I know some people that hate the contemporary music scene. And they have sound reasoning. Whether their argument hinges on everything being derivative of the past or technology corrupting all organic creation, you can’t really dispute the tendency of all things toward chaos, I believe it’s a law of thermodynamics or something. Yeah, entropy. I bet these people were watching bands like Sleep or 7 Seconds on Saturday at Los Angeles’ FYF Fest and thinking that music would never get back to the raw intensity that those bands provided. I can’t imagine what the hardcore crowd would think of Best Coast or Dead Man’s Bones, the latter of which included a choir of children dressed as famous deceased figures. Regardless, the point is that I understand the people who don’t listen to the music of the last 10 years with much joy or appreciation. I just take the opposing view.
You can also look at contemporary music as the continual improvement and refinement of the work of generations before. As the human brain evolves, our technical knowledge grows exponentially. Why do we not assume that our artistic sense cannot also improve? FYF could be seen as a showcase for some of the most exciting contemporary bands available, a collection of bands that the FYF website states “are mixtape of bands that would never play together, but go so well together”. And while I heard that 7Seconds did kick ass and I can tell you that the Sleep crowd is totally scary, you’ll have to excuse my coverage for excluding them.
If you want the real story of FYF, you have to look a little beyond the music of Saturday. FYF Fest has become a full-on concert promotional force in the Southern California music scene, never losing sight to the humble beginnings as Fuck Yeah Fest, which would host local artists and punk bands in the small buildings of Echo Park. They stand for everything that is right in music, in my opinion at least. With the same DIY mentality that the punk scene and their eventual offshoot, the indie scene, were built on, they put on shows in creative spaces by a wide variety of musicians for affordable prices. They do this without corporate sponsors, they try to make the experiences unique and memorable, and they are still very green. They bring to the table a resume of hard-to-book artists playng intimate shows, an ice-cream social for children with Okkervil River and Roky Erickson, a sockhop with Dead Man’s Bones, a Converge show with a free mix-tape, and the upcoming Matador @ 21 Festival.
Photo by Philip Cosores
FYF Fest 2010 seemed to be among their biggest undertakings for the obvious scale reasons, but also because it was clearly the biggest spotlight to find the team, where a good performance could cement the organization in the class of the industry. And they went above and beyond the call of duty in trying to make the festival more than special. Announcements were made daily about something or another that was added: Children under 10 were admitted free, band schedules were amended multiple times to account for heavily campaigned switches, a pre-show featuring Delorean and a special FYF guest was added, as were a pair of fan-only shows that would allow for people to catch the headliner they missed at the festival at a small venue for just 10 bucks. Not to mention three after parties, a couple more random additional shows, and the addition of a comedy tent. With all this preparation put into making a killer Labor Day weekend for their supporters, all for the price of around 30 bucks, I was looking very much forward to drafting a review full of praise for Sean Carlson and his team about a successful event. But, well, there is a reason you write the review afterwards.
Prologue: FYF Pre-Party – Friday Night
One thing all the additional shows allowed for was maximum band coverage for the most eager of writers and photographers. I knew I was in for a long weekend, but by checking out Delorean and their guest at a tiny club in the heart of Chinatown, I would allow myself extra time to check out bands who would play against them. Plus, these additional shows were a huge part of the festivities. There was even free tequila for an hour. So my FYF weekend began with a drive to the cultural landmark whose cockroaches are two to three times bigger than average and whose adherence to the laws of land lies squarely in the gray.
Grand Star Jazz Club, 11:15 p.m.
Photo by Philip Cosores
Opening the night was a local foursome called Superhumanoids. Because their name is so similar to the Subhumans, I assumed they would be punk. I also assumed they were unknown to everyone like they were to me. Well, I was wrong on both counts. Nearly everyone I spoke with about the show over the next day would ask specifically about the opener, and then agree with my assessment, “yeah, they are really good.” I am no good with staying up on the local scene, but even beyond that, this is a band worth checking out. Their sound can be new-wavey, can be anthematic, and can even sound Animal Collective-y (which is still okay for a few more months), but all that I have heard are consistently polished and interesting listens. Live, they have stage presence, play competently and sound good enough to actually snap people out of their traditional drunken conversations that they yell over the opener. In particular though, check out “Persona“, a song that could put them on the actual festival bill next year.
