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Treasure Island Music Festival 2018: A strong return for one of the Bay Area’s best live music events

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - JunglePhotos by Brendan Mansfield, Josh Withers, Paige K. Parsons & Josh Sanseri // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland
October 13th-14th, 2018 //

Treasure Island Music Festival is back. After 10 years on its namesake island, Another Planet Entertainment’s and Noise Pop’s two-day music and arts festival has returned in full form to its new home, the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland.

A popular spot for open-air events, MHSP has become well-known for its sprawling natural grass, cool breeze and stunning sunsets revealing a silhouetted view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. Having hosted both hip-hop festival Blurry Vision and house music day party All Day I Dream in the past, the park has become a reliable space for large-scale events in the East Bay.

TIMF 2018 was no different. For the fest’s first iteration at this new venue, organization and logistics ran as smoothly as one may hope. Based on my own experience and the anecdotes shared by other festivalgoers throughout the weekend, arriving and leaving the festival was simple and stress-free; exiting both nights after the headliner finished and waiting to board the shuttle to the West Oakland BART station took no longer than 30 minutes, even at peak times. After transporting thousands of patrons on and off Treasure Island in years past, it’s not a surprise that the organizers were successful in keeping everything on course over the whole weekend.

The layout of the festival followed a similar logic to previous iterations: two stages at opposite ends of a large field, with artists playing back-to-back on each stage. This is where TIMF truly shines — to be able to see every artist on any music festival’s lineup is always a treat. Kicking off Saturday’s hip-hop and electronic-oriented artist roster was up-and-coming experimental rapper JPEGMAFIA. Using nothing but a laptop (managed by himself) and a mic, JPEGMAFIA spent much of his set in the crowd, rapping his manic flows atop noisy, blaring hip-hop beats.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney

Later, Moses Sumney took the stage as a four-piece band, a new iteration of what has usually been a solo project. His sultry vocals, combined with some expanded instrumentation, made for a complete reinvention of the LA native’s live show. “Make Out in Your Car”, for example, featured an extremely groovy outro that gave the band backing the soulful singer-songwriter space to jam out for a second.

Sadly, as Sumney began his closing track “Plastic”, electronic duo Polo & Pan started their set on the opposite stage, quickly overtaking the airwaves across Middle Harbor. Polo & Pan have garnered considerable hype this year, and for good reason. The French duo seamlessly guided us through a 45-minute, non-stop dance party, layering bacchanalian melodies over thumping house beats that invoked a sense of being at a old-time carnival. It’s quite a unique sound that can really get a crowd moving.

As the afternoon progressed, artist after artist brought their best underneath the beating sun. Laff Trax is a new side project featuring Bay Area resident Chaz Bundick (aka Toro y Moi) and enigmatic electronic producer Nosaj Thing. In what really ended up being a B2B DJ set rather than a new musical project, the two DJs were impeccable in their selections.

Back at the main stage, Santigold celebrated the 10th anniversary of her self-titled debut LP by performing it in full. Another new DJ duo, Silk City, which was formed by All-Star record producers Mark Ronson and Diplo, shortly followed, keeping a small crowd moving leading up to the night’s two final acts: Pusha T and A$AP Rocky.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Pusha T


Pusha T

Pusha T took The City stage right at set time, kicking off with an a capella intro to the opening track “If You Know You Know” from his most recent album Daytona. From there, it was “King Push” in full form — performing a setlist of nearly 20 songs, back to back to back, while never missing a beat. Throughout the set, Pusha and his DJ continuously proclaimed “DAYTONA … ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” And after he performed the whole disc from start to finish, including a word-perfect rendition of “Infared”, I might be inclined to agree.

Saturday headliner A$AP Rocky was an unfortunate disappointment. Due to what we think was technical difficulties, he didn’t take the stage until 37 minutes after his scheduled start time, killing more than half an hour. While he brought all the bells and whistles one would expect — pyrotechnics, strobe lights and a full backing band — when headlining a festival, you could tell he felt rushed and flustered trying to get through what they could before the strict noise curfew of 10 p.m. As a result, Rocky ended up being one of the more forgettable acts of the weekend.

Sunday at TIMF proved to be sublime. Offering just as much sunshine and warmth as Day 1, a perfectly sequenced day focused heavily on rock transpired. Pond, the first of four Australian acts to perform on the main stage, got things started for a noticeably large audience, many of who were likely Tame Impala fans arriving early to show their support for Jay Watson, who is in both bands. Next was Soccer Mommy, another one of this year’s indie darlings, as she and her sidekicks held their own playing tracks off her debut LP Clean, including excellent takes on “Your Dog” and “Cool”.

Alex Cameron, the second Australian act to take the main stage on Sunday, is a puzzling one. Picture “Macho Man” Randy Savage meeting Michael Jackson if you can. It’s part comedy bit, part completely serious 80’s dream-pop band. Cameron describes the project as a “dossier of evidence about the condition of being a straight white male.” Take from that what you will.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - U.S. Girls


U.S. Girls

The marathon of music subsequently continued. Shame, a post-punk outfit that couldn’t have originated from anywhere except the UK, brought a breath of fresh air (and dust) to TIMF with their fast and loose instrumentation and leery vocal stylings. Sharon Van Etton unveiled what I see as version 2.0 of her music by adding some really gritty guitar and synthesizer sounds to her stunning vocals. We look forward to hearing her new album Remind Me Tomorrow, which comes out next year.

But U.S. Girls were the highlight of the weekend for us. A nine-piece experimental pop act, they put on a stunning 45-minute set that culminated in an entrancing rendition of “Time”, the closing track on their critically acclaimed studio effort In a Poem Unlimited, that lasted more than 10 minutes. The energy, instrumentation and vocal capabilities were absolutely stunning. Easily one of this year’s most exciting new acts, and we can’t wait to catch them again soon.

Tame Impala delivered what one might expect from one of the world’s top-touring rock bands right now. Running through a 17-song set full of hits, from “Alter Ego” to “The Less I Know the Better” on 2015’s Currents, the final Aussie act of the day left us with a special treat by playing “Jeremy’s Storm” from their debut album Innerspeaker for the first time in nearly five years.

After taking 2017 off and relocating to Oakland, TIMF has returned in full form and we are certainly thrilled about that. With great weather, excellent organization and a near-perfect sequencing of artists this year, it still happens to be one of the best live music events in the Bay Area. Who’s ready for 2019?

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