After smoothly making our way into LA’s Exposition Park for Day One of FYF Fest (aside from getting my perfume confiscated), we set about exploring the massive festival space, which comprises four major stages—Main, Lawn, Trees and Arena—and a new Woods Stage, which featured all-day-long DJ sets by Horse Meat Disco underneath shiny, colorful tassels. Throughout the day, I ate one artisanal ice pop, saw two giant inflatable emojis (an eggplant and a ghost), caught three guest appearances (including Frances Quinlan of Hop Along with Joyce Manor, and Rihanna with Kanye), investigated four vegan food vendors (maybe Morrissey will eat there?), saw five homemade T-shirts making fun of Kanye and got to catch countless live music shows. Here are a few highlights:
La Femme – Trees Stage
La Femme’s electro-surf, post-punk grooves are most infectious live—their psychedelic synth, bopping melodies and oohs and aahs, paired with pounding beats and heavy rhythms, ignited an electrified dance party at the sunny Trees Stage. The Biarritz-based group wasted no time in getting the audience going with three synth players lined up across the stage and one energetic hit after the next. Singer/synth player Clémence Quélennec sported chic dance moves, a white jumpsuit and a black beret, which she eventually took off to the audience’s cheers. Her fellow synth player gave the performance an entertaining stylistic and visual twist in sky-blue illustration-covered pants, holographic sunglasses and several dance breaks featuring some serious voguing. By the time La Femme made their way into the synth interlude of “Nous Étions Deux,” the catchy choruses of “Sur La Planche” and the twanging, trancelike “Antitaxi,” La Femme had easily captivated the audience with their collective charm.
Melody’s Echo Chamber – Lawn Stage
Until I saw Melody’s Echo Chamber live, it never occurred to me just how fitting the name is for the French psychedelic-pop project, whose straight-out-of-a-dream sound combines laidback ’60s melodies with gentle, layered reverb. Despite a few issues with her earpiece in the beginning, the lovely chanteuse, Melody Prochet, crooned mellow and sun-kissed melodies as the hottest time of day passed by. Those on the outskirts of the Lawn Stage sat down to enjoy the closed-eye sounds of the group’s spacey synth and easy, fuzzed-out guitar. The oft-made comparisons to Tame Impala are fitting (after all, Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker did produce Melody’s Echo Chamber’s debut album), particularly during the outfit’s pleasantly long and relaxed instrumental interludes, which, in sunny and breezy 80-degree weather, were so easy to get lost in.
Run the Jewels – Main Stage
It’s been a whirlwind, tour-heavy year for Killer Mike and El-P—who last week performed in SLC for the Twilight Concert Series and were recently interviewed by Banksy—but Killer Mike and El-P won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Drawing one of the largest crowds of the night, the pair performed their no-bullshit hip hop in front of a giant screen blaring the signature Run the Jewels hand signal and album cover. Run the Jewels’ undeniably crossover brand of hip hop brought the rowdy, diverse and enormous crowd to life, accentuated by guest appearances by Zack de la Rocha (Rage Against the Machine), Travis Barker (Blink-182) and Gangsta Boo (Three 6 Mafia). Throughout the night, the two were quick to express their gratitude and disbelief at their sudden rise to fame as “two underground rappers,” to which the audience raised their arms—“stuck in a fist and a gun position”—and saluted Killer Mike and El-P.
Savages – Trees Stage
More than one crowd member was shrieking “Savages! Jehnny Beth!” before the London-based band’s set, and Beth—the group’s unabashed and dynamic singer/frontwoman—only left us shrieking for the rest of the festival. Under the harsh glare of white spotlights and stage fog, the four-piece, dressed in their signature head-to-toe black, launched into a hard and blistering performance. The group was whirling and unstoppable onstage, with bassist Ayse Hassan and drummer Fay Milton locked in to set the severe and hard-hitting foundations for each song. The first part of the set was devoted to the band’s upcoming album—“We’ll play the hits later,” growled Beth. In one new song, the band moved toward a more distorted, noise rock soundscape than their usual. In another, Beth’s vocal acrobatics took center stage as the singer leapt from part playful, part macabre shrieks to low, guttural rasps. As usual, each song starts fiercely and then somehow only manages to increasingly intensify to the end—the same can be said for the show. By the end, Beth had cemented herself as a goddess onstage when she jumped offstage, mic in hand, and began to walk on top of—not into—the crowd. A few feet in, she balanced precariously and sang on what could only have been some audience members’ hands before leaping across and crowd surfing her way back to the stage, keeping the screaming energy alive and launching into crowd favorite “She Will,” securing themselves as my favorite show of Day One.
The Jesus and Mary Chain – Trees Stage
The Jesus and Mary Chain have had a busy FYF Fest—and Psychocandy tour—following two nights of LA performances at The Fonda as one of the final acts of Day One. Saying nothing as they made their way onto the stage and into a sea of smoke—it’s all about the music—the band immediately kicked off into “Just Like Honey,” sending fuzzed-out waves of drenched warmth from the stage and to the swooning audience members, who sang along with Jim Reid’s airy and pristine voice, swaying to the lush, surprisingly laden and massive sound of Psychocandy. The bright and colorful backlighting gave the show a bit of an obscured and vintage edge as the band played the influential 1985 album from start to finish and then went on to play harder-hitting hits “Head On,” “Blues From a Gun” and “Reverence.” The Jesus and Mary Chain shattered the night sky, closing out Day One of FYF Fest with their jarring guitar, echoing reverb and lulling noise-pop to a spellbound, star-struck audience.
FYF Fest 2015 takes place Aug. 22 and 23 at the LA Memorial Sports Arena & Exposition Park. For more information, visit fyffest.com.