School of Seven Bells
Grand Star Jazz Club, 12:15 a.m.
And the secret band is….School of Seven Bells! Most people knew it would be them in the preceding days, but still, it was a pretty cool treat for the few hundred people in attendance. I didn’t really know what to expect from their live performance. Not to pile on myself (and unlike the previous band, I had at least heard of SVIIB), but my first proper listen to the group came a few hours before their set time. I think I never listened before because I thought they were going to be depressing and doom-y. Probably the bells in their band name. But no, I was wrong again.
Photo by Philip Cosores
The songs I heard got me really looking forward to their set, and they definitely have a special presence about them (maybe it’s the pretty ladies, who knows?). And even now as I bone up on information on the band, I don’t think music writers do them justice. Everyone seems to talk about the lush atmospheres and complex harmonies and whatnot. Um, they sound like pop music to me. Creative and challenging pop music, but it’s not a far stretch from being indie rock’s Wilson Phillips. The intimacy of the room seemed to affect the performance, which began unannounced, with people just expected to guess what they were seeing, as the will call employees continued playing coy with the surprise act when the guests entered. A couple people asked me if they were Delorean even after the started playing. And I don’t want to say they seemed uncomfortable, but the crowd was right on top of the stage in this venue and that would weird me out if I was in a band. Either way the performance cemented their place in my listening rotation, with new tracks “Windstorm” and “Heart Is Strange” standing out.
Grand Star Jazz Club, 1:15 a.m.
Throughout the festivals many events, the bands were especially social, out to make friends and take part in the general good feelings. Most of these bands were locals, having friends and family in attendance, thus making the event feel more like a party than a job for the talent. Delorean are from Spain, but that didn’t stop them from joining in like locals, whether it was watching their Friday night stage-mates or from kicking it in the beer garden in the early evening on Saturday. They are somewhat of a surprise to be such a big part of the event, not having the roots in the same scene that most of the bands on the bill share. But they might have been the MVP of the weekend, and it all started in the early hours of Saturday morning with a furious set that cemented the group as a live destination for fans of dance music.
Photo by Philip Cosores
Though their records are quite good, they don’t do the music justice once you’ve heard it live. The albums aren’t lo-fi, but they don’t have the polished feel that a lot of electronic music relies on, which is fine in many cases, like Dan Deacon and all the chill wave groups that we are quickly forgetting about. But Delorean is dance music. It’s like meta-dance music. It’s the kind of dance music that makes me want to dance, and I never dance, but this strange chemical reaction occurs during their set. It is kind of scary. The standard tricks are there the drawn out builds, the big payoffs, the masking what song is going to come, the adding of elements not found on the record. These are the standard cheap thrills that a whole music genre is based because, frankly, they work. But damn, the melodies are brilliant to go along with the tricks. They will of course remind people of Animal Collective, but with Noah Lennox living in Portugal, it might be less rip-off and more like the way half of the So Cal bands on the bill kind of have similar sounds.
They had people going nuts from the epic rhythmic journey that is “Seasun” and then straight into their best-known song, the joyous “Stay Close”. The band dances non-stop, plays at intense volumes and are touring again in the fall, still at quite small venues, so do yourself a favor and get out of the house for a night of certain fun. Sometimes Pitchfork gets one right and pushes a pretty great group on us, huh?
Feature Presentation: FYF Fest – Saturday
So with a nice pre-party to kick things off, when did the festival take a wrong turn? It was sometime between when I found free parking (score!) and when I saw the line to get in. Now, this was an issue last year and FYF fielded countless concerns about festival entry lines, assuring that the problems had been solved. Well, they weren’t. People who had their ticket from the mail or whatever had it the easiest and they were the only folks who were given the opportunity to check out a number of young bands who would have loved some media pics and kind words. So, Magic Kids (Bummed!), Lower Dens (Shit!), Let’s Wrestle, Abe Vigoda and, to a lesser degree, The Goat never had a chance at this fest. People who came expecting to buy a ticket, the move I made last year which saved me hours, had it pretty easy as well, with a smooth flowing line that was considerably shorter than the general will call and VIP/media lines.
