REVIEW: Treasure Island Music Festival, plus BONUS: On the mainstream’s assimilation of rave culture

The modern music festival is all about Molly, fuzzy boots, face paint, animal hats and dance, dance, dance. And that’s fine: The collision of deep, bass-y electronic sounds and powder-induced euphoria can never be a bad thing.

And so my last weekend: My annual foray into the fest scene, via Treasure Island Music Festival, the six-year-old, regular October gathering on the earthy bump that bisects the Bay Bridge.

Last Saturday was my third (or fourth?) visit to the island, and each one reminds that the boutique event (a tiny party tucked onto a strip of an old naval yard facing the Embarcadero and S.F.'s downtown) is a standout experience.

The day began as most days don’t, with rapper Danny Brown, who’s riding the agitated tunes on his recent album, Old, to even more acclaim. He stumbled onto Treasure’s towering main stage, joked about how he’s already drunk (2:45 p.m.), then cut into his new single, “Dip.” It’s a killer track, highlighting Brown’s adaptation of glitchier beats and, fittingly, is an ode to MDMA. Treasure’s crowd embraced Brown with open, tingling arms.

Next, Disclosure. The duo’s latest album, Settle, is a banger-friendly powerhouse that also features smoother, soulful moments. The young 20-somethings at Treasure Island were hyped on Disclosure unlike any other act.

What I dig about this band of brothers, Guy and Howard Lawrence, was that they play live instruments, not always par for the course when it comes to electronic sets. Bass guitar, digital drums, synths, vocals—that gives people something to look at other than two dudes bouncing behind laptops.

On the flip side, even the guitar music had its place. New York-based Phantogram, a four-piece that local promoter Brian McKenna brought to Harlow’s last year, really took me by surprise. Their songs are best described as crushing gulps of electronic rock with equal parts indie melody and minor-key dissonance—not my preferred drink of choice, but quaffable all the same. (Or maybe it was the jelly fish on a stick? See photo.)

Can’t say the same about Major Lazer, Diplo’s hype-man-without-a-cause project that’s really missing former collaborator Switch. Wobbly bass, House of Pain and Macklemore, beautiful 20-something women shaking their mama’s gifts—a good performance this does not make. (It makes a strip club.)

Headliners Atoms For Peace—the superstar mega-band lead by Thom Yorke of Radiohead and featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea—were surprisingly one of the least-embraced acts. This may have been because of a foggy, vicious wind chill. Or perhaps it was just the dissonant, angst-y whine of frontman Yorke and his band’s rattletrap vibe.

Which I personally loved: Flea cut into the bassline opener for “Default,” the big single off of Amok, and it charged forward like a neutron dance. Or at least one on Adderall. Their set was a primitive, frenzied, sharp rendition of the album’s digital progeny.

But, damn, the wind was brutal. And so, like the Pinocchio fable, the this island of pleasure—hours earlier featuring gorgeous, 78-degree sun, bare flesh, beer buzzes and methylamphetamine mojo—ended littered with sticky plastic cups, mud and thousands of teeth-grinding youth ambling toward dry, sober reality.

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