On most nights Treasure Island is hard to see. Covered in fog, somewhere past Alcatrez, next to Oakland Bay Bridge. And the few lights that are on the island blend in to the faded Oakland city background. Though when The Flaming Lips, MGMT, The Decemberist, Beirut, MSTRKRFT, and Yo La Tengo came to town for the second annual Treasure Island Festival they let the whole bay area know what they were missing.
A 1500-foot strand of balloons with blue lights towered high above the nearby San Francisco skyscrapers. Two stages, the Bridge Stage and the Tunnel Stage, delivered constant music to fans, starting up another performance just as the other was ending. The island turned into a revolving door of music.
With such a fail-safe list of performances, Treasure Island Festival was bound to sell out. Indie rock gods and pioneers of the electronic-dance scene were sure to please the San Francisco music scene, though what might have assured a ticket sell out was the Island itself.
Accessible only by boat or the Oakland Bay Bridge, with views of bay area landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, downtown San Francisco and Oakland, Treasure Island offers a one of a kind location; one as beautiful as it is inconvenient.
With limited parking space on the island, most fans were forced to park at the AT&T Park on the San Francisco main land and take a shuttle bus over to the island. A hassle which in most cases would seem grungy and cheap, being shipped off on a broke down school bus, ripped fake leather seats, and cardboard taped over the broken window. Though with tickets at 65$ a day, fans would settle for nothing less than VIP transportation. And that’s what they got. Slick black leather armrest, dark tinted windows, and TV’s everywhere you look. With only a few more luxuries, an open bar, free lap dance, party hats, and pack of streamers fans may have never gotten off the bus.
The festival was well organized. It had to be. Flooding a small, sold out island with people, live music and 7$ beers is begging for disaster. But for the second year in a row, somehow, the festival went off without a hitch.
Though with organization and planning comes predictability. The festival offered little room for any surprises. No unplanned events, no guest performances, no kids hopping fences, no chaos.
For most fans, this was good. Pop-radio friendly bands like MGMT brought in a mainstream crowd. Teenage girls trying to ignore they’re dad standing behind them, a thirty something Gap yuppie who knows nothing about the music, a second date hopeful with VIP tickets to impress his new girlfriend. For them, order was good, it was expected, but for fans of festivals, it was too controlled, too ordered, and thus could get a little boring.
Two stages of music provided a steady stream of performances, though offered little choice in which performance to watch.
On a good note, fans were never forced to skip one performance to catch another, though if you didn’t care to see the performance on stage, tough luck cause you were going to watch it anyways.
The first day of music brought in more a mainstream and rave-friendly crowd. Glow sticks, poi, and candy kids came out to dance to MGMT, MSTRKRFT, and Girl Talk.
Day two, the cold weather and more indie-relevant bands like The Decemberist, Beruit, Grizzly Bear, Yo La Tengo, and The Walkmen brought out all the bay area emo kids with their winter scarves and petti coats.
Though by the end of the festival, little of this mattered, as lead singer of the Flaming Lips, Wayne Coyne’s shouted at the beginning of the show, “Tonight, you are a Flaming Lips audience.”
Confetti cannons, man-sized hamster ball, puppets, giant hands, psychedelic video displays, and fish-eye lens projections of Coyne, the performance borders on a spiritual experience, mental seizure and acid freak out all in the one.
Diving into The Flaming Lips world, a flame colored, naked, neon women dances on the full stage projection screen, teasing and tantalizing the crowd, laying down, and inviting you into the beautiful bright, glowing white light between her legs. The following is two hours of visual and musical bliss.
Screaming and singing along, shouting “Come on motherfuckers!” front man Wayne Coyne demands a performance, not just out of himself and the band, but out of the audience as well. Even to the band, performances are rare and special events. It is an opportunity they do not take for granted.
Sadly, Treasure Island Festival could not live up to the full potential of a Flaming Lips show. The strong winds carried away every over sized balloon, cannon of confetti, and streamers into the near by bay. Much of the crowd had little idea what they were getting into, aside from the fact that, “you’ve got to see them live!” Still, just as the experience is as grand, it is personal. And with a giant fish eye projection of Coyne, it is hard not to feel a connection with the band and all the creatures and costumes on stage.