Festival Review: CoS at FYF Fest 2011


fyf fest 260x260 Festival Review: CoS at FYF Fest 2011At the start of Beetlejuice, Alec Baldwin and Geena Davis’ characters both express gratitude for the fact they are on vacation. Only seconds later do they tackle the topic that they are spending their vacation in the confines of their own home. This hardly seems like a vacation. Part of the reason we as a society go on vacation, and go to festivals for that matter, is the illusion that we are escaping reality. Festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, Sasquatch, and even stuff like Moe Down and Outside Lands do a great job of making you forget where you are. Yes, Bonnaroo is in Manchester, TN, but once you’re inside, you’re just at ‘Roo, and anything is possible. And usually, as festivals wind down, people constantly complain about “going back to reality.”

This was not a feeling one would experience at FYF Festival, the single-day punk/indie/electronic event in downtown LA (to be more specific, Chinatown), held in the Los Angeles State Park. This park is a small plot of grass and trees smack-dab in the middle of the city. While the view of downtown is quite radical (much like All Points West and NYC), the immediate scenery is not so breathtaking. Storage facilities and homes surround the entire venue, and the Metro drove by one of the stages every few moments. Speaking of the stages, they were very close together (two literally next to one another), and the sound bled many times. There were also very busy roads that stretched behind the stages, with billboards for McDonalds and Contagion, and at one point the entire main stage crowd got to watch somebody get pulled over by the LAPD. This is LA alright.

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Photo by Ted Maider

But sometimes, people don’t go to a show to “escape”; sometimes, they just want to hear some good tunes. With that in mind, one could not have asked for anything better. The sun was out, summer was drawing to a close, and the bands on the bill were a great combination. Indeed, their sets were short, but this is the kind of show where short sets are alright. Bands like No Age, OFF!, and the Descendents could play a wide variety of songs in the time they were given. (The Descendents had the longest set of ONE HOUR.) Meanwhile, electronic groups like YACHT and Four Tet got slightly longer sets to deliver the danceable goods. It should also be noted that each stage was named after one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and I personally am a sucker for my childhood memorabilia. Sometimes, it is what is inside the festival that counts.

Basically, what it comes down to is FYF Festival was a really tasty sandwich with all the right ingredients. It just had some stale bread…

-Ted Maider
Media Specialist

Purity Ring – Splinter’s Den – 2:00 p.m.

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Photo by Jason Benitez 

Purity Ring kicked the music end of things off in Splinter’s Den, which doubled as FYF’s stand-up comedy tent, with their gauzy brand of electronica that paired Corin Roddick’s snapping beats and chilling samples with Megan James’ dreamy vocals. Though glacial singles “Lofticries” and “Ungirthed” sounded a tad out of place in the extremely crowded, 90-degree tent, the duo didn’t miss a beat for the length of their criminally short 30-minute set. -Möhammad Choudhery

Cass McCombsRaphael’s Stage – 2:25 p.m.

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Photo by Jason Benitez 

Californian troubadour Cass McCombs is hardly a newcomer to the scene: he’s got five stellar albums to his name, and has toured with the likes of Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Modest Mouse, and Arcade Fire. With the release of his latest record, Wits’ End, though, McCombs finally seems to be getting his due share of the attention. His early-afternoon performance at FYF showed precisely why, as he and his four-piece band strode through a set heavy on cuts from the new LP, as well as newer tracks, such as the driving “The Same Thing”, off of the forthcoming Humor Risk. -Möhammad Choudhery

The Head and the Heart – Leonardo’s Stage – 2:35 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

This was the kind of set that any hot festival could use during the daytime. Seattle-based band The Head and the Heart came out when the sun was at its hottest, but their mellow blend of acoustic indie/blues was just what the crowd needed. The three vocalists constantly harmonized and shifted melodies with one another, while violinist Charity Thielen struck the right notes to improve everybody’s morale. People sang along, and some even rocked the hell out, but all the while, the band maintained their cool while delivering a solid show. Tracks like “Ghosts” didn’t just mellow people out but hypnotized them as well. -Ted Maider

OFF! – Donatello’s Stage – 3:35 p.m.

