We look back on our favorite sets from the annual SF musical festival that happened last weekend.
Overly distorted guitars, thrashing vocals and mops of hair flying all over the place. This was Ty Segall’s performance at the Tunnel Stage, with the view of his hometown San Francisco as the backdrop to his set. The erratic singer and his band were constantly one fit of intensity away from smashing their instruments on stage, performing in a chaotic — albeit controlled — manner that could have rivaled any band that weekend.
Watching Segall brought to mind early White Stripes, as his lo-fi, crunchy guitars and banshee vocals were reminiscent of an angrier Jack White. Although his lyrics were mostly nonsensical or inaudible — especially when playing songs whose lyrics consisted of recalled acid trips and SF’s Muni — the focus was never on the lyrics and more on watching Segall and the band writhe and headbang on stage as they tortured their instruments with punishing strums and crashing drum hits.
“We’re here to funk ya’ll,” exclaimed rapper Boots Riley as he lead the Coup in a groovy hip-hop get-down on a sunny, Treasure Island afternoon. The Coup didn’t need a D.J., relying on live instruments to create the beats for Riley to lay his smooth rhymes over. Although Riley had a clear political agenda — as evidenced by songs such as “5 Million Ways to Kill a C.E.O.” — it never felt forced onto the audience.
Riley and company always put the funky jams first. Guitarist B’Nai Rebel Front would switch from steady rhythm chords and chucks to screeching solos as bassist J.J. Jungle slapped out lines thick enough to cut any drum machine into scrap metal. The soulful melodies of backup vocalist Silk-E complemented Riley’s equally fluid flow and swagger as he danced and two-stepped across the stage with every beat. With Riley back in the game with his original group, the Coup’s performance affirmed their dominant presence in Oakland’s hip-hop scene.
For 25 years, we’ve heard Chuck D’s distinct, baritone rhymes broken up by Flavor Flav’s “Yeaaaaah boiiii” war cry. And the duo still haven’t changed since they debuted with Yo! Bum Rush the Show, clock and all. More than two decades later, the hip-hop group still hit hard and fast with a politically charged demeanor and beats that make you get down with the “Security of the First World.”
The group played tracks from all over their career, from the heavy guitar-based cypher of “Bring the Noise” to the symphonic “Harder Than You Think.” The hip-hop legends tossed mics and jumped around the stage in a flurry of raps, backed by DJ Lord’s scratches and beat mixing that would make former DJ Terminator X proud. While the group’s 50-minute set wasn’t nearly enough time to give a full performance, the hip-hop pioneers got the crowd pumped with raised fists, proving that Public Enemy is still No. 1.
To call M83’s performance at Treasure Island grandeur would be an understatement. From the opening buildup of “Intro” to the distorted dance disco of “Couleurs,” Anthony Gonzalez and his group turned the frozen audience into a vibrant mass as the crowd danced and bounced along to the immense rhythmic display of the band.
The mixture of guitars, bass, synths and live drums felt like a solid wall of sound bombarding you with deep reverb and thick drum kicks. Yet at the same time, there was still that distinctly ambient, soothing shoegaze aurora to the music. The vocal harmonies between Gonzalez, keyboardist Morgan Kibby and Gonzalez’s multi-instrumental older brother Yann complemented each other as soft refrains, soulful shouts and easing melodies all cascaded together through the dense layers of sound pumping through the PA. After they threw in an extended, live saxophone solo during “Midnight City,” how could you not say that M83 gave one of the best — if not the best — performances at Treasure Island?
With all the hype around how fake and atrocious Kreayshawn is, the focus of up and coming white female rappers should instead be on K.Flay, as the San Francisco native’s opening performance at Treasure Island was filled with strong, heavy beats and quick, sharp lyrics.
The rapper’s charm doesn’t stem from overly poetic, well-crafted lyrics, but rather her honesty within the genre. She doesn’t pretend to be gangster, instead choosing to rap about emotional issues, waiting in line and Pacman. Yet despite some of these topics being slightly whimsical, K.Flay manages to give them genuine flow, splashing the occasional squeak in between rapid-fire verses. The intensity of the live drum jams also kept the crowd moving, with her drummer Nick Suhr even breaking a snare drum in the middle of the set. From the fleet-flying rhymes in “No Duh” to the bold bass thumps in “Sunburn,” K.Flay had everyone from hipsters to b-boys bouncing along with her.
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