FYF Fest 2011: The Review

FYF Fest took place this Saturday to Los Angeles State Historic Park. We sent our writer Ace Ubas and photographer Robert Vega out to cover it. Take a few minutes to read about the awesome festival that you missed (or relive it if you were there!)

Twin Sister (Raphael’s Stage: 12:30-1:00)

I began the festival with the Long Island-based quintet Twin Sister. With an acclaimed EP Color Your Life and an upcoming album entitled In Heaven, vocalist Andrea Estella, keyboardist Dev Gupta, guitarist/vocalist Eric Cardona, bassist Gabe D’Amico, and drummer Brian Ujueta look to have 2011 be the biggest year in their young career. They opened their set with “Lady Daydream” that gave off a splash of New Wave nostalgia while “All Around” and “Away We Go” and the lead-single from the new album, Bad Street, were examples of a disco/dream-pop cocktail that got the audience instantly buzzed. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for their entire set. But whatever drink they’re mixing, I won’t hesitate to gulp it down.

Mister Heavenly (Leonardo’s Stage: 1:35-2:10)

While checking out the festival grounds, I stumbled upon Mister Heavenly in the middle of their set. With members from Man Man (Honus Honus), Islands (Nicholas Thorburn), and Modest Mouse (Joe Plummer) (sorry guys, no Michael Cera on bass this time around), you can call this a supergroup. I managed to catch a bit of their set as they played songs from their debut album Out of Love. Self-described as “doom-wop,” they blend simple song structures with emotional, dark lyrics that shows influences in different genres. “I Am a Hologram” is an upbeat, piano-driven tune while “Charlyne” is a bit more psychedelic. Even though “Reggae Pie” is a ridiculous name for a song, the rhythm section was crisp and tight.

Cass McCombs (Raphael’s Stage: 2:25-3:00)

I caught Cass McCombs for a bit, where most of his set consisted of new songs and…well, newer songs with some of his earlier work sprinkled into his set. He released Wit’s End back in April, and now he’s set to release his second album this year entitled Humor Risk. There’s a noticeable difference between his older songs and newer songs. “Harmonia” presented more of McCombs’ psychedelic side. The new songs such as “Angel Blood” and “The Same Thing” from the upcoming album seem to his most upbeat, hinting that the new album may be a bit different than his previous work.

Ty Segall (Michelangelo’s Stage: 2:50-3:25)

Ty Segall is a name that plenty of friends have told me to check out. This was my chance to check out what he was all about and he definitely didn’t disappoint. He brought tons of energy and the crowd responded the same way. With songs like “Goodbye Bread,” “Imaginary Person,” and his love song, “Girlfriend,” Segall simply plays raw, gritty, garage rock that got the crowd to mosh in the middle of the flying dust. There was never a moment in his set where he slowed down; he full-on rocked.

Future Islands (Splinter’s Den: 3:45-4:15)

I went into the ridiculously hot, barely ventilated Splinter’s Den to check out Baltimore’s self-proclaimed “post-wave” band, Future Islands. The majority of their set consisted of songs from their upcoming third album On the Water (due on October 11 via Thrill Jockey). New song “Grease” was slow in pace that gave it a dark and brooding tone. Before the Bridge was the more ‘dancier’ song of the set, as vocalist Samuel Herring slapped his face multiple times, fueling more adrenaline into himself. “Tin Man” and “Walking Through That Door” from their acclaimed album In Evening Air garnered the loudest cheers. Herring’s intense passion and emotional energy was infectious as it spread throughout everyone in attendance. But last song “Vireo’s Eye” was where it turned into one massive dance party as fans jumped on stage (including one dressed as Waldo), engulfing the band. Bassist William Cashion brought thick, pulsating rhythms and keyboardist Gerrit Welmers played mesmerizing synth chords as he seemed unfazed by what was going on around him and getting lost in his own music.

