloppy set from Cut Chemist and Shadow. With so many bands delivering such impressive performances, theirs was quite a letdown.