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Picture for The Creators Project in San Francisco, March 17

The Creators Project in San Francisco, March 17

The 2012 music festival season had its official start in Austin last weekend as South by Southwest wrapped up its twenty-sixth year. However, here in San Francisco, the Creators Project hosted an alternative to SXSW, shining a light on the synergy between music, art, film, and technology as a platform for innovation, not industry. According to its website:


The Creators Project is a global celebration of art and technology. Founded by a revolutionary partnership between Intel and VICE, The Creators Project supports visionary artists across multiple disciplines who are using technology in innovative ways to push the boundaries of creative expression.


While the event's second day included artist panels, film viewings, and interactive installations that challenged or broke through the boundaries of known digital platforms, the first day's agenda added a tremendous lineup of free live music. The 10,000 people lucky enough to win the ticket lottery and hearty enough to make it out to stormy Fort Mason on Saturday were treated to full performances by HEALTH, The Antlers, Shabazz Palaces, Zola Jesus, and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, plus DJ sets by Teen Daze, Squarepusher, and the members of LCD Soundsystem.


Judging by the garish makeup preferred by many of the event-goers and the insane prices at which the previously free tickets were selling on Craigslist, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were clearly the main draw for the day. However, the majority of the folks I met were more focused on the up-and-comers. Unlike the larger California festivals like Coachella, Outside Lands, and Treasure Island that may feature artists like Los Angeles's HEALTH and Brooklyn's Antlers, where those bands are cast in a discovery role for fans of the headliners, the Creators Project gave plenty of time and runway for each band to play out (e.g., the Antlers had the longest stage time and one of the most preferable time slots). Fittingly, the day's newer artists enthusiastically seized this opportunity, playing much longer and more fully realized sets than I had seen them pull off in previous appearances.


A highlight included Wisconsin goth vocalist Zola Jesus, dressed down in an oversized white smock and bare feet, pacing the stage like a mental patient before climbing the speaker stack to deliver a series of banshee wails that propelled her tiny body onto the hands of the crowd below. In contrast, the ever-composed Palaceer Lazaro of Seattle avant hip-hop group Shabazz Palaces actually cracked a series of smiles as he worked his way through a set of songs befitting the African diaspora dislocated to Jupiter.


Another really interesting effect of the Creators Project format is that the broad focus on technology and art (the music pavilion accounted for only about 25percent of the event's total footprint) freed the musicians to focus on performance rather than spectacle. After all, it’s nearly impossible to compete with the building-size interactive light-and-sound rendering of Origin by United Visual Artists. It's notable that the performance by the only musician to emphasize design over delivery, drum-and-bass futurist Squarepusher, fell completely flat by comparison and actually drove away an audience who had seemingly been waiting all day for the right time to bail on the live music and spend more time with the acres and acres of mind-blowing digital installations. The Creators Project will hopefully continue to add smaller cities like San Francisco to its world tour of art, technology and innovation.


-- Ryan Mixtape, 03/25/2012