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.
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.
| Film School :: Treasure Island 2007|
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.
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'."
| Tyson Vogel - Two Gallants :: 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.
| M. Ward :: Treasure Island 2007|
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.
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.
| Built To Spill :: Treasure Island 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.
| Spoon :: TI 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.
| Modest Mouse :: Treasure Island 2007|
Continue reading for more Treasure Island images by Dave Vann...