If you read Twitter or some of the more surly reviews of 2014’s FYF Fest, you might think it was a festival run in hell, operated by Satan, where attendees were denied water, food, chances to hear the music they wanted, and forced to walk miles between stages. And you’d be lying if you said the festival didn’t have some problems with their first year at the Park at the L.A. Coliseum. A quick rundown: way too far between the farthest stages, with much of the walking on concrete, which takes its toll. Impossibly huge Day One line. Fire code or capacity issues with the arena, which, though beautiful and great to be in, made it inaccessible to most of the people in attendance. Food prices now the same as any other festival and not enough options, with most places running out of most everything.
Yeah, those weren’t small issues, but it does keep with the FYF tradition of being punk rock in its setup and a little shit-showish at times. The upside has always been incredible music, great people, a beautiful day, and a vibe that just says fuck it and have fun the best way you can. For most, it is hard to think that mentality didn’t win out. And if it didn’t, you should probably lighten up and realize that not seeing Darkside or Angel Olsen isn’t going to ruin your life. Speaking as someone who missed both and wanted to see both more than anything, trust me, life goes on; the other music was good, too.
In all, 35 bands and artists were witnessed in some capacity. None were bad, and only a few were maybe regrettable decisions. Among those we missed, Darkside was apparently amazing, as was Kindness and Caribou. Those we did see, well, we ranked from worst to best. Argue in the comments.
Best Way to Start Your Day
You may have heard, but FYF had a little trouble getting people in the door to start Saturday, so Connan Mockasin had an appropriate early slot, as they were the most missable band of the 35 or so we caught. So chilled out they were virtually non-present, except for the distinctive looks of the band members that announced the “psych” influences much more than the music did. By no means bad, but hard to get what the hype is about.
Best Wasted Opportunity
Tanlines took the nearly sunset main stage performance to mean they should open with mostly new material, which lost a lot of the attention that their modest audience gave them. After the band members seemingly joked about the audience’s lack of enthusiasm, they finally played one of their handful of crowd-pleasers, “Brothers”, and instantly woke up the eager-to-be-pleased fans.
Least Main Stage-Ready
A theme among the weakest acts was pushing the chill without pushing much else to latch onto. Demarco went into the crowd, cracked jokes, and made the ladies swoon, but he really didn’t try to make anyone feel anything beyond distracted while minutes passed.
Best Impression of the Audience
That picture explains Real Estate better than anyone has ever explained Real Estate. (But seriously, we should have a caption contest or something for this one)
Best Set We Missed Only to Run into the Band in the Crowd Later On
This is the part of the article where most everything that follows was worth seeing, but we missed Man Man, which is a bummer, but Honus Honus (or “Ryan”) was nice enough to pause for a picture. Great band, classy dude, sorry we saw Connan Mockasin. We fucked up.
Most in Need of a Changeup
If you’ve never seen HAIM, this was a great set. If you’ve seen them one to three times, this was a good set that you probably left early. If you’ve seen them more than three times, you desperately want them to stop performing the exact same set every time you have to see them for work.
Least Festival-Ready Set
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks
I’ve never seen Animal Collective at a festival, but I imagine it is something like Avey Tare delivered with his solo project on Saturday afternoon: a lot of songs that you might not recognize that drift from captivating to disorienting. Still, he is an artist worth your patience, as the highs smash the lows to a pulp.
Most in Need of a Vacation
It has been much publicized that Earl Sweatshirt cancelled a bunch of shows leading up to FYF Fest. It didn’t really show, but the show didn’t exhilarate either, settling for something in the middle where his amiability wound up being more memorable than his music.
Best Cover Song
Albert Hammond Jr.
“Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve)” by The Buzzcocks.
Best Band to Catch the Last Five Minutes Of
FYF has a tradition of casting some pretty cool solo artists with full bands early in the day, including Angel Olsen this year and people like Kishi Bashi and Sandro Perri in years past. Jacco Gardener seemed like he’d fit in this mold, but we just saw the last little bit of him.
Best Band That Should’ve Played Less New Stuff
The Murder City Devils
The Murder City Devils have kind of lost their signature sound on their new album and now just kind of sound like a good post-hardcore band. That said, they played on a stage full of great post-hardcore bands and felt less essential than the bands they were surrounded by.
Biggest Visual Surprise
Mikal Cronin wore makeup, the lighting was gorgeous, and the band rocked their way through old and new material. What more can you want?
Best Artist Who Will Be a Bigger Deal in a Year
Kelela was tasked with playing an arena on the back of a mixtape, and with that in mind, she kind of kicked ass. Clearly an artist on the rise more than having arrived, by this time next year it wouldn’t be surprising if she was a much bigger deal.
Best Traditional Rock Star Moves
Like the dude version of Kelela, except he played outside, played rock and roll, and had better moves.
Worst Mosh Pit
The only band that tried to calm their moshers, but they were also sweet enough to stop for a portrait and all of them piled into the photo pit to be close for The Strokes performance. Plus, their music is pretty solid and likely to get better with experience and a little less commitment to genre.
They had a gong and a double-necked guitar. We were sold on the gong alone.
