By Dylan Grosz
Eight hours of raving, roaming and manmade dust storms weren’t enough to stop people from crowding the main stage of the Treasure Island Music Festival. The main act that night was the ever-psychedelic Tame Impala, and despite the groovy stylings of Jungle on the second stage, a strong contingent of Tame Impala hyper-fans skipped their performance to get a marginally better view of frontman Kevin Parker. Without much provocation, a fellow fan turned to me and shouted, “I made this for him,” as he proudly touted a shirt with “Fuck Trevor” sharpied across the chest, a reference to a character from Tame Impala’s hit “The Less I Know The Better.” Waiting for the last act of festival, we both realized we had equally enjoyed and endured several hours of fantastic, and at times erratic, performances.
Starting with the second act on the first day of TIMF, I knew I was in for an ecstatic, exhausting experience. After a solid DJ set by electronic duo Gilligan Moss, Baltimore rapper JPEGMAFIA took to the adjacent stage, immediately seizing the crowd’s energy by playing his fiery feature on Denzel Curry’s “VENGEANCE.” Peggy had boundless energy, jumping over the divide and moshing with the crowd to his own songs. In between songs, he was no stranger to controversy, discussing his disappointment in Kanye and Drake and reiterating his hatred for Morrisey and rock in general.
After JPEGMAFIA’s engaging and erratic performance, George Fitzgerald’s live set proved an effective EDM palette cleanser. The rest of the day fell into this intended pattern, where an electronic artist would reset the mood with various mixes of house, trap and EDM pop after one or two hip-hop/R&B artists riled up the crowd. After watching Moses Sumner’s mesmerizing performance of “Rank & File,” attendees would trek to the other stage to watch French duo Polo & Pan’s softer touch on EDM, ending the afternoon with their sunny, hypnotic set.
Hiatus Kaiyote’s subsequent performance drew much hype because they had not released any songs since 2015’s “Choose Your Weapon.” Optimistic fans were sure that the group would debut new music, and the group did not take long to satisfy. Over the course of their 50-minute set, vocalist/guitarist/bandleader Nai Palm and company revealed three new songs, ranging from their recognizable neo-soul sound to what could only be described as jazz fusion-metal. As fans processed Hiatus Kaiyote’s new material, Laff Trax (Toro y Moi & Nosaj Thing) returned everyone to the club with their interpretations of old school Daft Punk, and Santigold’s smooth R&B let attendees unwind or dance depending on their mood.
As the sun set, Amine took to the stage, fresh off the success of his “ONEPOINTFIVE” mixtape. To his credit, the rising rapper was able to coherently mix the lush and introspective sounds of his debut “Good For You” with the sparse trap of “ONEPOINTFIVE.” As his set came to a close, EDM fans began flocking early to the other side of the festival. Silk City, consisting of the legendary Mark Ronson and Diplo, served as the crown jewel of the day’s EDM acts. The melding of Ronson’s nostalgia and Diplo’s experimentation was endlessly danceable. Their set spanned genre and age, peppered with exciting original material.
Hip hop legends Pusha T and A$AP Rocky were left as the final two acts of the night, promoting their albums “DAYTONA” and “TESTING,” respectively. As King Push took the stage, it didn’t take long for him, in all his braids and glory, to declare “’DAYTONA’ album of the year” and nearly play the entire album in order. It’s usually perceived as cocky and confrontational to push an entire new album on fans. Yet, the strength and concision of the 7-track “DAYTONA,” paired with his hits on older projects and Clipse, led to one of the tightest set lists of the festival.
Despite Pusha T’s fantastic performance, many festival-goers attended strictly to see the night’s headliner, A$AP Rocky. Rocky was scheduled to perform for 90 minutes, but as 30 minutes passed, fans began to grow restless, yelling for “Dr. A$APtual Rockeford” to take the stage. Right before restlessness turned into frustration, the stage’s curtains opened to reveal a 30-foot crash test dummy. In a show full of pyrotechnics, Rocky spanned highlights across his entire discography, spitting and scaling up and down his dummy’s head. With a final blast of fire and a shout out to Bay Area legend Lil B, day one was over.
