FYF Fest At Exposition Park, Sunday July 23rd 2017
The 2017 FYF fest edition was a shorter one for me, although the fest was actually spreading on 3 days instead of 2, but I had decided to attend it only one day, mostly because of the high price of the 3-day passes. I picked Sunday because of the performers such as Iggy Pop and Nine Inch Nails — I had never seen NIN and they hadn’t really played for three years. That said, the FYF fest had something to offer every day and I would have loved to see Bjork or even Missy Elliott on Friday, and everybody has been mentioning Frank Ocean’s performance on Saturday, attended by movie superstar Brad Pitt and a bunch of other celebrities. The FYF Fest has become a place to be seen for famous people, the LA Times is even reporting that Beyoncé, Solange, Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Bjork and Tyler the Creator were seen attending Missy Elliott’s set, and I imagine many other VIPs were present during this long 3-day weekend of music. I saw Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer and Ty Segall try to watch Iggy Pop from the pit before being told by security guards that they had to go on one side of the stage. Henry Rollins was there too, and this is only the people I was able to see.
Like any festival, the FYF Fest is busy and crowded, the stages are unfortunately spread far apart and you necessarily have to make choices, you can’t see everything, and I was running against the set times all Sunday-long. I have almost ignored what was happening at the Club stage (it’s a shame that Moses Sumney was competing with Iggy Pop), and I mostly concentrated my efforts on the Lawn and Trees stages. If I missed most of Solange’s set on the main stage (again, set times were overlapping), I saw NIN’s set in its entirety, and that was entirely worth it, despite my burning feet, that were killing me after almost 10 hours of standing up.
A special mention should go to Cherry Glazerr, the young band which started the festival with a bang on the Lawn (Iggy’s stage). I had seen several times before but they keep getting better, punkier, wilder, stronger and this surprising music is amazing coming from such young people. May be frontgirl Clemetine Creevy had understood she was on Iggy Pop’s stage because I had never seen her doing so many grimaces and stage antics, she was wild, free and aggressive, insulting people, playing her inventive songs with a fierce guitar and emotional vocals, going from ferocious to plain strident yowls. They were punk to the core, and they started a violent mosh pit which rose tons of dust in the air. That was a good start for a festival which sometimes seems to forget a bit about its punk roots.
I had the choice to stay there for the next band at an interesting spot as I had come very early, or venture to the Trees stage… and this is what I did, to catch a part of Whitney’s set, one of the band born from Smith Westerns’ ashes. The indie band had upbeat melodies with a vague 70’s vibe while their drummer was doing all the talking and singing with his high-pitched vocals. The music was enjoyable, as they added keys and trumpets, and they brought a sort of innocent nostalgia which felt like a teenager summer breakup. I ran back to the Lawn to catch Chicano Batman despite the fact I had seen them not a long time ago, and found them very at ease at the FYF fest, despite their ruffle shirts and elegant suits under the hot sun. Their unique blend of retro keyboard and backyard Mexican fiesta, mixing cumbia rhythms and soul was received so well that they made the crowd worship the sun and of course they reminded us that freedom is free.
I keep reading that the English band Temples is the new version of psychedelic, but, as I was watching them on the Trees stage, I was only reminded how well UK bands can write catchy songs with melodies with great hooks that make you clap and tap along. They had retro-references here and there, but they sure had great skills.
Meanwhile. another high-skill performer was destroying the Lawn stage, and as he was playing just before Iggy Pop, Ty Segall acknowledged it, telling us us it was a great honor to be playing just before the punk legend. Ty played with a maximum of energy and a maximum of guitar effects, he was a fury and looked like a wizard of the riff, a true believer of the riff, and you had sometimes to look very deep in this fury and raw power, in order to find a melody…But who needed one when this jam-long distortion was enough to mosh and crowd surf? And this is what all these kids were doing. Segall himself still looked like a kid with his favorite toy, he visibly enjoyed playing making the most powerful and forceful use of his instrument with an over the top pile of guitar riffs.
