Thanks to Treasure Island Music Fest 2011, we're struggling through this beautiful Monday. Here are some impressions of the first day's indie rock-tastic lineup.
When you're at a show and there are people all around you with their fingers in their ears, that's when you know it's a good one. In fact, I'd be astounded if you couldn't hear Weekend, one of the few bands repping the Bay at this year's Treasure Island Music Fest, all the way in SF and Oakland. It's the kind of stuff that's so loud, if you played it underwater, the soundwave could still break noise ordinances and probably cause mini tidal waves too. If you called their music shoegaze's and post-punk's screeching lovechild, you'd be pretty spot on; "Coma Summer," "End Times," and their new single "Hazel" from the Red EP added a touch of bittersweetness to their mostly brooding barrage of songs. Makes you wonder what exactly these boys are really thinking about behind those straight faces. –Laura Mason
Warpaint is confusing. I want to like them, because when I listen to them, I'm sucked into their moody, dreamlike world of intricately woven guitars, off-kilter vocals and drums. Their music is just beautifully unnerving enough to suggest that there's some seriously troubling stuff going on underneath it all. While their set, populated mostly by songs from their latest disc The Fool, showcased the girls' formidable musical chops and haunting harmonies, it never seemed to pick up speed. From the very first song, it felt like one big plateau–all the songs blurred together with the same halted energy and mid-tempo crawl. Sometimes (actually, most of the time) you just want to see someone lose their cool on stage. The sun burning my face off didn't particularly help. –Laura Mason
St. Vincent, aka Annie Clark, aka that svelte chaunteuse with a schizophrenic guitar, hit a new artistic peak this year with the release of the ambitious LP “Strange Mercy.” In it, she manages to harness both her virtuosic guitar musings and her fragile, heightened sensibilities for eclectic and expansive compositional effect. On the big stage Sunday, we got to see how this dichotomy plays out in practice, as Clark went easy on the eyes and hard on the irrepressible solos, her connection to Sufjan Stevens plainly evident when she scratches the axe. She also demonstrated her stylistic versatility as a songwriter, veering from distinct section to distinct section in songs like “Surgeon” the apocryphal “Your Lips Are Red,” in which she held her guitar pick in the air as if she were a politician hitting on surreal talking points. Whatever she was selling, the crowd was buying. –Chris Trenchard
We needed three pairs of sunglasses on our faces to take in a mid-afternoon set of ghost-pop by Wild Beasts on the Tunnel Stage, their backs to the S.F. skyline and sun. The faceless, quasi-silhouette view seemed an appropriate way to experience this non-human-sounding group. Vocalists Hayden Thorpe and Tom Fleming sounded entirely possessed throughout a set of songs from their three theatrically inclined, occult albums. This performance was a bit more subdued than their gig at last year’s Outside Lands, probably a function of their most recent album, Smother, being a bit more even-keeled than past entries. One exception is “This is our Lot,” the best example of the band’s ability to explore various modes and sources of ennui. It was one of the few times the urgency of the vocals was matched by the thrust of the instrumentals. Final thought: put these guys on Broadway already. –Chris Trenchard
Beach House's swooning, cinematic indie balladry is twilight music (no, not that kind of twilight!), tailor-made for turning the lights down low, holding hands and chilling out. They're always, dare I say, magical on stage, so the fact that they played just as night was falling might just have been the single best decision Treasure Island's organizers made all weekend. The Baltimore lovelies played a set–heavy on songs from last year's mind-blowingly awesome Teen Dream–so captivating it could've been called cathartic. It was, after all, the last stop on their current tour before packing it all up and going home again. Victoria Legrand's smoky, timeless voice hit all the most epic notes, never faltering as the anchor for Alex Scally's weightless guitar lines that sound like they're being broadcast from Utopia. "Used To Be," "Silver Soul," "Walk In The Park," and the closer "Take Care" were the impossibly high points of an already sky-scraping set. Call me selfish, but if they could've played until the sun rose again, I wouldn't have complained. –Laura Mason
With the same anthemic intentions as cosmic-rockers Sigur Ros (but none of the shrill Scandinavian lyrical confusion), Explosions in the Sky reminded the Sunday night T.I. crowd that inspired composition can be just as viscerally expressive as inspired traditional songwriting. The Austin-based veteran rockers could lay a soundtrack to all things sentimental — and have. Fans of the cult-hit TV show Friday Night Lights know how these guitar gods operate, climbing sonic peaks only to discover more summits in the distance. On Sunday, bandmembers were either machine-gun strumming or machine-gun soloing, making use of every inch of the fretboard. “Epic” isn’t a far-off descriptor. Only thing that could have made it better were actual explosions in the sky. –Chris Trenchard
Photography by Misha Vladimirskiy