The Fuck Yeah Fest, aka the FYF Fest, is a rare and precious moment of convenience in the all too often inconvenient City of Angels. Located in LA State Historic Park, right in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, FYF is easily accessible to LA and many of its suburbs via public transportation. With the festival priced at a mere $100 for a two day pass, it’s about as reasonably priced of a festival as you’ll find in any major metropolitan city. And that’s not for bargain bin acts; FYF 2013 delivered rock heavyweights such as My Bloody Valentine and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
It’s an impressive haul for a festival that only a few years ago was restricted to the modest sister venues Echo and Echoplex. Now in its tenth year, FYF has ballooned into a festival that covers four stages for two days from 2 PM to 12 AM. Despite its relatively rapid growth, FYF is a well-organized and managed event. The stages were well distributed, with the largest stage isolated to the north and the three smaller stages bunched to the south. This allowed for a smooth flow of foot traffic. Two food courts provided the full range of LA cuisine, from spicy pizza to gourmet burgers to vegan Mexican. There were two beer gardens (at which patrons receive the best and most accurate “21 and over” wristband ever), which were located close enough to the stages that you could still enjoy a set while drinking your brew. Water was readily available for a reasonable $2 a bottle, but patrons could also bring their own water bottles and fill them at several water stations. While lines for the portos appeared terrifyingly long, they actually moved quickly and were well maintained.
The Breeders’ “Cannonball” (Live)
The festival still has a few flaws that may or may not be fixable. Since there was only a single entrance/exit, lines entering the festival were somewhat slow moving, and exiting the festival felt not too different from being on the 405 at rush hour when there’s a twelve car pileup. Adding a second exit could alleviate the painfully slow foot traffic at closing time. A problem inherent to the festival’s location is background noise. Several of the stages are within a stone’s throw of the LA Metro, meaning that softer acts are interrupted every 5-10 minutes by the sound of passing trains. Samantha’s Tent offered a variety of electronic and dance acts, though the massive crowds filling the tent made it less than ideal for actually moving, let alone dancing. Though I didn’t spend too much time there, the DJs I did see ranged from adequate to flat out monotonous. From what I saw, EDM is one area in which FYF still needs to hook better acts.
However, the focus of FYF is alterative and indie rock and many of those acts impressed. On Saturday, The Breeders celebrated the twenty year anniversary of their alt-rock classic Last Splash by performing the album from start to finish. Kim Deal and co. did an excellent job of capturing the blend of melody, grit and edge that makes Last Splash such a joy. The set was peppered with crowd-pleasing novelties such as the original chimes used on “Cannonball” and the original amps used on the record.
Deerhunter‘s set was a little up and down, but there were certainly more ups than downs. At times, Deerhunter’s cool, affection-less approach felt stale – especially during the more gentile moments of their set. However, when they kicked in the distortion and Bradford Cox added some bite to his vocal delivery (i.e. their grizzly rendition of the title track from their latest record, Monomania) their performance was top notch. Even better were the extensive passages of looping psychedelia and shoegaze, which were nothing short of enrapturing. Cox’s outfit also stood out—a matching black and white leopard pattern dress and shawl with a black wig—though it’s hard to decide if it was actually good or not.
My Bloody Valentine’s “When you Sleep”
The highlight of Saturday was delivered by the headliners, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose performance was spirited and fiery. Karen O was thoroughly captivating as she danced about the stage, as always, wearing a stylish outfit—this time a pair of glittery shorts marked with sharp geometric patterns, a black T-shirt peppered with gems and cutouts of various pop icons, a pink scarf and platinum blonde hair. The set balanced the band’s four records, offering three to four tracks off each. Punchy classic likes “Date with the Night” and “Rich” got the crowd riled up, but theatrical ballad “Run Away” was equally compelling. As for material from their latest record, Mosquito, the title track was wonderfully bouncy and catchy, but several of the other songs felt just as monotonous and underdeveloped live as they did on record. Still, those few blips did little to take away from what was an otherwise awesome set.
Chelsea Wolfe was, fittingly, the black sheep of FYF. In contrast to the upbeat music that characterized the weekend, Wolfe’s blend of goth rock, alt rock and electronics was not only darker, but also more profound and personal. Considering her predilection for vocal effects, it’s amazing that Wolfe’s vocal delivery felt so raw and exposed. One can really feel how much of herself Wolfe puts into her songs. This was evident not only through her vocals, but also through her expressive hand movements and facial expressions, all of which were accentuated by her gorgeous tan dress whose arms expanded like the wings of a moth. The set previewed some of the new sounds from Wolfe’s soon to be released third record, Pain is Beauty. Highlights included an aching rendition of “Ancestors, the Ancients,” and the grim and primal electro-goth piece “Feral Love.”
While punk and metal acts such as Baroness, and Flag and The Locusts gave FYF some edge, FYF was typified by upbeat, danceable rock acts that offered fun and lively sets. Washed Out, MGMT and TV on the Radio were the highlights within that cluster. For those who appreciate slightly more experimental sound, Yo La Tango delivered with extensive jams marked by epic buildups and elaborate, psyched-out, guitar solos.
My Bloody Valentine was by far the biggest and most iconic act at FYF. Their set yielded the most memorable moments of the festival, at first for the right reasons and then for the wrong ones. When MBV performs live the audience doesn’t so much hear the music as they exist within it. The performance is so deep, loud and textured that it consumes every last bit of sonic space. The numerous rhythms and melodies pulsate through your body, somehow staying in perfect synchronicity. MBV kicked the set off with classics from Loveless such as “I Only Said” and “When You Sleep” before shifting into some of the cooler, catchier tracks of their excellent new record, MBV. Then, things fell apart. The PA system suddenly started turning off and on. When it was on, various layers were missing, including the vocals and bass. Finally, Kevin Shields, who looked ready to strangle a sound engineer with his guitar cord, brought the set to a halt. After a five minute delay the group started again, roughed their way through a few more technical difficulties before the PA system was finally brought back to full force. MBV quickly put the system into full effect, most notably with the mind-bending polyrhythms and skyscraping guitars of “Wonder 2” and then ending the set with a blistering soundbath white noise. It was a redeeming ending to a rocky set.
“Technical difficulties” are words no concert promoter wants to hear, but when it happens to the biggest act of an entire festival, it’s a flat out nightmare. Certainly, the most memorable moment of FYF 2013 for many festival goers will be when the sound dropped out on MBV. It also suggests that FYF still has a way to go before it reaches full fruition. However, a single untimely blemish shouldn’t take away from the fact that FYF has developed in a legitimate festival and evaluating the weekend on the whole, there’s no reason to think it won’t be even better in the years to come!
Written by Jael Reboh
OurVinyl | Contributor