I was a bit weary of what to expect at the 10th and final edition of Treasure Island Music Festival when I arrived Sunday on the tiny island in the Bay Area.
I had read about the shit show that was the festival’s previous day. Acts were delayed and later cancelled. The weather and wind were horrendous to deal with. There were complains about the communication between the festival organizers and attendees. Some of the performers complained on social media and said people should be refunded. One of Saturday’s performers, Duke Dumont, relayed to me in a Twitter direct message just how messed up things were for him personally.
I had gone to my 10-year high school reunion Saturday with all intents to go to Treasure Island on Sunday. With a lineup topped by Sigur Ros, Purity Ring and James Blake with a deep undercard including Sylvan Esso and Day Wave, I was all about it. I woke up hungover from my reunion around 8 AM. The nostalgia of high school washed over me as my head throbbed from two shots of tequila at the end of the night I was peer pressured into drinking.
I took a look at the Facebook event page for Treasure Island early in the morning. There I saw people offloading tickets at a hefty discount. I grabbed one pretty quickly for the low price of 35 bucks. Seeing 13 bands for that price is as good of value as one could ever hope for. I’d made plans earlier in the week to meet up at the festival with one of my friends from high school I hadn’t seen in at least five years, our class president.
Day two of Treasure Island will end up being my last festival day of 2016. I was at a music festival 46 days this year, an absurd number when I really think about it. Somehow, over 10 years, I’d never once attended Treasure Island. This despite the festival taking place 30 minutes from where I grew up. Despite all the warning signs of the fest’s first day, I was excited to check it out.
This was my first Treasure Island Fest despite it taking place 30 minutes from where I grew up
I got to the festival right before Oakland lo-fi act Day Wave took the stage at noon. I wasn’t really prepared for how poor the weather was. My friend Andrew at the box office slid me a poncho. My shoes – which had weathered almost a dozen festivals this year – were falling apart. As soon as rain hit them, my socks were soaked. I’d be swimming in my shoes for the next 12 hours.
I made it to the rail for Day Wave’s set. If you’re a fan of Alvvays, then Day Wave’s power pop is right up your alley. He had a great turnout for how early it was and ugly the weather felt. Though the Bay Area scene has dwindled in recent years due to the cost of living, the community is always quick to support their own. People jammed out to their 40-minute set, which featured a nice cover of “Ceremony” by New Order. It turned out to be a nice way to kick off the day.
The cool thing about Treasure Island is there’s only two stages and they’re never running simultaneously. This allows you to experience every minute of music the festival offers. I wasn’t overly familiar with Wild Nothing and Car Seat Headrest but got to really enjoy them early in the afternoon. Then there was metal act Deafheaven – not my wheelhouse at all. I still enjoyed watching people mosh in the mud towards the front of the crowd before bouncing early to grab some food.
I watched Mac DeMarco from way in the back before my friend showed up in time for Tycho’s sunset set. It was the second time this year I saw the ambient electronic act at sunset, the first being at CRSSD Fest in March. There might not be a better act to see when day turns to night. His visuals were stunning and fit the tempo and mood of their tunes perfectly. It was a great transition towards what would be mostly downtempo music the rest of the night.
Sylvan Esso was next on the smaller Tunnel Stage. I’d seen them a half-dozen times last year as they hit nearly every festival I made it to in 2015. This was their last show of 2016 and they shared a bunch of new material. It was good enough it has me excited for their upcoming second album. They noted how the wind was crazy and even sort of fucking up their equipment. But they didn’t let it affect them too much.
After Sylvan Esso wrapped up, we headed back to the main stage for what was supposed to be a James Blake set. A weather advisory appeared on the screen saying James Blake would be delayed, but to enjoy a surprise Tycho DJ set. That was enough to keep the crowd into it with Tycho playing some killer jams. But that time stretched and 15 minutes or so after James Blake was supposed to appear, another update appeared on the screen saying his set had been cancelled and to stay tuned for more updates.
Half the crowd seemed as though they were there for James Blake’s set and headed for the exits. Some people seemed as though they were probably on some drugs and their highs had been severely harshed. Tycho continued blasting tunes on the main stage as we awaited updates. Eventually, Purity Ring’s set was announced as being pushed back.
We made our way over to their set on the Tunnel stage just as it began. Thank goodness the weather calmed enough for their insane light show to not be affected. If you’ve never seen Purity Ring’s stage setup, it’s hard to explain just how epic it is. The lights hang from the ceiling like they’re jellyfish tentacles. The lights change colors and design to the tune of their music. They almost act as an additional member of the band. Everyone’s eyes were trained on the show for the duration, turning to each other as each song ended. We all had looks of amazement on our faces. “Begin again” was the finale to the set and easily its high moment. Megan James’ vocals shined throughout but particularly on that final song.
Sigur Ros was the first headline act I saw at my first festival, also in San Francisco at Outside Lands 2012. I chose them over Metallica and never regretted the decision. Their production matched the intensity and emotional pull of their music, which is quite a feat. At Treasure Island they were delayed but still able to deliver a full set.
Thanks to many people taking off after James Blake was cancelled, we were able to work our way towards the front, almost to the rail. When they took the stage a feeling washed over the crowd like we all knew something special was about to happen. The Icelandic band is known for singing in their own language on many songs, which uses Icelandic as a base but takes their own interpretation.
The production was even better than at Outside Lands a few years ago. During one song, the visuals were comprised of red dots that outlined each member as they appeared on screen, a total visual mindfuck. Jonsi’s vocals had me feeling like Violet in Willy Wonka, except I was swelling up with feels rather than blueberries. It’s odd to feel such strong emotions when you have no clue what they’re actually saying, but Sigur Ros does an impeccable job of getting across the feelings they want you to feel despite this.
Back-to-back, Purity Ring into Sigur Ros was just as good as anything I saw all year. This is true despite going to Desert Trip the previous weekend. It was a great way to cap off my 2016 festival season, which was one for the books. Getting to experience it with an old friend I hadn’t seen in forever made it all the more memorable and reminded me why I love music festivals as much as I do. Though other people’s experiences at Treasure Island were mixed, I was happy with my one day there despite the snafus that occurred. If it never returns in its current form, I’ll remember the one day I got to experience forever.