OAKLAND — Perhaps JPEGMAFIA really did lose his cell phone Saturday morning. But maybe the industrial and noise hip-hop and experimental trap artist was upset that the Treasure Island Music Festival had misplaced its signature Ferris wheel. Less than an hour into Treasure Island’s first day at Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, JPEGMAFIA created the first signature moment in its new location when he challenged a fan to an on-stage fight.
“You think I didn’t hear you, [expletive]?” he asked the man in the crowd, which was growing quiet during the confrontation. “I want you to come up here. I’m gonna knock you the [expletive] out.”
The incident followed “Real Nega,” during which JPEGMAFIA launched himself into a crowd, rapping at the top of his lungs while fans encircled him and they moshed together. And for some reason, the fan actually started climbing over the barricade until security put an end to that, and someone in the artist’s team had a brief heart-to-heart with him at the back of the stage. A song later, JPEGMAFIA apologized to everyone, saying he was having a rough day, with his phone gone and a producer having just having told him that a song he recorded was too loud.
Treasure Island Music Festival began in earnest with JPEGMAFIA’s aggressive assault, full of guttural screams on songs like “Thug Tears” and an aggressive freestyle about the president (choice lyrics: “When Donald Trump dies/ We’re gonna have a party.”
Treasure Island Music Festival made its return two years after a brutal rainstorm sent attendees to the exits and canceled several sets on the island. Because of construction on the island, the festival’s producers took a year off before choosing the new location in west Oakland, which has recently hosted other events like Blurry Vision.
“I loved the site,” said Allen Scott, executive vice president at Another Planet Entertainment, which produces the festival along with Noise Pop. “We learned a lot of things about adjustments we can make, but overall it flowed better than on the island, and how about those views? The weather was the best we’ve ever seen at Treasure Island.”
The festival footprint is larger this year. On the island, it was a narrow space that had only two directions of travel. The park was more of a square, with more nooks and corners to explore, Scott said. The first noticeable thing wasn’t what was there, but what wasn’t: the ferris wheel that had drawn lines 30 minutes and longer waiting for a ride. Scott said the soil in the area is weaker and could not support the fan favorite. It would have created safety issues.
The area in front of one of the stages was wet, and the sand between the two stages, which had to be crossed every hour or so, had sand blowing around freely (those who thought ahead and brought bandanas to shield their faces made a smart move). There was also no silent disco and less large-scale art. The operation, in all, seemed leaner from past years.
There were positives, too. For starters, fewer people! About 11,000 came on Saturday, and more were expected on Sunday, Scott said, adding that tickets were still being sold for the second day. This made it possible to get better vantage points of both stages, and quicker to get from one to the other. It also made it more possible to get into the interactive experiences, like crafting, and Instagrammable moments, like the 1950s or ’60s pickup covered in flowers that had people lining up to hop on for a photo. Oh, and there was a celebrity of sorts: the Warriors Dance Mom was taking photos with festivalgoers.
Scott said the future of the festival is still undecided, but that he he hopes to build off the foundation laid this year.
On stage at Treasure Island Music Festival:
A$AP Rocky proved that good things come to those who wait. The first day’s headliner’s set started about half-an-hour late, with the audience chanting “ASAP” with increasing anticipation. With bursts of fog and flames, the rapper made a grand entrance as he opened with “A$AP Forever” and “Buck Shots.”
“It just makes me happy to see such a beautiful crowd with this great energy,” A$AP addressed the Treasure Island Music Festival.
A colossal dummy head stood behind him; a thematic element from his latest album, TESTING. A$AP Rocky stood atop the statue as he performed tracks “L$D” and a new cut.
Barely after the A$AP Mob rapper broke into “Kids Turned Out Fine,” he motioned his crew to cut off the sound.
“I don’t like the way my voice is sounding on that one,” A$AP Rocky said, explaining how his vocal range in the track goes all over the place. “I didn’t come all the way to SF to short-change people.”
Instead, A$AP Rocky beckoned the crowd to start a mosh pit. A small, but growing centrifuge of fans formed in the middle of the pit as A$AP Rocky began to rap a capella. The mix of rowdiness mixed and lone vocals made for the most intriguingly orchestrated mosh pit, but a successful one nonetheless.
A$AP Rocky ended his set in just as grand a fashion as he opened it, closing with A$AP Mob track “Yamborghini High” and fireworks.
At nightfall, Silk City turned Treasure Island Music Festival into futuristic cityscape. Neon lights set the fest aglow, shifting between blue to pink and purple hues. The superstar duo, consisting of Mark Ronson and Diplo, performed a DJ set that remixed hits from the early 2000s to 2018. Notable samples included “Milkshake” by Kelis, “Electricity” (their new with by Dua Lipa), and Bay Area staple “Tell Me When to Go” by E-40. Ronson and Diplo were fully focused on their equipment, but occasionally urged fans to put their arms up. Silk City’s set manifested into an ongoing delirium of house music, while the crowd, and even those just walking about, showed off their best moves.
