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Davis, California

Monday, October 25, 2021

Treasure Island Music Festival: More than just music in the forecast

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

Festival endures storm, sets delayed and cancelled

Treasure Island Music Festival — the brainchild of Another Planet Entertainment and Noise Pop’s collaboration— held its 10th anniversary (and very last) festival last weekend, Oct. 15 to 16.

For a Bay Area festival held each October for over a decade, I really can’t help but wonder how TIMF had never previously experienced rain. That is, until last weekend.

But describing the festival’s climate as “rainy” would be a drastic understatement. It was more of an ongoing battle between dangerous, set-cancelling winds, torrential downpours, confiscated umbrellas (you think festival hats are an impediment on your view) and mud — lots and lots of mud.

In fact, by day two, festival fashion had been entirely abandoned, and anyone not wearing ponchos and knee-high rainboots was cast off to the Wells Fargo prize booth to take shelter.

It didn’t help, either, that the festival planners continuously delayed sets due to the wind, causing huge gaps in which there were no performances for hours at a time. This left many festival-goers standing around, sinking in mud and eating delicious Filipino-fusion burritos (a rare bright spot in the otherwise-gloomy atmosphere, I discovered).

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

On Saturday, the worst day of the weekend in terms of weather, many attendees left early to escape the conditions, despite the festival’s determination to persevere through inclement weather. The festival coordinators sent out a mass email Saturday night claiming the festival would be extended until midnight rather than its originally scheduled 10:30 p.m. conclusion.

Sunday-goers were less fortunate; James Blake’s set was cancelled, and this was only announced after we had already sunk two inches deep in mud during the hour-long wait.

But I’ll get to that later. So here’s the best of Sunday, which was the only day I chose to endure the storm:

Most Anticipated Set

James Blake, the experimental electronic artist whose eerie falsetto resembles that of Bon Iver, was the most obviously anticipated set of the weekend. But his set was postponed by an hour due to “dangerous winds” (it’s still unclear why those winds were more dangerous than any we had previously experienced that weekend) and was eventually cancelled; it’s difficult not to anticipate something continuously being taken from you.

In an attempt to console festival attendees, Blake tweeted after the announced cancellation that he would try to put on a substitute show for the following night. Fortunately, more than a substitute show was procured; any TIMF ticket holder had free entrance to Blake’s Monday night show at Oakland’s Fox Theater (a much drier location, in addition to being a premiere venue).

Best Stage Design

What electronic duo Purity Ring lacked in sound, they made up for in extravagant stage design. With hundreds of strung lights hanging from the top of the stage onto the performers’ knees, it was hard not to be mesmerized by the color-coordinated rain of light.

Lead singer Megan James often walked through the lights, pushing them to either side of her as she swam through their color. Her DJ companion, Corin Roddick, had drum pads atop what looked like lampshades, and each one pulsed pink with every tap.

However, these aesthetic choices could only be replicated so many times before the audience became numb to their awe. It was obvious that after a few songs, the audience — including myself — had become unamused. And yes, James’ voice sounds exactly as timid and squeaky in speech as it does in song.

BRIANA NGO / AGGIE
BRIANA NGO / AGGIE

Most Skillful Behind-the-Head-Guitar-Playing

“Oh, Andy” was probably the most frequently used phrase during the set of alternative psychedelic rock group Mac DeMarco. Although I was unaware of the off-the-wall humor Andy the Guitarist is so well known for, it came as no surprise. With aviators straight from 1973 and a ‘stache that took up about half of his face, his attempts to gain the audience’s sympathy regarding his “recently deceased horse,” Buckles, and his adamance that Halloween was in two months — no more and no less — unphased me by the end of the show.

Though their solos and skillful behind-the-head guitar playing were surprisingly adept, DeMarco’s blunt proclamation of his tequila drinking from the night prior was pretty indicative of the show’s sound. Their set was, in retrospect, the musical equivalent of a hangover: discordant and blurry, but better with time.

Best Surprise

Christine and the Queens is, plainly put, some of today’s best new music — well, new to me at least, as well as for most of the US. Her French art pop, inspired by the support of a few drag queens, Héloïse Letissier inspires in ways I knew not possible.

As a strong supporter of the LGBTQ community, Letissier attributes her stage confidence to the drag queens she encountered in London who not only inspired her artistic endeavors, but took her under their wing at a time when she struggled with suicide and a bad breakup.

But what made her set so incredible was not her sound, but rather the complementary nature of her music and choreography. Her hit single, Tilted, is straight from a Michael Jackson music video, with choreography that more closely resembles an eloquent series of everyday movements than it does dance. But it’s more than her hypnotic dances that resemble the pop of Michael Jackson (yes, such choreography was present on the festival stage, too); Christine and the Queens boast catchy melodies that hold profound messages of self-confidence and identity — components uncharacteristic of today’s pop.

The festival, to no one’s surprise, will no longer be held on Treasure Island, inevitably resulting in a new title as well. And, after this year’s festival, such an identity change certainly won’t harm future promotions.

R.I.P. Treasure Island Music Festival — you certainly left kicking up a storm.

Written by: Ally Overbay – arts@theaggie.org

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