But 15,000 is certainly a start.

It’s been a long and fruitful festival season for us here in 2010, and officially capping us off is the Treasure Island Music and Arts festival. This year marked the fourth installment in the TI series, and it proved just as lovely, just as topical and just as emblematic of the state of music as it’s predecessors. Situated romantically on a man-made island between San Francisco and the East Bay, Treasure Island offers an easy-going schedule, panoramic views, convenient transportation, friendly staff and all the necessities that add up to perhaps the least stressful experience any music festival can offer. The lineup invariably provides a look at some of the most influential artists around, while the schedule ensures that no band will go overlooked, regardless of your level of involvement in the festival. With the San Francisco skyline as their backdrop, performers and fans alike revel in a naturally beautiful environment that is perfectly conducive to both watching and playing music. Quite simply, nobody has a bad set on Treasure Island.

Day one began with an authentically San Franciscan layer of grey that quickly gave way to sunshine and even fleeting moments of hot weather. By the time we arrived, the last of the clouds had dissipated and color had been restored to the sky.


And there was Holy Fuck to welcome us to the sun-washed island. It’s difficult to find an appreciation of what Holy Fuck does from their recordings alone. I think the subtlety of their Canadian post-rock prowess is lost until you are looking directly at them and still wondering what the hell is going on.

Between Matt Schulz’s inhuman ability to drum over loops, Punchy McQuaid’s seamless bass-noodling, Brian Borcherdt’s veritable arsenal of stompbox effects, and Graham Walsh’s live voice modulation via a 35mm film synchronizer, it’s not hard to see why they are called Holy Fuck.

No loops, no programs, just pure, narcotic noise that left their audience in shambles as everyone staggered off to go recover to the meager sound of some Parisian band.


Truth be told, the real reason I wanted to see Die Antwoord was to find out for myself how serious they are about what they are doing. The answer, I soon found out, is quite fucking serious.

After watching their video for Enter the Ninja, I couldn’t help my skepticism. Maybe it was the combination of video game references, diminutive mullet-sporting girls, progeria survivors and tattoos so bad they belong on the Lakers (thanks Nick) that suggested it was all too outlandish to be real. Yet, some how, after witnessing their live show, these things don’t seem so odd anymore.

If you’re unfamiliar with Die Antwoord, they are three hiphop artists from Cape Town who are quite invested in the business of not giving a fuck. You can tell they don’t give a fuck because, well, it’s quite literally written all over the place. Through DJ Hi-Tek’s infusion of African rhythms and dub-step beats, Yo-Landi Visser’s overtly profane lyrics and Ninja’s generally vein-popping demeanor, Die Antwoord incessantly bombards you with images of their world: a loveless place where no one grows up and no one is to be trusted. All of this adds up to a hard-hitting, unrelenting live show that achieves a level of exotica that MIA could only dream of. The cold was beginning to set in, but that didn’t stop Ninja from stripping nearly naked and flapping his boner around as Yo-Landi Visser ran around spitting words and water in everyone’s faces. Awesome.


There are disparate views inside the trance community about what Joel Zimmerman is doing for the genre, but after catching his live act it’s hard to think of it as anything less than trance-formative. Any way you look at it, the trance scene has been has been at an impasse for so long that Deadmau5’s inter-genre syncretism, stage rigging, and sheer showmanship makes him a breath of fresh air. His presentation is inimitable, his production quality is downright dangerous, and his lighting rig is as daft and punk as they come. While some may think the genre is endangered or even extinct, the simple truth is that it is merely changing.

Perhaps the thing that impressed me most about Deadmau5 was his masterful use of vocals in his set, which, as a DJ, can either be the wings that lift you skywards, or a giant cartoon anvil tied to your back that may seem hilarious to everyone else, but for you is just plain frustrating. As if to prove how much he cares about vocals, Zimmerman was joined on stage by one of the Care Bears herself, Melleefresh. The renowned voice actress, who you may remember as Birthday Bear, Cheer Bear, or Penny from Inspector Gadget, also moonlights as a vocalist for Deadmau5, and she stopped by on Saturday night to perform “After Hours” with him. In addition to Melleefresh’s guest spot, Deadmau5 also had in his arsenal a voluptuous vocal remix of Ghosts n’ Stuff featuring the voice of Rob Swire (for which he ditched the maus head and dawned a hole-punched white sheet), and a fake blue-screen system crash that resulted in “Sometimes Things Get, Whatever.” That was around the time things got… well, fucking awesome.

And with that, Deadmau5 was off to San Bernadino to play his fourth show in twenty-four hours at the Cypress Hill Smokeout Festival. Perhaps if he hadn’t satisfied me so thoroughly, I would have felt used.


Fucking finally. I had been having daydreams about dancing myself clean for months, ever since I saw this guy’s post from the night they debuted the track in NYC. Sure, they seemed tired, predictably exhausted from the previous night’s show in Hollywood with Hot Chip and awaiting the end of a long tour. Sure they seemed to be having an argument when James Murphy introduced the guitarist and drummer and dismissively said to the rest “I’ll get to them later.” But nothing could abate the sheer fantasy of LCD Soundsystem’s headlining performance at Treasure Island.

LCD Soundsystem’s music can throw you for a loop (hah) because it vacillates so freely between being silly and being serious. On the one hand you have moments of flippancy like “Losing My Edge” and “Yeah (Pretentious and Crass versions),” while on the other you have times of emotional prostration a la “Someone Great” and “Never As Tired as When I’m Waking Up.” In this sense, their music can disorient you by leaving you unguardedly energetic one moment and completely exposed the next. But when the lights go down and you have the opportunity to hear “All My Friends” beside the most important people in your life, you know exactly how to feel.

There was “Yeah,” there was “Tribulations,” and there was “Daft Punk,” but unfortunately there was no encore. James Murphy and co. split after a meager 10 songs with a weak “Sorry, I don’t make the rules.” They did, however, offer a parting gift in the form of “Home,” a beautiful closing song about forgetting, moving on, leaving behind, admitting fear, looking forward...

It wasn’t their tightest performance, but as the man himself says, “This is what you’ve waited for/But under lights we’re all unsure.”

So what would make you feel better?
posted by Levi
19.10.10, 0 comments


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