FYF Fest @ Los Angeles State Park 09.03

Posted September 9, 2011 in

Broken Social Scene at FYF. Photo: Todd Seelie
As I drive into downtown Los Angeles, it is 2 p.m. on September 3, Labor Day weekend 2011, I am several hours later than I want to be to the music festival I am covering for SLUG, and I am still spinning from the previous night spent in Las Vegas. To say that my experience in Vegas was Fear & Loathing-esque might be a stretch, but it certainly had its similarities and I am still trying to shake the stars out of my head.

As I approach Los Angeles State Park by foot and am corralled into the eighth annual FYF Music Festival, I feel that rush of excitement that can only be experienced at a music festival. Though this is my first time at FYF (formerly known as Fuck Yeah Festival) it definitely has a reputation that precedes it. It was pronounced to be a “punk� festival, which may be so, but only in the most general sense of the word. If there is a binding a characteristic to this year’s something-for-everyone grab bag of artists, it is an insistence to play by their own rules.

In my current state there are few sounds that could rouse me to dance, in any fashion of the word, but once I get through the gate and find the appropriate stage, Madeline Follin’s voice and the accompanying band Cults are the catalyst that accomplishes just that. Cults look like children as they play, jumping and dancing like they’re at a food fight. The audience doesn’t quite seem to be reciprocating. That is, until the song “Go Outside,� at which point most everyone’s too-cool-for-school façade gave way to Follin’s intoxicating vocal melody. Despite the long day of listening I have ahead of me, it is this song that will stick in my head for the remainder of the day.

With one great performance behind me, it is time to figure out the layout of the park, which has five stages, each named after one of the Ninja Turtles and Splinter. I wonder for a moment if each stage is curated by its respective turtle/rat, but this is not likely since they are fictional characters. I find that there are plenty of amenities offered, from the famous Spicy Pie pizza (which lives up to its reputation of being excellent, but is curiously mild in spice) to water to toilets. This is comforting since reports from previous years at this festival had said these basic needs were difficult to satisfy. The food has a pretty good sized line, but that aside, this is a very comfortable festival to be at.

After lunch I head to Raphael’s Stage to catch The Weakerthans. Their toe-tapping folk rock is the biggest contrast to the punk concept on this year’s bill. They are regular-looking, middle-aged guys and present a pretty, lucid set of music utilizing vibraphones, tuning forks and lap steel that somehow matches both the amber light falling on the audience and the Metro train rolling by in the background every several minutes.

Next I jet over to Leonardo’s Stage, which houses most of the big names of the festival. Cold War Kids have already started playing their hip, fully danceable piano rock tunes. The sea of hipster kids sporting fake Ray Bans, Day of the Dead tats, high-waisted something-or-others and cut-offs is swaying and mouthing along the words. As the band kicks up their most recognizable song, “Hang Me Up To Dry,� it is as though the crowd’s whispers involuntarily rise in volume until there are thousands hollering along to the repetitive chorus. Next up is Broken Social Scene. The rumor circulating around is that Feist will be joining the band once again for some of their last shows before an indefinite hiatus. Half of that proves to be true. I never see Feist, but the band announces that this is going to be their last show in Los Angeles “for a very long time.� That being said, they proceed to absolutely kill it. They open with three songs from their classic record, You Forgot It In People: “Cause = Time,� “Late Nineties Bedroom Rock For The Missionaries� and “Shampoo Suicide,� then move on to a cover of Modest Mouse’s “The World At Large.� The crowd is right with them, and as they near the close of their set, it is likely that thousands of onlookers found a metaphor in the setting sun behind the performance. After what seems like their last song, they are allowed an encore, and they thankfully choose their epic closer, “It’s All Gonna Break.� Though I would’ve been glad to call it a night right there, I head over to catch the second half of the Girls set. This is a different brand of rock, built on a foundation of lush organs and tempered drum rhythms and adorned with bright, gospel-style backup vocals. Frontman Christopher Owens’s blond hair is hanging down over the entirety of his face as he leads the band through dark Bowie-ish ballads. Waves of spidery lead guitar lines sporadically strike the comparatively sparse listeners as Owens, with incredibly dynamic range, springs from a whisper to a shout and then back down again without warning. It’s an exciting show, but with the sun fully set, Girls brought the cold with them.

Now I’m shivering. I was some sort of idiot and didn’t think to bring a jacket. I decide I at least have to catch the legendary post punk band Guided By Voices before I retreat. This is, after all, a punk festival, right? As I once again approach the Leonardo Stage, I realize that I may not know what kind of festival this is. The mood has shifted so drastically I can’t believe I’m in the same place. Split kicks, mic twirls, badass attitude and non-stop onstage smoking are only some of the antics that have garnered GVB an intensely loyal fanbase over the last 30 years. The danger of a crowd surfer crashing down on my head is omnipresent. After half an hour of this, the novelty has worn off and I am sadly ready to call it quits.

It is the luck of those living in L.A., and those of us crazy enough to travel there, that FYF Fest continues to grow and get better at what they do every year. Don’t be surprised if you see me at the next one (with a jacket).
Broken Social Scene at FYF. Photo: Todd Seelie Cold War Kids at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie Cults at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie The five stages were named after the Nina Turtles and Splinter. Photo: Todd Seelie Waldo from Where's Waldo? at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie FYF Fest in Los Angeles. Photo: Todd Seelie Girls at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie Guided By Voices at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie The Weakerthans at FYF Fest. Photo: Todd Seelie