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September 19, 2007
Amidst the illustrious landmarks of San Francisco Bay, in the shadow of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, there is hidden the far less glamorous Treasure Island. Originally intended as an airport in the 1930s, the space has held everything from a world's fair to a naval station over the years, but remains mostly unknown outside the city. Thus this weekend's inaugural Treasure Island Music Festival was more than an outdoor music festival in the Bay (which in it of itself is a rarity), it offered a fresh perspective on one of the world's most recognizable skylines. For a newcomer like myself, the view alone was worth the admission. The diversity of great music on display was just gravy.

Saturday featured an eclectic lineup of dance music from around the world, with France's Gotan Project sharing the same stage as the globetrotting M.I.A. The latter put on a raucous show that featured fans dancing on stage to "Bird Flu," the rapper climbing the rafters to belt out "Paper Planes" and some awesomely raunchy dance moves during "Boyz" - which is without question one of the best songs of the year (all three tracks are from her sophomore album, Kala).

Yet if there was a theme to the weekend's festivities, it was the Bay Area/California connection that weaved through both days' events. The legendary DJ Shadow, who got his start working at a college radio station in nearby Davis, CA, graced the stage accompanied by former Jurassic 5er Cut Chemist (who got his start in LA). The duo set up their performance as an ode to the 7-inch record and the loss of a physical connection in music consumption. They filled the screen behind them with psychedelic images of 45's spinning around and destroying iPods, yet the show itself was largely impersonal as the DJ's remained secluded and distant behind a wall of Plexiglas. When they did step out of their shells they strapped portable turntables to their necks and preceded to jam for a couple minutes - an idea that unfortunately looked far cooler than it sounded.

On Sunday indie-rockers Two Gallants carried the torch for Bay Area natives, making frequent mention of their roots as they galloped through a powerful set of old and new material. The standouts were cuts from 2006's When the Toll Tells, which sounded fierce and wildly alive in the outdoor setting with singer Adam Stephens' grizzly voice in top form. The young songwriter can spin verses with the best of 'em, writing in a style that recalls both classic and folk rock. Tracks such as "Steady Rollin" or "Las Cruces Jail" would be at home on 70's albums by Dylan or the Band.

The headliners on Sunday were Modest Mouse and Spoon, and while each played their hearts out (the former seemed especially thrilled to be in the spotlight) -two previous performers had already stolen the show. Earlier in the day Portland native M. Ward exhibited his impressive range and maturing band, moving between piano ballads and full-on rockers with ease. His grin was infectious and the set was breezy and entirely relaxing (even as he thrashed away on his guitar). Ward was followed by Built to Spill, who looked much older than most of the other musicians playing the festival that day but played with as much emotion and intensity as a young band just making it big for the first time. Doug Martsch iconic voice echoed across the field and into the nearby waves as the crowds began to assemble for the headliners, leaving a beautiful lingering impression that was never topped.

The weekend was produced by Noise Pop and Another Planet, and they should be commended for keeping everything so environmentally clean and un-crowded. While the food was predictably expensive and the porta-potties got gross towards the end of the day, the curators filled every minute with creativity (the videos that ran between sets were hilarious) and fun (an old-school arcade offered hours of distraction). More than anything they've exposed Treasure Island as the ideal location for outdoor music in the area. Smack in the middle of the Bay, filled with huge open spaces and decorated with gorgeous palm trees, one imagines this festival is only going to get bigger and better in the coming years. It's the type of event that should be far more common in a city as grand as San Francisco.



Lovers and photographers under the Treasure Island flag.


Fun seekers.


Strange beings.


Creative types.


Bizarre, yet appropriate.


People milling about.


Great location + great music + great weather = Great festival.


For more images from the festival, check out the companion feature of band photos.

SEE ALSO: www.treasureislandfestival.com
SEE ALSO: www.noisepop.com
SEE ALSO: www.apeconcerts.com

--
Imran Siddiquee
Imran Siddiquee is a freelance writer pursuing self-expression in all its forms. This includes the occasional contribution to LAS as well as writing blogs, essays, short stories, an unpublished novel and some screenplays. He also creates horribly amateur music with his brother Yusuf.

See other articles by Imran Siddiquee.

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