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Ahoy and Yarrr, Mateys | Treasure Island Music Festival 2008

11/1/2008

Photo: DAVE VANN

Photo: DAVE VANN

“Treasure Island, how are you? What a fucking beautiful day,” said Will Sheff, frontman for the Austin, Tex.-based indie-rock band Okkervil River, from the stage. Indeed, Saturday and Sunday, September 20-21, were sunny and slightly breezy days perfect for the second annual Treasure Island Music Festival.

The festival unfurled along a small stretch of land on San Francisco's Treasure Island, and with a cumulative attendance of 18,500, it was a relatively modest affair in comparison to mega-festivals such as Coachella. There were two stages — a large “Bridge” stage and a small “Tunnel” stage — with a band playing on one stage after a band on the other had finished. The intimate setup allowed people to hear music throughout the day no matter where they played in the park.

Local bands opened both days, with the melodic and atmospheric Loquat and dance-rock combo The Frail turning in particularly strong sets on Saturday. Day one also boasted out-of-town bands such as Nortec Collective's Bostich & Fussible (who brought out a full Mexican banda to complement their glitch-downtempo), Hot Chip (whose jittery pop songs were a festival highlight) and Antibalas (who mixed Afrobeat funk with a full-throated call to indict the Bush administration).

The crowd seemed restless by day's end, however, often wandering around the site's plethora of food booths instead of appreciating the bands. CSS, who had the misfortune of playing on the Tunnel stage right before Justice, lost some of its audience as everyone made their way to the Bridge stage to get a good spot for the French electro giants. The night's headliners stood atop several giant stacks of Marshall amplifiers amidst a lighting system that bathed them in stark black and white colors, and flipped feedback-drenched versions of “Phantom” and “D.A.N.C.E.” They transformed the site into a minirave — at least for those who weren't too worn out from the day's events.

With its focus on indie-rock, day two was more leisurely, as sets from Fleet Foxes, The Dodos and Vampire Weekend accentuated the day's cool, lovely atmosphere. The audience seemed more patient, too, waiting as gospel-rock heroes Spiritualized worked through sound problems to build to a rapturous finale in its half-hour set. In fact, most of the bands seemed inundated by technical issues: Tegan & Sara's lighting system went out completely for several moments while the two sisters worked through emotive pop-rock numbers such as “Back in Your Head.” In a stark contrast to the night before, the crowd cheered and formed impromptu dance circles for Tunnel stage performers The Kills before making their way to the Bridge stage for a big finale with The Raconteurs.

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