Treasure Island | 09.15 & 09.16 | SF, CA

Treasure Island Festival :: 09.15.07 & 09.16.07 :: San Francisco, CA

Treasure Island 2007 by Josh Withers
Boasting around 800,000 citizens, San Francisco is the second most densely populated major city in the U.S. Oakland stacks over 400,000 people into her quarters. Yet there is a slice of heaven that sits smack dab in the middle of these metropolitan monsters that is almost un-inhabited. Treasure Island was originally constructed (yup, it's man-made) in 1939 for the Golden Gate International Exposition in order to celebrate the completion of both the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges. The Navy usurped the island during World War II and 70 years later in 1997 finally gave this pristine spot back to the city of San Francisco.

For the past ten years the question has been, "What do we do with Treasure Island?" The one-lane-in and one-lane-out roadways are far too small to support a huge influx of cars, and there really isn't any commerce on the island. But, the spot is a green little oasis of tranquil beauty with views of the Pacific Ocean, SF and Oakland that are unparalleled. Taking a chance, the fine folks over at Another Planet Productions decided to jump in and give The Bay its first taste of what's possible on Treasure Island.

There was considerable stress and anticipation hanging over this event as San Francisco's bureaucracy was watching every move under a microscope to determine if Treasure Island could be used for future city events. The big question was transportation. How do you get all these music freaks on and off the island? Shuttles were the only answer, but would a bunch of hipsters and rockers pile onto a bus? They did, and it went so smooth people were shocked. In fact, the inaugural Treasure Island Music Festival brought 20,000 people and went off without a hitch. In retrospect it seems almost ridiculous that this spot had not been used for an event like this until now. With logistics running smooth as liquor down the belly, breathtaking panoramic views and a stellar lineup, TI was one of the easiest, most enjoyable audio and visual experiences of the year.

-Kayceman


09.15.07 :: Day 1
Words by: Robyn Rubinstein :: Images by: Dave Vann

The bartender says, "Hey, Pirate! Do you know you have a steering wheel sticking out of your fly?" The pirate answers, "Aargh! It's drivin' me nuts!" The first, and hopefully annual Treasure Island Festival lacked for almost nothing, except more pirate jokes.

Honeycut :: Treasure Island 2007
Honeycut is one of San Francisco's hidden gems. The electro-funk quartet is one of the freshest things happening in the Bay. Comprised of Bart Davenport on vocals, Tony Sevener on MPC and RV Salters on keys and clavinet, Honeycut rings of Prince at his funkiest. That's no small accomplishment for three white San Francisco-based hipsters. Set against the postcard perfect backdrop of San Francisco from the Bay Bridge to the Golden Gate and joined by Etienne de Rocher on bass, their set was a sun-drenched dance party. Salters' command of his vintage keyboards is impressive, and when combined with his exceptional dance moves, he is just shy of epic. "Tough Kid" swaggered and strutted along with frontman Davenport. In contrast, "Exodus Honey" is a light, airy and mildly poppy but was given street cred by Sevener's drum production. They closed their set with an explosive, harmonica-infused cover of "Last Night a DJ Saved My Life." Seeing as Apple is now using "Exodus Honey" in their iMac commercials, I recommend delving into Honeycut before the rest of America catches on.

Ghostland Observatory does not lack for charisma or potential. The duo describes itself as "not a band, but an agreement between two friends to create something that not only heals their beat-driven hearts, but pleases their rock 'n roll souls." Thomas Turner mans a drum machine/drum-kit/Moog platform at center stage, sporting an Elvis-meets-alien cape, and frontman Aaron Behrens handles the swagger, strut and vocals. With two long, dark braids that swing with a life of their own, he grinds and gyrates, pure Mick Jagger style. The sound is largely '80s electro, which definitely has its appeal. Parts were reminiscent of the original Miami Vice TV show, which was comforting and mildly disconcerting at the same time. Behrens is a quality frontman, overtly sexual in a way that appeals to everyone, and Turner's beats are pounding. "Sad, Sad City" best exemplifies that when the blend is balanced Ghostland can deliver hard beats with a rock feel. However, the recipe still needs some work. The beats are undeniable but repetitive, and at times Behren's voice degenerates into a screechy Jack White. There were compelling moments, but there were also moments of borderline noise.