Ask Jesse Bloch, our photographer, and he will tell you I am notoriously late. Usually 15 to 30 minutes for everything. My dayjob loves this about me. Well, Jesse actually arrived at the time I arranged and his reward was extra line time, as there was some sort of holdup that basically froze the line for over an hour. With temperatures nearing the triple digits, waiting in line under the suddenly angry sun deflated the FYF excitement rather quickly. Luckily, Jesse was able to talk them into turning over my pass to him and, to the chagrin of the media staff in my line section, I was emancipated from the hell of standing in a never moving line.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Other logistical issues arose once inside the Los Angeles State Historic Park. The CoS team immediately went to work covering bands, of course…Actually, we went to find some ice water and get our bearings. The water was not easy to access, as most lines were long and even when you did reach the front, you faced a 4-dollar fee for 16oz. To refill it, the grounds had one water fountain for the 20,000 attendees. And I don’t want to sound like a brat who expects free shit from people because I write for a music website, but having bottled water for the media is pretty standard. When I go see a show as a spectator, I am prepared to buy water and all the normal shit that might come up. But for the people working, hustling from stage to stage and ultimately providing you advertising that just costs y0u access to the event, water is a pretty reasonable thing to provide.
There was also come complaints about the Oak stage not having grass and maintaining the dirt base that provides a nice cloud for everyone checking out the random cluttering of bands. But really, I don’t see who could really care about that. I’m more interested in getting into the V.I.P. section promptly get into the V.I.P. beer garden, there was an unreasonably long line and they required a drivers license scan every time. Wristbands usually handle this and they really do make things easier. And, probably the one thing no one gave a shit about but I personally found painful were the lack of sufficient trashcans. I felt bad littering in a park but would spend minutes search for a garbage can and not succeeding.
But that’s the festival aspect. As a music festival, the actual event is only 50% of the equation and FYF had the music situation handled.
Redwood, 1:20 p.m.
I didn’t set out to see Growlers, who are staples of the L.A. scene at the moment. But walking in at an odd time meant we had a half hour to kill, so I tried to locate a homey near The Growlers stage. Fifteen minutes of failed searching brought me to the realization that I might like the Growlers. The facepaint is creepy, the surfy-60’s influence speaks to the current L.A. sound, but they bring a darkness and punk attitude to it all that is refreshing. I hear they are playing a lobster festival out here in a couple weeks. Too bad I’m allergic…
Oak 1:50 p.m.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Looking through my notes, I don’t really have a whole lot of negative reviews to give (I skipped Wavves, who apparently took the prize for worst in show). And I don’t want to lay into Cults, but I was unimpressed with the very young seeming five piece. The band is shrouded in mystery , but after seeing them, I wonder if it is mystery or maybe they just suck at the marketing part of being a recording artist? Their sound reflects on 60’s standards, with girl groups and The Animals both touchstones. But the honest truth is that they have only just started playing live shows, but when they figure out some of the business end aspects of being a band, they should also have singer Madeline Follin work on her frontwoman skills. I’m not trying to be mean, but she looks like she is going to cry at any moment while performing, which is just distracting. I praise the heart, but bottle that shit up and save it for the next record.
Redwood, 2:10 p.m.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
With three stages, the FYF Fest offered plenty of tough decisions, even for the early day sets (except for the first hour, where the Spring Street foot traffic was the only entertainment to be had). Vetiver was a band I hadn’t planned on seeing, but Jesse likes them and a mellow set seemed appropriate after the past few hellish hours. I figured the folky Bay Area group would be sleepy time music for a festival stacked with fun-loving indie and angsty hardcore. To my surprise, Vetiver was a perfect early afternoon band to play under the sweltering sun. In fact, singer Andy Cabic noted that he made the wrong decision in headwater and should have opted for a full-brim, but he had spent the summer in the Bay where it has maintained mid-60’s throughout the season. He didn’t gain the crowds sympathy, but rather brought out the chill SF vibes that date back the free love days, taking some of the sting out of the sun scorting and thirst that seemed all-encumpassing. Sure, it was short lived. But I was quickly realizing that the music was going to get me through the day if I let it.