Even before Santigold began her set, a fun performance was evidently in store. Yellow trees and giant pastel pom-poms adorned “The Town” stage. The singer’s band and backup dancers then emerged on stage dressed in red and white outfits, while Santigold herself donned a red cape with plastic water bottles and dollar bills stuck to it. Santigold and her backup dancers moved in sync across the floor as she opened with “GO!,” a hyperactive bop off 2012’s Master of My Make-Believe. Her set carried on in full technicolor, featuring popular cuts “L.E.S. Artistes” and “Disparate Youth.”
Pusha T charged into his set, bringing out fan favorite “If You Know You Know” and “The Games We Play” straight away. Strutting back and forth onstage, he kept fans up front fully engaged and echoing back each verse. The rapper also performed several covers throughout his set, including Kanye West’s “Runaway” and KIDS SEE GHOST’s “Feel the Love.” He prompted the crowd to sing for him during the former cut, causing a singalong that resonated even throughout the opposite side of the park.
Laff Trax rung in golden hour by inducing the Treasure Island Music Festival into a groovy trance. The DJ duo, a collaborative project between Toro y Moi and Nosaj Thing, zeroed straight into its set with pulsating beats. While switching between synth pads and doing his own version of the running man, Chaz Bear (Toro y Moi) bantered with fans. A Bay Area resident, he smiled as he’d greet the Oakland scenesters. The set started with house music and evolved through funky embellishments; but no matter where the sound went, the crowd kept up.
Before Aminé jetted into his set, DJ Madison LST hyped up the crowd with a remix of “Crank That” by Soulja Boy. The throwback track easily prompted the crowd to echo the track word-for-word. When Aminé busted onstage, fans up front let out a collective shriek and immediately got into the groove for “Heebiejeebies” and “Campfire.”
“The thing about Aminé shows is that we want the crowd to feel beautiful,” the rapper said between songs.
He then yelled to everyone, “You’re beautiful,” with which he had the crowd respond, “I know.” His set also included a smooth cover of “No Scrubs” by TLC.
Neo-soul and psych pop band Hiatus Kaiyote drew the first noticeably large crowd of the day in the middle of the afternoon, as streams of people were still arriving to the festival. The Australian band’s 50-minute set included “Laputa,” from 2015 album Choose Your Weapon, a newer keyboard-led jam possibly called “All the Words We Don’t Say,” and the more traditionally structured R&B tune “Molasses,” which became a highlight even before its psychedelic breakdown.
At times, Hiatus Kaiyote seemed to carry no melody whatsoever, mixing jagged, bassy screeches and experimental jazz progressions. But being one of the few acts with a guitar made frontwoman Nai Palm and her bandmates stand out, even without the help of Nad Palm’s colorful tattoos.
Polo & Pan
Parisian producer duo Polo & Pan (Paul Armand-Delille and Alexandre Grynszpan) brought the tropical elements to the fest with a continuous stream of electronica that was heavily accentuated with samples of xylophone, flamenco guitar and, yes, the pan flute. Most of the songs had no lyrics (those that did were in French), and neither member talked much to introduce them. But the set was still a highlight, especially for a few smart festivalgoers who found a quiet spot next to the bay, where the sound of waves washed into the sound of the duo’s music.
SoCal soul crooner Moses Sumney was another surprise on Saturday. Clad in all black, he showed his full vocal range, starting with “Self-Help Tape,” which he sang mostly in falsetto. A couple of songs later, he made a special dedication for “Make Out in My Car.”
“This song is about making out; I’ve never tried it, but I heard it’s great,” he said, before briefly renaming it “Make Out on BART.” The downtempo sexy jam preceded the militaristic “Rank and File,” from his new LP, Black in Deep Red, 2014. Moses Sumney first asked the crowd to hum and hold a deep Gregorian chant-like note, and then sampled his voice and other unusual sound effects—such as him rubbing his hand on the mic—to create a sort of Afro-Caribbean beat, over which he delivered some fiery vocals.
The set continued with tender ballad “Worth It,” with Sumney modulating his voice (and recalling The xx), and a beautiful cover of Björk’s “Come to Me.”
Ambient electronica songwriter-producer George FitzGerald was backed by a drummer and keyboardist, but shone brightest when he was joined by a guest vocalist on stage for single “Roll Back,” off 2018 album All That Must Be. Her smoky laconic delivery was a shot of nostalgia straight into the veins. The London-born, Berlin-based musician didn’t sing, talking mostly to express gratitude and introduce his songs, which were mostly drying melodies in the vein of Tycho and glitchy bangers. The set included George FitzGerald’s remix of Jon Hopkins’ “Open Eye Signal.”
When Gilligan Moss opened the festival at noon sharp, the Chicago producer duo played to about 10 people. Over the next 30 minutes, more than 10 times that number arrived at “The City” stage to wake up and dance along. Their set was punctuated by the disco-tinged “Want U So Bad,” by which point early attendees were ready to dance it out the rest of the day. Gilligan Moss—sonic caffeine.