Since its 2007 inception, Treasure Island Music Festival was a yearly highlight for Bay Area music fans, but in 2016, disaster struck. A violent storm destroyed equipment, ended sets, and the festival left a bad taste in the mouths of some artists and fans.
After taking the year off in 2017, Treasure Island 2018 made its long-awaited return from the shadows last weekend. The festival needed to put on a tremendous show this year to re-establish itself as a prominent Bay Area live music brand. So it made a bold move away from Treasure Island to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, a bayside park within the Port of Oakland. Along with this move came a myriad of new themes, attractions and ideas to improve the festival. Throughout the weekend, it was clear TIMF made all the right decisions. It was an unforgettable year for the festival that revitalized its image, with headliners Tame Impala and A$AP Rocky. Good job, TIMF. Here are some of the best and worst of Treasure Island 2018:
BEST: Captivating views a sight to behold
Although the festival name is no longer quite as fitting, moving the event to Oakland this year was a wise move. The weather and traffic congestion on Treasure Island were no longer a problem. More importantly, the venue itself was visually stunning. Sitting right along the bay, with a view of San Francisco, Treasure Island, and the Bay Bridge, the park had a view as captivating as the festival’s acts. In between shows, crowd members wandered the shoreline, unable to take their eyes off the view. On the other side of the park was Oakland’s shipyard, filled with rusty containers and cargo cranes. While artists performed on stage, port workers moved crates just a hundred feet away. It was the last place to expect a music festival — the middle of a shipyard — and that was the beauty of it.
WORST: The dust
The park was practically on the beach, so it had copious amounts of sand and dirt. When the crowd migrated from show to show, pounds of dust were kicked into the air, forming a fearsome tan haze over the event. For many people dealing with the classic October cold, the dust made the air essentially unbreathable. It was not uncommon to see well-prepared fans sporting scarves, bandanas, and even dust masks to save themselves. People were blowing their noses so often that at one point, I thought the festival added a brass band act. The gorgeous venue made it all worth it, but perhaps next year, a sponsorship from a tissue company would be in order. To sum it up, as Courtney Barnett sang in “Avant Gardener” during her set, “I’m having trouble breathing in…”
BEST: Staggered set times so you don’t miss any action
Treasure Island 2018 had a brilliant idea: stagger the acts, and use two stages with excess space. This setup made it ridiculously easy to get a perfect spot in the crowd at every act. One act played on one stage while the other stage was prepared, and each set ended with plenty of time for everyone to move to the new act. No one missed any action. There was also more than enough room at each stage to accommodate everyone, so getting to the front of the crowd was easy. On both nights, fans constantly remarked upon their proximity to the artists. At any other festival, it would seem twice as hard to get even half as close to the acts.
WORST: Exiting the venue
The options for getting to and from the venue were limited. Attendees were to take BART to West Oakland BART Station and take the festival-sponsored shuttle into the park, or get dropped off by a friend or ride-share app. There was no parking at the venue. Getting in was no problem, as people funneled into the festival at various points throughout each day, causing little traffic. Getting out, however, was another story.
At the end of each night, thousands of people marched aggressively toward the Uber pickup area, phone in hand. Everyone’s Uber apps crashed and buffered because so many people were using it, and there were simply not enough drivers to meet the high demand. Drivers cancelled on riders, unable to find their way through the Port of Oakland, or deal with the traffic of other Ubers. Traffic coordinators discouraged fans from using Uber, and recommended taking the shuttle to BART and Ubering from there. Anyone hoping to get an Uber would have to spend 30-60 minutes waiting. Spending an hour in a shipyard at 10:30 pm is not particularly desirable. A larger Uber pickup area, or clearer signs to help Ubers reach the venue would help solve this issue.
BEST: You name it, Pusha T played it
One standout set at the festival was Pusha T. Due to the release and critical acclaim of his recent album Daytona, there was no shortage of hype for his set. He silently walked onto the stage Saturday night, and began to rap the beginning of “If You Know You Know.” When the drop finally came, the crowd was all-in, and Pusha T maintained their energy throughout the song. From there, he took the audience through years of his discography, from “Grindin’,” a Neptunes-produced hit from his Clipse days, to “Santeria,” a song fresh off his new album. During the set, he reminded the crowd that Daytona was album of the year. After a performance like Saturday’s, it sure seemed like it was. Any fan of the GOOD Music label would have loved this set, as he performed multiple verses from his features on GOOD Music albums. “Mercy” and “Runaway”– yes, he did those. By the end of the set, Pusha performed far more of his music than anyone could have imagined. Anyone who attended this set was in for a treat.
Top 3 Acts of TIMF 2018
- Silk City: For those who are unfamiliar with Silk City, it is comprised of Diplo and Mark Ronson. Sounds a bit more familiar now, doesn’t it? On Saturday evening, they reminded the crowd why each of them are regarded as masters of their craft. Their stage setup was rather empty, except for a giant color-changing neon sign displaying “Silk City” in slick cursive. The simplicity of it complemented the complexity of their music. For 55 minutes, Diplo and Ronson bounced music and tricks off one another, playing a sort of EDM house with funky overtones. They didn’t talk very much, but they didn’t need to; the music spoke to the crowd for them. It felt less like a show and more like an experience. The crowd was electric, encapsulated and impressed by the rapport and talent between the two DJs. Diplo and Ronson are a dynamic duo, and used their combined talents to create a truly special show.
- Cigarettes After Sex: Anyone who neglected or disliked this band was probably a fan by the end of their set. When Cigarettes After Sex came out, the sun was setting over the San Francisco skyline, and a cool breeze was blowing–just the right time and place for dreamlike, ambient music. As the ocean waves lightly brushed the beach alongside the stage, Cigarettes After Sex soothed the crowd with their slow, calming songs. They provided the perfect music at that moment in time, and they knew it. Every song sounded even better than it did on the album, as the open air allowed the echoey guitar to reverberate further. People danced, chatted, rested, and stared into space as songs like “Nothing’s Gonna Hurt You Baby” and “K.” filled the atmosphere. After a 45-minute set, the band left the relaxed and refreshed crowd. Cigarettes After Sex’s set took place at just the right time, in just the right place, and they took advantage of this perfect situation to the fullest.
- Courtney Barnett: The Aussie is a true rockstar. She’s got everything it takes to be one: she’s talented, personable, funny, and she can/will play guitar over anything. Most importantly, she can put on a great show. The Australian singer/guitarist stole the spotlight on Sunday at Treasure Island 2018 as she played songs off her newest album, “Tell Me How You Really Feel.” Her lively stage presence made the set memorable. The crowd could tell she was happy to be onstage performing for them. In almost every song, she effortlessly improvised wild and intricate solos on electric guitar. She was exceptionally animated as she played the guitar, and she spoke between each song to entertain the crowd further. On Saturday, she proved she was something far greater than an indie artist.
Even though it’s no longer on Treasure Island, there was plenty of treasure to be found at this year’s edition. No festival is perfect, but Treasure Island 2018 was definitely one to remember. It’s inspiring to see a festival overcome a rough year with such a successful one. Everyone who gave Treasure Island 2018 a chance was rewarded this past weekend. After such a fantastic experience, it’s likely Treasure Island Music Festival is here to stay.
Words by Zachary Friedman
Photos by Danielle Gornbein