Redwood, 3:05 p.m.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Yes, I saw Warpaint for the third time at a festival this summer. Yes, it ruled. Though at this point you start to analyze which stage moves are choreographed versus which ones are spontaneous (the continuous hair-whip with Jenny Lee Lindberg’s new haircut has evolved into the fifth band member), the greatest joy in watching Warpaint is seeing the reactions of people who haven’t had the privilege previously. Today, it was Jesse, who seemed less than pumped when I told him we were covering Warpaint and came out of the photo pit with an enthusiastic “they are awesome”. It will be nice to see the debut full length finally see the light of day, as the set will surely get some small changes. But, most of the current jams are on the new album and the truth is if they keep things roughly the same, emphasizing solid gold tunes like “Undertow”, they will go from local sensations to national newcomers quickly.
And bonus points go to the ladies for appearing throughout the day in the audience, flat-out having a blast. Tied with them for most festive FYF-er would be Wavves’ Nathan Williams, who also seemed to be omnipresent around the grounds. With the amount of local bands and young bands, the party vibe was definitely spilling from the backstage to the audience, something that might have eased the pain of the half hour wait for a sausage and a soda for the attendees. Though it sounds snarky, it is true that having an easy opportunity to meet some of your favorite musicians is a cool aspect of FYF and it seemed like the artists did their part to get out and have fun to ease any tension that might be swelling in the crowd.
Oak, 3:35 p.m.
You can’t open an internet browser with getting someone’s opinion on Best Coast. Somehow the gentle, fun and ultimately harmless tunes of Bethany Cosentino have become a great separator in music, like a civil war in indie is about to break out. Well, if that happens, the entire FYF lineup would probably fight along side the L.A. band, as they had a large gathering of fellow artists turnout to see what the hype is about. But a strange thing happened on Saturday afternoon: Best Coast played a professional set that pleased their giant crowd while proving they are more than goofy hacks with a cute singer and a couple catchy songs. If you have seen Best Coast in the past, you might have been as surprised as I was.
The band isnt known so much for antics as for just sloppy playing, drunken debauchery and the stoney, party girl charm of their singer. Beginning with album opener “Boyfriend”, they were able to get through pretty much their entire record and closed with “When I’m With You I Have Fun”. A beach ball even floated across the crowd, I shit you not. But there was something missing. Maybe the singer was nervous about the turnout or maybe she is realizing the tremendous opportunity she has received and doesn’t want to fuck it up (the partying rocker reputation gets old quick, ask Courtney Love or Pete Doherty or countlesss others). Though she did manage a couple yucks (“I heard Ke$ha is here”), she mostly stuck to the tunes and the occasional introduction of a tune with it’s title. It’s a pretty minor knock, but her personality is a big part of what attracted many fans to them, and though it is welcome to see them actually take this thing seriously, a balance between work and fun can surely be found. Stay gold, stoner girl.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Oak, 4:25 p.m.
Ok, I think I am the only person who is yet to write-up Titus Andronicus for CoS, so let me think of something original to say. Though I’d never seen the group and was anticipating them with sky-high expectations (blame Jeremy Larson), I had the sneaking suspicion that I had nothing to worry about with this band at the helm. In fact, all my hopes for this live set were met perfectly. As a dude, anthmatic dude-rock appeals to me. As a writer, I appreciate the sharp self-hatred in the lyrics and the empowerment that is found in this state. And as a music fan, I admire the passion they play every note with and the guts they have to throw three songs in their set that surpassed the seven-minute mark.
Playing on the stage that featured a dirt field, the front and center super-fans (can we call them, like, Titus’ Titans or Fan-dronicus or something?) were jumping with such fury that dirt began to kick up into the air, looking like a plume of smoke and creating a concern that a fire had erupted in the pit, ignited by the passion of both the fans and the band. It was pretty damn cool, except for all the people who got covered in the dirt. They later dedicated my current favorite for the best song of 2010, “The Battle of Hampton Roads”, to a certain fan who was right up in the front, probably making the kids life to hear the acknowledgement. And with closer “Four Score and Seven”, Oberstien singer Patrick Stickles motioned the “us against them” line with the FYF faithful cast as the “us” and the looming skyscrapers of Downtown L.A. to signify “them”. I don’t know if the buildings just happened to be where he pointed or if he was trying to make a statement about the suits who occupy them, but no matter how thirsty I was or hot or tired, at least I knew for sure that I wasn’t one of “them”.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
The Soft Pack
Redwood, 4:50 p.m.