M.I.A. :: Treasure Island 2007
I love everything about M.I.A., in theory. However, if Homer Simpson has taught us anything over the years, it's that "in theory, communism works." A daughter of revolution, she rose from war torn, Third World abject poverty to become an international rap-electronica star. She is a shining female beacon of the spirit of hip-hop. She came from nothing, becoming famous by telling her story about where she was from in her own unapologetic voice. She has no problem speaking her mind and blasting those who hold her back, whether it be the idiocies of the American government and her recent immigration issues, or telling Pitchfork that in spite of their current position as the ultimate arbiter of what is important and cool, they were wrong when they credited Diplo as the brains behind her first album, Arular. I've used the term "full sonic assault" before but it's never fit more perfectly than as description of her set. A portion of that could be attributed to terrible sound quality, ultimately resulting in a blown speaker. However, I think M.I.A.'s style comes at you like a machine gun, which is only fitting given her war-infused youth. You can escape unscathed but you can't really forget it, no matter how much you'd like to. She brings a vast, international musical arsenal, layered and incorporated into strong, catchy beats. Unfortunately, pretty soon they all started to sound the same. The beats were compelling at first, but her songs are repetitive by nature, so it felt like the same beat, the same intonations, the same essence, for the majority of her set. By the end, it felt like someone had beaten me over the head with M.I.A. Live, it sounded like too many musical cultures diluted the whole concoction past the point of relevance into something indistinguishable and mundane. She also made more than one reference to Alcatraz, which led me to wonder if she knew which island she was on. Let me be clear though, I was in the minority. She definitely pleased the crowd, especially with earlier hits like "Galang," "Sunshowers" and her latest single, "Boyz." She did pick specific girls out of the audience, inviting them to dance onstage during "Bird Flu," a cut from her new album, Kala. "I want all you girls to get crazy!," she screamed, leading the way by climbing the scaffolding. I always applaud women getting down and crazy in solidarity. I also applaud her gold lame leggings, just because.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist:: Treasure Island 2007
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist's set was rife with promise. Their latest collaboration, The Hard Sell, is an all 45 rpm set, using eight turntables and two guitar loop pedals. They explained the details of their set with a PSA and corresponding diagrams that had the feel of a 1950's educational film. The PSA addressed questions rhetorical ("At the end of the day, aren't they really just playing records?") as well as practical ("What is the difference between a 45 and a 7 inch? Nothing! They're the same. 45's may be harder to play but they do have a groove."). The pair's past joint works, Brainfreeze (1999) and Product Placement (2001), have near legendary status for their ability to effortlessly mix a vast array of styles and sounds into seamless musical odysseys that are funky, highly danceable and enthralling. In contrast, The Hard Sell was just that – difficult to buy. The first 30-minutes or so were solid, emblematic of the duo's skill, laden with hip-hop and funk samples from the Pharcyde, Outkast, the Sugar Hill Gang and Digable Planets. Cut Chemist announced a tribute to De La Soul, spinning segments of Manzel, Billy Joel and the Bar-Kays, which are some of the components of "Plug Tunin'" and "Potholes in My Lawn." I had to consult a crate-digging expert to help me identify the various bits and pieces the next day. Putting it back together re-enforced the fact that deconstructing one work and assembling it as something else as authentic as the original is a difficult, complex task. DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist have already proven their more than ample skill in this area, and told the audience that The Hard Sell was the natural extension of their past works. Though I agree that pushing the boundaries of their craft is the logical progression, this felt anything but natural. The second half of the set stumbled, ranging from background music to moments of cacophony, like their final scratch-off involving portable turntables around their necks (I don't believe those were included in the official eight, so that's a total of ten turntables) and samples of various death metal tunes that I couldn't identify. I'm all for innovation and challenges but only if it's practiced. At the end of the set, DJ Shadow sheepishly admitted, "That last part needs a little work." It was obvious that they were excited about the concept and wanted the audience to understand just how cool it was. The concept of an all-45 show with eight to ten turntables is undeniably cool, in theory, but again, in theory communism works. Though the PSA was hip, rehearsal would have gone much further. The closing PSA sagely told the crowd, "The party's over. You've been drinking all day and doing cocaine. If you think doing more cocaine will keep you up for the drive home, think again."

