Treasure Island Music Festival

With a few exceptions, I don’t really attend music festivals. For one thing, it requires a lot of planning, which I’m typically loathe to do. Secondly, I get overwhelmed pretty easily, and much prefer intimate performances to crowded outdoor ones. Even in high school, when I was a spunky little concert-goer, I sought out seats by railings over diving into the pit. I guess I’ve always been something of an old soul crotchety grandma-type.

This year, however, Treasure Island Music Festival’s lineup and location was too good to be true. I happily cast aside my homebody tendencies once I heard that James Blake, Animal Collective, Atoms for Peace, and Little Dragon (among others) would be playing. I was not disappointed, either, as each and every set we caught was rad.

Major Lazer was playing when we first entered, setting the tone for our festival experience perfectly: dancing, drinking, don’t-give-a-damn-ing. Phantogram came on immediately afterward at the other stage and put on an excellent show. Once the sun set, Little Dragon came on and took us on a dreamy ride of a concert. Yukimi Nagano is just a babe… and those pipes! Ethereal, melodic singing one second and bad-ass power-belting the next. Girl’s got range.

The night’s headliner was Atoms for Peace, Thom Yorke (of Radiohead)’s project with Flea (of Red Hot Chili Peppers), et al.

Can I tell you a secret? I’m not a Thom Yorke fan. I just get the sense that he’s kind of an asshole. I can’t help but let that [unjustified] impression color my overall opinion of him as a person. That said, I still appreciate his artistic output. There are certain places in my heart that only Radiohead songs have unlocked (see: “I Will,” “Let Down,” “Motion Picture Soundtrack”), and I think he’s still doing incredibly innovative things musically. I’d seen Atoms for Peace at the Fox Theatre in Oakland a few years ago and been very much impressed. They played a similarly great set this time around — not that I can truthfully attest to the whole thing, however.

Warning: anticlimactic story ahead.

I should note here that, by the time Atoms for Peace took the stage, I’d been awake since 6 am and had maybe four glasses of wine in me with nary a drop of water to drink the whole day. At around 10 pm, in the middle of the crowd, I suddenly felt as though I’d been hit by an eight-wheeler of exhaustion. Before I could realize what was happening, I had blacked out and collapsed like a sack of potatoes. Jay was by my side instantly, shielding me until I came to (after about a minute) and heroically getting me out of the crowd using brute force. I felt immediately better once I was able to sit down and get fresh air. After half an hour or so, I was back to normal — and totally determined try to find my right shoe, which had fallen off during our escape. Serendipitously, we found my beloved loafer almost immediately, lying forlornly at the outskirts of the arena. Everything turned out better than expected!

The best part of the entire experience was that a few strangers helped me get to safety and recover. One guy, in particular, tried to talk me through my disoriented haze. “You know,” he said, “I’m not sure what kind of drugs you took — but this happens all the time. Don’t worry!” I would’ve died laughing if my body weren’t in a near-comatose state. “I didn’t take any drugs,” I heard myself say. “I just took my GRE this morning!” I’m sure I sounded super convincing, given that I had fainted during a music festival where people danced in “twerk pyramids.” No matter — I’m still grateful for the kindness of strangers, and especially so for Jay’s TLC.

I was sure to hydrate properly the next day, which resulted in a much better experience all around. We arrived just in time to watch James Blake, who undoubtedly put on my favorite performance of the entire festival. It was a rousing experience (to say the least.) to listen and look at James and company. So transcendentally beautiful, on so many different levels. I love you, James…

Animal Collective played next. I’ve been a fan since high school, but haven’t been keeping up with their new material. They played a few oldies and goodies, but most of their set consisted of more recent discography. It was, however, still uniquely trippy, lush, abstract, disjointed fun.

My friends and I decided to call it a night after Sleigh Bells came on (awesome), and before Beck took the stage. I was only a little sad to miss Beck — but understand that Treasure Island was awash with frigid wind both nights. It had been one very long weekend, and we wanted to beat the wait for a shuttle home.

I have to hand it to the organizers; the festival was one very well-staffed, well-thought-out affair. We never had to wait for a shuttle to Treasure Island, and the queue for the ride back to San Francisco was super orderly, thanks to the presence of staff and crowd-control barriers. The festival was easy to navigate and just the right size — big enough to feel like a party, small enough to avoid being chaotic. Perfect for an old fogie like me!

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