By now it’s no secret that Treasure Island Music Festival is my favorite music festival out there. Sure, Coachella remains the best overall in my eyes, and there are plenty of other solid music festivals throughout the year. But there’s just something about TIMF that makes it stand out and puts a smile on my face, year in and year out. For the 2015 festival recap, I’ve decided to dive deeper into the whys. Without further ado, my 10 reasons Treasure Island Music Festival is my favorite music festival!
1. It’s one of the last music festivals of the festival season
Coachella kicks it off and Treasure Island Music Festival closes it. Since TIMF is so late in the season, it’s the point where artists and bands are at their most comfortable in terms of performance style, production, and crowd interaction. For many, it’s the capstone to a lengthy year-long tour, the perfect opportunity to end on a high note. And for those continuing their tours, it’s still the last festival performance they’ll play for the year.
Here’s an example: last year I saw Outkast’s disastrous opening performance during the first weekend at Coachella. I caught them again at the very end of their festival tour at Treasure Island and was blown away by the performance – everything was on-point and there wasn’t an awkward moment in sight. What a difference a few months of heavy touring and the last hurrah could make!
2. It has one of the best shuttle systems
Shuttles that take you from SF directly to the venue in 12 minutes? Easy access to BART and Muni and almost no wait time getting there and a reasonable wait time getting out? It almost sounds too good to be true. And then throw free into the mix and you know it’s too good to be true. But alas, it is, and it’s even better than ever this year, with plenty of shuttle busses, 10-second drink ID checks before boarding the bus (a nice timesaver), and even a bike valet with people watching your bike the entire day.
As a frequent festival goer who’s had to pay $40-50 more for shuttle passes or parking spots, on top of very expensive festival tickets, I thought that TIMF’s shuttle setup was a breath of fresh air. Just taking a look at some recent festival transportation disasters (cough…TomorrowWorld…cough) makes me appreciate Treasure Island shuttles even more.
3. It’s a tropical island by day and a schooner in the middle of the sea by night
This year was my third year attending TIMF, and the weather has been very consistent year after year. Since the festival takes place in October the days are marked by SF’s famous Indian summer – a bit chilly early on with the sun almost always breaking through the clouds by mid-afternoon. This year the sun did just that as Viceroy kicked off their “tropical electronica” set, and the place felt like a summer pool party.
Equally fascinating is how quickly the weather transforms after the sun sets. First-timers quickly learn that being on a small man-made island next to the ocean means that evenings feel like being lost at sea. The temperature drops, the wind picks up, and the fog starts blowing through. Personally, I find the atmosphere equally appealing and truly unique for a music festival, and the cold weather is nothing a jacket and beanie couldn’t take care of.
4. It’s got a stage setup that allows you to catch every single music performance
Probably one of the coolest aspects of TIMF, the two-stage setup with alternating performances allows festival goers to catch every single set should they choose. One of the hardest things about attending any music festival is having to compromise or miss out entirely on performances because of conflicting time slots. With Treasure Island Music Festival, this is never the case. In fact, you could grab a spot between the two stages and not have to move the whole day, and still enjoy all the performances.
An added bonus is there’s usually no wait time in between sets for sound checks and instrument set ups, since they’re completed as the other set is performing. How cool is it to hear the opening notes of the next band just as the previous band finishes their performance on the other stage?
5. It has themed days – electronic Saturdays and indie rock Sundays
I don’t recall if this has happened in the past, but this is the first year I’ve noticed themed days, with Saturday featuring much of the electronic music artists, and Sunday featuring the indie rock artists. I don’t know if TIMF is just experimenting and if this will be the case in the future, but it’s nonetheless a cool approach and gives each day a distinct flavor and feel.
6. It sells tickets that aren’t overpriced
Treasure Island Music Festival is one of the best-priced of the major music festivals. The festival pass starts at $150 and after fees comes out to less than $170 for two days of music. Get the early bird pass and that final price is closer to $150. With single-band concerts around the country starting at $75, you could get 12 more performances at TIMF for roughly the same price.
Throw in the free shuttles and the option to never miss a performance, and the pass is an even better value! Now if there were only free food (there is!) which leads us to reason #7…
7. It offered free chip bags on both days
Kettle chips, anyone? It seemed like everywhere we walked there were carts and carts of free chip bags. Granted, this could just be for this year only, but let’s hope some chip company (or better yet a restaurant) will sponsor the festival next year and give away more free eats. It was seriously a lifesaver.
8. It’s Minichella, with the perks of a big music festival without the drawbacks
My group from last year dubbed Treasure Island Music Festival “Minichella” since there were so many aspects of the festival that reminded us of its bigger brother Coachella. From the mini Ferris wheel to the mini festival grounds to the various mini art displays (ok, maybe normal-sized art displays), TIMF was the definition of a small music festival.
Yet since the crowds were also much smaller than a larger music festival’s, we experienced none of the drawbacks. I never had to wait to use the restrooms, the food lines didn’t require me to miss half a set, and best of all I could enjoy a performance without being squeezed between sweaty folks who’ve been camping for several days. In fact I found myself at the very front of an early-afternoon set, and even later sets were painless to get to a good spot in the crowd.
9. It’s got chill crowds and a generally positive vibe
Since Treasure Island Music Festival has a lot of breathing room, the crowds are more laid back as a result. Unlike crowds at some other music festivals, the crowds here weren’t overly rowdy and were generally respectful. That certainly didn’t mean they were boring – the Run the Jewels set can attest to that. But I tend to get a positive vibe whenever I’m at TIMF, and that’s pretty hard to come by as festivals have been expanding and growing in popularity over the years.
10. It has an excellent selection of music
Last and most important, TIMF has an excellent selection of music and is consistently able to attract both big-name and more obscure artists alike. I’d estimate that 20-25% of the performers are universally known, which means that TIMF also does a good job showcasing smaller bands. There’s a twofold benefit – it allows for new music discovery in a more intimate performance setting, and it also requires a certain level of commitment from festival goers, ensuring better crowds and a better festival experience for everyone.
I could easily rank this year’s Deadmau5 set as a top-3 electronic music performance, and standing about 10 rows from the front watching The National perform was an amazing experience. At the same time, I was able to enjoy some up-and-coming groups such as Baio and Lower Dens up close.
That’s it! My 10 reasons why Treasure Island Music Festival is my favorite festival. While Coachella still ranks as the best overall and FYF wins for best crowds and music selection, TIMF will always have a special place in my heart. I’m looking forward to the 2016 festival just as I have every year I’ve attended!