The problem with the vast majority of old-school punks is that they constantly are trying to reform their bands and relive the good old days. Personally, I blame Steven Blush (author and director of American Hardcore), but far too many bands from that era are trying to come back in half-assed form because they are now “important.” This is exactly what makes Keith Morris’s (of Black Flag and Circle Jerks) new project, OFF!, all the more liberating. Morris is still Morris, running around onstage, his dreads flying around like a psychotic squid. The energy of OFF! was unparalleled to the majority of shows that day, and fans moshed excessively while screaming the words. Morris might someday go down as one of the most advanced punks ever, taking everything he’s done for years and making it sound fresh to death. -Ted Maider

Japandroids – Michelangelo’s Stage – 4:15 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

There is one word I could use to sum up everything about Japandroids’ performance: loud. Before OFF! had even finished their set, Brian King could be heard next door making extremely loud and unnecessary guitar noises while he sound checked. When the band came on (about five minutes later), they were ready to rock. They expelled loads of energy, as King literally was sweating out his own body weight while screaming along to tracks like “Younger Us”. The vocals were smothered in guitar sounds but gradually improved. It didn’t matter, though. It was hot and loud, and one situation needed to be rectified immediately. -Ted Maider

Cults – Leonardo’s Stage – 4:40 p.m.

With a highly acclaimed self-titled debut behind them, NYC rockers Cults have been tearing shit up at clubs and festivals the world over. Their set Saturday afternoon was no exception, as the duo of Madeline Follin and Brian Oblivion ripped through most of the record with the help of a three-piece backing band. Follin’s huge voice contrasted well with Oblivion’s low baritone, as the two traded verses and choruses throughout the set. Plus, they deserve extra points for taking the stage to the Twin Peaks theme music. -Möhammad Choudhery

Cold War Kids – Leonardo’s Stage – 5:45 p.m.

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Photo by Jason Benitez 

Though their set leaned heavily towards songs off of this year’s forgettable Mine is Yours, the Cold War Kids threw in tracks off of their brilliant first two records to please the hometown crowd. Frontman/guitarist Nathan Willett led the band through the bluesy stomps of “I’ve Seen Enough” and “We Used to Vacation”, both of which inspired huge singalongs, while set highlights “Hang Me Up to Dry”, “Hospital Beds”, and “Something is Not Right With Me” warranted some of the loudest cheers of the afternoon. -Möhammad Choudhery

No Age – Michelangelo’s Stage – 6:00 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

No Age was the one act I was particularly excited for. Hailing from Los Angeles with three very unique albums, the duo took the stage as the daylight was winding down. The band launched into a musical assault on the crowd, and everyone took their beatings happily. No Age is talented enough, interesting enough, and now from viewing their 40-minute show, energetic enough to get a bigger crowd/show. They tricked out a vast range of songs from their career, including live gems like “Fever Dreaming”, “Depletion”, and “Teen Creeps”. All the while, fans were thrashing about and crowd surfing. And towards the end, when they played “Eraser”, it seemed like all bets were off. Now, let’s throw about three or four thousand more people in the crowd and see how that goes. Either that, or put them in a small club. No matter what, you’re getting a quality show. -Ted Maider

Four Tet – Donatello’s Stage – 6:50p.m.

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Photo by Jason Benitez 

Even as it’s been a bit of a low-key year for Four Tet (aka Kieran Hebden), his forthcoming sixth full-length, as well as his collaboration with Burial and Thom Yorke for a couple of 2011’s best tracks so far were enough to make for one of the most anticipated sets of the day. Hebdan showed up big on Saturday evening, leaning heavily on tracks off of last year’s There is Love in You. The set was marked by a distinctly keen edge, as the beat-master continually lulled the audience into a mesmerized awe before letting loose bursts of percussion. The producer’s inimitable sense of style was as present as ever too, as he drifted easily between an array of jazz, folk, and classical accompaniment. –Möhammad Choudhery

Broken Social Scene – Leonardo’s Stage – 7:05 p.m.

