FYF was an extraordinary melting pot of talent, genres, fans, fashion, and food.
Described by some as the “urban Coachella,” and although Goldenvoice has been a partner in the festival since 2011, FYF has an utterly unique feel. Its urban element comes from the event being nestled in the heart of downtown LA, taking place in between the California Science Center, Natural History Museum, and Memorial Coliseum. The result is a locational metaphor of the crossing between so many different influences and stylistic tastes reflected both in FYF’s lineup and fanbase. It had been five years since I stepped foot on these nostalgic grounds for a music festival (2010 when Electric Daisy Carnival still called LA home), and this was quite a divergent experience.
“Millennials” (a term that makes me shutter) have caught a lot of flack for being a self-centered generation. People harp on this culture and do not seem to understand forking over hundreds of dollars for what they see as intangible and fleeting experiences, but for music lovers around the world this is the lifeblood of existence. The opportunity to go out into a crowd of strangers, all connected by music and the urge to share meaningful experiences with thousands of people is worth forking over weeks of saved paychecks, because this is the time they feel most alive. It’s about paying their hard earned money to support a festival and artists that speak to them, and make them feel things that no physical object could. It’s an investment in themselves and the underlying messages within music and the entire idea behind FYF.
In a recent open letterto FYF founder Sean Carlson published LA Weekly before the festival, long-time fan Art Tavana lamented about the festival losing its punk-centric culture that had originally drawn attendees to FYF over a decade ago. The condescending letter takes jabs at pretty much all that is good in the world including Jason Bentley (KCRW), Flume, Solange, Shlohmo, and the blessing that is Chet Faker (so yeah, we’re pretty sure this guy needs a happy meal). He went on to complain about the walking (yeah.. at a festival), and “fucking up his vans”… (once again, you’re at a festival buddy) while still being hurt that his favorite punk bands were not on the bill. Tavana tells Carlson that he’s lost touch with what the children of Los Angeles (boy was he wrong), but he’s a great reminder that even with a jaw-dropping lineup, you can’t make everyone happy all of the time.
The LA Times posted the perfect counter to the open letter in defense of the festival, raising this question: “Could FYF Fest be the most important music festival of 2015?” They mentioned that yes, this year’s lineup lacked a traditional punk presence, but many of the festival’s main acts including Kanye West, D’Angelo, Run The Jewels, FKA Twigs, and Morrissey exhibit the core of elements of punk music: people who strongly believe in their causes and are not afraid to critique modern day culture and society in the hopes of fostering change.
People may roll their eyes when the self-proclaimed “greatest living rock star” Kanye West is brought up as one of these people, but if they quieted the noise of their eye rolls and opened up their ears to listen to what he is actually saying, they might find that he is delivering similar messages in a more accessible way to millions of people. West replacing Frank Ocean days before the festival was quickly trending across social media, showcasing just how powerful his presence truly has become. He was an obvious highlight, but here are our top moments that will forever remain engrained in our memories after leaving the grounds of FYF and returning to the real world.
Our top moments of FYF
It was my first time seeing FKA twigs, and even though I had been obsessing over her as of late, I really had no idea what I was in for. FKA Twigs closed out the festival Sunday night and it could not have ended on a better note, especially because I don’t think anyone could follower her, and I would not want anyone to have to. She was visually awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping and captivating. She performed alongside a number of dancers (she a professionally trained dancer herself) and contortionists, bringing out elements of her music videos and her celebration of the unconventionally beautiful.
For someone who commands and holds such a massive presence, the small dancer with a soft elegant British accent was a statute of bold fearless power. The generous performer took time at the end of her set to introduce all of her dancers and the members of her band.
People lost their minds when Kanye was announced as the replacement of Frank Ocean for Saturday night’s headlining set. Before he was Kanye West the 2020 presidential candidate he was just Kanye West, (which is still a lot) and somewhere in the middle he was Yeezus. But no matter the name of the day he is hands down one of the most incredible performs we have, with his undeniable stage presence and meticulously planned out stage design clearly mesmerizing the audience. Kanye seemed to be in a rare and refreshing form, smiling and jumping around the stage with a palpable lightness. Instead of his anticipated and now trademark Kanye rants, his only divergence was an impromptu melody about being too high and wondering if your buddy is a high as you during “Runaway.”