Cults (Leonardo’s Stage: 4:40-5:20)

Within the past year, New York-duo Cults has generated plenty of buzz due to their well-received debut album and retro pop sound. Vocalist Madeline Follin and guitarist Brian Oblivion arrived two hours before their set from London, leaving some of their gear at the airport. But that didn’t stop them from charming the Los Angeles crowd. Like their album, they opened with “Abducted” as they immediately hooked the audience in with its hooks and catchy melodies. “The Curse” was one of their slower songs, but that didn’t stop “Oblivion” from adding some psychedelic fuzz on this guitar. Follin’s dreamy vocals and the funky bass lines made up the 50s/60s-pop number “Never Heal Myself,” while “Most Wanted” was an endearing piano ballad. Towards the end of their set, they sent a bit of through the crowd with the soulful “Go Outside” (arguably their biggest hit) that featured the catchy glockenspiel intro, Follin’s beautiful, wide-range singing, and a guitar solo from “Oblivion.” Their buzz is well-deserved.

No Age (Michelangelo’s Stage: 6:00-6:40)

I managed to catch the end of No Age’s set and just like Ty Segall, the duo of vocalist/drummer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall brought their garage/punk sound back home. “Inflorescence” had skillful guitar work, leading to the barreling and distortion filled “Fever Dreaming.” “Depletion” was more on the punk side of things with catchy melodies and precision drumming. The guitar-feedback loop on “Eraser” was a bit hypnotic, but that didn’t stop fans from crowd surfing. From the looks of it, No Age still wears the lo-fi crown – in Los Angeles at least.

Broken Social Scene (Leonardo’s Stage: 7:05-7:55)

Led by Kevin Drew and Brendan Canning, the Canadian collective were back in Los Angeles, but for those that missed them at FYF won’t be able to see them for awhile as they stated that they’ll be taking a break. They played all the right songs to make fans remember them by until the next time they come back around. They opened up with an instrumental intro that led into “Cause=Times.” “Texico Bitches” off their new album Forgiveness Rock Record, which was a nice sing-along song that most of the crowd enjoyed. Unfortunately on “7/4 (Shoreline),” Leslie Feist didn’t come out to sing her part on the song, despite playing a secret show in L.A. the night before. The beautiful and big-haired Lisa Lobsinger took over the vocal duties as she sang in a relaxed-yet-graceful manner that captured everyone’s eyes and ears. They ended their set with the 10-minute long sporadic epic “It’s All Gonna Break” off their self-titled album. Unlike the album, the song was raw and dynamic in a live setting. Theatrical in structure each section of the song was different and had different highlights that came together in the end. The horns practically had a jam session while the guitarists played sweeping riffs that landed them on the floor. Hopefully the people that missed their set have the patience to wait who-knows-how-long until they come back.

YACHT (Raphael’s Stage: 7:50-8:35)

Portland/Los Angeles/Marfa duo YACHT are one of the more visually and musically appealing and pleasing acts today. Per usual, Jona Bechtolt was clad in his black tuxedo with musical partner Claire Evans in an elegant, contrasting white dress with a video projection shown behind them, highlighted by their signature triangle symbol. With summer coming down to a close, it was only appropriate they pay homage to a wonderful season with the bouncy “Summer Song.” One of the reasons I’m in love with Claire is her love for science fiction, as she asked the crowd if they believed in aliens. This led to “Beam Me Up,” where punk-beats mingle with 80s pop synth-chords that would make LCD Soundsystem grin. They immediately went into the Jona-led “I Walked Alone” that featured a guitar solo.

At this point, Jona and Claire did an about me section where they showed where they were from and introduced the rest of the band: Jeff Jerusalem (guitar), Katy Davidson (guitar/keyboards/back-up vocals), and Bobby Birdman (drums). They even threw in a quick Q & A with the crowd. They’re one of the few bands that break the barrier between performer and audience, and it makes them enjoyable.

They played a cover of the B52s “Mesopotamia,” where Claire and Katy did their best to parallel Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider. They ended the set in dichotomous fashion with “Dystopia” and “Utopia,” where Claire climbed up the speakers and sprawled herself across the top. YACHT isn’t a band that can be heard. They MUST be seen.

