This is not the first time I have said this, the FYF fest has been going in this direction for a few years, but its 2016 edition shows more than ever that the fest has grown far beyond its humble punk origins. I almost feel nostalgic about the little festival I was attending 4 years ago at LA State historic park. It was dusty and wild, and I liked it. Now it’s a different beast, since 2014, the fest is held inside the LA Sports Arena & Exposition Park, and it’s still a sort of pain in the butt to walk to the different stages on time, this made me walk almost 11 miles according to my phone app, I barely stopped, barely ate, barely peed as usually, because I had no time, and I have still missed a lot of bands I could have seen, but when it’s 10 pm, you feel exhausted and prefer to wait in front of the main stage for the last act, because it would be too much to walk again through the dense crowd to catch one last act on the lawn stage, between Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar.
The front of the main stage has become a huge sea of humans, and the VIP section in the front has grown to immense proportions, so unless you sit down in front of it at 2 pm of the afternoon, and don’t move from your spot during the whole day, there’s no way to get a good spot for any artist playing on the main stage. I saw Grimes, Tame Impala and Kendrick Lamar from afar, and unfortunately, I am resigned to do the same for tonight’s biggest acts, LCD Soundsystem and Grace Jones. The FYF fest has become a mini Coachella in the middle of LA, it has the biggest stars and its success will probably not stop there.
May be most of these people have forgotten the ‘Fuck Yeah’ in the FYF, may be we have forgotten that its first editions had all the punk bands you can imagine, from Circle Jerks to the Bronx, No Age, Pissed Jeans, Lightning Bolt, Fucked Up, Dillinger Escape Plan, Wavves, Screaming Females, Thee Oh Sees, Titus Andronicus…. Now Lady Gaga – who is definitely stalking me and any FYF fest act as I bumped into her at Father John Misty’s show at the El Rey a day before – makes an apparition during Tame Impala’s set! I guess she wants to headline the fest next year! But since I was watching a mile away, I didn’t realize anything, and that’s why I always have the feeling to miss everything, the eternal festival frustration.
DIIV asked us if we were going to see Shellac, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker told us Air was his favorite band in the world, and I managed to see all of the four of them and a few others. If the punk vibe is now diluted in an abundance of pop, electronica, dance and beyond, you certainly could relive the good old punk FYF fest through a few acts, but you had to look for it, and walk a lot.
I don’t know if you can include Alex G in the punk category, probably not, but for a very early act, he had attracted a large crowd, may be a collaboration with millennials’ fav Frank Ocean (and a FYF fest drop out) doesn’t hurt, but where does this Elliott Smith comparison come from? I didn’t get it at all, he played a set full of confidence (such an anti-Elliott trait) ,weird chord progressions, a sort of atonal repetitiveness with outbursts of energy. I can’t say I got his dislocated songs and may be I should have listened to the lyrics. He tried a falsetto, and tried to be funny and I got a little bored. If you wanted post punk you also had DIIV, and its vague The Cure vibe, baggy clothes, and a look à la Kurt Cobain. their bouncy dreamy-shoegazing songs were going into many directions, but they were not the aggressive type at all, softly bumping into each other. The real action happened during Head Wound City’s set at the Club, a place nobody seemed to have found first. This is where the old FYF fest spirit was hiding, hardcore anger, screaming, hurling, moshing, it was certainly the most dangerous set of the day, with dust in the air, as the rest of the day looked so mellow and hippie in comparison.
If you wanted more action, Shellac was for you, and I now know what a Steve Albini’s rant is! Wearing a Iggy and the Stooges shirt, he had put his guitar strap around his waist, something I never see people doing. Their set was heavy, abrupt and laborious, with massive thorny riffs, all screams and spoken words over throbbing guitars. But it was so fascinating I missed most of Grimes on the main stage.
I also caught a bit of emotional folk rocker Hop Along and their frontwoman’s raucous breathless whisper going from anger to despair, a bit of Jagwar Ma and their weird electronica indie pop, a semi futuristic dance floor with angry vocals and maximum reverb in everything, and a bit of the electronic dance swirls of Todd Terje and the Olsens, who seemed to be into soothing instrumentals.
Grimes looked so small and tiny, she had dancers and a Minnie mouse voice, and if I don’t find her electro pop songs super interesting, she had attracted a huge crowd. She is an entertainer and put up a real dance show.
I had to sacrifice most of Ty Segall’s set, because I see him all the time! I have seen many of his diverse incarnations, and that time he was the mad white-suit guy screaming over a mad metal psychedelia with the Muggers. But I had to see a rare apparition of Sofia Coppola’s darlings, the French band Air, who, just like their moniker, played the ultimate dreamy soundscapes. All dressed in white, they looked as ethereal as their music, I recognized a few tunes, the theme from ‘Virgin Suicide’, they kept saying ‘Merci beaucoup’, used a lot of voice changer effects, and all their music seemed to be the perfect indie movie soundtrack.
The crowd for Tame Impala was really impressive, a sea of happy druggy humans dancing at the sound of the Aussie band, with a psychedelia of lights and synth swirls engulfing synth swirls. A crazy guy jumped on stage, but I could barely see anything. At this point I was wondering why I was attending this festival when I have had the perfect spot for their show at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery last year. They played all the classics, ‘Elephant’, ‘Feels like We only go Backwards’, and they had the confidence of huge rock stars.
Kendrick Lamar’s set was anticipated by the huge crowd like the second coming, even the security guards partly stopped doing their job to watch the rapper’s performance, and everyone but me knew the lyrics. It was an avalanche of words, there was giant fires blowing up the stage at the most powerful moments, and Kendrick himself was on fire. He was joined by Vince Staples, who had performed earlier on the same stage, and for someone who never listen to rap or hip hop, I thought he was really impressive, sampling jazz and R&B, from Prince-like to Stevie Wonder-like funky lines,… you could smell danger all set long. There were musicians on stage and we were far from the karaoke set of Kanye West’s last year!
There is another day of the FYF fest today, with even more interesting acts to see like Grace Jones and LCD Soundsystem, and as it is the case each year, I swear I won’t be doing this again next year: what’s the point? I am always running through acts, I am exhausted and I didn’t see any band properly. But once again they will come up with one irresistible line up and all will be forgotten.
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