Sunday at Treasure Island Festival 2015 followed a beautiful, packed and entertaining Saturday of the Bay Area event. While wind and archetypical SF fog rolled in for day two, Treasure Island held it down for a solid Sunday of jams.
Lower Dens: Immediately following, José González’ set-closing “Heartbeats”, Baltimore’s Lower Dens began. The 80’s synths and building swells of their new Escape From Evil album made for an easy transition from the earlier acoustic music. As they got into “To Die in L.A.” the the driving bass line brought the track to life. Jana Hunter’s vocals were steady and up front, proving there was no fake album wizardry from producer Chris Coady. The harmonies were on point as Lower Dens demonstrated they had clearly logged tours of live shows together.
Jana was brief and efficient with mic time, there was no bullshit between tracks as the Bay’s swells picked up in the backdrop. They worked through “Your Heart Still Beating” and “Electric Current” as the silky smooth guitar slides rang out. They picked up the pace and punch for a few before finishing with the slower “Ondine”.
Father John Misty: One of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Father John Misty, took the stage in the middle of the second day of TI 2015. The day was windier and cooler but the sun shone bright and the setting was relaxed, perfect for a Sunday afternoon listening sesh. He came out to “I Love You, Honeybear”. People have really fallen hard for this guy over the last year and I sat back with intrigue to figure out why. He definitely played with his audience, one moment grasping at them then the next retreating back behind his black sunglasses. They ate it up, cheering him on while he talked about his man bun for some reason.
He went through several of his folk meets country songs and even came out into a frenzied crowd at one point before going into his uniquely American ballad “Bored in the USA”. Overall, he put on a strong performance that seemed to satisfy the crowd which consisted mainly of fans who came just to see him. Yet as entertaining as his highly crafted persona was for the duration of a festival set, ultimately his tired satire and rather plain musical abilities didn’t do much to convince me that I should much care about what he does next.
War On Drugs: The War on Drugs came out to big, booming festival drums and loud, up-tempo guitars. They put on a set that helped that transition from day to night on the last evening of the weekend. I was also curious to see where Kurt Vile got his start. Current frontman Adam Granduciel and the rest of his band members all looked Lou Reed-esque cool as they jammed out their indie rock stylings. Lots of upbeat guitars made it a pleasant set though admittedly lacking the excitement and swagger of some of the other acts that played over the weekend, Toward the end they spiced it up a bit and brought out some brass which finally got people’s’ hips moving about as the energy really kicked in.
Deerhunter: Though they originated in Atlanta, Deerhunter is a band that fits in so well to the San Francisco music scene that they seem to have become honorary residents. All those fans were excited to see the band who just released a new album this month after going through many well-known trials over the years. Most recently, the frontman and founding member Bradford Cox was in a debilitating car accident that almost took everything from him. Needless to say, the anticipation circulating through the crowd was strong.
They took their time setting up and getting going but that didn’t deter the crowd of hundreds from patiently waiting for the music to start. Finally, they did and their reverby guitars satisfied the rock n roll craving I’d been having all day. The palm trees were stained pink by the stage lights as the fog rolled in and appropriately enough, they went into “Breaker” from their new album Fading Frontier. The music was good and they played the songs I was most excited to hear but there was an interesting sense of calm that persisted throughout their set and seemed to seep into the audience’s experience. Bradford even asked a few times why we were all so quiet. Whether it was fatigue or just the rapt attention of a low-key crowd, they soon wrapped up just as the sun finally set.
Chvrches: Chvrches front lady Lauren Mayberry looked like a gothic Cyndi Lauper as she entered through beams of white light onto the stage wearing a full black tulle skirt and plain white tee. She is clearly at her best while on stage, bounding around and singing at full-force, pausing just long enough every now and then to capture everyone’s attention before she’s off again. Chvrches’ synth-pop was the perfect way to shake up a day of mostly rock and indie music in the sleepy sunshine.
It was clear that they got everyone’s blood pumping again as Mayberry’s arena-worthy voice blasted into the ocean air surrounding us on the island and perfectly matched with what looked like a sparkling light show happening onstage. They expressed gratitude for having the chance to return to the Bay Area from their native Scotland after playing the Fox Theater a few years back when they were just starting to gain traction in the states with their music. It was indeed good to see them a few years into their career as they’ve clearly matured into their sound and presence while retaining the energy that earned them so many fans in the first place.
Panda Bear: CHVRCHES obviously dominant lure was visible after their set as crowd poured out behind Noah Lennox’ set. He slowly built the groove as a swirling psychedelic pattern of women was cast on the backdrop. The beats simmer before his eventual vocals entered the mix. Lennox was definitely patient letting thins build. As we saw with Deerhunter, the truncated set times went by pretty quickly with noodling up front. While the exodus of people out certainly took place, those who were there for Panda Bear were there for Panda Bear.
Lennox worked his way through Panda Bear Meets The Grim Reaper including “Mr Noah“. Noah’s mix and vocal melodies were excellent. But the transitions and builds felt too slow for a crowd at the end of a festival. As someone nearby less familiar with Panda Bear asked, “has this been the same song the entire time? Are these songs or are these just experiments?”
Anyone who’s seen Animal Collective or Panda Bear live knows they don’t play for audience satisfaction and take their time. Which is bold in it’s own right, but can make for a weird crowd vibe. It reminded me of their Sasquatch 2010 main stage set, after Merriwether Post Pavilion had just blown up. If Noah & AnCo don’t care about making it ultimately accessible then, why would they now? But that’s part of Lennox’s charm.