Gotan Project :: Treasure Island 2007
If M.I.A. was a bit of an assault then the Gotan Project and Thievery Corporation were warm embraces. A play on the word "tango," the core of Gotan is French producers Philippe Cohen Solal and Christoph H. Müller with Argentinean guitarist-singer Eduardo Makaroff. Their goal is to bring the passion and soul of tango and other Argentine folkloric music to electro - a genre that is largely lacking in heart. Their fusion is nearly intoxicating. Their stage set-up involved guitar, a baby grand, a string section (comprised of three violas and a cello), a bandeon (a small accordion used in tango music), two turntables and vocals, both sung and rapped. Catalan vocalist Cristina Vilallonga is nothing short of ethereal. At times the blend was so flawless that it created a new musical culture that was unique from the electronica and tango that spawned it. However, the rich sensuality of tango was ever present, even in the more electronic influenced songs like "Diferente" and "Santa Maria (Del Buen Ayre)," which contained a "Billie Jean" tease. The synthesis of new and classical was the perfect balance, creating a lush musical landscape. The musicianship and passion in this band is undeniable, and I could say the same about Thievery Corporation. They are simply at the top of their game. The DJ team of Rob Garza and Eric Hilton were joined on stage by bass, guitar, horn section, percussion, sitar and vocalist. What started as a DJ duo has grown into a full-fledged band that far surpasses any expectations. They invigorated the crowd with airtight versions of their dance classics like "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter," "Lebanese Blonde" and "Strange Days." Set against the sparkling backdrop of San Francisco at night, it was a victorious way to close the day.

Thievery Corporation :: Treasure Island 2007
Other highlights included Chicago-based DJ duo Flosstradamus for spinning "all the old throwback club hits." They opened their set with DJ Shadow's "Organ Donor" as a clear nod to him. From Daft Punk's "One More Time" to Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin'" with dashes of E-40 and The Klaxons, Autobot and J2K can command a party. Mexican dance-rockers Kinky are also adept at creating an instant disco, and nothing accomplishes that quicker than their power-packed "Do You Like It?"

Even if some artists on Day One were less than convincing, the view and vibe alone made it worthwhile. It was intimate, welcoming and a successfully green festival. You could collect discarded recyclable cups and bottles and redeem them for prizes ranging from free Vitamin Water, a pair of Noise Pop badges or Logitech iPod speakers. That is absolutely one of the most inspired ideas I have heard in quite some time. All shuttles that ran to and from the island ran on biodiesel and all leftover food was donated to local shelters. It didn't seem possible that San Francisco could be any cooler musically than it already was, but Noise Pop and Another Planet clearly raised the bar.

Continue reading for Day II from Treasure Island...

09.16.07 :: Day 2
By: Kayceman :: Images by: Dave Vann

It was sunny, warm and clear - one of those days when San Francisco is the greatest place on Earth. Getting on Treasure Island was a breeze, far easier than anyone expected. Walking in, we were met by the sound of San Francisco's own Trainwreck Riders on the small Tunnel Stage. A former "Favorite New Band" for JamBase, their blend of jangly rock, tight time changes and heartfelt rocker-ballads are messy in all the right ways. The band is best suited for whiskey-saturated nights in a dark bar, but they rose to the occasion as frontman-guitarist-vocalist Pete Frauenfelder belted out the tattered words, "In and out of love, but mostly in-between," from their standout track, "In The Wake of It All," off 2006's Lonely Road Revival. With solid numbers already on the island by 1:30 p.m., Sunday afternoon, we stood sandwiched between San Francisco and the Bay Bridge beyond the stage, the Golden Gate Bridge to the right and Oakland at our backs with nothing but good times ahead of us.

