Whereas Outside Lands divides its lineup about evenly between established headliners and new acts, Treasure Island usually skews more contemporary. Last year’s lineup included Australian electronic duo Empire of the Sun, Chromeo, Flying Lotus, and Stones Throw crooner Aloe Blacc. Festival organizer Jordan Kurland has characterized it as a curated “boutique” experience.
As the cofounder of local festival juggernaut Noise Pop, Kurland specializes in such things — he and partner Kevin Arnold keep close tabs on which artists come to town throughout the years, who releases a new album, and who might sit well with a Bay Area audience. Even though their partner company, Another Planet Entertainment, is the same entity that books Outside Lands, the two producers stress that Treasure Island is one of a kind.
But this year they’ve decided to err on the classic side. Sure, the lineup has its share of new blood — garage heartthrob Ty Segall stands alongside the sweetly vacuous pop act Best Coast — but the main draws all hark back to an older, simpler era. Concertgoers born after 1990 might have little context for rappers Chuck D and Flava Flav, both in their fifties, both brooding over a hip-hop renaissance that happened more than two decades ago. The name of rock band Imperial Teen might be equally foreign. Even the more mainstream acts — Girl Talk and Joanna Newsom among them — have been around for at least a decade.
That might seem like a dicey choice, but Noise Pop spokeswoman Stacy Horne defends it, arguing that the “heritage acts” at Treasure Island all have phenomenal staying power. “Public Enemy, while they’re older, they manage to consistently stay relevant,” she said. “They put on a phenomenal show. Above all, that’s what we’re always looking for.”
When a band puts forth a good faith effort to keep pace with the times, the delineations between old and new get a little more slippery. And the same goes for bands whose music is good enough to surmount the confines of era and genre. Gossip, a three-piece indie rock act billed to headline the Tunnel Stage on Sunday, is one such example. The Olympia, Washington-based group has been around for thirteen years and has garnered a huge cult following locally, despite its infrequent Bay Area appearances. Horne trusts that Sunday’s show will be a fitting reintroduction — Gossip singer Beth Ditto always dazzles.
But an emphasis on the past doesn’t mean Treasure Island has abandoned the present or the impulse to move forward. Horne points to a few new bells and whistles this year, along with more substantive additions. The most significant of them is a new Front Porch Stage, which is essentially an art car that resembles a porch. Cloistered in the cove area of the island to prevent sound bleed from the Tunnel Stage, it will feature young musicians from San Francisco Rock Project on Saturday, and a worldish local ensemble called El Radio Fantastique on Sunday.
Then there’s the green technology element. Since its inception in 2007, Treasure Island has always tried to be sustainable, Horne said. That’s partly a result of the culture into which it was born — “greening” has been a huge trend in the festival circuit over the past decade — but it’s also indicative of the producers’ social conscience. Horne said Treasure Island’s waste diversion rates continue to go up every year, and now the producers have partnered up with a ridesharing platform, Amovens, which will help lower the event’s carbon footprint even more. Such services are particularly useful for Treasure Island. It’s monstrously successful — Horne predicts this year’s event will sell out, as usual — but takes place outside the city center over multiple days. So despite the producers’ efforts to accommodate concertgoers with public transit and shuttle buses, they’ve never quite succeeded in unjamming the Bay Bridge. This year, Treasure Island includes a carpool widget on its website, which might help.
New developments or not, Treasure Island very much hews to the dominant paradigm for major music festivals, splitting its bookings into “rock” and “dance” acts, flexing its curatorial muscle, and branding itself as a “multidisciplinary” affair. This year’s iteration will feature craft and culinary events, roving performers, workshops, a DIY tent, and even a beauty truck where festivalgoers can get their nails did. It’s geared toward people with catholic tastes, it has a wide-ranging definition of what’s hip, and its producers carefully keep tabs on current trends. Horne likes to characterize the event as a “multisensory experience,” and most fans say that’s apropos.
But she and Kurland are still looking toward a lean future — one that’s actually more redolent of the past. No wonder Treasure Island’s main attraction is a Ferris wheel.