Least Mobile Band
You don’t see Slint for punk jumps, but the band were virtual statues for their performance. Bad thing? Not really with their subtle, gorgeous lighting and epic compositions. Plus, they had the best drum sound. Crisp and clear and a random but apt example of why seeing bands inside is sometimes preferable, even on a sunny day.
Turn on the Dim Lights
I guess it isn’t that important to see Interpol, as their atmospheric tunes, even the anthems, evoke dark nights and solitary being. That said, “NYC” was all the more moving in a crowd of people, even in Los Angeles. It should be noted that they packed in more people than the band that followed them, Phoenix. It should also be noted that they didn’t have to play against Grimes.
Best Crowd Surfing
Joyce Manor look younger than they are, sound younger than they are, and make people feel younger than they are. Along with Future Islands, they are FYF Fest vets that have finally broken out to reach a wider audience and were clearly overjoyed to be playing the main stage to crowd-surfing kids. It was a “we made it set” and one that caused about as many gleeful grins as the band dished out.
Best Set We’ve All Seen Plenty of Times
Like Haim, the Phoenix set has been played many times. Unlike Haim, Phoenix promised this was their last show for a while, so one last spin with the festival headliner-level Phoenix felt a little less like rehash and more like goodbye for now.
Best Party Band
Playing the fest twice in two days, once as their Mariachi version and once as their punk version, The Bronx won points by being the only band witnessed throwing empty been cans into the audience. Because, you know, full beer cans would be both dangerous and illegal. Still, The Bronx felt like a punk-rock party, even if we couldn’t drink along while we watched.
Best Walking Wounded
Dev Hynes dances better than most every other performer, even with a bum knee. Playing in front of a breathtaking sunset on Sunday evening, Blood Orange had no problem distracting from the scenery.
Welcome to Japan
One Way Trigger
Heart in a Cage
Hard to Explain
The End Has No End
You Only Live Once
New York City Cops
Feel-Good Hit of the Summer
Little Dragon has become an unmissable band at the many festivals they play, with frontwoman Yukimi Nagano’s charisma and fashion sense every bit as crucial to the band’s success as their music. Their tunes sound great outside, enough groove to move the crowd, but I still couldn’t hum more than a couple after numerous Little Dragon sets. We keep waiting for that essential album from them to match their great performances, but if it never comes, Yukimi still has our attention every time we are near where she is performing.
Best Hype Fulfiller
Future Islands deserves all the attention they get. Period.
Not an act I planned to see, but the call of “internet internet internet” drew me in for long enough to know that the hard beats of this up-and-comer are something special. Take note, because of the arena being inaccessible for all but those dead set on seeing a particular act, XXYYXX didn’t really have much competition for our “Best DJ” designation. Still, a great set.
Balance and Composure
One of the few acts that we had not previously heard, but good enough to go home and get acquainted with. Loud, intense, post-hardcore bliss.
Best Old Punks
Weird to think of Against Me! as veterans, but on this bill, they were and showed other acts the gifts that experience brings.
Best Run of Hits
Built to Spill
Goin’ Against Your Mind
You Were Right
Trimmed and Burning
Carry the Zero
The Blood Brothers
The most intense set of the festival.
Best New Music
Fly Lo began his set in front of his projection screen, reflecting on the gratitude he feels for being privileged enough to travel around the world and do what he loves. He then noted that coming home to L.A. was always special, before finishing off his speech with the cool-as-fuck lead-in “But enough listening to me talk, you’re dead.” What followed was a new projection show, even more impressive than the last, and tunes that sounded on first listen like next-level Flying Lotus. Might this be another mind-blowing album about to drop on the world? Looks like it. Get ready.
Best Mosh Pit
Run the Jewels
It seems like Run the Jewels have been in the news a lot lately for less-than-ideal reasons, but their FYF set was a reminder that Killer Mike and El-P are musicians first, and two of the best. The impromptu mosh pit that formed was a joy to behold, not quite as intense as a punk counterpart, but every bit as abandonless and wild. For music that is sometimes driven by anger and frustration, Run the Jewels sure do smile a lot. And that balance makes them special.
About a minute into La Dispute’s unforgettable set, frontman Jordan Dreyer cut his face and started bleeding pretty badly. If you think that slowed him down a bit, you’ve never seen La Dispute. He would go on to announce that the band had flown in from England and, after some traveling difficulty, were worried they’d miss their set or not have the energy to deliver. With the energy the lyric-shouting fans gave back to the Michigan band, La Dispute overcame all of this to deliver one of the very best sets of the weekend.
Best Jaw-Dropping, Awe-Inspiring Gift from God
Grimes is so far above the competition at this point, it isn’t even fair. Only an act that virtually never performs could best her at this fest, and it was by a narrow margin. Her next album is gonna catapult her as far as she wants to go, and one of the best things about Grimes is that she seems so in control of her career that she really does get to decide how big she is going to get.
Best Dinner Music
Sitting in the grass, eating pizza, getting your mind blown by Slowdive is one of those experiences that no lines, no hassle, no heat, no fatigue can really sour. The band looked great, sounded better, and made you wonder why they aren’t always playing shows, as they are just so damn good at it. Regardless of the problems FYF had, the fest without fail books an amazing range of talent, and if Slowdive couldn’t remind you of that, nothing could.
Photographer: Philip Cosores