Film School :: Treasure Island 2007
The set-up on Treasure Island was near perfect. They had the mini Tunnel Stage set up for small, rising acts, which on Sunday were all California bands, mostly from the Bay Area. This stage served as set break music while the larger acts changed over on the much bigger Bridge Stage creating a situation where the music never stopped for more than five minutes, and there wasn't one decision to be made as two bands never performed at the same time. If you wanted to drop a blanket on the soft grass and stay put all day you could have situated yourself between these two stages and just shifted your eyes and ears, never having to leave your spot and still catching every note. These smaller bands were only allotted 20-30 minutes but, for the most part, this seemed like the right slice of time to get a decent glimpse.

In addition to the Trainwreck Riders, standouts from the Tunnel Stage included Oakland indie-rock outfit Street To Nowhere and Dave Smallen's passionately screamed vocals, Film School's big ideas, frantic guitars, English vibe and the unmistakable Robert Smith (The Cure) influence on singer Krayg Burton. Sea Wolf's acoustic indie rock and delicate song structures were another highlight from the Tunnel Stage. The brainchild of singer-songwriter-guitarist Alex Church, Sea Wolf's "Wolf Boy" is one of the year's better songs, with a pensive guitar line and Aniela Perry's ethereal cello drifting next to Church's full, restrained vocals: "Old gypsy woman spoke to me/ Said you're a wolf boy get out of this town." Sea Wolf definitely won the crowd over.

Tyson Vogel - Two Gallants :: Treasure Island 2007
The second band to take the Bridge Stage was SF's Two Gallants. Kicking off with an extended instrumental intro into a punked-up "Las Cruces Jail," the sound from Tyson Vogel's drums was slightly muffled, but got better with time. The set featured several songs from the band's upcoming self-titled release (available 9/25 through Saddle Creek). "Despite What You've Been Told" had particular bite with vocalist-guitarist Adam Stephens taking a desperate, hard look at life and those we rub up against: "I claw my eyes, I skin my face/ Beg somehow to be replaced/ That's how we deal with boys like me/ Well, I guess for this world so sick with loss/ And those who dream despite the cost/ I should climb down off my rugged cross/ And lay with you." From a lyrical perspective, there aren't many alive writing heavier, better songs than Two Gallants. Stephens is emotionally pregnant at every turn with double-meanings bathed in historical context, passionately sung words beefed up by timeless Americana rock beats and a punk esthetic. This band is the real deal. If Johnny Cash were alive you can bet he'd love Two Gallants, and I haven't had the chance to ask, but if Bob Dylan still has ear to the ground, Two Gallants should be in his rotation. The Two Gs closed their set (which also welcomed violinist Anton Patzner for a few songs) with long time favorite "Steady Rollin'," allowing Stephens to stare out over the bay as he sang, "I shot my wife today/ Dropped her body in the Frisco Bay/ I had no choice it was the only way/ Death's Comin', I'm still runnin'."

M. Ward :: Treasure Island 2007
While the Gallants' dense lyrical work would find favor with Dylan, there's lots about M. Ward that makes you think of Zimmy's folkier days, and that's no knock. Ward's music is timeless, emotional and introspective, plus he's a hell of guitar and piano player. But, more than anything, it's his full-bodied, hushed vocal delivery (which is considerably stronger than anything Dylan has been able to muster in years, if ever) that draws comparisons. When you hear M. Ward on the radio it sounds right. When you hear him play live, it sounds even better. With a talented five-piece band behind him (equipped with two drum kits) songs like "Four Hours in Washington" and the rollicking "Big Boat" came to life. Right around the time he played a John Fahey song there was an extended jam that showcased some powerful, Crazy Horse-style guitar leads from Ward. He used a countrified, surf-rock guitar melody to keep the train moving as he ducked in and out of big bunches of notes and tempo changes. M. Ward in the morning, M. Ward at night. M. Ward in the car, M. Ward on the couch. M. Ward on record, M. Ward on stage. M. Ward writes damn fine songs that you can listen to in any setting.