San Diego’s The Soft Pack play L.A. about six times a month. This isn’t true, but after they played 10 shows in 13 hours earlier in the year, I felt like I was standing on my own as a virgin to the band formerly known as The Muslims. And you know what, they were pretty good. They played the songs from their album, they sounded clean and catchy, they looked generally like rock stars, you know, pretty much everything that you would expect from a professional rock band. The seemed to live on the island between anything dangerous or provocative and being flat out boring. If you like The Soft Pack, it is a win. If you don’t, they won’t win you over. And for those in-between, like myself, you desperately try to figure out how the hell you are supposed to get tickets for the Fan Fest show for the following day. The Soft Pack might have added to my urgency, but it was a mission I would have rather avoided all together.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Sequoia, 5:30 p.m.
7 Seconds totally played. Some people were really excited about this. Jesse said they were pretty rad. I got in line for a quesadilla.
Redwood, 5:45 p.m.
Well, Local Natives were the last big addition to the lineup to FYF and that seemed to be the band that turned things on their heads. The crowd was enormous for the homecoming show, which the group acknowledged as their first day in L.A. after a summer on the road. They then commemorated the moement with a cover tune, Talking Head’s deep cut “Warning Signs”. Hard to believe that a year previously, they were the type of local band that would play a Silverlake Lounge residency or something like that.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
While it might seem surprising that Local Natives would attract such an enthusiastic turnout, I offer this anecdote. My work homegirl Nicole took her sister to see Britany Spears in concert sometime last year. Then a few weeks ago she asked if I would be at the upcoming Local Natives show at The Music Box. Why? Well, little sister Alexis is turning sweet sixteen and she wants Nicole to take her to see Local Natives. I mean, this is a tremendous leap in sophistication for such a short time, but also shows that these locals might be outgrowing their early evening set times and maintained status as local band on the rise. Everyone seemed to like their set, regardless the groups recent rise in popularity and success and I have to admit that it did provide pleasant ambiance for my quesadilla line.
Dead Man’s Bones
Redwood, 7:00 p.m.
I’ve been advocating Dead Man’s Bones to anyone who will listen for a little while now. From their Halloween shows at The Echo last year to their recent run as a Vaudeville act in Eagle Rock, it is a truly special experience to watch this project truely have fun with their very limited engagements. Since the majority of the band members have homework and soccer practice taking up their day to day lives, it is hard to really imagine that they will ever be a touring force, so if you get a chance to see them, please don’t pass it up.
For their sunset performance on the main stage, it was obvious that the majority of the crowd had no idea what this Dead Man’s Bones business even was. Every once in a while a stray girl would sprint towards the crowd with jubilation. But there is a reason why Dead Man’s Bones was on this bill, and it isn’t the local band factor. Ryan Gosling and Zach Shields could easily have a major label deal, could easily be making giant promotional pushes and could fill much larger halls on Gosling’s name alone. But, doing things the right way and maintaining complete control of the project allowed them this moment: a set on their biggest stage yet that absolutely killed. Beginning with their newly added magical element, the band took the stage with Gosling sporting dorky sunglasses, Shields donning his eager and goofy smile and a choir of children dressed as famous figures of history, either deceased or mythical. For a day that featured plenty of groups in face paint, it was the clear what-the-fuck moment for unprepared spectators. And buy opening with “Name In Stone”, it allowed the moment to linger as the song begins with Gosling fiddling at an acoustic guitar and singing a solo melody that doesn’t make itself known immediately. But when the children start their girl group backing, the crowd was sold and swelled steadily throughout their set.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
They mixed songs from their debut with some of the new tracks we caught in Eagle Rock in July, but new elements included “In The Room Where You Sleep” getting a closing poem that I don’t recall from before and had a costume contest for the children (now officially The Warm Glass of Milk) near the end of the set. Of course little Truman won, he’s adorable and tiny. But the second time hearing the new tracks convinced me that they are winners across the board and whatever form their new music will reach the public (I just have a feeling that everything they do will be outside the norm from now on), it will build on their fan base and start making a few parents wonder how important Tai Kwon Do lessons really are.
Photos by Jesse Bloch
Redwood, 8:10 p.m.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
We didn’t really get a chance to experience Man Man, but I did become aware of the existence of boxed water because of them. I liked them when they opened for The Fiery Furnaces like five years ago and from the look of their first half of a song, they haven’t changed much. Only now it’s not so weird to wear facepaint and Native American gear. So, Man Man are like trendsetters in a way. Weird thought.