Kanye also proved that his catalog of hits is far too large to fit into a festival slot, so for the last ten minutes he played small sections of as many songs as possible with the final tally ending around seven. Special guests included the humble Rihanna, who was just trying to enjoy Kanye like the rest of us in the crowd, but was kind enough to treat us to her parts in “FourFiveSeconds” and “All of the Lights.” G.O.O.D. music affiliate Travi$ Scott joined Kanye earlier in the set, bringing his trademark energy and performing “Upper Echelon” and “Antidote.”
I thought I loved Chet Faker more than anyone until I looked over in the crowd and saw many of the people next to me with tears in their eyes. His voice penetrates into the body and souls of people and seemed to conjure a nostalgia for places we know we’ve only ever been in our dreams. He treated fans to the goddess known as Banks who came out to perform her new remix of Chet’s “1998” and it was everything.
Run The Jewels
Killer Mike and El-P AKA Run The Jewels were excited to point out to the crowd that they had their own billboard next to the festival. Their lighthearted candor and enjoyment of the process was endearing to fans, and while they rap about extremely serious and prominent issues like police brutality in “Close Your Eyes,” they wanted to deliver it in a way where the audience left feeling uplifted and empowered, rather than overwhelmed and hopeless. Their performance included many guests such as Rage Against The Machine’s Zack de la Rocha, Blink 182’s Travis Barker, and Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo who nailed the female counterpoint to a raunchy sex song “Love Again” (and we all loved it).
Flume’s set was heavy on the special guests, bringing out Miike Snow’s Andrew Wyatt to sing their collaboration “Some Minds.” And one of the most noted special guests Lorde, who showed us that you can be quirky pop star from New Zealand that just wants join Flume onstage to dance around his remix of your song “Tennis Court” there’s nothing wrong with that. You keep doing you Lorde.
Although Death Grips is not my go-to music and I can only handle so much before a little blood starts seeping from my brain, I deeply appreciate their sound and extremely unique style and saw no crowd more excited or pumped up or trying to crawl their way to the stage more than these fans (minus the girl that attempted to jump on stage for Morrissey).
Props to Morrissey for once again using his stage time as a plea to the masses on the issues around us. Morrissey performed one of his songs “Ganglord” backed by hard to watch videos of police brutality, but when you’re Morrissey and everyone one of your songs sounds like your girlfriend just told you that she hit your dog with a car on the way back from cheating on you on your birthday, you don’t really have to worry about tiptoeing around the issues in the fear of bumming a crowd out because that’s what they came for. So once again props to you, Morrissey.
I’m very bummed I missed Bloc Party as they have long been one of my favorite bands, but at this point in the night my boyfriend was chain eating popsicles in attempts to mask his uncontainable eagerness to see his idol live for the first time in his life, and I feared taking him away from the mainstage too close to Kanye’s set time would completely push him over the edge. Love is a sacrifice, but Kanye was totally worth it.
Until next year!
As an avid reader of LA CANVAS (as I know you must be), I am sure you are familiar with the vastness of our colloquial music taste here at the Clubhouse. Everything from the latest indie rock, to our hip-hop fan boys, we cover it all—and in this case, we’d like to add black metal to the mix (surprise!).
Hailing from San Francisco, Deafheaven was founded by singer George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy. They started off as duo which shortly there after became the full 5 piece that you see before you today. Reigning influences from various genres and formats within the umbrella of “metal”, the band has created a unique sound that is absolutely identifiable to only them. Sometime during their 2011-2012 tour, I had the chance to catch the guys in one of my personal favorite intimate concert settings: the basement of a punk house in the Northside of Chicago named The Albion House, and it was there where I experienced what I’d refer to as a musical epiphany. Either it was the cold winter night, lack of breathable air (this basement probably fit about 50 people, in a space meant for 20), the copious amounts of alcohol consumed from 40oz’s in paper bags or a true musical moment where the crowd really felt what was happening right in front of their eyes. I am pleased to say it was the latter situation (with maybe a little of the other mixed in).
