Death From Above 1979, Battles, Dizzee Rascal, YACHT, The Naked & Famous
October 15, 2011
Better than: Any wanna-be Studio 54 club experience
The genius of Treasure Island Music Festival lies in the scheduling. There's the obvious: sets are staggered between two stages so you don't miss any acts. Then there's the subtle brilliance of separating genres between two days, allowing attendees to pick their festival experience.
Saturday focused on electronica, hip-hop, and dance. Compared with Sunday's lineup, which was filled with indie and mainstream rock, it's the "wilder" day of the festival (even in years without Death From Above 1979 booked).
This is apparent without even looking at the stage. The Saturday crowd has noticeably fewer parents with kids in cute headphones. Typical concert hijinx occur -- the ever-present smell of marijuana, flashing of the on-stage camera when it pans the crowd, a guy who fastened a cup holder to the outside of his crutches. Within an arms length, you also witness next-level concert stereotypes. A girl squats down among the crowd to relieve herself in front of the stage. Minutes later, small groups disappear within the same space muttering something about "blow."
That side of festival culture is well documented and well parodied (take this week's episode of The League as the latest example). It's worth noting here for one reason. Despite Saturday's musical focus better lending itself to this chaotic environment, the day belonged to two of the least-wild acts you could imagine, playing back-to-back on the main stage.
At 6:15 p.m., there was Chromeo. They should be an easy act to hate. Aspects of the duo are so over the top it's painful. Its members go by stage names Dave 1 and P-Thugg. Dave 1 rocked standard-issue Wayfarers with a Thriller jacket, while P-Thugg wore standard issue flannel to compliment his rather lumberjack beard. Their keyboards sat on stands made of luminescent legs that made the icon from A Christmas Story look conservative. Dave 1 encouraged more ladies to get up on male shoulders during the set and P-Thugg only interacted with the crowd via his talk box (which, if your name isn't Frampton, feels over the top just on principle).
All of that would be so unappealing -- if the band wasn't so good live. The level of performance and musicianship Chromeo brought made its whole shtick feel decidedly wink-wink. They blew through hits off of Fancy Footwork ("Tenderoni," "Bonafied Loving," and the title track) while mixing in newer tracks from Business Casual to keep the party going. Dave 1 worked the crowd like a ringleader, emphasizing any moments of anticipation with his hand raised to display a single digit while his mouth opened awaiting the beat. And P-Thugg is truly something to witness live. He rotates between keys, talk box, bass, and percussion -- sometimes all within the same song. But Dave 1 proved he was no slouch as well. His guitar effects may be excessive, but he can be counted on for a well-fitting and tastefully styled solo during any open section.
Listening to the band play "Momma's Boy" live summed up the Chromeo experience. The lyrics were nonsensical to a point that would make Oasis proud, yet the solo section of that song excited the crowd (both with its danceable groove and well crafted licks) more than any other moment in their set. That brief passage stood out as the highlight of the day at that point (and prior acts like YACHT, The Naked & Famous, and the surprising Dizzee Rascal each won their crowds over).
If Chromeo seemed an unlikely candidate to be best-of on a Treasure Island Saturday, Cut Copy was a total blindside. While the previous electronic duo was almost off-puttingly melodramatic, Cut Copy was extremely mild mannered. The group's recent album, Zonoscope, arrived under the radar this year, and its members looks like people you'd never catch in the presence of any live music. I overheard someone say lead singer Dan Whitford looks like a Radio Shack manager.
The band's usual sound on recordings is subdued, and didn't seem to quite fit with the rest of what the day offered. While Chromeo's electronica may be comparable with DJs or a fellow Treasure Island band like YACHT, Cut Copy is closer to modern day New Wave (or dare I say it, Duran Duran). Not exactly the stuff you'd ask to dance to.
But all it took was the bass being raised a little bit and Whitford going 100 percent with some theatrical stage antics. The crowd locked in. Cut Copy made Zonoscope sound more exciting than it ever did recorded, and virtually any track off In Ghost Colours was met with a singalong. The festival setting allowed light-up jellyfish figures to pass through the crowd simultaneously. The rowdiest moment of the rowdiest Treasure Island day belonged to Cut Copy's performance of "Lights and Music." The ground shook (or least bodies moved me) as a sea of fans jumped in unison while shouting at the stage starting with "This is where we walk today for your birthday." Maybe it was the accent, but when Whitford politely asked the crowd if it was ready to dance at the start of the set, his wish became a command.
Cut Copy wasn't the final set of the day. Death From Above 1979 flashed moments of brilliance on the smaller stage right after, and Empire of the Sun gave fans a highly produced spectacle to close the night. But one guy wearing a Native American headdress stood back during Cut Copy's set, and as lingered there after the band finished. I turned to book it for Death From Above 1979 just as he shouted something surprisingly profound toward the stage.
"There's no more festival after you."
Overheard(wrote?): A girl approached me when she spotted my notebook, asked what I was doing, then said she was also a writer. She's working on a memoir under the pen name of Alicia Olivia and asked to write a quick passage on my pad:
"Dear God, It's been Rad. See you in Cabo."
By the way: Have The Naked & Famous ever explicitly discussed pop-punk in interviews? Between the dramatic lyrical content, the familiar male vocal pitches, and the bangs on all the men in the band, I'd see them open for Saves The Day.