A few weekends back, I went to the Treasure Island Music Festival, a small, San Francisco-based festival that focuses on alternative, hip-hop, and electronica artists. Although I typically like to be positive in my reviews, I have to say up front that my experience at this festival was mixed. There were some good artists, some bad artists, and some poor planning and communication from the festival organization. I'll start with the positives first:
Mura Masa - This duo was everything I wanted from an alternative EDM show. Following in the future sound footsteps of artists like Cashmere Cat, Mura Masa builds on the aforementioned artist's work by packaging the inventive production and catchy hooks with a barnstorming live stage performance. This live performance is really helped along by the energy and talent of Mura Masa's stage partner, Bonzai, who provides live vocals and the energy needed to elevate these shows.
HINDS: This group was the surprise of the festival for me. This trio of fiery Spanish ladies played a brand of good old-fashioned rock n' roll that was just a joy to behold. While their English vocals were a bit hard to understand through their thick Madrid accents, their guitars were loud, their jams were groovy, and I was too busy dancing to care. Their lack of polish was half the charm, and they just seemed like they were having so much damn fun on stage that they completely infected the crowd with their energy. I'm not sure it translates as well to their studio offerings, but their live show was a raucous good time.
Christine and the Queens: By far the best show of the weekend, I was eagerly anticipating this French artist's performance based upon pre-festival buzz, but she still managed to blow me away. From top to bottom, Héloïse Letissier (her actual name) was the complete package, effortlessly conveying her unique personality through her appearance, music, stage banter, and dance choreography (!). I can't state how rare it is to find artists that truly performs - encapsulating something greater than themselves in this medium we call music - but within a few minutes of seeing Christine, it becomes very clear that she stands for something. That something might be hard to distill within a few words, but her multi-racial, male eye candy gang of fabulous dancers might give you a hint. Her fashionable pantsuit and strikingly confident stage swagger might give you another. You'll start to understand much more clearly when you listen to the words of songs like "Tilted" and "iT". Finally, when she comes out on stage and inspires the crowd by talking about accepting beauty in all of it's forms, you'll see the whole picture. Her intangibles aside, Christine and her queens threw a stellar performance from a technical standpoint. Christine's voice was immaculate and displayed her impressive range throughout the songs. By the way, while she was singing flawlessly, she also managed to work in some fun choreographed dance moves with her squad of hunky dancer dudes. Every part of this show was performed thoughtfully and it was so much fun at every turn. Ok, gushing over.
Tycho - It's probably harsh to put Tycho in this category, as I don't think his performance was "bad" by any measure, but I was disappointed that he hasn't progressed as a live performer in the past three years since the last time I saw him. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoy Tycho's studio recordings, as I know that many of you are big fans of him as well. The fact that he is a native San Franciscan also compounds my reluctance to speak ill of his live shows, but the fact remains that Tycho is a fairly static performer, who faithfully recreates his in-studio work - nothing more, nothing less. His main failing is that he fails to insert the emotion of his music into his performances, either through visuals, audience interaction, or just stage presence. The songs themselves are not embellished in any way, which to my mind, defeats the whole purpose of a live performance. The best artists are always those that manage to give the audience something extra; a special treat for seeing them in the flesh.
Young Thug - Oh boy, what a mess. Young Thug's show might rank in my top 5 worst live performances ever. Not only was he three hours late - supposedly delayed by the rain - but his live show was awful from every standpoint. Some parts of the concert were perhaps out of his control, like the low speaker volume or maybe the annoyingly bass-heavy sound balance. His DJ was incompetent at best, turning off the music at random moments and causing a choppy performance. He was blatantly unprofessional at worst; after being frustrated with his attempts to hype the tired, cold and wet crowd, he resorted to yelling obscenities at us. When Young Thug finally came on, his performance seemed to lack conviction and the crowd quickly lost interest. It was a tough night for Thugger, with a few circumstances completely out of his control, but that didn't stop later artists from having much better performances.
I'll keep this brief, because I know most people just want to hear about the music. I just have to say that I was hugely disappointed with the way that the festival organizers handled the weather-related problems at Treasure Island. They had at least a week to prepare, with weather forecasts signaling impending rain well in advance. More so than their lack of preparation, what bothered me most was the lack of communication between the festival organizers and the attendees while shows were delayed. We would wait an hour, then a tweet would appear, announcing that the artist would take the stage in 10-15 minutes... only for the same scenario to repeat an hour later. This happened multiple times and was completely unacceptable. The rain delays stopped me from seeing the headlining artists at the festival, due to the concerts running past the time that public transportation closes in San Francisco. It was a sad end to the festival's tenure on Treasure Island and I hope that they learn from their mistakes for next year's festival, where and if it occurs.
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