Say that five times fast.
Los Angeles’ FYF Fest just celebrated its 13th year in existence this past weekend. It’s come a LONG ways since first happening at the Echoplex and Echo before moving in 2009 to LA State Historic Park and Expo Park in 2014. If you would have said back in 2009 someone with the mainstream appeal of Kendrick Lamar would one day play the festival, it wouldn’t have been believable.
I worked 5 AM shifts Saturday and Sunday and made it to the festival around 4 PM each day. This meant I missed out on some early-day gems like Julien Baker, Alex G and DIIV unfortunately. But I still packed a lot into 20 hours of festival time. Was it me, or did it feel like everyone that lives in Silverlake and Echo Park were at FYF this weekend? It might have been the hippest-looking festival I’ve ever been to.
There were a ton of great moments from FYF Fest this year but I tried narrowing it down to the five that stood out the most for me.
Saves the Day nostalgic sing-along
I was never a full-fledged emo kid growing up, but Saves the Day‘s Stay What You Are was one album from the genre I knew the words to front-to-back. When it was announced that they’d be performing that 2001 record in full, I went back and listened to it in anticipation. Though the lyrics don’t quite fit the way they did when I was 15, nostalgia is still a hell of a drug.
It was also great because I was surrounded by friends who knew the material just like I did. We were also surrounded by hundreds of people that knew every word. It was easily the biggest sing-along of the entire weekend, just as I hoped it would be. They played things in the order they appeared on the record, meaning it got off to a rocking start with the anthemic “At Your Funeral.” When that slow opening verse rolled into the first rocking riffs, everybody knew it was on. It was one of the happiest mosh pits I’ve ever seen and a great lineup get by the festival. It makes you wonder why more fests don’t try and lock down these special “band x performing album y” sets.
Blood Orange brings out Sky Ferreira, who wings it on “You’re Not Good Enough”
Two years ago, I didn’t know anything about Dev Hynes/Blood Orange before stumbling into his FYF Fest set and being blown away. I’ve since started believing he’s the heir apparent to Prince. He had two shows at the Ace this past week and brought out a lot of special guests. That didn’t stop him from doing the same thing Sunday. I caught the tail end of the first song coming over from Banks and Steelz, but could hear Carly Rae Jepsen’s vocals as we ran over.
I could only stay over a limited amount of time before getting a spot for Saves the Day. Luckily, I was there when Sky Ferreira showed up on stage to sing “You’re Not Good Enough,” the song I couldn’t get out of my head after seeing Blood Orange at FYF Fest two years ago. Ferreira isn’t the vocalist on the original studio track. This became quickly evident when she pulled out a crib sheet from her pocket. It sort of shined light on what makes an LA city festival so special. So many artists live in LA that it’s much more likely someone will pop up on stage unexpectedly. You see it at regular shows in LA all the time and FYF Fest had a solid showing in that regard. The improvisational aspect of Ferreira’s performance just gave it a more endearing shade than other guest spots.
Tame Impala enchants with groovy jams
Tame Impala have totally grown into being a legitimate second-tier festival headliner. Particularly, since the release of 2015’s gem of an album Currents. The one-two main-stage punch of Tame and then Kendrick Lamar was as strong as any closing run of bands at a festival this year.
This festival felt like it was the Silverlake / Echo Park Super Bowl of Music and Tame Impala was the headliner for those kids. We got there 20 minutes before they went on, leaving a very good Air set to do so. To get the full experience of a Tame set, I’d recommend being between the soundboard and the front of the stage. That way you’re close enough to get the best sounds but also a full view of the stage. The visuals that accompany any Tame Impala set will have you feel like you’re tripping even when you’re not. Seeing Kevin Parker lift his arms up to the chorus of the heartwrenching breakup song “Eventually,” with everyone around me mirroring him, was one of the more poignant moments of the festival for me.
LCD Soundsystem a huge hit with heavily-hipster crowd
LCD Soundsystem continued to enjoy the most lucrative comeback of any band I can’t ever remembering hearing on the radio. I had never seen them before this year but by virtue of going to a lot of fests, this was my sixth time. Their crowds were interestingly sparse at Coachella and even Bonnaroo. At Outside Lands a few weeks ago it was pretty dense. Perhaps all the cool kids that lived in Brooklyn and Williamsburg during their heyday live in SF now.
FYF Fest proved to be a good home for them. They don’t appear to be the mass-appeal headline act that festival organizers projected, but in certain markets they fit nicely. They were just oversaturated this year, pretty much at a major festival every weekend in 2016. You’ll have a hard time finding a band that puts on a better show, and it’s amazing this cast of characters are rock stars at all. James Murphy looks like a dude that owns 10 cats, and I love that. They just cancelled an upcoming Asian tour to work on new music, the one thing that’s been missing from this run.
The wide range of emotions you go through during any LCD set can be exhausting. They hit you with the ultra funky “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” pretty quickly out of the gate. The emotionally-charged “Someone Great” features such an incredible slow burn before Murphy yells “When someone great is gone” with Nancy Whang backing him up. Everyone around me had their hands reached towards the sky, as though they were singing it to someone not there.
The final rundown of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” is hard to top in terms of ending a festival. “Where are your friends tonight / if I could see all my friends tonight” fits the melancholy feeling of an epic festival weekend being punctuated.
Kendrick Lamar shows what a hip-hop headliner should be
It would have been impossible to believe someone the stature of Kendrick would headline this city fest that started at the Echo / Echoplex. After a decade-and-a-half, it’s amazing the festival has been able to pick peculiar lineups without crossing all the way over into the mainstream. Will this year be the tipping point, with one of hip-hop’s best in Kendrick closing out the first night?
Kendrick showed up 15 minutes late and ended much earlier than his allotted two hours, but I don’t think anyone expected Kdot to play 120 minutes. The time he did spend on stage cemented him as one of the two or three best live rappers. There’s no question that his performance was light years better than Drake’s disappointing Coachella run last year. It’ll be Kendrick we see in Indio before it is Drake again anytime soon.
I had seen Kendrick a couple times last year after his masterful To Pimp a Butterfly dropped. But at festival stops at Sasquatch and Life is Beautiful, I didn’t see him favor the new album too much. It was as though he wasn’t confident enough the material would go over well with a (statistically white) festival audience. But this time around, Kendrick did favor the new album. Eight songs from it came while he also dipped his toe into material from the quietly brilliant untitled unmastered. The version of “Levitate” he did from that recent album was very much punched up and a bigger banger than the original.
The crowd seemed surprisingly subdued during parts of the set, perhaps not as in tune with the TBAP material than his Good Kid M.A.A.D. City record. They didn’t get to hear “Fuckin’ Problems” in favor of songs like “Institutionalized,” “Momma,” and even “For Free?” — the interlude-like track that shows just how fast Kendrick can spit bars when he wants to. At the same time, Kendrick did 22 songs on Saturday when at Sasquatch and Life is Beautiful he got through maybe half that.
The imagery on screen behind Kendrick was eye-catching. Multiple clips of Mike Tyson knocking people out. The Inside Edition clip of Bill O’Reilly losing his shit (“This fuckin’ thing sucks!”) interspersed with Snoop Dogg sitting in a courtroom. A loop of Pam Grier undressing caught everyone’s attention. But Kendrick didn’t use any gimmicks, like Drake did when his Coachella stage produced rain to hide his tears. At 29, Kendrick is older than most rappers were when they peaked but this performance told me he’s just getting started.