Though Treasure Island Music Festival wasn’t held on actual Treasure Island for the first time after taking a break last year and a ten year run before that, there couldn’t possibly have been a better place to have it than the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland.
The San Francisco skyline that seemed almost close enough to touch and the famous cranes of the Port of Oakland were the surreal backdrop for the whimsical festival grounds. Rows of floating balloons bright against the blue sky, bubbles big and small, and art installations.
In fact, one of my favorite non-music moments at Treasure Island was seeing an older woman in a bright yellow coat with flowers playing with the giant metal octopus you could control by turning a little lever. Watching her private delight made me want to remember that forever as something to keep when the world seems sad.
My favorite thing in general about Treasure Island was that the two stages were close enough to each other so that getting to each set wasn’t too bad. And even if you weren’t actually at the stages (like if you were eating dumplings and treats you snuck in, or browsing the flea market set up, or soaking up the sun against the bay), you could still hear the music. So I got to learn that I should listen to more U.S. Girls and Alex Cameron. Here are some of the sets that I did get to make it to that made Sunday feel like a dream.
The pro-est of tips for Sunday was coming early to see serpentwithfeet so you could get close to the stage and appreciate a moment of beautiful silence where his soft falsetto was all your ears could focus on. He was like a teacher holding a lesson on unconditional love, and all he had on stage was a keyboard and a table with his laptop, a photo in a frame, and a book of poems. Halfway through the set he read us one (“Woman With Flower” by Naomi Long Madgett), and it was the nicest thing.
THE UNEXPECTED JAM
I knew that Pond would probably be a good time, but the Australian act (the first of quite a few that day) is something to behold live. Their fuzzy psychedelic sound is bigger and groovier in real life, and the frontman has those perfect, skinny, Jagger vibes going on. “Giant Tortoise” rocked, and “Sweep Me Off My Feet” was a groove. Plus, we got to hear two new songs, a mini jam session, and some even got to hold the lead singer up when he made it into the crowd to get even closer.
THE (BETTER THAN) EXPECTED JAM
Jungle may have been one of the most anticipated acts after Tame Impala because their latest album (and their music in general) is a certifiable banger. By the time they came on it was dark and the energy was a little more low key – especially after Cigarette After Sex’s dreamy sunset set (more on that just now). But the proverbial fire under asses was lit when the disco-RnB dance party began with this massive ensemble of musicians that seem to be having a legit good time together on stage. I don’t think anyone would have minded if it went on forever.
THE SUNSET SET
Shoutout to whoever coordinated the set times and made sure that Cigarettes After Sex was on The City stage that overlooked San Francisco just as the sun was making Insta-perfect light and shadows. The smoky, ambient music (what the kids apparently call slowcore) set a music video-scene where all the colors are perfect, and you feel like everyone feels happy and lucky to be here.
THE LOWKEY DREAM COME TRUE
Many, many posts ago I made a playlist with “Depreston” on it, and I said I could picture hearing Courtney Barnett at the perfect summer festival during a laid-back afternoon set. And that actually happened in real life at Treasure Island, so believe in your dreams, kids. The only thing was it actually wasn’t all the laid-back because Courtney Barnett’s guitar playing is the powerful, shredding kind that leaves you a little in awe. And jumping around singing “men are scared women will laugh at them, women are scared that men will kill them” (from her song “Nameless, Faceless”) was a nice bit of catharsis.
THE LIVE SHOW MAGIC
One of my favorite things about seeing live music is when the performer changes the arrangement of a song and you get to hear its essences but also as something new. Tame Impala does a version of “Mind Mischief,” one of their absolute best songs (that drum fill!), where the synthy bridge becomes the focus and the song becomes a jam to match their technicolor set. That, and the confetti gun alone (and when “Nangs” from Currents plays as the intro when the band first comes on stage) are what makes seeing Tame Impala worth it every single time.