The Mountain Goats
Oak, 8:20 p.m.
Considering the amount of shows I attend, there are a significant number of groups or artists whom I adore and have never seen perform. The Mountain Goats were right near the top. But seeing them in the festival environment worried me. In addition to playing a shorter set than I would ideally watch (I think three hours with John Darnielle would satisfy me), I really just didnt want to see them play in front of non-fans. Hell, it took me years to like The Mountain Goats on record, I really doubt the in-your-face yelps and untamed nasally inflections win over many first-time listeners, in particular when the majority are heshers waiting for an iconic band that hasnt played Southern California in more than a decade.
But Darnielle has a gift of gab that could talk himself out of a carpool lane ticket, Costcos return policy, or banking overdraft fees. Instead of feeling offended by a small but vocal contingent who wanted Sleep to start 45 minutes early, he joined them in their exvcitement, stating that he couldnt wait to watch them either. Darnielle is a known metal fan, so it is not a stretch to think he would be watching the set with the same stern scowl as the crowd. He even dedicated The Best Ever Death Metal Band In Denton to the members of Sleep, by name. Yeah, you just got doom metal served Los Angeles.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
The set was not what I expected, with only one song from 2009s The Life of the World to Come present. I found this to be awesome. It was like I was asked to name ten or so of my favorite songs by The Mountain Goats and they were then played with perfectly intense vocals and an up-beat bass and drum backing that kept the songs light (in sound, not substance). Would I like to have seen more of Darnielle solo? Yes, but that wouldnt have played as well to the masses and I understand the logic. Highlights included, well everything except Dance Music, which was played as a slow song and lost a little bit of its charm. After a lovely You Or Your Memory, Darnielle asked if Bartles and James still existed, and then noted that if he wrote the song today, they lyric would be changed to Four Loco, but then the character would have never survived the story.
Most notable of my live introduction was the clear joy that the veteran singer displayed in his performance. He noted the nostalgia that Southern California brings him, having spent significant years in the inland empire. A number of the songs chosen for the setlist reflected the area, including the aforement track from The Sunset Tree, the Pomona streets yelled in “Palmcorder Yajna” and the closing version of California Song. The joy was akin to watching Craig Finn play, as if in his mind, every person there is on the same page, his page. And, I guess they were, its just that the page was we are stoked to see Sleep. I, at least, will never avoidably miss a performance by The Mountain Goats again. We dont usually do festival setlists, but I think a few people might enjoy this.
Setlist: Hast Thou Considered The Tetrapod/Lion’s Teeth/Heretic Pride/You or Your Memory/Old College Try/Your Belgian Things/Psalms 40:2/Palmcorder Yajna/Dance Music/No Children/The Best Ever Death Metal Band in Denton/This Year/California Song
Redwood, 9:20 p.m.
My decision to take in !!! was based more on the fact that they played against a band I had seen the night before (SVIIB) and a band that frightened me (Sleep). So I went and danced my ass off with the abundance of energy I had conserved from my seriously relaxing day. Right?
Well, from the distant lawn where I layed down on the cool grass, resting my head on a less than ideal messenger bag converted pillow, I can tell you as few things that struck me interesting. Nic Offer probably was the character that intrigued me most of any act I saw. Who is this guy? As instigator, he had me rolling on my little hill, with him making sly comments about the festivals lack of accessible food and water, the staggering amount of photographers that crowded the front of the stage, and just about every piece of equipment that the band touched. Was he being a douche? Maybe a little, especially to his best friend/worst enemy: the rock photographers. But his ridiculous complaints and diva persona served to illuminate the amount of bitching everyone was guilty of by the evening. Sure they were valid complaints, but it was a rock concert, after all. If anyone was really that hungry or thirsty, well then miss a band and wait in line. If you let the heat overshadow the fact that you were treated to remarkable sets from all angles and received decent entertainment even when the fest was at it’s worst. For 25 bucks.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
The band played a number of songs that I understand are from their recently released album, Strange Weather, Isn’t It? The jams were funky, Offer was over the top and the crowd seemed to have a blast. I can’t believe they were moving. Half-way though the set the busted out “Must Be The Moon”, which Offer couldn’t quite handle vocally in the difficult chorus. But when a band strives to be annoying, to seem like assholes and to party above all else, what can you really say about them if they got a large group to party and dance with them? I’d call it a success.
