Treasure Island Festival 2015 kicked off with the early morning clouds clearing off for a gorgeous day of music in the Bay. Saturday at Treasure Island featured the fest’s electronic/hip-hop half of the two-day event. Nearly every single artists remarked at how “beautiful” the day’s weather and scene were as TI attendees were treated to a picturesque day.
Vegas’ 20 year old Shamir Bailey rolled onto stage with a simple “I’m Shamir” before he and his four piece band jumped into his set. While the synths were bright and lively, Shamir’s wonderful vocals were a bit buried in the mix. But by the second track “Hot Mess”–which Shamir noted is “what I like to call my autobiography”–his vocals began to shine. His backup vocalist Tiffany used a modified vocal effect to cover the lower parts. As the “Hot Mess” lyrics note, Shamir is “five foot ten about buck twenty”. But his vocals and stage demeanor presented a much larger persona. Shamir made his way to arguably his most well-known track, “On The Regular”. Shouts to Shamir’s drummer for really bringing life to the on-stage renditions of his Ratchet album tracks. They covered Joyce Manor’s “Christmas Card” before Shamir beckoned, “imma need you guys to get a lil more ratchet for me, cuz it’s time to make a scene!” and launched into “Make a Scene”. “Call It Off” was the set’s highlight as Shamir’s vocals were belting at this point, Tiffany offered excellent harmonies, Shamir climbed into the crowd and lead crowd-sang choruses. The energy and pulse kept steady as he finished with “Head in the Clouds”.
Run the Jewels
“Run, run, run…” thumped across the open island toward me as I ran to catch the Run the Jewels afternoon set. These two dudes lived up to their reputation as they literally hit the ground running into their performance. Something about this duo suggests they are there to be crowd pleasers, no matter the situation, and as they dove into gems like “Like, Cheat, Steal” it was clear that they thrive off of an adoring audience. Their set transitioned perfectly into the late afternoon. After hearing earlier smaller dance acts, hip-hop was a welcome way to relax into something more steady for a moment while the sun was still blazing hot. Killer Mike and El-P both expressed gratitude for the being in the Bay, summing it up perfectly with, “This shit is fucking beautiful right now”. Amen. After hearing a lot of hype, I finally confirmed live that Run the Jewels is an noteworthy act with lots of potential to remain in the pop culture spotlight as long as they deliver just as hard on Run the Jewels 3 and continue to drop fun surprises like Meow the Jewels to keep their followers pumped. Their endearing personalities and insightful lyrical constructs are a refreshing turn for the genre.
Norwegian producer Cashmere cat eased into his set five minutes of ambient noise and effects before dropping into a beat. He certainly didn’t choose to immediately follow Run the Jewels, but it did feel like a bit of a comedown after El-P and Killer Mike’s raucous, adrenaline-juiced set. But Cashmere carried the easy vibes into the sunset. The initially mellow vibes reminded me of last year’s xxyyxx set. Cashmere eventually hit stand-out track “Mirror Maru” which picked things up. The production was lush and sonically pleasing. But as one fan near the food stands noted, “it’s excellent background music”. He mixed in a few cuts into his set including brief version of Drake’s “Hot Line Bling” and Usher’s “My Boo” as the sun faded into the Bay.
As the hottest vamp queen with the sweetest voice around right now, FKA Twigs built up the anticipation for her appearance on the first night of TI 15’ beginning with a heavy bass intro. The sun had finally set as an excited crowd pushed in close. The track she produced last year “Ouch Ouch” with Lucki Eck$ was playing as she finally made a dramatic entrance onto the stage. Her voice is strikingly more minimal live, though the music was louder this time than her recorded tracks which made it difficult to hear the singing from up close. Still, she put on a great show. FKA Twigs is a performer with amazing dancing abilities in addition to her music. Her movements followed along in perfect choreography. She started slow, her intensity translating into the live performance on tracks like “Water Me” and by the time she got to “Video Girl” the crowd was at their peak excitement as she brought out her impressive backup dancers. Everyone lost it when they did “Papi Pacify”. Along with her most popular songs, Twigs played some newer tracks as well. She was gracious with her audience, introducing her impressively percussive and strikingly beautiful band by name and giving the requisitory, but genuine, shout out to San Francisco. FKA Twigs’ dramatic show was a treat after seeing several sets of more hyped-up music earlier in the day and the perfect setting to spend gorgeous night by the lights of the Bay.
The excitement was low-key yet palpable as the crowd gathered in for the second to last set of the night which just happened to be the first appearance from new super trio Big Grams, made up of Big Boi and Phantogram, i.e. Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter. After a classic set from Outkast last year at TI, everyone was wondering what kind of energy Big Boi would be bringing to the island this time around. Obviously, he was cool as ever but with a different sort of mellow stage presence. He and the alt rock duo played off each other’s styles in a way that managed to encapsulate their two fan bases though there is definitely a lot of crossover already. They started with the track “Run For Your Life”. As the songs went on, I realized that I was more relaxed than expected throughout the music and something about Big Grams even gave me the urge to majorly chill out in order to fully soak in their musical amalgamation. But that’s not to say this set didn’t deliver enthusiasm on both the part of the crowd and the performers. By the time they got to a rendition of “Ms. Jackson”, the love all around was real. Big Grams also took the rare opportunity of being at the same festival as Run the Jewels to perform their joint “Born to Shine” track. Hopefully, the continue to make these appearances and explore their newfound electro pop/hip-hop crossover together.