Broken Social Scene seems to be one of those bands. They have played almost every west coast festival in the past year or so and always seem to do so at the same time (dusk). This show was nothing short of all the other shows they have played. They declared they were playing “Texaco Bitches” quite loudly (as per usual) and played a number of their other songs like “Shampoo Suicide” and “7/4 (Shoreline)”. Most notable though was their shout-out to “our generation” by covering Modest Mouse’s “The World at Large”, which seemed appropriate at the just-post-sunset hour. However, I think they should have left that one to Isaac Brock, though… -Ted Maider

Girls – Michelangelo’s Stage – 7:45 p.m.

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Photo by Jason Benitez 

Though we’re still a couple of weeks off from the release of their second full-length, all signs point to even loftier heights yet for San Francisco’s Girls. Father, Son, Holy Ghost lead single “Vomit” was already one of the year’s best tracks before they rendered its haunted tension perfectly just after sunset on Saturday night. Further previews came in the form of the dazzling “My Ma”, and Holy Ghost‘s sugary-sweet opener, “Honey Bunny”. “Laura”, “Lust for Life”, and, of course, the rousing, truly life-affirming “Hellhole Ratrace” were offered up as big reminders of the strength of their first LP, Album. Even though they’ve only got two records and an EP to their name, Girls played as if they had a storied career to draw on, frontman Christopher Owens cutting an intense character as he coolly ripped through the fervent electricity of the aforementioned “Vomit” and the smooth doo-wop of set closer “Morning Light” with the same sort of veteran deftness. -Möhammad Choudhery

YACHT – Raphael’s Stage – 7:50 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

The Raphael Stage was by far the smallest of the festival, but it also had the most cramped quarters. This is what made YACHT’s set all the more enticing. People literally packed in tight to catch a glimpse of the sci-fi, disco-punk icons who will soon start selling out huge venues. (So, see them now before they turn into LCD Soundsystem.) Singer Claire Evans arrived onstage sporting her usual all-white attire and immediately began to strut along the monitors, belting out songs like “Beam Me Up” and “Paradise Engineering”. She ran around in circles with the mic stand leaning against her face, she climbed amps, and she did strange hand signals to keep everyone in check. All the while, the crowd raged on, chanting every word and dancing nonstop. YACHT is certainly on their way to owning one of their own. -Ted Maider

Nosaj Thing – Raphael’s Stage – 8:50 p.m.

Equal parts ambient beatsmith and bass maestro, Jason Chung, aka Nosaj Thing, repped LA’s beat scene big time Saturday night, with an expansive set jam-packed with choice cuts from his own body of work, along with a ton of selections from the many stellar remixes he has to his name. Among them was a rumbling rework of the Portishead classic “Wandering Star”, Flying Lotus’s “Camel”, and his own wordlessly beautiful “Aquarium”. Chung kept the crowd on its toes, moving without warning from warm synth washes into bass-heavy, dancefloor workouts. Oh, and all that happened while he worked his own visuals. Wild applause goes here. -Möhammad Choudhery

Simian Mobile Disco – Michelangelo’s Stage – 9:35 p.m.

The British production duo of James Ford and Jas Shaw were the closest thing FYF had to a big-name, straight-up electro act. Playing in front of a ceaselessly flashing honeycomb LED setup, Simian Mobile Disco proved to be relentless performers, bludgeoning their audience into submission with a selection of their club-pop hits. “Hustler”, “Aspic”, and the flawless “Audacity of Huge”, which stars Yeasayer’s Chris Keating on vocal duties, all made the final cut. The London-based duo didn’t let up for an instant, working their fully-analog setup for all it was worth, cramming back-to-back-to-back bangers into their set, inducing dancing so wild that it (when coupled with the park’s dry ground and the occasional gust of wind) swept up a mini-Dust Bowl of sorts; not that anyone seemed to notice. SMD closed things out with their Beth Ditto-featuring rave up “Cruel Intentions”. –Möhammad Choudhery.