Redwood, 10:55 p.m.
There were a contingent of FYF attendees who were absolutely stoked to see The Rapture, but they seemed smaller than the Panda Bear folks and were definitely dwarfed by the people who left early. So could the elusive band really come back from out of nowhere and headline a festival, especially one filled with the highs and lows of FYF Fest?
Um, yeah?… kinda? Opening with the first three tracks from the their last and least beloved album, Pieces of the People We Love, the mini-set showed the band coming out of the gate sort of stiff and failing to ignite the crowd after the first two out of three. But “Get Myself Into It”, saw something change, both in the band and in the crowd. There was a saxophone solo, with dance moves included which is just something that doesn’t sound nearly as cool to read as it is to see. And suddenly, the crowd reciprocated the increased enthusiasm by the band by turning itself into NYC circa 2002 (I assume, I was in Santa Cruz listening to a whole lot of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot around that time, though I did get into Echoes about a year too late).
Luke Jenner was a gracious host for the set, seeming personable and even bringing his parents to watch the show. But, and maybe I was cranky after 12 hours of discomfort, The Rapture should have totally cut their set short, as they had a perfect moment to conclude but continued with their schedule and ended with more of whimper then a bang. They had a ferocious 1-2 punch of “Whoo! Alright – Yeah…Uh-Huh” and “House Of Jealous Lovers” that was the best musical moment of the festival. The energy the crowd literally erupted and a dozen or so VIP guests stormed the stage to start a dance party (Jesse would later report that security had given up at that point and that the crowd had taken over the photo pit as well). The Rapture are pros and played through the bum rush, visibly amused by what their anthem had inspired.
But, then they kept the performance going. It was totally nice to hear a few more of my old favorites, but the set had clearly peaked and it was just a waiting game for the eventual long walk back to the car. They did bring out the new jam they played a few months back, titled “Sail Away”. And though “Olio” is the song I associate with The Rapture, even more than “HoJL”, it would be an absolutely terrific set opener and wasn’t used for all it’s value as the festival closer. But hell, again I feel like the conditions turned me into a harsher critic than the band warrants, and ultimately it was pretty damn awesome and enjoyable to see the band, and it will be nice to have them back on the scene when the new album is completed.
Photo by Jesse Bloch
Epilogue: FYF Fan Fest – Sunday Night
So, I didn’t really go into this before, but one other festival oversight concerned the Fan Fest shows that were originally conceived to be sold to the first people in the park. Well, when getting into the park proves to be a major hurdle, this neat concept becomes problematic. But, making the situation easier was the fact that the tickets never showed up to be sold anyway. I made a couple trips to the prospective ticket selling location and could only get vague approximations. After being shutdown on my second visit, I reevaluated my life for a moment and thought that it might be better to not go to another show after the grueling all-day event.
But then Sunday brought on a couple things that changed my mind. For one, the festivals PR firm reached out. And secondly, an email was sent to everyone on the blast list from festival founder Sean Carlson, which began “Yesterday was FYF Fest. We know all the problems… The lines… And are addressing them now. In no way are we sleeping on these problems. The bands were amazing and the turn out was unreal. I’m speechless. Today is the FYF Fan Fest. 3 different shows. The plan was to charge $10 each for these shows. After yesterday we decided not to… Sure, we have bills but would rather eat the costs and make these special for you, the fans. If it wasn’t for you there would be no FYF Fest.”
They still charged five bucks for the two main shows, but only to keep away the kind of crowd that can ruin free shows and avoid an overwhelming turnout. The early show with Davilla 666 actually was made free. But don’t think he was trying to bribe or buy his way out of the situation. No, the events that FYF put on really are for the fans, and he wanted to try to make amends with a small gesture, with the ultimate act being the promise to fix the problems. I was taken aback by the quick acknowledgement of the shortcomings and vow to improve. Anybody who has worked a day in their life knows that it goes against just about every norm you see to actually own up to a mistake, especially when it wasn’t the end of the world. I’ve been to plenty of flawed festivals this year. I went to food festival where I didn’t eat for God’s sake. But, I have also been to some smoothly run festivals, but they were all large and had corporate backing.
