Treasure Island, a man-made former naval base, marks the center spot of the San Francisco Bay, and attendees of the first-ever Treasure Island Music Festival (Sept. 15-16) plunked down their doubloons to be treated to two days of music while basking in views of Alcatraz, Angel Island and the San Francisco skyline. It was the music of the first day that captured Remix's attention, as well as the booties of many thousands of people. Like the Bay Bridge running through Treasure Island to connect the very different cities of Oakland and San Fran, the diverse music of the T.I. Fest on Saturday was connected by the spirit of making electronic-based music exciting in a live setting.
No one exemplified that spirit better than Mocean Worker, who brilliantly adapted sample-based jazzy dance music to the stage with a manic six-piece band and a laptop only for playing a few backing tracks (see more on Mocean Worker in Adam Dorn's feature, page 54). East Bay hip-hop duo Zion I then rocked it with a high-powered set that included freestyles from Zion over live beats from producer Amplive on an Akai MPC1000. When the power blew temporarily, they kept on rhyming speaker-free for the front rows. Amplive also rocked a Korg MicroKorg synth onstage and made some live beats on the Sony PSP game Traxxpad (which Remix hipped you to in the August '07 issue), to the befuddlement of the audience.
Hot off its opening song “Exodus Honey” being placed in an iMac commercial, San Francisco's Honeycut played its crowd-pleasing chill-funk with live MPC beats, bass and a keyboardist who played a vintage Clavinet with effects pedals to make it sound like a guitar. One of the great surprises of the day, Austin band Ghostland Observatory brought some very cool synth rock that was a mixture of vocoded electro and '70s arena rock-inspired guitar and vocal wailing.
While M.I.A. kept the fading afternoon abuzz with singles old (“Galang” and “Bucky Done Gone”) and new (“Paper Planes”), as well her scaffold-climbing antics, her sparse stage show seemed unambitious compared with later headliners, and her voice didn't carry nearly as well as up-and-comers West Indian Girl, who played a beautiful and uplifting set of Sigur Rós-meets-soul.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist transitioned from daylight to dusk with a whirlwind of obscure and/or ironic tracks (a vocoded version of “Rock Around the Clock” and a barbershop quartet singing “Eye of the Tiger”) and some trademark scratching.
Appropriately, headliners Gotan Project and Thievery Corporation capped the evening with huge live bands and even huger sounds. Gotan brought nine warm bodies to the stage, playing accordion, strings, piano and more, as well as a DJ who enhanced the group's club-tango sound with a few more electronics and thunderous beats than are heard on their albums. Finally, Thievery DJ/producers Rob Garza and Eric Hilton accompanied guitar, bass and tabla players, as well as several guest vocalists, to re-create several tracks from their last album, The Cosmic Game (including “Satyam Shivam Sundaram”), and much more. By that time, the crowd — whether clear-headed or, in many cases, much less than sober — was in full get-down mode and appreciating the gorgeous day.