Sunday at Treasure Island has a completely different personality than the day previously danced away. It’s the other twin, the one that stays home from the party to play acoustic guitar with his friends.
Both the bands and the crowd were in full Sunday mode. The bottles of booze were swapped for blankets, and earlier in the day many tribes plopped down right in-between the stages, opting out of migrating between sets.
Warpaint, a gang of four Los Angeles girls, set the tone early on. Their heady strings are grounded by vocals and percussion that drill into a moody-core, all swung with a sexy strut. St. Vincent kept it along the same lines, with singer and guitarist Annie Clark’s blunt lyrics and fuzzy guitar tones.
Beach House put on a casual show filled with songs off their latest album, Teen Dream. In between songs they might have fumbled around with jokes, but when the music began it was as heart fulfilling and crisp as the record. Friendly Fires then burst in with moves and melodies that would put most pop stars to shame, and were a blast to watch.
Explosions in the Sky were a nice cleanse to the ears, clearing up the way before Brooklyn’s The Hold Steady shook things up again. Death Cab For Cutie has built a solid wall of fan power, but can keep it fresh enough to stay catchy. They know what they’re doing.
Treasure Island, as a small festival, may be easy to overlook. But the cozy size is actually its strongest feature, and hopefully the crowd doesn’t grow like its reputation will. Oh, and I guess all those kickass bands help too.
If yesterday was neon Raybans, contraband laser pointers and, as it turned out, jocks, today was picnic ware, beardos and blazers (in two senses of the term). The lineup was indie fare of the highest grade, ranging from Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks’ slacker alt rock to Explosions in the Sky’s epic “post rock”; the question was, would the beauty and verve that sets these titans’ recorded work apart from the pack come through in the festival setting, or would the day slump onto its proverbial picnic blanket. With one or two exceptions, we got the former; it was electricity (almost) all the way.
The Antlers: This Brooklyn trio deals in atmosphere so thick, they can practically hang their scorching raw emotions on it. Or, as a less charitable critic might phrase it, their weepy songs all bleed together. Beholding their dueling tremolo guitars, descending organs and bold falsettos this afternoon, though, there was more than enough to grip. A fine start to the day, though they were to be outdone in almost every respect.
St. Vincent: In a day characterized my male falsetto and Death Cab for Cutie, St. Vincent was easily one of the manliest acts. The petit Annie Clark fired skuzzy guitar riffs as one would a mortar, reveling in their impact. This, in contrast with her delicate voice, yielded plenty of delightful moments. Bad-assery of the spectacle aside, though, in the end her aggressive approach collapsed in on itself. With a few exceptions (“Cruel,” “Year of the Tiger,”) the songs lacked balance, winding up angular and somewhat pallid.
Wild Beasts: My expectations for this band largely fell in the shadows of bigger names, and the impact of their phenomenal performance was the greater for it. Their renditions were flawless, steeped – better yet, drenched – in provocative vocal harmonies, effortlessly produced. Add a healthy amount of British charm to this, and you have an audience on its knees. “This song is about fucking,” the band pronounced before launching into a gripping rendition of “All the Kings Men.” It was as though the audience didn’t hear the word “about;” at any rate, judging by the size of our ovation we would have phrased things differently.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks: At the risk of denigrating one of the greatest figures in alt rock history, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks had me relieving my knees; what was worth hearing of their languid quick-jams was worth hearing from a ground position, through the refractory jungle of people’s legs. The show’s (barely) redeeming quality inhered in the band’s between-song banter, which included soliciting the audience for weed and cracking jokes about the big screen (“it’s like an A’s game, except people came …”)
Beach House: Two and a half years ago (my heart goes out to them; they’ve been touring forever) I saw Victoria Legrand and her dream pop outfit play the dinkiest stage at the Sasquatch Music Festival, and totally bomb. So when their set got off to a sleepy start this time around, I was worried. But the sunset seemed to invigorate the band, and by the third song (“Norway”) it was clear that one of the festival’s highlight moments was underway. Legrand’s rendition of “Take Care” was flat out flooring. Her smoky voice had us all irrevocably in her grip; her fanboys (of which there were a hilarious number) definitely lost their cool. It was an ecstatic end to the festival’s parade of huge, emotionally intelligent pop.