From that point forward, Deafheaven’s music has drawn the jaws of spectators downwards into utter silence after each song as they flow seamlessly together, such as a classical masterpiece made up of a multitude of movements. The methodological build up and flow of each individual song provides not songs that you can “sing along” to, but songs that are genuinely amazing to listen to in themselves.
Fast-forward: 2 years later to 2013, the band put out their most recent album titled Sunbather. Gaining critical reviews from the likes of SPIN and Rolling Stone and general world-wide acclaim, the band has become a true example of how the hustle pays off. From the muggy and overpacked basement in Chicago to rocking the stage at FYF Fest, the band doesn’t show any sign of slowing down. During the festival, I had the chance to sit down with the band and talk shop prior to their big performance:
LA CANVAS: You guys have come a long way over the past couple years, I remember the first time I saw you guys was in a squatter house basement in Chicago.
ALL OF THEM: Oh yeah! The Albion House!
LAC: Yeah! So from there, now you are playing FYF, how does that feel?
KERRY MCCOY: It feels great, I think it has a lot to do with a lot of hard work, and non stop touring and a good healthy portion of luck.
GEORGE CLARKE: Yeah, lots of luck, definitely a lot of hard work. We’re a touring band, we do this consistently, and I think we are very mindful of our musical direction and I think if you invest enough care into it, things will sort of fall into place, with luck aside.
LAC: Did you guys think when you started that you would follow through with this genre which I see to be a mix between the melodic and metal styles?
“Lets throw this Morbid Angel influence part in here or this Radiohead influence part in here” then we all kind of just sit there and bang our heads against the wall for a couple days.
GC: The original idea years and years ago when Kerry and I were first toying around with the idea was sort of our take on post-black metal. Since then, I think our sound has evolved a lot. I wouldn’t call us that nowadays, I think that we still have that influence a lot, but we have expanded in different directions, and at this point I really know exactly what to call it, but I still feel that we are somewhat in that family that we started out originally wanting to be a part of.
LAC: With Sunbather coming out last year and being rated as one of the top metal albums of 2013, what kind of successes have you guys seen from that?
GC: I think we mostly just had a variety of people in the crowds, people you wouldn’t see before, that maybe found out about us through Rolling Stone or SPIN, or more mainstream avenues such as that. So I think seeing people that normally wouldn’t have access to that style of music.
KM: The shows have been doing really well.
GC: The shows have been going better, more interesting, more variety.
LAC: Awesome, so being that you guys are from California, I take it you guys have been to LA more than a few times now. What are some of the things you like to do while you have free time
KM: Well, George and I live here now, so most of the stuff I do while we’re not on tour is go to Cha Cha a lot, go to Brite Spot and Alcove a lot,
GC: Good food and good drinks.
STEPHAN LEE CLARK: I like going to Hollywood Amoeba, place is huge hah, so many records there.
GC: Plus our manager, lives here, so we always have a home base to hang out at.
KM: Usually when we are at home, or when in LA, which I consider to be a second home from San Francisco for the most of us, It’s just a time to relax and enjoy friends and people that we’ve gained relationships here. Nothing really out of the ordinary, just hanging.
LAC: Just to kind of wrap up, being that, at least in my opinion, your music is extremely complex and intricate, what are some of the things that go into your writing process when you guys are deciding your future tracks?
KM: It used to be me and George sitting down and working on riffs and lyrics together and bringing them to Dan. Now that we have a full band, all of us get into a room and bring various riffs to the table and get a general idea of what we are going for, i.e. “lets throw this Morbid Angel influence part in here or this Radiohead influence part in here” then we all kind of just sit there and bang our heads against the wall for a couple days. Then eventually we put it all together, and George puts his spin on that. It’s a very collaborative thing now, so a lot of heads just putting in as much as they can to get this weird product out of it all essentially.
