By Gabe Meline
When the federal government designed a man-made island to serve as an airstrip for the China Clipper at the 1939 World’s Fair in San Francisco, little could they have expected that almost 70 years later, Treasure Island would be the site of the greatest two-day electronica and indie-rock event in the country. Some unknown Navy engineer had the keen awareness to install a large lawn on the west side of the island, offering a beautiful view of San Francisco’s skyline, Alcatraz and both the Bay and the Golden Gate bridges, and–voilà!–Treasure Island is the perfect site for bands to attract festival-goers from around the world.
Chalk it up to Noise Pop Festival organizer Jordan Kurland, who estimates that he and his partner spent about two years trying to find a unique spot in or around San Francisco for an outdoor festival. There’re very few days in a year that the city allows outdoor events to happen at places like Golden Gate Park or Dolores Park, and, Kurland says, “those get spoken for really quickly. But when we got wind of the fact that you could actually do something on Treasure Island, it seemed about as unique a setting as you could get.”
Securing the site was relatively easy, Kurland says, but overseeing transportation is the challenge–shuttling 10,000 people to and from an island not being in the indie-rock guidebook. (Buses will be on a continuous loop from AT&T Park.) The oft-cited problems that plague larger outdoor festivals, though, are easily under Kurland’s control: “We’re not gonna have some of those issues,” he insists, “where people have to wait in linefor an hour to get a $4 water.”
In another convenience to fans, Noise Pop and its collaborator, Another Planet Entertainment, have split the two days appropriately–Saturday hosts mostly top-name electronica artists; Sunday showcases a who’s who of indie rock–instead of mixing the genres and forcing fans to spend $60 a day for two days. “Our ultimate goal is to give everyone a great experience,” Kurland continues, “even if that means we make a lot less money. If we were really looking at just the fiscal side of this, we’d be trying to do something in a really big field, and getting the Red Hot Chili Peppers to headline one day and Kanye West the next. But like we’ve done every year with Noise Pop, we really want it to be a celebration of independent music and culture.”
The Treasure Island Music Festival, featuring Thievery Corporation, Gotan Project, DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist, M.I.A. (above), as well as Modest Mouse, Built to Spill, Spoon, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and M. Ward, runs Sept. 15-16 on San Francisco’s Treasure Island. For tickets and full lineup, see www.treasureislandfestival.com.