Los Angeles often gets a bad rap outside of California as a haven for both smog and snobbiness. Yet the skies were clear and the people were lively at the sold out 10th anniversary edition of FYF Fest (formerly known as Fuck Yeah Festival), held just outside the city’s downtown skyline. The metropolis has been long regarded as a punk powerhouse, and the 2013 lineup boasted the legacy of house shows and three-guitar onslaughts, through performers as diverse as Thee Oh Sees and the intensity of Death Grips. And of course, My Bloody Valentine. Who says this isn’t the City of Angels?
The terrifying mosh pit at Thee Oh Sees
Neither dust storms nor fists deterred a crowd of loyal noise enthusiasts from bringing FYF down to its knees at Thee Oh Sees’ raucous set on Saturday night. The Bay Area natives, well-known for their meaty surf-punk bass riffs, drew one of the most terrific and terrifying audiences at FYF, spurred by the onslaught of singles like the rollocking “Dead Energy”. Led by ringleader John Dwyer’s yelps and whoops, there wasn’t a single person standing still in the audience, even the fashionable attendees could be seen unconsciously busting a move. For almost an hour, our vision was impaired by strangers’ limbs flailing in every direction and crowdsurfers grazing heads. –Paula Mejia
Les Savy Who?
Post-hardcore rockers Les Savy Fav had the unfavorable opportunity of going head to head with Letterman trainwreck, MGMT. As a result, a smaller-than-usual crowd showed up for the group’s prickly guitars and the eccentricity and slanted fashion sense of singer Tim Harrington. The portly theatrical wunderkind tore through a number of bizarre outfits, ranging from rainbow colored dashikis, to Seguin tank tops, while the band blasted through songs like The Sweat Descends and The Equestrian. Similar to the surprising physical endurance of the late Chris Farley, Harrington managed to jump off stepladders, crowd surf while singing, spit beer on everyone, and steal a security guards hat with his teeth. People go to these festivals to be entertained; Harrington went above and beyond such an expectation, making every other performer’s job that much harder. –Ted Maider
Growing old with The Breeders’ Last Splash
“I thought this was called the Fuck You Fest!” Kim Deal yelled playfully from the mainstage. The Freudian slip wasn’t exactly accurate: She was staring at a choice evening sky and thousands of people who grew up with Last Splash on their tape deck. Seasoned from the pivotal album’s 20th anniversary tour, The Breeders exhibited a masterful grasp on their early material with standouts including the throbbing bounces of “I Just Want to Get Along” and “Do You Love Me Know” (a “blues song” performed by Kelley Deal, as said by Kim). Cue the violin-laced sways of “Drivin’ on 9” with the gradual onset of the early evening golden hour — in the Golden State, no less and you couldn’t help but feel a certain lightness. –Paula Mejia
Karen O’s stage antics at Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Only Karen O could make a headlamp, a rainbow-studded cape, and knee-high pink socks look like optimal festival attire. Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ engaging front woman pranced around the stage with triumph, interspersing enough of her own coy personality to keep audiences guessing. It wasn’t an easy night for the microphone, which was swung about like a lasso and beaten to death like a crash test dummy. Nearby, guitarist Nick Zinner handled the tension that lodges the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ songs in its fans’ throats, while drummer Brian Chase couldn’t stop grinning as he thrashed along to Fever to Tell‘s “Date With The Night” and the title track off this year’s weak effort, Mosquito. To be fair, we couldn’t keep the giddy smiles to ourselves either, especially with the enduring twinge that “Maps” will always leave upon our hearts. –Paula Mejia
The Locust stole the weekend
If you recall Cluster One, we can only shrug. If you actually remember our comedy series, No Cover, we commend you. And if you recall the episode where Randy and Marshall discuss how The Locust is one of the worst bands of all time, we’re giving you a standing ovation. Anyways, at a glance, anybody could agree with Randy and Marshall. After all, this is a band that prides itself on non-melodic, non-traditional, and undecipherable songs. But Ill be damned if it wasnt the best show I caught this weekend. Following a costume-less soundcheck, the San Diego grindcore act returned in their trademark full-body nylon suits and proceeded to burn FYF to the ground. Who knows what they played, but every minute and a half burst was a shot of adrenaline with a rusty, blood-stained needle. Needless to say, we were fucking terrified. –Ted Maider
Otherwordly vibes at the Melvins
When Buzz Osborne walked out on stage in a half-cape, we knew we were in for a set that wouldn’t disappoint. But rarely do you encounter a gig that expands past traditional terrestrial paradigms, and towards other universes. Deserved hyperbole: Melvins aren’t from this galaxy. Their two-drum assault and bass guitar stomps sound akin to a violin, sludging through crashes and thrashes, and then there’s Osborne’s god forsaken hair. Their FYF set played to all of these facets. Never one to pass up an opportunity for antics, drummer Dale Crover leapt from behind his set and maniacally hula-hooped for the audience. Thankfully, the two drummers left us at the end of the set, although slack-jawed and wide-eyed, with a marvelous drum solo flourish. In “Melvin” this means dropping the mic and walking away. –Paula Mejia
Death Grips showing up
Following the PR disaster (or miracle?) that was Death Grips at Lolla 2013, their appearance at FYF Fest surged ahead as one of the most hyped events of the festival. And after the band went out of their way to post on Facebook, FYF SAT AUG 24 2013 LOS ANGELES, it was clear things weren’t going to go awry again. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.