SLC: It’s oddly very fluid
DAN TRACY: Probably from the constant touring and playing together every night for a year straight it’s easy for us to gel, and flesh songs out. We’re Cosmically in-tune.
Purchase/listen to Sunbather digitally here or pick up a vinyl copy at your favorite local record haunt.
It was after 6pm when I parked at the California Science Center. A brisk walk and 20 minutes later the familiar sonic textures of Swedish band Little Dragon’s “Klapp Klapp” slowly echoed with increased volume down Vermont as I stalked the entrance. The band closed with Only One, a slow burner from their latest album Nabuma Rubberband as I made my way toward the stage dubbed “The Lawn”. Not a second after the final note played, a few thousand people moved away from the stage in unison, creating that well known stampede like festival shuffle. Frogger.
My VIP pass and suave speech didn’t get me backstage as initially hoped. Suddenly, the band’s manager appeared out of nowhere, as if God willed it to be so. Front woman Yukimi Nagano posed for snaps with fans while patiently waiting for security to approve backstage privileges for her mom. Dead ass. Upon seeing the band, hugs and smiles circulated with talk of family and sprouting children, the lost art of making full length albums, and their recent 7 days around the world, including multiple dates in Japan, Australia, and the west coast. They were exhausted but exceedingly gracious, genuinely pleased and looking forward to more. Before being whisked away to eat and rest, Yukimi mentioned how LA’s beloved palm trees make the band feel like they’re on vacation. She then introduced me to her mother, who promptly thanked me for my support. Smile.
Stuck in Blackberry mode with a smartphone in hand, I headed toward the front to grab a program. I heard my name shouted through the crowd and spotted fellow KCRW DJ, Raul Campos. He chuckled and reminded me I could download the handy FYF app. While chasing down the rest of his posse, we attempted to catch the last of Todd Terje’s set with no luck, absorbed the ‘boom bap’ of ElP and Killer Mike’s Run The Jewels collab, toured a couple of beer gardens, and hit a pretzel stand near the main stage as Julian Casablancas & The Voidz broke into to some classic punk bass lines and David Byrne tinged vocal inflections. “Hipsters Don’t Kill” was a friends comment after I mentioned feeling safer than usual at an LA event. All guffawed. We discussed pros and cons, like the opportunity for better organization, more art and whimsy, but mostly expressed sentiments of pride and appreciation being this was the first FYF at the Sports Arena.
We trekked back around, hoping to peep English shoegazers Slowdive. On the way I ended up meeting a cousin I never knew. Long story, small world. My new cuz and I exchanged info before we parted ways. The rest of my time was spent being indecisive about food trucks, soaking up Tycho’s modulated waves of bliss, and enjoying some rare psych rock selections from KCRW’s Travis Holcombe from the main stage. Would I do it again? F Yeah.
Photos by: Eric Reid
Tim Biskup‘s latest solo exhibit at the Martha Otero Gallery titled “Charge” is a collection of multi-layered explosive colorful paintings ranging in different sizes, from the very small to the very large and wide. One of the larger pieces has already been exhibited at FYF Fest, where people were encouraged to stick their faces in the cut-out holes and take photos. This interactive playfulness comes across in all of Tim’s paintings.
The L.A. born and raised artist has an extensive background working at various animation studios including the Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney. His paintings, however, cross over being simply described as cartoons. They are highly detailed experimental works of art that allow the viewer’s eyes to spend time roaming through all of the jovial characters and multiple patterned backgrounds.
Tim is a long time fan of punk rock. It’s an aggressive style of music that sometimes comes across as snotty and juvenile. This can also be used to described his paintings, which is why it’s not surprising that the exhibit would be titled “Charge”. It comes at you with a teenager’s attitude; full of energy, curiosity, and youth.
The exhibit runs from now until November 2nd.