If there's one indie darling band I've had trouble getting on board with it's Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. It's not because they suck or anything - far from it - they're clearly a talented band. It's not even the early Talking Heads/David Byrne vocals (well, maybe it's that a little...). More than anything, I think it's just personal taste. The thin driving dance beat, high-pitched keyboards and derivative vocal work just don't jive with my mojo. That said, I do think "The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth," with its light guitar refrain is a real nice, catchy pop song, and the disco-trance section of "Satan Said Dance" and a well placed semi-gritty guitar jam towards the end of their set perked up my ears.

Built To Spill :: Treasure Island 2007
Where CYHSY miss the mark, Built To Spill tickles my sweet spot. It's just so big. Sometimes I'm not even sure how the fuck they are doing it. It's like they flip some switch and all of a sudden UFOs are hovering overhead, trying to land on your back. Doug Martsch is perhaps the most unassuming rock star alive. If you weren't into BTS and saw him in a group of people you would never guess he's the guitar hero. Martsch and company strolled onstage like they were the road crew, plugged in. It took one song ("Liar") before it was instant insanity. It seemed strange that they opted to open with "Liar" because they did the same thing the night before at The Independent in San Francisco. Regardless, after a nice reading they dropped into a distortion-heavy, feedback-laden "Time Warp" and a show-stopping "You Were Right." Three guitars make a lot of noise but Built To Spill knows how to utilize that power to create huge walls of swarming sound. There were times when guitarist Brett Netson would be laying down huge foundations for Martsch to crank on top of, forming these thick slabs of chunky, ominous, dark rock & roll. After a complex Brian Eno cover with lots of little sections and another repeat from the previous night ("Car"), they closed with a monster version of "Conventional Wisdom" that found Martsch changing the lyrics to: "Some things you can't explain/ Like why we're all embracing conventional wisdom in a world that's so fucking conventional." As nice as subtle word changes are for fans paying close attention, it's the guitar meltdowns like the one that the band walked off stage to that define Built To Spill.

Spoon :: TI 2007
If any band won Treasure Island, it was probably Spoon. Built To Spill was great, Modest Mouse solid, M. Ward and Two Gallants all good, but Spoon was just about flawless. Over ten-plus years they've experienced a good deal of success with their studio albums, but they are an exceptional live band, too. They're led by singer-songwriter-guitarist Britt Daniel, who's clearly the heart, soul and brains of this band. He's got that "X-Factor," and it's clear he takes his art seriously. Whatever fire is burning inside Daniel peeks out from time to time, and we understand the music better because of it. That's not to say he doesn't enjoy himself up there. Songs like the insanely catchy "I Turn My Camera On" off 2006's Gimme Fiction and "You Got Your Cherry Bomb" from this year's Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga are infectious dance numbers with great hooks and sturdy bass lines. What's key to Spoon's equation is their balance. While they busted out other upbeat, dance-worthy numbers like "The Underdog" (from the new album) and a big time rock version of "Mathematical Mind," they also played darker, more spacious songs like "The Ghost Of You Lingers," "Don't You Evah" and "The Beast and Dragon, Adored." They are economical and always serve the song. In many ways they resemble Wilco in how they approach their music, but with none of the country leanings. And in my book, whenever you start comparing a group to Wilco it's clear you are talking about a special band.

