Robert Louis Stevenson planted images in my mind of a mystical place called Treasure Island. Turns out, it actually exists. It may not be the swash-buckling place from his children's, book, but this past weekend the island hosted the seventh annual Treasure Island Music Festival featuring a diverse range of artists, including headliners Atoms for Peace and Beck. The festival takes pride in the fact that no acts overlap, creating a feeling of intimacy among the thousands that attended as they drifted back and forth together between the two stages.
This was my first trip to San Francisco and I hoped the fest would allow me to gather a "sense" of the people in the city. I met up with a long-time friend for the show and together we made the voyage across the bridge from San Francisco to Treasure Island in search of our version of buried treasure - cold beer and live music.
Saturday's fog burned off nicely and the iconic Ferris wheel was in full view as we entered through the gates. I arrived expecting a recognizably northern California vibe of hippies and artists and instead we watched as the early-day lawn party slowly transformed into a carnival-like atmosphere filled with girls in flower crowns and frat boys in pastels. Layers of clothing were shed and faces were painted in what became a love fest of youthful attendees.
"I think I danced with you at the Silent Frisco!" was the pickup line of the day, referring to the DJ booth alternative to the main stages where headphones and dancing are a must for entry.
I was confused. This was not the sophisticated San Francisco crowd that I expected, but with Saturday's electronic, dance-friendly lineup, I should have known the bros would be in attendance.
The sun held up through the afternoon and it was easy to join in with the San Franciscans in their dance party to performances by Major Lazor, Disclosure, Holy Ghost!, and my personal favorite of the day - Phantogram. The duo came out and enthralled us with their electric chemistry just when the rapidly dropping temperatures threatened to kill our buzz.
Phantogram's Josh Carter
Phantogram's Sarah Barthel
As Saturday came to a close it was as if the weather was metaphorically setting the stage both for the eerily-wonderful headlining performance by Atoms for Peace and for the entirely different vibe of the fest that would appear on day two. The rock super group gave two encores, ending with Yorke's "Black Swan" from his 2006 solo album, The Eraser
Thom Yorke of Atoms For Peace
I was pumped to return on Sunday and was satisfied when I saw the crowd that I anticipated for the festival originally: an older, head-nodding audience of plaids and greys. This crew was more keen to lay blissfully on the lawn for the majority of the day, listening to casual, surf-rock pleasantries of Cayucas and the magical, Western-image inducing tunes of Lord Huron.
STRFKR managed to get these cool kids to bounce around a bit, as did Japandroids, who wrapped up their tour with a killer show that I was grateful to see, especially considering they mentioned it would be their last in the US for quite some time. And if these "cool kids" in the audience did have any bro-tendencies in them, HAIM successfully made them surface as the wind whipped around their locks, causing even the most melancholy hipster to blush at their riffs.
HAIM shred 2.0
Treasure Island was a darker, colder place on Sunday but those who persevered into the evening got exactly what they wanted: a truly sexy performance by James Blake, who killed the ladies with his sheepish smile in between songs. Animal Collective's stage outlined in giant, vicious teeth became the token magical creature of the island and Beck's performance of "Let's Get Lost" with Sleigh Bells' Alexis Krauss was an unexpected, cool addition to the final show of this year's fest.