If Saturday’s roar of dance-inducing acts played during Sunday’s blustery weather at the Treasure Island Music Festival the weekend of October 17th and 18th, there would have been enough body heat to keep the whole isle toasty. With its line-up and candescent sky, it came as no surprise that day one’s show sold out, causing an estimated three-hour wait when I signed up for a complimentary hair cut at the Medusalon booth. The Ferris wheel and massage tent were packed all weekend but despite spending $60 on beer and not ever being drunk, I had few reasons to complain after enjoying reasonably priced garlic fries, hot dogs, and burritos and not gagging with each trip to the port-o-potties.
Speaking of burritos, I was lucky enough to chat backstage with Jeff Apruzzese and Ayad Al Adhamy from Passion Pit about the Mexican fare that proved their favorite San Francisco attraction. I walked into the press area expecting an interview with Michael Angelakos, the leader of the playful synth-pop outfit, but it was as if the Treasure Island gods knew I had a thing for red heads when the bass player Apruzzese, joined by synth/samples maestro Adhamy, greeted me at my table. I managed to keep things somewhat professional, and maintained the conversation at a respectably elevated level by sticking to such topics as vomiting up beans on stage and the shameful yet gratifying subliminal scenes in Disney movies. Despite their rapid flight to fame, Apruzzese and Adhamy are two of the most down-to-earth musicians in an era of skanky reality TV stars that act like they fart rainbows. They seemed genuinely offended when I referred to them as rock stars, and insisted “dork,” and “nerd” are better fits. Apparently Passion Pit getting signed to Frenchkiss after only 10 live shows didn’t get Adhamy out of film scoring classes (a four-week stint on tour almost cost him his degree from Berklee College of Music). Perhaps it was Apruzzese’s more famous instructor, the incredible jazz musician Esperanza Spalding, whom he had trouble keeping up with as she “shred her bass” during class, that has kept his head from swelling.
Though they claimed Treasure Island was one of the smaller festivals they have every played, these particular outdoor acoustics proved fatal for Angelakos’s delicate vocals. Even the scintillating anthem “Sleepyhead” couldn’t spread its arms out far enough to hit the entire crowd. Bewitched below, their fans went nuts the entire 40-minute set none-the-less. Theirs wasn’t the only tragedy of the day—Saturday’s headliners MGMT fell flat, which I’m now convinced is a given with indi-electronica’s manufactured genre. College computer geeks banding together are the new high school stoners jamming in their parents’ garage. The result is cultivated and computerized yet jarringly catchy refrains that, while magnetically hypnotizing, don’t always translate outside the headphones. However, you’ve got to hand it to bands that leave the backing tracks at home. And sources at the MGMT show the night before at San Francisco’s Independent and Passion Pit’s sold out Wednesday night show at a the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles verified that these enclosed venues were catalysts for lush performances. Still, in the end, it was electronic power-house duo MSTRKRFT that had me four-to-the-floor with heavy robotic beats and inner organ-vibrating reverb. Just after the sunset Saturday night, their commanding performance owned the entire island and every 15-year old girl on it.
The sun shined only briefly on Sunday and for one band. Grizzly Bear’s lead singer Ed Droste made today’s slightly older, more sophisticated crowd swoon with his Adrien Brody-esque looks and crystalline vocals that melted through the fog. Horrified I’d shown up in a short dress, I hung my pride up and bought the cheapest, warmest thing I could find at the vendors: a long, grey thermal turtle neck dress that resembled the hideous (yet arguably genius) infomercial icon, the Snuggie. Humiliated yet warm, I was able to stay and listen to the evolved sound of The Decembrists who played against a psychedelic backdrop of exploding mushroom-videos. And when The Flaming Lips called San Francisco their second home before a flamboyantly theatrical performance complete with enough confetti to suffocate the crowd, I was grateful I had not let the cold bully me home. The gold medal for Sunday though has to go to Beirut. Zachary Francis Condon’s supernatural vocals resembled studio-shopped perfection and during this flawless performance, his trombone player proved the only human being alive that can make that instrument sexy.
The island was too congested to meet up with half the people I had planned to, but a run in with one young lady made my entire weekend: As I was trying to lose my wardrobe self-consciousness in Condon’s sorcery, I noticed a girl laughing at me while tugging on her turtleneck. Before I could blush and bury my head, I noticed she was wearing the exact same sleeping bag with sleeves I was.###
Jaime Nabrynski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit treasureislandfestival.com for more info.