I'm in love with a girl

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Just on the other side of the Treasure Island Music Festival, I am still basking in the afterglow.  It was a 2 day festival which effectively sucked the majority of the hipster population from San Francisco and surrounding areas across the bridge and onto tiny Treasure Island, a former naval base.  I recall looking over the lineup last year and contemplating making a pilgrimage to the East Bay for the occasion.  Funny how things work out, as I had no idea at the time I'd end up here. 

If you know anything about me, you know that I'm a huge music fan.  I tend to get rather enthusiastic about music, specifically the music I love.  Case in point, the festival's indie lineup was nothing short of a musical wet dream.  So, about a month ago, I purchased my tickets to the festival and $140 later, I was ready to effectively camp out for 2 days in between stages, insanely priced beer and food vendors one step up from the concession stand at the Saturday swap meet.

While severely underestimating just how much of a pain in the ass getting from the AT&T stadium parking lot to the festival would be, my friend David and I were shocked into the reality of a line of people almost encircling the entire parking lot and doubling back on itself.  Our goal of Saturday was to see Passion Pit and tolerate the rest of the day having at least one good performance under our belts.  Oh contraire!  Once we saw the most hideous line of concert goers, we quickly bid adieu to our hopes of seeing Passion Pit and any other act within a 2 hour window as we shuffled inch by inch, ever slowly, towards the tour busses which had been chartered to transport thousands of screaming, costumed, music enthusiasts to the middle of the bay.

Faced with an incredibly long wait to actually step foot on these vehicles (I dare say we waited in line for an hour and a half), we were forced to somehow kill the time.  The most brilliant and genius of ideas struck me, let's play hipster bingo!  This could be no ordinary hipster bingo with the ill-fitting hooded sweatshirt or trucker's hat.  We had to up the ante to a level one rarely dared go.  We were on the timeline smack dab between Burning Man and Halloween.  We had to reach heights that the average Dick and Jane would never dare aspire to.  Uberhipsterdom.  We created a running list of the most ridiculous yet possibly attainable clothing items and combinations with intentions of crossing each and every offending item on our list off by the end of the weekend.  We came damn close, finding a lofty 22 of 36 total items.  Among the list of nonsensical items found were metallic spandex a'la Jane Fonda complete with leg warmers, fanny pack, "old woman" square pink glasses on a man and a hipster child.

The full festival lineup can be found here, but allow me to fill you in on a few performances.

The first day's lineup was nothing to shake a stick at.  Consisting of mostly of music regurgitated by those machines they call laptops, it was not what I would call a 'performance day'.  There were a few acts I was lukewarm as milk to see, none of which ended up thrilling me in the least. 

Beyond Passion Pit, the next performance I had any stake in was The Streets.  Once on stage for a full 30 seconds, my hopes had been dashed and the combination of terrible stage presence and 'let's get naked' banter coupled with a thick British accent and horrible sound engineering made the performance of Mike Skinner an incredibly disappointing and obtusely confusing one.  The crowd was not moving, yet he took this as an opportunity to demand that the crowd jump up and down like programmed monkeys as he screamed into the mic.  British Hip Hop fail.

Brazilian Girls were a nice, cheeky break between garbled Brit slang and the DJs to follow.  They sounded great live, but were not memorable.

MSTRKRFT.  Um....hmm.... In one word - horrible.  Perhaps I'm getting old and don't particularly feel the need to transform a music festival into a rave in broad daylight.  Does that mean I'm crazy?!  A perfect example of two guys banging away at a sound board looking stoned out of their minds.  The best description I can come up with is Frank Zappa's bastard son thrashing his head to synthesized pseudo sounds in a cocaine induced haze.  This was so horrible, that we had concluded the on-screen visuals were strictly there to distract and mesmerize concertgoers into thinking this was a virtuosic performance. After witnessing 2 songs from these geniuses in motion, we were convinced to pack up for the night and try again the next day.

Sunday brought with it a lineup which sung in the breeze and made my heart go pitter patter.

We arrived just in time to see Thao & The Get Down Stay Down perform.  This performance rocked the house and set the tone for what promised to be a magical day.  With Thao, we were not disappointed.  This tiny little firecracker was amazing live.  Great stage presence, talent and musical chops all rolled up into the most adorable little package.  A mix of banjo-like acoustic guitars reminiscent of bluegrass festivals and soulful vocals was spot on.

Next up was Spiral Stairs.  I had no idea who this was, nor did I really care.  We were merely wasting some time at this stage while waiting for the next act to come on, expecting your average indie 'filler band' - until Spiral Stairs started to play their first song.  Turns out, this is the Pavement member Scott Kannberg's side project.  The band played incredibly tight as a group, each musician contributing to a sharp sound that literally drew most of the festival crowd to the stage, curious to see what Spiral Stairs was really about.  Perusing the music available online simply does not carry the same impact as their performance at the festival.  If they tour near you, they're worth checking out.

One of the bands I was dying to see and where some of my hard earned cash was vested was Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. HOLY SCHNIKES this was my favorite performance of the entire festival!  A rag tag group of barefoot hippies fresh off the bus from what seemed to be their religious compound, this group was absolutely amazing.  First off, if you haven't heard their album Up From Below, you must run out and listen to it.  Immediately.  Next, if they tour near you, purchase tickets and go!  There is no Edward Sharpe to be had, it's simply a name.  The lead vocals are courtesy of Alex Ebert who wandered around onstage as if he had eaten an entire pan of special brownies an hour before going on stage.  This guy was so high, he should have defied gravity.  After repeated shots of him on the video screen red eyed and clearly in another world, my friend David cried "someone find that man some visine!".  Let's be honest, the entire band was insanely high.  Alex reminded me of a religious cult leader, under the influence of some shamanic, natural substance, randomly removing clothing from his

lanky frame, wanting to make love to the audience and carrying a damn fine tune the entire time.  The highlight of the performance was 'Home' which highlighted the band's female vocalist Jade Castrinos.  This woman was meant for the spotlight, her voice is amazing, her persona much like a newly spiritually awakened child, awkward and shy, she was a mix of Winona Ryder and Bjork and was absolutely captivating.  Even the cameraman was completely in love with her, as the rest of the band garnered little to no screen time during her performance.  This was the best performance of the entire festival.

Beyond Yo La Tengo and The Flaming Lips, both of which I shockingly chose to forego due to the early Monday morning alarm, the big chops of the festival was Beirut.  23 year old Zach Condon and crew bring Eastern European Folk to the masses.  I consider The Flying Club Cup, March of the Zapotec & Realpeople Holland and Gulag Orkestar to be 3 of my favorite albums in my not so humble and expansive iTunes collection.  Their performance certainly did each album justice.  His voice was as operatic and soaring as expected, yet I found myself coming away from the performance being less than blown away.  After Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, I wanted Beirut to match and even surpass their performance.  Beirut were certainly a good live band, but they were simply not captivating.  This pains me so, as Beirut's music has such magical qualities to change my mood and set the stage for something both humble and unique.

All in all, it was a great festival and a hell of a good time.  I look forward to future musical outings and adventures in the Bay.



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