Live Shots: Treasure Island Music Festival 2013

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Maybe people just don’t know how to party anymore, but I didn’t come across vomit once at the Treasure Island Music Festival. The crowd’s vibe was more or less well-behaved all weekend -- pretty chill considering how many people were clustered on the island for the fests’ seventh successful installment.

The organizers rely on big names, the unique setting, a variety of vendors, and plenty of distracting flash (including the nearly iconic 60-foot Ferris wheel you can ride at $5 a pop) in order to keep this thing a destination. 

It was my first TIMF experience and I’ll admit the lineup wasn’t exactly the selling point for me. I thought at least I could get nostalgic over Beck, while Detroit-duo ADULT. still holds a degree of allure. I figured I’d spend most of my time milling around (highly recommended for optimal people watching; plenty of fur) and hoped to stuff my face with tons of good food (the mac and cheese hit the spot, the fish and chips got too cold too fast, but the chicken and shrimp paella was a winner).

Kudos to the show’s producers, Another Planet Entertainment and Noise Pop Industries, in their efforts at keeping this ship running tight on many levels. It’s often noted that concertgoers won’t experience any scheduling conflicts between the two stages at this event (Outside Lands, you’ve been one-upped in this category). Plus the purchase of your ticket, which could have cost up to $150 for two-day general admission or $275 for VIP (depending on how you roll) entitled you to a free ride on their massive fleet of shuttle buses that ran back and forth from the island to the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium drop off/pick-up point.

Even the Porta-Potty situation wasn’t anything near the bladder-punishing clusterfuck I’ve experienced at the free Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in Golden Gate Park (that’s free vs. a couple hundred bucks for ya). Entire sections of what resembled fairgrounds were dedicated to ample, underused, and very clean johns. So clean I didn’t think twice about picking up a wadded $20 bill that had another inside of it!

That may sound questionable, but I was too busy enjoying the warmth of my makeshift shelter since the temperature seemed to drop by more than 20 degrees on the island during Night One. Thom Yorke complained during his Atoms for Peace headlining set when he mentioned how he came to the Cali sun to get away from the British cold and gloom. No such luck for the rock star. The winds were relentless. Sunday seemed to grow even colder, and the winds whipped up even earlier than the day before. 

From a curator’s standpoint, the musical difference between days one and two were notable. Saturday was much heavier on the electronic and hip-hop side. That day’s lineup included a ridiculous hype-filled set by duo Major Lazer, which passed out party whistles as soon as it hit the stage, shot t-shirts from a handheld air cannon, and at one point, a member (maybe Diplo?) ran on top of the crowd inside a giant-inflatable ball that resembled a hamster’s toy. It all seemed like an over-budgeted high-school pep rally, but the crowd ate it up. Indeed, it was an impressive spectacle.

Sunday seemed less druggy (the day before, the same man somehow managed to ask me twice at different locations of the largely anonymous-feeling fest, where he could get some “MDMA”) less attended, and more laid back in tone. Children and adults alike ran through a trippy bubble display put on by a carnie-type vendor. Acts like Japandroids, Sleigh Bells, and Animal Collective provided respective returns to rock, power pop, and instrumental intensive sets with a global flare.

Beck’s set relied heavily on post-Midnite Vultures material, but I was happy to hear him sing about those old “hotwax residues.” He brought Sleigh Bells’ Alexis Krauss on stage with him just as I was heading back to the shuttle busses. Apparently I missed the cover of MJ’s “Billie Jean.”  Instead, I rode in luxury through a thick wall of fog to the mainland where a treasure of a local music scene lies waiting, markedly untapped this year. 

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