Review & Photos | Treasure Island Music Festival | Day One

Words By: Eric Podolsky
Images By: Sterling Munksgard

Treasure Island Music Festival :: 10.19.13-10.20.13 :: Treasure Island :: San Francisco, CA

Check out Eric’s full review after Sterling’s photos!

Now in its seventh year, Treasure Island Music Festival has firmly established itself as the premier electronic/indie music festival in the country. Comprising two drastically diverging days vaguely separated into EDM-friendly electronic acts (Saturday) and rock bands (Sunday), this year’s festival may have well been two separate events, considering how completely different the crowds and music were each day.

Saturday brought with it party-hungry droves of EDM kids, and as nice as the weather was (at least until the sun set), the crowded vibe of the day in the small field on the bay did not have the feel of a music festival, but rather an oversized, frenzied outdoor dance club. For better or worse, the ever-expanding, non-stop-party culture of EDM is an omni-present force for the new generation of festival-goers, and the gap between fans of laptop-wielding DJs and fans of bands creating music with instruments never felt wider than at this year’s Treasure Island. On Saturday, the digital-womping, sensory-overload club music of late-afternoon acts like Disclosure and Major Lazer blew out the audience’s aural pallate early on, leaving the majority of the party kids with no patience or ear for the gorgeous subtleties present in the full-band arrangements of Little Dragon and Atoms for Peace.

Though it was a shame that the crowd’s energy and attention span sputtered out for the music on Saturday, there were still plenty of highlights for a music-lover.

Atoms for Peace – 9:25-10:55 PM – Bridge Stage

As befuddling as it was seeing such a tepid crowd reaction to such an amazing, otherwordly set, it was still blatantly obvious that Thom Yorke, Flea, Nigel Godrich and Co. delivered the set of the day. Breathing new life into the haunting, ethereal songs from Yorke’s Atoms for Peace and The Eraser albums, this band crafted a heavy, dark set of far-reaching live electronica for the thinking man. Yorke was in full-on shaman mode, chanting and moaning his laments on the human condition into the gusty night as the band laid down gorgeous layered textures and breakbeats. Interestingly enough, the lowest frequency bass lines to songs were often made by Godrich’s synths, with Flea laying his own unmistakably funky playing down on top as a sort of middle layer of groove. Eerie songs such as “And It Rained All Night,” and the Flea slap-fest “Harrowdown Hill” put us into a dance trace to fend off the cold, whipping winds of the Bay. Yorke remarked that it felt like he was “out at sea.” The band closed with “Black Swan,” and Yorke’s “fucked up, fucked up” chorus put a profound stamp on the first crazy day of Treasure Island for all the cold, frazzled masses.

Poolside – 3:35-4:15 PM – Tunnel Stage

My favorite part of Treasure Island has to be discovering new bands at the intimate Tunnel Stage. This year it was Poolside, a Los Angeles duo that creates warm, sun-soaked, indie disco grooves that are hard to resist. Their full-band set started the day off right for us, beginning with the laid-back, marimba-infused grooves of songs like “Kiss You Forever” and “Do You Believe?”, which evoke Tom Tom Club in their light-hearted, sing-songy lyrics and bouncy rhythms. A chill-wave club beat ran throughout the set, which featured the first cover of the weekend in a completely re-worked, pulsing, synthy take on Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” that put a smile on many in the crowd’s faces. By the end of the set, the sunny field was a big, daytime, disco dance party. I’ll definitely be looking out for these guys in the future.

Holy Ghost! -6:50-7:35 PM – Tunnel Stage

Coming in close for this spot was DJ Falcon‘s late-afternoon set at the Tunnel Stage, which was a sugar-coated, crowd-pleasing mashup-fest that got many in the audience dancing hard. But a man at a laptop doesn’t quite do it for me at an outdoor festival, so Holy Ghost!’s full-band evening set takes the cake for me. Armed with a nasty drummer pounding out the beats, ample vocoders and ’80s-sounding synths galore, Alex Frankel and Nick Millhiser‘s brand of funky-retro dance music seem to be carrying on the torch of their labelmates, LCD Soundsystem, now that James Murphy has retired the act from touring. Featuring long, impeccably crafted builds of deliberate, slow-burn grooves that peaked with a rock ferocity, Holy Ghost churned out a set that made us forget that the night was bringing in some cold, biting sea winds. Songs like “Hold On” sounded like a funkier version of New Order, all moody synths and keyboard bass, in the best way possible. In a day filled with processed sounds, these guys brought a human element to their electro dance tunes and won us over in the process.

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