After a yearlong hiatus, the Bay Area’s Treasure Island Music Festival (TIMF) returned this past weekend, except this time it wasn’t on Treasure Island anymore. Despite maintaining the same name, the 11th rendition of TIMF went down in West Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. Along the edge of the Bay overlooking San Francisco and adjacent to the iconic Port of Oakland, 23,500 festival goers came out for a well-oiled affair.
And despite a new digs, one thing TIMF did maintain from it’s past is the alternating stage setup. When one set ends at The Town stage, the festival migrates over to The City stage and acts don’t overlap. This temporary and repeated exodus from one side of the grounds to the other is a hypnotic exercise to observe and it’s been the signature of TIMF since its inception. We had a helluva weekend in West Oakland, and these are positively the undisputed 10 best moments of the weekend (in chronological order).
TIMF relies on a smooth exchange from one artist’s set ending at one end of the festival to another’s beginning on the other. The clock struck 2:45pm—the posted time for L.A. singer/multi-instrumentalist Moses Sumney’s set to end—but he veered his head towards the side stage and mouthed “one more, right?” And it didn’t really matter what the answer was, because as Polo & Pan’s music could faintly be heard from The City Stage, an unfazed Sumney humbly stepped back to the mic on The Town stage and said “This song’s called ‘Plastic’” and just fucking dazzled everyone, again. When it ended, Sumney let out a devious chuckle, knowing he broke the rules, but damnit if it wasn’t worth it.
As Aussie band Hiatus Kaiyote’s set began, the generally powerful voice of singer Nai Palm felt tempered. Clad in all black, with sequin Kaiyote-emblazoned underwear over see-thru black tights that showed glimmers of her leg tattoos, it wasn’t until the sound tech wised up and jacked up the volume on Palm’s vocals for the band’s second song that it all came alive. And boy did it ever. As a unit, Hiatus Kaiyote are a dexterous and bombastic future funk & soul ensemble and when they played “Laputa,”, the audience was gifted with the most elegant and authoritative singing voice of the festival, from Nai Palm.
I mean…just look at it!
King Push put down the best show of the day on Saturday night at The City stage. No hype man, just Push and his DJ. “Y’all are now in tune to the Daytona experience!” he said, referencing his latest album. I gotta admit, I’ve seen A LOT of bad hip-hop shows this year. Rapping over a backing track has seemingly become the norm and Pusha T put on a masterclass on the art of stepping correct to the mic on stage, never taking the easy way out. He rapped his featured bars on “Runaway” off of Kanye West’s seminal My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, and Push felt like the one Kanye-adjacent artist who can still pull shit like this off and not get caught up in the Mr. West dumpster fire. He’s a standalone force, one of the best rappers in the world and showed why at TIMF.
When nearly half an hour had gone by after A$AP Rocky’s Saturday posted headline set start time and the NYC rapper still wasn’t on stage, he was beginning to tread into “Badu-time.” But when Flacko literally jumped onto the stage, he hit the ground running and was instantly firing on all cylinders, with elaborate pyrotechnics to boot. He played like a headliner, delivering hit after hit with bravado and poise, and much like a Badu set, he gave the crowd more than enough in an hour to forgive the 30 lost minutes.
While serpentwithfeet and Pond opened Sunday’s slate, TIMF day two really hit full swing when Soccer Mommy took the stage. With the Bay breeze coursing through singer Sophie Allison’s hair, songs off her spectacular debut Clean sounded better than they ever had (this is saying a lot for a festival set, which doesn’t have the acoustic advantages of an indoor venue.) With songs like “Try,” “Your Dog” and especially “Cool,” Allison felt like the accomplished artist who’d spent the year touring with heavy-hitters like Liz Phair, Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks and Paramore, and why she’s now about to join Kacey Musgraves in Europe. Make no mistake about it, the hype here is real y’all.
“I haven’t played with a full band like this in three years!” Van Etten shouted. The Jersey native opened her set with fiery new single “Comeback Kid” and the whole performance truly felt like nothing short of a comeback; one that’s leading up to the January release of Remind Me Tomorrow, her first album since 2014. Wrapped in a leather-jacket and matching gloves and pants, Van Etten was possessed with a fiery disposition evoking shades of Joan Jett, channeling a chip on the shoulder deep within herself on “Comeback Kid,” before commandingly cooing the crowd back down with her classic cut, “Serpents.” Pay attention; Sharon’s back.
There is no band doing what Meg Remy and U.S. Girls are doing on stage right now. While Remy is a masterful front woman, there are eight other people behind her enacting a musically elaborate, incredibly theatrical, positively feminist and entirely inspiring show. U.S. Girls were the best band I saw at this year’s SXSW Festival, this was the fourth time I’ve seen them live this year, and here’s the thing: No two shows have looked alike. In fact, they’ve all been vastly different from each other, with the major commonality being how emotionally riveting this band is behind Remy’s lead brushstrokes on stage. The set closed with an extended rendition of “Time,” that at one point saw Remy rolling around on the floor in the crux of an interpretive dance number that had every member of the group giving 1,000% of themselves in their respective craft—keys, vocals, drums, guitar, bass, congas, saxophone (oh that sax!) I mean, what does Meg Remy possibly say to her band before a performance like this? Unpredictable and pure doesn’t begin to describe it and it’s no exaggeration to call them the best live band on the planet right now.
Back in 2014, Courtney Barnett played her first Bay Area festival appearance on the smallest stage at Outside Lands Fest, and the similarities to Kurt Cobain’s visceral guitar-playing on stage couldn’t escape me. Four years later, Barnett has four albums under her belt—including one of this year’s best in Tell Me How You Really Feel—and she’s still shredding her left-handed heart out on stage as thoroughly as ever. I’m not sure if anyone was visibly having as much fun on stage at TIMF than Barnett, and it’s time we start including her in conversations for best indie guitar players.
Well dammit if Tame Impala wasn’t the weekend closing headliner that TIMF deserved. After a weather-shortened set on Friday night at Southern California’s Desert Daze Festival, Kevin Parker and company played a discography-spanning hour and a half that hit on so many levels. The proverbial icing on the cake were confetti cannons that showered thousands of revelers throughout cuts like “Let It Happen,” “Less I Know The Better” and set closer “Feel Like A Brand New Person.” Erupting multiple times throughout the performance, the sea of confetti eventually fluttered its way to every corner of the weekend’s largest crowd and it was an apt celebration for a damn fine festival weekend within the Bay Area’s Indian summer.