The Descendents – Leonardo’s Stage – 9:40 p.m.

Writer’s Anecdote: Just before the band came out, a punk-rock looking audience member tapped me on the shoulder in the photo pit. He asked, “Do you even listen to the Descendents?”

My reply? “I want to be stereotyped… I want to be classified.”

fyfdescendents2 Festival Review: CoS at FYF Fest 2011The Descendents were the one band most people were very excited about seeing. While some of their original members are gone, their one mascot still remains quite intact: Milo Aukerman. Milo is the exact same person he was almost 30 years ago… except now he has kids. I once read a description of him as “a hyperactive nerd who drinks way too much coffee,” and this is a more-than-accurate wording. Aukerman and company rocked uber-hard, as he ran around onstage while still sporting his signature glasses. The band blasted through some of their most classic numbers like “Van”, “I Wanna Be a Bear”, “Suburban Home”, and a rendition of “Silly Girl” that brought me back to age 15.

Everyone was singing, and I mean everyone. Even the hottest girls at FYF seemed to know the lyrics to a majority of the songs. The pit got extremely bubbly during songs like “Suburban Home” and “I Like Food”. People lost their breath and shoes throughout the whole show! And to spice things up, Aukerman and company brought out their children to read off the “All-O-Gistics” off a big template. Overall, it was a fun show for any Descendents fan or any fans of just good, old-fashioned punk fun. I just hope all the moshers were able to find their shoes. -Ted Maider

Explosions in the Sky –Donatello’s Stage – 10:45 p.m.

From the moment they took the stage, it was near impossible to avoid the crash & bash of dance-punk royalty DFA 1979’s headlining simultaneous set. The noise was made even more inescapable by the soundboard’s decision to solve the issues the duo complained about all night by simply turning the volume way, way up. Austin, TX post-rockers Explosions in the Sky didn’t seem to mind, patiently churning out their sweeping, slow-burning tunes to a surprisingly sizable crowd of dewy-eyed revelers all the way across the park. Highlights came in the form of sentimental moments, notably their Friday Night Lights semi-hit “Your Hand in Mine”, and their debut Those Who Tell The Truth‘s mammoth opener, “Greet Death”. The transcendental, somehow anthemic set closer “Let Me Back In”, which made waves earlier this year as closer to their latest, Take Care, Take Care, Take Care, was permeated by bandleader Munaf Rayani’s dramatic flourishes on lead guitar. -Möhammad Choudhery

Death From Above 1979 – Leonardo’s Stage – 11:05 p.m.

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Photo by Ted Maider

Well, they did it. Death From Above 1979 headlined a festival. At the start of the year, this reunion was hyped the fuck up on the interweb. Upon their Coachella 2011 announcement, the blogosphere seemed super excited that DFA1979 was back in action. And rightfully so… they’re a sonic assault of awesome that goes straight up your ass and in your ears. They are the musical equivalent to getting beat up.

I’m sure that years from now this reunion tour will be looked at as an ultimate success, and their FYF show proves it. Both Jesse Keeler and Sebastien Grainger seemed to have developed a bit of “rock star mentality,” as they yelled about their monitors not working for a good five minutes. When they were working, though, the band was blasting us with death from their amps in 2011. The usual pickings like “Turn It Out”, “Dead Womb”, and “Going Steady” made appearances, but it was moments like “Too Much Love”, with a slowed-down, remixed, and jammy first verse, that made things interesting. DFA1979 is stepping up their game.

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Photo by Ted Maider

This reunion will be talked about for awhile, and it’s an amazing example of the internet generation calling the shots. Keeler and Grainger will now be seen as punk icons, and this is all due to a reunion announcement. Six years ago, not even half the people who were at FYF cared about them, but now they are one of the hottest and most amazing live acts touring right now. They can do one of two things: They can continue taking over planet Earth, or they can pull out. Go with option one, guys. You’re doing just fine. -Ted Maider

The Culture of FYF

Gallery by Ted Maider

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