Guided by Voices (Leonardo’s Stage: 8:20-9:15)

Is it hard to be surprised by Guided by Voices? Yes, I know they’re legends in the indie world, but I’ll admit that I don’t listen to them as much as I should. In fact, I’ve only listened to a couple of songs in their catalog. In an earlier piece, I put them down as one of the bands that are a must see at FYF. Of course I followed my own recommendation and when I did, I walked away surprised.

My friend didn’t like what he heard, but GbV’s set seemed fresh-yet-raw – as if they haven’t gone anywhere. Opening with “Local H-Smothered in Hugs,” Robert Pollard and company showed they haven’t lost a step. And after playing hits like “Asia,” “Hot Freaks,” “Expecting Brainchild,” “Kicker of Elves,” “Exit Flagger,” “I Am a Scientist,” and “Some Drilling Implied,” there’s a reason why they belong at the top. Pollard hit every note, Kevin Fennel’s drumming was on-point, bassist Greg Demos’ tight rhythm, and the guitar duo of Tobin Sprout and Mitch Mitchell played crisp, powerful riffs. There really isn’t much you can ask for from this band other than keep playing.

Descendents (Leonardo’s Stage: 9:40-10:40)

When walking around the dust-filled park, it’s pretty on-the-nose to know who the majority wants to see. I never really got into the punk genre, but when you have a legendary punk band reuniting in their hometown, I’d be an idiot for missing their set. When the first note of the song Descendents was played, the violent mosh pit and frenetic crowd surfing began. I should point out that the crowd mainly consisted of people that weren’t even born when the Descendents started, but it was fun to see a wide age-range to get excited and bloody for the band.

With ONLY an hour to play, the punk legends raced through 24 songs that included “My Dad Sucks,” “Silly Girl,” “Coffee Mug,” “I Like Food,” “Pervert,” “Suburban Homes,” “Sour Grapes,” and closer “I’m Not a Loser.” There was also a moment where vocalist Milo Aukerman brought kids out to the stage and had them repeat a series of “commandments,” symbolizing that punk isn’t defined by age, but rather a mindset. The Descendents showed they’re ageless and displayed their prowess for pure punk rock.

Explosions in the Sky (Donatello’s Stage 10:45-11:40)

Austin-based quartet Explosions in the Sky brought a bit of diversity as the only vocalist-less band on the bill that isn’t electronic-based. Guitarists Mark Smith, Michael James, Munaf Rayani, drummer Chris Hrasky, and touring bassist Carlos Torres form a no-nonsense band that lets their music speak for themselves behind innovative musicianship. Their music is structured like a story: exposition, rising action, climax, resolution. But what makes their live set an experience is that the audience gets to create their own narrative within the confines of the music.

The time and setting couldn’t have been anymore perfect for them to take the stage with the bright lights of Downtown Los Angeles shining through off to the side.

Opening with “The Only Moment We Were Alone,” the marching percussion intertwined with the three layers of simple guitar lines, forming multiple peaks and valleys only to crash as loud as it could in the end. “The Catastrophe and the Cure” comes out full-force in the beginning with swirling guitars and crashing cymbals. It hits a steady rhythm in the middle until Rayani puts down his guitar in exchange for a pair of drum sticks as he pounds the snare in front of Hrasky’s drum set, adding another layer of pounding percussion. “Postcard from 1952” from their latest album Take Care, Take Care, Take Care and “The Birth and Death of Day” showed how shifting melodies accompanied by hefty bass-lines and precise and effortless drumming can build-up beautifully, leading up to a euphoric crescendo. Set finale “Let Me Back In” featured slurred vocal loops, echoing guitars that mirrored the sound of howling ghosts, and reverberated and hollow drums blended together to create an eerie mood that crept towards the chaotic climax as midnight approached.

Having seen this band multiple times, it’s always incredible to see a band that plays music that they themselves get lost in. Whether it’s Rayani’s body movement that flows with the music and pounding the floor with a tambourine to James’ swaying back and forth, this band will create a world of its own for both performer and audience. Describing this performance in words is never enough. They need to be witnessed live to fully understand their music because it is its own experience. I’m pretty sure there’s some band that I missed that went on at the same time as Explosions in the Sky. I think the band had something to do with dance-punk and the year 1979. Oh well.

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