Death Grips started things off by opening the gates of hell; more specifically, one nightmarish sound check from drummer Zach Hill. Seconds after, MC Ride rose to the occasion, tossing around sonic high kicks on an exhausted, sweat-crusted crowd. The proverbial strings were pulled on their arms, though, once the tenacious rhythms of “Get Got” stalked about.
From there, tracks like “Lost Boys” and “No Love” kept the mosh pits fresh and terrifying, peaking with the sordid set-closing trifecta of Ive Seen Footage, Hacker, and Lock Your Doors. All three caused the dust to kick up one final time on Saturday night. –Ted Maider
Bradford Cox, Deerhunter, and a black wig
Atlanta dream-punk quartet Deerhunter is notorious for their occasional erratic behavior onstage, almost as much as their ability to leave a crowd collectively swooning. Lead vocalist Bradcord Cox was clad in a leopard-dress and a black wig, visibly more comfortable with performing tracks from his latest stunner Monomania. The transitions in between songs were almost an art unto itself, with the plucky “Sleepwalking” flowing into the lyrically wrenching “Back to the Middle” like they were never separated in the first place. The material wasn’t all in promotion of the new record, though. The blues-scuffed “Saved By Old Times” made a welcome appearance to an already stunning set. –Paula Mejia
Not Black Flags hometown festival gig
We are not Black Flag, Keith Morris so eloquently told Los Angeles before launching into, yes, several Black Flag tracks off the band’s First Four EPs. But, he’s right. FLAG are not Black Flag. Black Flag was a dirty, gritty, and revolutionary band from decades ago. What festivalgoers caught was a set consisting of five punk veterans, who still rock out to songs that never saw the light of day within the realm of commercial music. Regardless, to hear songs like Revenge, Nervous Breakdown, and Six Pack in the original bands hometown, at a crowded festival no less, was still pretttty cool. It made several young punks childhood dreams come true. However, I guess when it comes to reunions like this, one must ask, Where do we draw the line? –Ted Maider
My Bloody Valentine.
Sunday night was rife with rumors about Dublin’s most elusive noise export, My Bloody Valentine. Apparently, the volume would be so powerful that nearby windows were said to blow out completely. Frontman Kevin Shields would hold down the same chord for 30 minutes, and sometimes people would vomit with the repetition combined with volume. The businesses downtown, far past the festival, were said to be able to hear the set as though listening through their own headphones. Of everything, only one thing actually proved to be true: the earplugs gratuitously thrown into the last standing crowd were manna from the shoegaze heavens themselves.
There are certain shows that change the way you process entertainment, and then there are certain shows that change you fundamentally. My Bloody Valentine’s performances draw from both senses of wonder: you think about sound in terms of its deeper implications. You hear these songs as they bounce off different parts of your body: “Come In Alone” swells through your clavicle, new album track “Only Tomorrow” is felt through the rumble in your diaphragm that would be your voice if only you could speak in that moment.
Kicking off the set was the whimpering slide guitar of “I Only Said” bursting with bravado. Loveless cut “When You Sleep” was sped up slightly, creating an effect that evoked more of a dance than a drone-steeped sway. True to legend, the PA system wasn’t able to handle the full MBV experience. Halfway through the growling “Only Shallow”, the sound cut out, only to cut out again near the end. The band took an intermission due to sound problems, which unfortunately returned during the assailing “Feed Me With Your Kiss” and impeded Debbie Googe’s bass-driving rhythms. All sound issues aside, nothing could detract from the lucidity of clincher “You Made Me Realise”. Even after the band retreated from the stage, a collective reverence maybe even pity and fear of what we had just experienced could be felt almost as violently as the tinnitus already overtaking our damaged eardrums. And we loved it. –Paula Mejia
Photographer: Jennifer Botello, Ted Maider