Treasure Island Fest 2011.

The Treasure Island Fest was packed for its 2011 incarnation, nested in the corner of the San Francisco Bay – here’s our day one recap.

First impressions: Treasure Island curates quality songwriters. With such limited space on the two-stage, staggered lineup, there wasn’t room in the day for a band to make it in on a fluke or buzz alone. Even the stuff that didn’t court my taste was solidly written, and as a result, no stage was a fanless island (ha, ha!). The careful curation lent itself to quality, not quantity – a welcome departure from other seemingly hodgepodge festival lineups.

Organizers, a pat on the back: I never waited in any line for more than three minutes or so. Not for bathrooms, food (of which I ordered plenty – teriyaki chicken skewers mmmmm), drinks, even the festival entrance when crowds were swarming in. I waited five minutes for each of the three free shuttles I took to and from the island. The rest of the festival was equally as well-done / unobtrusive. Kudos.

Fashion Alert: This guy:

This guy is awesome.

Ok, let’s get to it. Good or bad, here’s what stuck out at Treasure Island:

Shabazz Palaces

Intrigued by their  EPs, but vastly underlearned on their history and ethos, I was primed to let my opinion be swayed by this set, one way or the other. Before they started up, I had the notion that because the production on the album was so striking, the live set would probably hinge on how well it translated, especially in an open-air environment bound to muddy the details. Sadly, I’ll need to postpone my final Shabazz Palaces decision a little longer. In the builds and breakdowns, the intricate and off-kilter percussion clearly hinted toward visionary hip-hop – a vision swallowed by the sound system when the energy surged in.

Yacht

Yacht plays the Treasure Island Music Festival 2011.

Straight up fun. Last I saw, Yacht was Jona Bechtolt singing and kicking jams from his laptop, plus a neverending yelping/dancing ritual thrown in for good measure, at Bottom of the Hill about four years ago. While I thought he might be destined for stardom, I had no idea Claire Evans would swoop in and really transform this band into a next-level pop machine. Her bizarre Eurochic-via-Portland swagger nicely compliments Bechtolt’s freakishly consistent songwriting. Seriously, I think that man sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to write pop hooks.

Battles

Battles plays the Treasure Island Music Fest 2011.

Second best set of the day (behind Flying Lotus) played by the purest instrumentalists of the entire festival (co-signed with love: Explosions in the Sky). The collective talent pool of this band is nutty. A beefed up “Leyendecker” had me yearning for more Mirrored material, though between that and the hypnotic child-gospel of “Atlas” (to which the band did full extended justice), the mostly-recent and all-fantastic set exemplifies Battles’ ability to more deeply explore their frenetic style with each new song they craft.

Dizzee Rascal

Dizzee killed it with raw energy, almost like he had a vendetta against the audience (early-show hype: “I’m gonna get y’all moving, cause that’s what the fuck I do, you hear me!”). The hyper-aggressive beats started to wear on in their similarity, though I would have gladly taken more of the same instead of what we did get – which was three closing songs worth of pandering, auto-tuned crap that enticed me to wander off and beat the food lines. Oh well, I got to hear “Fix Up, Look Sharp.”

Chromeo

Chromeo plays the Treasure Island Music Fest 2011.

I really admire Chromeo’s consistency of message. It was about funky dancing and luscious booties from the start, and in spite of their fame, they’ve really kept true to their roots. It would be easy to handwave away their music as excessively showy – pulpy lyrics, talkbox and all – were they not so damn funky. The basslines brought the boogey, all the synths and sultry talk fell into place around it, and the crowd moved like their feet were on fire – no small feat for a demographic that generally prefers swaying to dancing.

Flying Lotus

FlyLo is the most veteran member of my ever-shuffling Top Five list, and prior to Saturday I had never seen him live, so I’ll be damned if any coherent thoughts crossed my mind through the duration of his set. A friend of mine later told me it looked like my head was about to explode with delight, which was actually pretty close to a medical reality. He maneuvered the set expertly, leapfrogging around his discography with a three-minutes-and-go DJ philosophy, before polling the crowd for requests once he realized he was running out of time. He closed the party with a hit carousel which included “Massage Situation” and “Do the Astral Plane,” clearly eager to carry on and play a set about twice as long as his allotted time. He offered to play a free afterparty if someone made a space available, and either it didn’t go down or I wasn’t cool enough to get the Twitter invitation. Either way, it was everything I expected and it finished tragically quick, which makes my presence at his next headlining show a near guarantee.

Cut Copy

Cut Copy plays Treasure Island Music Fest 2011.

We were all a little befuddled that Cut Copy wasn’t the Saturday headliner. You’ve got a rabid fanbase, an electric catalogue and a reputation for crazy chaotic light shows to close out the day in an epileptic surge of glory. Cut Copy was all of these things, just two sets early. “Lights and Music,” the In Ghost Colours standout, prompted a thousands-strong singalong and wins placement in my heart as the Official Festival Anthem of 2011.

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This article was originally published on SFCritic. For more, check out our day two coverage.