Treasure island trail mix
- Karen Bolilia () - November 19, 2010 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The first rule of a music festival is that comfort is the single most elusive amenity there is. They follow a certain “roughing it” archetype, where the open fields are supposedly one with you — and that extends to whatever means your imagination can create. The grounds are your platform, your couch your bed, and your dining table — it’s your house for 12 straight hours, basically — except that sibling rivalries don’t exist; and if the ubiquity of plaid, growing beards, and the ultimate fulfillment of the lumberjack look did not speak for themselves, it was, simply put, as homogenous as it could get.

The second thing to remember: there is no glamour to festivities such as these. Once you realize that the person before you has purposely finished the toilet paper in the grimiest Port-a-let that ever existed, your hands have swollen to a disgustingly morbid size, and you start seeing San Francisco from underneath a five-dollar plastic poncho, you suddenly have an epiphany: that this is kind of the point.

It was me, the music, and all of its friends — the 13-band lineup, the ripoff vegan corndog (make that everything rip-off, actually), the marijuana being legally sold, and the beer I’m too underaged to have; the somber skies, the untimely rain, the horrid cold, and my idiotic sartorial choices — that was Treasure Island.

Ra Ra Riot

No BS, just BSS: Broken Social Scene breaks more than just San Francisco’s icy cold weather.

It was pretty clear to me, and to the few hundred people standing in front to see Ra Ra Riot, that this was one of their earlier gigs. At 12 noon, the people had only really started to pile up, and while it was baffling to me that the grounds aren’t already amassed with more beard-toting folks, the Syracuse University alums certainly didn’t give those who didn’t make it a reason to feel like they’d missed out, by putting on a spectacle of energy to oppose the faint shower, and to accompany their equally buoyant songs.

They began their set with the upbeat Boy, and continued with favorites from their albums “The Rhumb Line” and “The Orchard.” The snappy performance took an interlude with Alexandra Lawn, who took a break from her Cello (and wiping off rainwater residue from it) by singing lead on You And I Know. The lineup picked up after that, reverting to the familiar rows of charming, irresistibly feel-good stringy goodness.

It was a little too early, yes — but Ra Ra Riot couldn’t have been a better wake-up call.

She & Him

Newton’s first law of motion of inertia amplified She & Him’s turn on the Treasure Island stage: the force, was of course, Zooey Deschanel. Personal spaces have been violated, the smoke just wasn’t quite 100-percent nicotine anymore, and proximity began to matter as the gorgeous lead traipsed and awkwardly jumped with her tambourine (occasionally switching to her ukulele or the keyboard), while punctuated by her signature 500 Days of Summer deadpan gaze. The giddy, offbeat dance moves sent the guys swooning in Tom Hansen-esque proportions, while Ward remained content to cede her the spotlight.

The Tambourine Girl: Zooey Deschanel of She & HIm.

Their songs from both “Volume One” and “Volume Two” were noticeably spruced up to better fit a live performance, and while traces of the SoCal, retro exuberance can still be detected, Deschanel’s languid voice was the star of the show — it was confident, romantic, and just downright sweet — even if she was singing about heartbreak and making unrequited love metaphors, it was still perfect for a lazy Sunday, spent curling up with your Golden Retriever, or sipping mimosas by the pool.

Zooey Deschanel didn’t say much, but she really didn’t have to. Physics be damned.

Broken Social Scene

A group as large in numbers as Broken Social Scene really comes in handy when you want a dramatic entrance. Meet Me in the Basement began their 10-song lineup, with members gradually filling up the stage, consequently orchestrating a powerful opening to their show. Oh, and there’s that guitar-busting (the literal kind) move too — yes, on their first song.

The band was on the last leg of their tour, and though evidently exhausted, pulled out all the stops for San Francisco. Most of the songs were from their “Forgiveness Rock Record” album, and members entered and exited the stage like clockwork; and in between a sticking-it-to-the-man sort of angst ensues, justifying songs like Forced To Love, (“They force the love and then steal the romance. We wrote an upbeat song about it”). Meanwhile, Lisa Lobsinger was a constant, and sounded hauntingly painful and stunning on the synth-laden All To All.

A total of two guitars were smashed to pieces, plus an exhibition of the kind of crowd surfing you always expect rock stars to do (and the kind that an entire security unit dreads). And towards the end, vocalist Kevin Drew said, “We’ve only got time for one more song, there’s no foreplay here. Stay warm, San Francisco.”

Indeed, we did.

High Violet: The National frontman Matt Berninger.

The National

It should be every fan of The National’s mission in life to hear vocalist Matt Berninger sing live. Sure, his sober baritone already sounds like a dream on their records, but the dramatic intensity that they are able to build up in front of an audience is enough to bring chills to your spine, and actual tears to your eyes.

“This is the awkward beginning of our show,” Berninger says, but everyone would beg to differ. Mistaken For Strangers opened their magnificent set, coming mostly from Boxer, and their most recent album, “High Violet.” The visceral, tug-at-your-heartstrings performance came with a pleasant bonus: Berninger’s charming presence and witty stage banter (“My wife comes from a long line of cannibals…” “I wear a suit, and they all look like idiots…”).

Their hour-long gig came to an early crescendo with Bloodbuzz Ohio, leading to an encore of Mr. November. And in between, Berninger broke his mic stand, jumped towards the crowd and sang to a smaller portion of people, and there was stillness. Stillness amidst the jumping and the possessed-like head banging — even if their music can have the tendency to be isolating, it had the complete opposite effect during Treasure Island. It was affective, vulnerable and cathartic, and it was both an instant and gradual kind of falling in love — a Terrible Love (which also happened to be the last song on their set) — the great, poetic kind.

“Forty-five minutes ago, I felt miserable. Now, I feel great,” Matt Berninger of The National said once they neared the end of their show. He must’ve said it without realizing that he spoke on behalf of all of us, the thousands of us who went all the way across the country (halfway around the world, in my case), just to see them and other bands play. Every time a new band began their performance onstage, it felt like those transient pockets of time where the sun peered through the clouds — it was beautiful, it was something to celebrate, and though fleeting, was an occasion it itself. Those in-betweens of waiting, perpetual people-shoving, and the glorious mud bath were misery at its finest — but we had the greatest company, at least.

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