A pack of thousands of (mostly) youthful hip hop fans crowded the main stage of Treasure Island Music Festival in anticipation of the set that would conclude both day one of the festival and the OutKast reunion tour. The mood was remarkably similar to that of Best Buy on Black Friday, except with more excitement and less elbow room. Red and blue spotlights illuminated the stage, and the crowd erupted into a fury of cheers and applause.
Inevitably, André 3000 appeared donning a purposefully gaudy Triple XL jet-black tracksuit. On his chest, in white boldface print, read the words: “Have you stopped growing?” While Treasure Island, the slightly radioactive artificial landmass that was once used for military experimentation by the Navy, is sinking into the San Francisco Bay at a rate of about one inch per year, Treasure Island the festival is indeed growing, and reached a populace of 35,000 attendees this year.
As far as music festivals go, nothing about TIF was typical. For starters, the fairgrounds were sandwiched between four-story-tall dilapidated military barracks on one side, the walls of which are covered with only the finest inner-city street art, and a million-dollar view of the San Francisco skyline on the other. The surreal utopia of Treasure Island served host to SF’s most reputed ethnic fusion cuisine, with food trucks including but not limited to: Chairman Bao, Mission Tacos and Me So Hungry.
The fairgrounds also doubled as a buzzing bazaar for the pop-up shops of local Bay Area clothing boutiques, such as San Franpsycho and Upper Playground. Even San Francisco’s weather decided to linger around the low 70s, which Bay Area natives will know is abnormally pleasant for the foggy city.
Perhaps the most standout aspect of this big-in-performance, little-in-size festival was the strong presence of bright fresh female leads. From the high-energy soulful wails of Janelle Monae, to the seductive allure of the siren, Banks, to front-lady Channy Leaneag of Minneapolis-based synth pop group, Poliça, girl power was felt at every stage. However, my favorite of these had to be the brand new Danish singer-songwriter MØ.
Karen Marie Ørsted, or MØ as her fans affectionately know her, is a powerhouse indie punk rocker with a vicious braided ponytail that would make any Disney Princess cry. For her set, Ørsted came stomping out onto the stage wearing beat-up Nikes, a simple black crop top with skirt accompaniment and an eye patch. MØ’s performance was a flurry of air punches, melodic shouting and bass drums. It was angry, loud and groovy all at the same time. She’s exactly the heroine that rock ’n’ roll music needs in this day and age.
The other major standout act of the festival was, undoubtedly, Jungle. Jungle is a UK-based neo-soul funk band that sounds like a tribal lovechild of the Bee Gees and a more psychedelic Joy Division. But don’t be fooled by this reporter’s description — Jungle is very much their own band. The disco orchestra dropped jive after jive, engendering the crowd to cheer and sway hips at every bass strum. Just about every time a hip bumped into me, I received a sincere apology from a smiling face. (I shouldn’t have to tell any festival regular that this is an anomaly.)
And this was characteristic of all of the TIF attendees. Every passerby in a crowd greeted me with an “excuse me” and every high-five to a stranger was met with a smile. And I couldn’t help but notice an absence of the festival standard demographic of python-armed tank top bros. Maybe it was the lineup. Maybe it was the location. (I love you San Francisco.) Maybe it was Noise Pop and Another Planet’s collaboration. Maybe it was some combination of all of the above, but this was the best energy of any crowd I have experienced at a festival. If you’re a devout music appreciator you’ll love Treasure Island for the great vibes and the even stronger show bill. So go next year because it’s different, it’s fresh and it sells out.