My friend Nick, who drove down from San Francisco for the festival, summed it up pretty perfectly when I asked him if he had a good time. “Yeah, it was alright.” And when asked if he felt any of the common gripes, he noted, “It was a cheap festival. What do you expect?” And, it’s true. With a bargain festival, you get bargain problems. If you want lines that are considerably shorter (but still there), musical acts that appeal to a broad demographic and tickets that cost five times as much, go to Outside Lands and watch some live music in nearly complete comfort. FYF, on the other hand, will continue plugging away to find practical solutions to improve the fan experience and work all year to give the Los Angeles music community unique opportunities to see their favorite bands.
Because in the end, it’s about seeing good music, right? And for three days, surrounded by some of the best contemporary producers of creative, experimental and entertaining sounds, that’s what we did.
The Glass House, 8:30 p.m.
Photo by Philip Cosores
As one of the victims of the line situation, The Goat had an opportunity to show people what had been missed when they played to a mostly empty park at the start of Saturday’s festival. Well…err…they have a lot of energ?y. And they can skate better then pretty much any band, ever. With two well-known professional riders in their five-piece (Kevin Long and Andrew Reynolds) as well as renowned skate photographer Attiba Jefferson (who is like a billion times better than I am at taking pictures, so shooting him felt a little awkward) music is not necessarily these guys primary focus in life. The Goat plays more like a goof, some friends with the same enjoyment of hardcore and skate rock who, messing around in the garage between skate sessions. And these friends happen to have a madman in the group who was born to front a band like The Goat in Shane Heyl. The set was bound to piss off the gentle Panda Bear fans, this is what FYF is about, not being joined or limited by sound, but rather coming together in purpose and philosophy. Jefferson has actually taken some photos of Animal Collective, so the matchup wasn’t a complete mystery and anyone who was playing a Playstation 2 around the year 2000 would give them a pass no matter what they sounded like.
The Glass House, 9:45 p.m.
Even before Noah Lennox sang one note as one of the two headlining acts of the festival, the shit-talkers were already preparing the adjectives to describe their “shock” in that they were assaulted with a challenging set of nearly all new material from the Animal Collective figure. You have listened to Animal Collective before, right people? You didn’t happen to notice that he’s been playing a pretty similar set for a couple months now? And everything people are saying is true, that is, if they are dead-set on not buying in. You can watch this guy really put himself out there on stage and risk something, be bored, be annoyed that he isn’t playing the songs you want to hear, and be regretful that you missed The Rapture. Or you can get lost for a while in some trippy shit.
Photo by Philip Cosores
Sure the new material isn’t able to emotionally resonate in the live setting as the listeners have not been given the time to toil with the words and what Panda Bear is actually attempting to do. That’s why he gives us lights! Crazy lights! And pictures of sharks.
I know most people don’t have have the opportunity to take photographs of Panda Bear. But, and sorry to let you behind the curtain here, it was truly the best way to experience the set. The lights were set on weird rhythms that were like puzzles to try to figure out. But if you could decode the directions of the songs, you would be ready to shoot when the lighting was bright. Still, there was universal relief when “Comfy In Nautica” began its march, with one fan trying to ignite a handclap that totally should have happened. And while he needs to start playing “Bros”, not only his best known song but maybe the best song he has ever made, Panda Bear lives with us now in a post-Merriweather world. By normalizing weird, Panda Bear has also changed expectations for his weird to remain accessible. Well, he’s going to show them.
Photo by Philip Cosores
But regardless of whether reviewers are loading their rifles to shoot down Lennox and his inaccessible tunes, this was Fan Fest, after all. So he gave the half-full crowd AC’s “Chores” and 1-2 punch that some noted as the highlight of the set, “Song For Ariel” into “Guy’s Eyes”. Maybe playing these were unrelated to the events of the weekend. Or maybe they were a small gesture; a statement of sorts to include some numbers he hadn’t been playing at his previous festival shows. Regardless, if you were lucky enough to let yourself get lost in the noise, chances are you came back to reality feeling pretty good.
Feature photo by Jesse Bloch.
Gallery by Jesse Bloch
Gallery by Philip Cosores