Besides the view of barren wasteland, dying grass and dusty fields, there’s a strange feeling walking into Los Angeles’ FYF Fest. Amongst the clusters of tents, giant sunglasses and the four stages are thousands of Los Angelenos. FYF is a cultural homogenization of everything that is trendy, “in” and L.A. Cue the girls in short floral dresses and high top lace up shoes, the guys with pompadour haircuts and 70s mustaches. When everyone cool, hip and different is packed into one venue – what does that make everyone? The same.
The main problem with FYF, which concluded a two-day run on Sunday, is its blatant stereotyping of L.A.’s character: There was the sense that the festival goers in the Los Angeles State Historic Park were trying too hard. The vapid, mindless fashionistas and frat bros migrated from stage to stage to see the newest, trendiest bands. In essence, everyone at FYF fits in, but few really belong.
That’s where the artists come in. Bands like Father John Misty, Tanlines and The Faint are up-and-comers that have recently been shaping soundtracks to the waning California summer. These movers and shakers made the festival whole.
With a crowd of cookie-cutter undergrads and young adults all sharing similar interests, the life of FYF comes from the individual bands.
Saturday was a powerhouse day for music. As always, smaller bands started off the festival with lackluster crowds and shorter set times. White Arrows, who played at Tommy’s Place last semester, rocked the day into motion with bangers like the ambient “Roll Forever.”
From half past noon until midnight, the park shook with music from the four performance stages. Perhaps a drawback of the venue is that the park is so small that sound from each stage pours into the next—softer acts get drowned out while louder ones rule the airwaves.
A major victim to the festival’s layout was newcomer James Blake who had the standout performance of the weekend. Next to Blake’s set at the Spring St. Stage, Tanlines – a duo that has rightfully blasted onto the music scene – drew grooving crowds with their dance-ready chill-wave beats and vocals. The dance craze in the tent where Tanlines played permeated throughout the eastern venue and muddled much of Blake’s set.
How, then, could Blake have the stand out performance at FYF? Blake’s signature harmonic pitch-corrected vocals drifted in and out of comprehension – at times it was hard to distinguish the roar of the crowd from Blake’s own musical creations.
But the audience was completely entranced by his futuristic sound. The jazzy blues of Blake’s new wave “I Never Learnt to Share” were hauntingly beautiful and immersive. The three-person band was able to recreate Blake’s catalogue with such simplicity and ease that the performance almost looked too easy.
When fans weren’t occupied with Blake, or the captivating light show at M83, or watching the lead singer of Chairlift storm off stage ten minutes before the act was supposed to end (that’s right, they didn’t even play that song from the Apple commercial!), vendor tents and food trucks were all the rage. Various clothing outlets such as Vintage Redeux and Yellow 108 and record stores including Amoeba Music and LA Record sold intriguing merchandise at affordable prices. Social justice-oriented non-profits such as Oxfam and EQCA completed the tent city.
Day two brought about more exciting acts. Dinosaur Jr. put on a riotous performance. A mosh pit and consequent dust storm should have come as no surprise.
Father John Misty proclaimed to the world just how drunk he was, and Aesop Rock brought a fan on stage to get his hair cut during “Racing Stripes.”
Yeasayer and Beirut attracted monstrous crowds where the temperature from shared body heat matched that of the burning afternoon sun.
These musicians and moments make FYF a great last hurrah for the summertime. The festival also makes for a great weekend of mustaches, headbands, button-making, boxed water drinking, bro tanks, t-shirt printing… the list goes on. Since FYF is as trendy as LA itself, be sure to expect a whole new experience next year.
Most unlikely to pump up the bass: Beirut
Best at drawing in a crowd: Tanlines
Best of show: James Blake
Most likely to have a monster introduce the band: M83
Most inebriated: Father John Misty
Most diverse crowd: Aesop Rock
Best find: AA Bondy
Sounds better than their record: Sleigh Bells
Looks the most like Gandalf: Dinosaur Jr.
Major drawback: The heat
Minor drawback: The dust
Best food: Schmuck Truck NY Delicatessen on Wheels
Best freebie: Adult Swim create your own t-shirts