Rained out: Sigur Ros nearly hypnotized Treasure Island Music Festival into an other-worldly state—but you only had to take a step back to remember the disaster of a weekend. The two-day event’s main draw was playing to what must be a record-small crowd for a festival headliner. Easily fewer than 500 people clustered around the giant stage, ankles lost in the mud.
The 10th annual festival was supposed to be the best edition yet. As the last time Treasure Island would actually be held on the island—and maybe ever held at all—everyone expected extra cause for celebration. The lineup held such promise: old-school hip-hop via Ice Cube, sweet electronica from the likes of James Blake, Duke Dumont and Flight Facilities; and of course, the Icelandic forest sounds of Sigur Ros.
But James Blake, Duke Dumont and Flight Facilities all canceled their sets. Festival organizers blamed flight delays or the artists themselves for not performing in the harsh weather conditions, but Duke Dumont took to Twitter to say otherwise, that the flooded stage posed a safety hazard.
How to Dress Well performed only three songs, with just six out of 32 sound channels functioning. The stripped-down set lacked the artist’s usual entrancing qualities, but singer-songwriter Tom Krell charmed everyone just for braving the storm. At that point on Saturday, festivalgoers had been standing around for nearly four hours in a paralyzed state of confusion.
“Thank you for dealing with that,” he said. “We honestly have no idea how we sound right now.”
Sideways rain and heavy winds sent the festival into mayhem at about 4 p.m. Saturday. Young Thug was delayed in transit, and Treasure Island opted to stall instead of go on with the show—but most in attendance didn’t understand what was going on. They were hiding under merchandise tents, art installations, picnic tables and even inside port-a-potties, while bigger and bigger ponds formed in the concrete. The pier and silent disco area closed early after an ATM blew over, injuring one woman.
After two-and-a-half-hours of waiting around, Young Thug finally arrived. Too bad he put on a bummer of a performance.
The mantra of Treasure Island became a tweet: “Revised schedule coming.”
Attendees took to social media to complain in droves, demanding refunds and calling it the worst festival ever. They said that rain or shine events meant the acts actually performed regardless of weather and that the festival was ill-prepared for a storm that had been forecast for weeks. In response, the festival organizers somewhat apologized but emphasized no refunds would be issued.
Still, there were bright spots. Sigur Ros, Purity Ring, Ice Cube, Glass Animals and Christine and the Queens all played memorable sets despite the clear challenges. Glass Animals, in particular, received a welcome most characterized by helpless relief. The English indie band was the first act many had seen in hours.
And the locals deserve endless praise for being called upon to entertain the angry masses. Oakland rapper Kamaiyah performed twice on Saturday—the second time to calm people down during the Young Thug debacle, which also happened to be the worst weather of the weekend. Even though her mic kept cutting in and out, Kamaiyah brought the energy, cloaked in a lime green poncho. The Polish Ambassador played twice as long as scheduled, also when folks were waiting for Young Thug. And on Sunday, Tycho took the stage a second time for an impromptu deejay set when James Blake canceled.
The committed few who lasted through both nights seemed bound together with a sense of solidarity, against both the elements and the festival organizers. But far more fled early for various reasons, including needing to catch the last BART trains home. The festival was supposed to end by 11 p.m. or earlier both nights but instead went until midnight.
Treasure Island used to be known as one of the best boutique festivals in California for both its well-curated lineup and reliable organization. It’s too bad its last edition will surely taint nine otherwise lovely years of memories.