I had such a good spot that I had to sacrifice Mac DeMarco’s set to stay there for Iggy Pop … and that was not a very hard decision to make, and I don’t have to apologize to all these DeMarco fans, there’s nothing extraordinary about this guy, plus he plays the FYF fest all the freaking time! If Iggy Pop comes first in my set of punk rock royalty priority, I heard he was not that happy to be playing at 7:20 pm, when it’s still clear and sunny, and on the Lawn stage, which was not the Main stage where Little Dragon and Solange were performing around the same time. Are they more important than Iggy? Is this how the self-proclaimed punk fest is treating the godfather of punk? Has the Fuck Yeah Fest forgotten what it stands for? I know Solange and Little Dragon probably put on a prettier show with more beautiful visuals than an old wrinkled and crumpled guy, but the energy Iggy Pop can still display on stage is incredible, and his legendary aura follows every move he does. He kicked the air and swore like a sailor, he jumped in the pit (of course) and everyone tried to touch his sweaty beach-tanned body. He looked happy and grumpy, starring at us with that ferocious and malicious eye of his, showing and touching his butt, while playing a set a bit different than the one he did in Las Vegas at Punk Rock Bowling. There were still the big classics from the Stooges, ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, ‘Gimme Danger’, ‘The Passenger’, ‘Lust for Life’, ‘Search and Destroy’, but there also was a song from the ‘Idiot’ (‘Mass Production’) and a new one from his ‘Post Pop Depression’ (‘Gardenia’). My ribs still hurt from this pushing against the barricade and I saw a guy wearing a furry panda bear costume who was crowd surfing, so this is how surrealist a Iggy Pop concert can go!
I got a bit disoriented afterward, tried to catch Blonde Redhead at the Club stage but only saw their last song, then tried to see Solange on the main stage but also caught her last song… not my fault if the stages are so distant, and if you sometimes needs to go on line to fill up your bottle of water or go pee… After some unnecessary walking I was back at the Lawn, and if I am not a rap/hip hop person, Run the Jewels were very entertaining, their rhythm was infectious, and the crowd was completely into it…. They played the FYF fest 2 years ago on a smaller stage, but this time, there was a sea of people in front of the Lawn where they arrived at the sound of Queens’ ‘We Are the Champions’. And they were true champions, champions of the beats and words… I see Nine Inch Nails; performance mentioned everywhere in the reviews, but I actually think I was able to find a decent spot in front of NIN’s stage (I left before the end of their set) just because everyone was at Run the Jewels! And this says a lot about the meaning of hip hop for the young generation…obviously the majority of people attending the festival were probably in their 20s.
I am not a Nine Inch Nails person, I have never been really into their music but I didn’t want to miss their set, they are an iconic band of the 90s and these veterans have barely played for 3 years. Their set was everything you could expect from a band of their caliber, it was powerful with a big sound and big stage effects, they had huge walls of lights and they abused of the fog machines so much that the smog was most of the time obstructing the view. I was just behind the VIP section and I barely saw the face of Trent Reznor, except on the giant screens. NIN is a well-oiled machine, which gave to their fans the type of spectacle you’d expect from a headliner of any big festival, giving its royal crown to the FYF fest if it was still necessary. They rocked songs from almost all their albums, brushing their 28-year-long career in one hour and half, without even one glitch. People were reacting to almost each song, whether they were leaning toward their aggressive side or their darker industrial disco dancefloors. They also played songs from their last EP ‘Add Violence’ released a few days ago, but the most moving moment was certainly when Trent, who hadn’t talked much since the beginning of the set, introduced NIN’s version of David Bowie’s ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’: ‘We have lost a lot of people lately and the word has gone crazy’, he said before the song. Of course, covering a song from ‘Black Star’ is not the same thing than covering ‘Moonage Daydream’, and only NIN could pick a downer like this one. After more furious songs like ‘Burning Bright’ which put the stage on fire, there were rage and terror followed by a short encore with ‘Hurt’… I didn’t want them to leave on this very mournful note, but they did, giving to the crowd a double reason to be depressed: the last band of the FYF fest played the most depressing song ever. However, festival-goers should never concentrate only on headliners, there was a lot for everybody at the FYF fest, diversity was the key of the festival which seems to grow bigger every year, and I have the feeling I have barely have time to explore it.