Modest Mouse :: Treasure Island 2007
Following Spoon is not an easy task, but Modest Mouse seemed up for it. Even though this was the last show of a long tour and most of the band was suffering from the flu, they were more than able to rock the socks off the still strong crowd. It was Sunday night and getting kinda cold on the ocean for those still in shorts and t-shirt, but few heads left. The addition of Johnny Marr (The Smiths) to the band is old news, but it's worth mentioning that this was a great idea by Isaac Brock. Whether it was older songs like "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes" and "Paper Thin Walls" or new ones "Missed The Boat" and "Fire It Up," Marr found his way into all the right spots. But, this is Brock's show and his slurred delivery and punk-you demeanor took center stage at almost every moment. At times, Brock's voice was clearly suffering from the tour and illness, but when he took things down a bit, as he did on "Bukowski" (which showcases Brock on banjo) or "The Good Times Are Killing Me" the sound gelled nicely. By the time they busted out their smash hit "Float On" it seemed the night was coming to an end. However, going considerably over the official stop time, Modest Mouse endeared themselves further to their adorning fans and proved a very strong way to close down the inaugural Treasure Island Festival.

Continue reading for more Treasure Island images by Dave Vann...

Images by: Dave Vann

09.15.07 :: Day 1

Mocean Worker
Zion I
Aaron Behrens - Ghostland Observatory
Thomas Turner - Ghostland Observatory
Kid Beyond
M.I.A.
West Indian Girl
San Francisco
DJ Shadow
Cut Chemist
Flosstradamus
Gotan Project
Kinky
Thievery Corporation
Thievery Corporation

09.16.07 :: Day 2

Trainwreck Riders
Adam Stephens - Two Gallants
Two Gallants
Tyson Vogel (possibly turning into the devil) - Two Gallants
Street To Nowhere
M. Ward
Sea Wolf
Alec Ounsworth - Clap Your Hands Say Yeah
Devil Makes Three
Doug Martsch - Built To Spill
Film School
Britt Daniel - Spoon
Isaac Brock - Modest Mouse
Johnny Marr - Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse

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Comments

tourfan Fri 9/21/2007 06:59PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Ok, let me be the first ... Excellent review. Very well written, and great photos. Thanks to all for sharing with the rest of us who can't make it to the left coast. Thanks for stepping up coverage of some great indie-rock bands. Keep up the good work KC and crew.

Juan starstarstarstarstar Fri 9/21/2007 08:46PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Real stellar writing yall! Great job!

Theivery rocks the spot!

johnnygoff starstarstarstarstar Sat 9/22/2007 12:51AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

johnnygoff

Way to give back to your home turf jambase.com. Gadiel/Bernstein are proud.

...........................................................................

Robyn Rubenstein: You know how to make an east coast music fella's heart ache for San Fran...Great words all together this piece, especially thanks for the mentions of Ghostland Observatory, Built to Spill, Spoon, Thievery Corp., and the DJ Shadow/Cut Chemist set which produced these seemingly spot-on words from Robyn: "The second half of the set stumbled, ranging from background music to moments of cacophony........The concept of an all-45 show with eight to ten turntables is undeniably cool, in theory, but again, in theory communism works. Though the PSA was hip, rehearsal would have gone much further." Props to these DJs for live improv but even nicer was her delicate description- nice....great shots as always Dave. ....

RothburyWithCheese starstarstar Sat 9/22/2007 06:51AM
Show -5 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!
Ned8 starstarstarstarstar Sun 9/23/2007 07:31AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Great article. How cool is this? Nice to see those military bases used for something to create unity. Brovo to the promotors and fat claps to the writer, best article I've read on music is good while

bigchris starstarstarstarstar Tue 10/2/2007 11:50PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

sweet pics

great fest, really well run. What a view!

Spoon was great on Sunday, they rocked the house, very innovative.

Should have went Sat. to see Shadow & co.

This is going to become a great annual event in SF.

Tiny Dancer Mon 10/22/2007 09:29AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Tiny Dancer

Hi all. I wrote the Day 1 part. I can't believe I'm just noticing this now, over a month after the fact. I'm so sorry about it, but I'm offering a correction to whomever else will read this. Honeycut is a trio, not a quartet. Etienne de Rocher did play with them that day, thus there were four people on-stage, but there are only 3 people in the band. Sorry.