There is no question Treasure Island Music Festival has one of the best locations and views in live music.
But Mother Nature had some things to say about the environment around the fest this year. For one, the drought has chased away the lovely grass that’s been present in years past. And with winds from 10-20 mph, it got a bit more dusty than usual. You can’t control the weather, and the grounds this year were a brutal reminder of how much California needs some damn rain.
Other than that, it was status quo for the Festival in the Bay — good times and no festy FOMO. Here are 20 moments and sets that will be ingrained in our brains.
The biggest news from Treasure Island Music Festival: The National have emerged as true festival headliners. Known for their pensive lyrics and sorrowful tone, The National injected their songs with accelerated BPM and an uplifting layering of melody, making the experience all the more magnificent. The setlist was still heavy on Trouble Will Find Me and High Violet songs, but it all felt new, more grateful, inspiring and majestic than before. Many of the highlights were one-offs and new cuts: Laura Mayberry duetted with a very present Matt Berninger on “I Need My Girl”, a cover of “Peggo-O” and with a shout-out to Bob Weir and new song “Checking Out” (it was called “Roman Candle” when they played it in Los Angeles earlier in the weekend). The effort was A1 all around, and we left wanting more.
Run the Jewels completely reigned over the crowd, flowing over heavy-hitting beats by El-P with a lively performance we all expected, willing all hands in the air. Yet another example of El Producto and Killer Mike bossing, per usual.
Father John (Sassypants) Misty has his festival game on point, and he has progressed his I Love You Honeybear songs into epic plateaus since premiering them in the Santa Cruz mountains last February (read about it here). He spewed banter like an Stephen Colbert-esque contrarian, saying, “Look at these suckers with their hair blowing all over the place.” And as he approached the mic for more improv-snark later on, Tillman paused to say, “Sorry, I have nothing to say. Ha.” FJM was speechless for once, but granted, it might have been set up for “Bored in the USA”, a song that should be considered an American classic at this point.
Easily one of the most opinion-generating sets of the weekend, FKA twigs left everything she had on the Bridge Stage for a captive audience of conflicting critics. Washing over the sizable crowd backed by dramatic stage lights and eerily haunting vocals, the pint-sized powerhouse tangoed her way through a fog-laced set alongside fellow voguing backup dancers and band. Even with her set pushing the avant-garde limits for a good portion of the TIMF crowd, FKA twigs undoubtedly left an impression on everyone in attendance and held her own as headliner support in a considerably stacked bill.
Giving the last performance in support their already-classic Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs end an album cycle with a few questions in mind. Can they get better from here, and could they headline festivals next time around?
Panda Bear delightfully assaulted the festival-weary crowd’s senses with a mind-melting IDM exclamation point. He treated his crowd to one last collectively-uncomfortable group moment, brought on by delightfully weird music and intense background visuals designed by Danny Perez.
Fresh off the release of their second studio album, CHVRCHES‘ Lauren Mayberry commanded the stage with a palpable enthusiasm and chops of a veteran frontwoman. Her epic vocals cut through the encroaching fog as she danced wildly around the Bridge Stage.
Ex Hex served up the best shred-dueling guitar moment during their amazing mid-day slot on Sunday.
Hudson Mohawke demonstrated the kind of talent and energy that keeps him on speed dial for the likes of Drake and Kanye West, firing off club bangers in a set replete with custom lighting and live drummers.
Armed with a full roster of touring vocalists, the UK electronic duo Gorgon City blew the Saturday afternoon crowd away with soulful renditions of “Unmissable” and “Real”. Set highlights including numerous extended versions of crowd favorite album cuts and easily the best midday dance party of the weekend, spurred by an audience-rousing rendition of “Here for You”.
Viet Cong‘s Matt Flegal mentioned, “We had Sunday afternoons in mind when we wrote this stuff” with juuuuust a dash of irony. Maybe “Sunday Afternoon” would be a solid choice for the group’s new name? Maybe not, but drummer Mike Wallace is the heartbeat of this excellent doom-indie act.
When you look at the TIMF 2015 lineup, Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9) is the fish out of water with their jam-band roots. But Sound Tribe got the love from a dance-happy crowd on Saturday, one that was there largely for the mau5.
Big Grams impressed with their live debut to close out the Tunnel Stage on Saturday. How could the combo of Big Boi and Phantogram not bring the fire? Plus, Run the Jewels guested for “Born to Shine”.
Vampire Weekend bassist Baio and his early-riser electronic set was replete with a Eurythmics cover “Here Comes the Rain Again”.
Cashmere Cat (pictured above) breezed through an electrifying set of R&B-infused trap sensations while Bob Moses set the tone on Saturday, moving the crowd as they watched the projected overcast clouds head back over to SF, leaving the island awash in sunshine and vibes.
Jose Gonzalez stretched out his best hits with multiple drummers and an idyllic TIMF sound for the festival’s second day. You know a set is good when it goes by that quickly.
Shamir (pictured above) showed sass and chops beyond his years — and why he’s a 2015 breakout act. Meanwhile, damn, Ought sure is proficient, and they unveil beauty through repetition and punk mentality. Their purposeful presence and pointed music makes you think their best is yet to come.
Deerhunter‘s Bradford Cox talked about how he decided on the way over to the island that he wouldn’t play many songs, how he took ayahuasca on Saturday night in LA and he was surprised at how reserved the TIMF audience was. He said we were “polite like the Japanese.” Bradford, that’s what we call “respect” — and you’ve earned it. Those who expected lots of new material from the group’s wondrous new album, Fading Frontier, left the island bummed out. Others like myself, who got on the Bradford Cox express train without hesitation, enjoyed a wandering, masterful set that took cues from the sentiment of The War on Drugs as well as the psychedelic repetition of Panda Bear. Cox even thanked these two bands by name before wrapping up.
So, what were your favorite moments from TIMF 2015?