After such an exhausting day full of EDM and rap, the second day of TIMF served to soothe and relax. Nowhere was this mood more apparent than in the second day’s first act, serpentwithfeet. An ethereal vocalist and BROCKHAMPTON collaborator, serpentwithfeet provided early festival attendees a brief but powerful set, with many of his songs combining croon and conversation. To bring up the energy, Pond took to the opposite stage and bombarded the audience with their particular style of hard psychedelic rock. The group, based in Perth, Australia, features a rotating lineup that includes members of fellow Peth natives Tame Impala, so many also viewed this set as a precursor to the day’s headliner. The group dabbles in psychedelic experimentation. Members would constantly mess with sound textures mid-song, leading to a head-spinning array of sonics in just one jam session. Almost as if Pond’s psychedelics were a cue, absurdly costumed folks began cropping up everywhere.
TIMF was definitely a music festival first, but it also boasted a respectable selection of local shops and food vendors. Cynically, these selections capitalized on the festival’s isolation in a harbor designed as a port to load container ships. Not so cynically, they provided and promoted a vast array of local threads, tastes and art. While watching Soccer Mommy’s aloof set and Alex Cameron’s purposeful sleaze, you could take a musical break and observe local artists engaged in live paintings or putting on button-making workshops.
Easily the most surprising act of the festival was Shame, a post-punk band out of London who was little known to festival-goers. Their electrifying punk attitude ran rampant throughout the show. In quick succession, singer Charlie Steen went on a diatribe about the “four-chord future” before preemptively using his mic stand to “conduct” the crowd seemingly to prepare them for his subsequent stage dive. For a crowd that even Shame admitted had little knowledge of the band’s prior work, they seemed pretty won over by the end of the set, transported to raving and moshing by the raw energy the group injected into them at three in the afternoon.
Though Sharon Van Etten brought the mood back down with a much more soothing set, U.S. Girls and Courtney Barnett rekindled the crowd’s punkish energy in their sets. With new tracks off of her new “Tell Me How You Really Feel,” Barnett slammed the crowd with pure, unadulterated, guitar-driven rock. She was a punctual performer with no filler, reaching back to her lyrically-sprawling indie hits off of her first “Double EP” release before returning to the sharp commentary on her latest record. Closing out in a raucous rendition of “Pedestrian At Best,” Barnett left the crowd bustling with energy, which only a group like Cigarettes After Sex could properly mellow out. Their take on dream pop never ceased to lull and sway the audience, who in the middle of the group’s slowed-down guitar solos, saw the beginnings of the sunset, leading to a beautiful arrangement of dudes separately realizing the hiding sun and shouting, “Woah…”
Hype for the night’s headliner began brewing as Lord Huron subsequently took the stage. As they fumbled around their older discography’s more generic rock aesthetic, Lord Huron later settled on their recent album’s own niche, which can only be described as a sci-fi noire covered in neon lights. Exhibiting much more distortion and cosmic lyrics, Lord Huron truly displayed their expanding range as a group while staying true to their earlier singer-songwriter roots. As their set closed out, half of the crowd remained and decided to skip Jungle’s set. Though they probably got a slightly better view of Tame Impala, they truly missed out on a set riddled with the very funk and soul influences that likely got them into Tame Impala in the first place.
As Jungle closed out, the final act of the festival was finally upon us; The Moment was here. Without much of a wait, Kevin Parker and company took to the stage and tantalized the audience with absolutely remarkable psychedelic visuals before launching into Parker’s opus: 2015’s “Let It Happen.” Seasoned Tame Impala concert-goers had warned of “sick lasers” and “crazy smoke effects,” and these sophisticated descriptions did not disappoint. Parker’s musical perfectionism definitely bleeds into his audiovisual vision, and every bass or drum hit flipped between diversely psychedelic palettes. Thanks to Tame Impala’s tight performance and Prop 64, fans were left in utter awe as the festival came to a close in Oakland. God, getting back to campus was a nightmare.
Contact Dylan Grosz at dgrosz ‘at stanford.edu.