We emerged listlessly from our sleep, squinting out the window only to find thick grey clouds and rain. The previous night’s lack of moderation contributed to our slow start as well; ears, limbs and brains were all casualties. Fortunately, Treasure Island is expertly designed to accommodate today’s festival rat, so that he may dance and engage in chemical revelry the first night, and recover in swaying, audible comfort the next. The rain stopped by the time we arrived, but the day was unmistakably marked by low, colorless skies, which meant muted rain jackets and umbrellas being hoisted from the crowd instead of glow sticks and neon candy kids running around.

The clouds proved impenetrable even for the pop-folk stylings of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward, who attempted to get everyone’s hands out of their pockets and clapping, but to only minimal success. As far as I can tell, She & Him is a band that is predicated on a few things: 1960s pop-folk covers, sunny weather, and Zooey Deschanel’s wide-eyed sex appeal. Well, two outta three ain’t bad. And then there’s M. Ward, sandwiched between Zooey’s marginal level of musicianship and three tambourinists. This year marked his first return to Treasure Island since it’s inaugural year, and sadly he played it beardless. Take my Ward for it, man, you were better off with the beard.

But where M. Ward failed in the facial hair facet, Israeli caveman trio Monotonix succeeded. They also accomplished something that no other band possibly could have done in that spot, and they did it with only drums, a guitar and a microphone—they turned a crowd of frozen San Franciscans into a huge, smiling moshpit.

If Monotonix was any other band, the biting cold and early time slot would have proved an impediment. However, through sweaty caveman prowess and the utilization of short-shorts, Monotonix took the entire situation and quite literally flipped it to their advantage by playing in the middle of the fucking crowd. This simple act alone commanded the attention of the festival and opened up a whole new space for everyone to thrash around in—including the guitarist, who never missed a note even while being held aloft by the crowd.

From there, they parted the crowd much like their Hebraic progenitor did to the Red Sea and moved everything piece by piece (with the drummer still playing mind you) until they were actually in front of the soundbooth. At this point, singer Ami Shalev climbed the scaffolding of the soundbooth, grabbed a bag of trash, and with a sadistic grin on his face threatened to empty its contents all over the crowd. Instead, he dumped it on the drumset, which, in the Bay Area, is, like, just about the most punk rock thing you can do.

Then, imploring everyone to “shut the fuck up,” Monotonix declared they were going to “jam a little bit,” parting the crowd anew and moving forward near the stage where they demanded everyone sit down. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to San Francisco, but ordering a throng of well-dressed music-type folk to sit down in the mud is a little like asking the IDF to use manners instead of guns. Launching into a Matisyahu-like reggae bit, the communal sit lasted for about a minute and a half before lapsing right back into shameless garage punk (which at this point was more like garbage punk).

When they finally reached the end of their set, the Israeli trio said their parting shaloms by stacking the marred remnants of the drumset into a tower and heaving a kick drum at it. And with that, a bunch of smiling, dizzy concert-goers made their way over to Broken Social Scene, leaving behind the unamused sound of some dude asking people to please pick up trash on their way to the next stage. Sorry for partying, man.

Less than 200 meters from Monotonix, Broken Social Scene prepared to explore an entirely different realm of music—one grounded in collective harmonies and precise arrangements.

At least, that was the idea, but unfavorable weather conditions resulted in some technical bummers, making for a very cranky Kevin Drew. Still, even under colorless skies, it’s quite difficult to keep from grinning when the Scene is hammering out Fire Eye’d Boy and 7/4 Shoreline with it’s key members present, including Amy Millan of Stars (who also had an awkward moment when her mic failed to work). Let’s face it, when you lose one or two components from Broken Social Scene, there’s still plenty to fall back on. Their romantic ten-song set borrowed heavily from their latest studio release, Forgiveness Rock Record, as well as a few pleasers from the critically endowed You Forgot it in People. By the second half of the set, the juices were flowing, the people were cheering, and Kevin Drew’s guitar even started working for Almost Crime (Radio Kills Remix)!

Much to the chagrin of some of my friends, Sunday marked both my first audible and visual experience with The National, and my impression was that of very tempered sadness with fleeting moments of insanity. After a menial delay in what slightly-sauced frontdude Matt Berninger referred to as “the awkward beginning of their show” the Brooklyn-based quintet was off and running with a thirteen-song set that celebrated their latest full-length, High Violet, as well as selections from their breakout album The Boxer.

One such selection was a particularly resplendent rendition of “Squalor Victoria,” during which Berninger’s reserved baritone broke into an unbridled howl as the song reached a soaring climax with the words “Raise our heavenly glasses to the heavens/And squalor Victoria!” After pausing to admire themselves on the giant telescreens, The National then launched into “a song about Matt’s dick,” which turned out to be “Slow Show.” While I can’t speak for Berninger’s sexual prowess, I can say this: his showmanship is certainly unassailable. Perhaps Rogue Wave said it best: “Following The National sucks. Alright, let’s do this!”

The honor of closing out Treasure Island 2010 was given to Belle & Sebastian, who predictably demonstrated their expertise when it comes to such ceremonial matters. Guided by Stevie Jackson on guitar, Stuart Murdoch and gang offered a wistful end to the festivities with selections from their latest studio effort, Write About Love. With his toy footballs, anecdotes about losing his hat in San Francisco, and charming Scottish accent, Murdoch easily won the crowd over. We Americans tend to find that sort of thing really fucking adorable.

It strikes me that nothing could have been more fitting than exiting the festival to the slowly receding sound of “The Boy with the Arab Strap.” Well done, Treasure Island. Until next year.
posted by Levi
18.10.10, 0 comments


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