Bay Area music fans rejoiced as the Treasure Island Music Festival came back into town for its sixth year this past weekend. In addition to hosting world-class musicians out on the San Francisco Bay, people always get excited for the great array of shows that are booked at local venues on the side. The particular Treasure Island artist showcase that caught my eye was headed up by Australian electro heavyweights the Presets and backed up by Bay Area grown rapper K.Flay. The Presets recently released a new album and were co-headlining the entire music festival as well, so it was definitely a solid bet that this would be a great show to check out.
Stanford University alum and rapper K.Flay warmed up the crowd with her enthusiastic stage presence and dynamic music. She rapped over some really great beats, many of which she constructed with various samples right then and there on the stage. A live drummer accompanied her to add more volume and intensity to the synthesized beats, and the musical chemistry between them was almost palpable. It was obvious that they were both having a great time on stage.
My favorite moment of her performance was when she grabbed a pair of drumsticks and hit out a beat in sync with the drummer on a giant floor tom drum. The rhythm started out as intricately tapped out rim shots on the side of the drum with lightly spoken lines of verse that progressed to heavy booming thuds that of course came along with a boost in her vocal intensity. The energy of the song was continuously built up and K.Flay didn’t miss even a single happily rapped out line along the way. She was a great artist to open the night, and I’m sure that it was an equally great experience to see her perform to an even bigger outdoor audience at Treasure Island the next day.
During the break, roadies set up an insane amount of gear that could keep a five-piece band or more occupied for an entire show. Various synthesizers and percussive instruments were carted onto the stage, as well as four square video screens that corralled the whole setup from each corner of the stage. I wondered if the band had acquired some additional touring musicians since the last time I had seen them in 2009, but it quickly became apparent that this was not the case, and that the band just wanted more toys to play with during their live shows. As the lights dimmed, Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes took the stage and jumped right into their set. Both band members moved around to different instrument stations throughout the night, illuminated by lightning strobes and mesmerizing video loops from their four screens.
This set at the Independent was a true showcase of the Presets’ entire discography, as they played a sampling of tracks from all of their albums. There has been a lot of buzz over their recent album Pacifica that is packed full of layered synth tracks, and the crowd was most excited to hear new singles like “Youth in Trouble” and the electro sea shanty “Ghosts.” However, it made a lot of fans very, very happy that the Presets also played the majority of tracks from their more distorted electro-punk 2008 album Apocolypso. The album is packed full of hit singles and club favorites, and the crowd responded with rabid enthusiasm to performances of “My People” and “This Boy’s in Love.” A couple of choice tracks from their debut album Beams were also thrown in the mix to round out the band’s set list for the night.
It’s always interesting to see how different artists that play primarily electronic based music translate their performance to a live setting, and this show was no exception. Hamilton drew out intros of songs and recited lyrics multiple times over to slowly lead into the heavier parts of the songs that people knew well. Moyes added additional elements of percussion to the songs from both a drum kit and digital xylophone. Some tracks even had the tone completely switched up, with hard hitting beats being temporarily replaced by more melodic synth melodies. It was definitely interesting to get a new perspective on tunes that I’ve heard many times over.
The band ended with a very high-energy encore, as they had saved some of their hardest songs for last. It was great to look out over the crowd and see everyone jumping in unison along to the chanting lines of “Talk Like That.” As the show came to a close, there was a supercharged energy around the room as friends gathered around one another to soak in the good vibes. Hopefully the band will make the trip over from Australia again soon to party with us Americans, as it is definitely apparent that their fan base is growing in this part of the world.