FYF Fest Day 1 Review

By Malvina Rincón

FYF Fest took place over Labor Day weekend in Los Angeles. It was two days of eclectic music in the sun in one of the most musically gifted cities in the country. Despite ironic clothing choices (i.e. Hawaiian shirts) paired with equally ironic dance moves (i.e. The Running Man) from some hipsters, the audience was diverse and as warm as the weather. The DYI spirit of the festival, which has been running since 2004, did not go unnoticed as the line-up reflected how non-mainstream bands are still capable of forming interest for their music and creating legitimate fanbases. There was something for everybody and room for discovery as the following shows a sampling of what the weekend had to offer.

Day 1


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Cloud Nothings

Playing on one of the smaller stages at the festival, Cleveland-based Cloud Nothings gave the audience a dose of grunge-infused punk. Main singer, Dylan Baldi’s vocals draw on a lazy and dark tone that is reminiscent of Black Francis of the legendary Pixies. Perhaps that is too much of an accolade. As the set continues, the band does little to inspire any real interest from the audience and the band’s track “No Future/No Past” seems all too telling.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Future Islands

The stage seemed too small for Future Islands as the crowd swelled before their set even began. The buzz in the air was palpable and before long it wasn’t difficult to understand why. The band’s catchy beats had the audience bouncing, but Samuel Herring’s stage presence left all there entranced. An immediate comparison to Henry Rollins is expected as Herring’s intensity, at times, made it seem as if he was about to rip his (or somebody else’s) skin off.

Although his words can escape as a growl at times, during “Before the Bridge” the roughness in Herring’s voice contained a sensitivity so sincere that I found myself with a knot in my throat as he sang the refrain “Do you believe in love?” It doesn’t seem too farfetched to imagine that Herring may be in communication with some “spirits” when he looks up to the sky as he sings. The passion he pours into the performance is so true that as Future Islands were on stage, magic filled the air over Los Angeles.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Sleigh Bells

Marshall-stacked and making no apologies for it, Sleigh Bells is what happens when you turn up the volume to 11. Looking like a heavy metal Joan Jett, Alexis Krauss took the main stage at the FYF Fest like a true front woman. Decked in tattoos, jet black hair, heavy eye make-up, and a leather jacket with studs, she is the epitome of rock ‘n’ roll. A rock star is supposed to inspire people to want to be like them. Krauss is doing that just fine with her cool, sexy rocker chick persona.

Unfortunately, looking cool and sexy isn’t going to do much for a live show if all of your songs sound the same. Maybe Sleigh Bells is an acquired taste, but a live show has the power of making a non-fan at least appreciate a band’s hard work and possibly be swayed to want to see them again. Krauss was doing all she could to sell the songs she was singing – dancing, head banging, crowd surfing. It just wasn’t going to work. The lulls in the audience when they played songs from their most recent album (Reign of Terror) were made apparent when paired next to songs like “Infinity Guitars” from their debut album (Treats), which incited a crazy amount of excitement. Maybe the audience is tired of more of the same and even an energetic live show couldn’t sway them. It’s a shame considering the true talent in Krauss as a front woman.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

M83

In many ways, M83’s set on Saturday night was an ode to Los Angeles. As the city skyline twinkled in the near distance, it provided an ideal backdrop to the band’s electronic infused tracks. The unique blend of synth-driven beats mixed with guitar and saxophone riffs inspire a vision of driving through the city’s empty streets at night. Anthony Gonzalez, leader of M83 lives in Los Angeles, so perhaps that image as inspiration is not too far off.

Of course, the audience didn’t have enough time to contemplate these possibilities as the band was ceaseless in their showering of hit after hit. With a stage set-up reminiscent of Tron, Gonzalez and company performed such tracks as “We Own the Sky”, “Reunion”, and “Steve McQueen”. The crowd embraced more ambient and instrumental tracks just as energetically as bigger, crowd pleasers. This is a true testament to the talent of the band and their ability to maintain a high level of energy without having to resort to unleashing the singles straight away.

The night came to its climax as “Midnight City” and its distinctive intro filled the beautiful, summer night. The already-dancing crowd seemed to double in size as a giant dance/sing-along party ensued. Elation hit the audience once more as Gonzalez sang the line “City is my church” and pointed to the gorgeous L.A. skyline. As he finished the verse he screamed Los Angeles! and the crowd cheered with euphoria. It didn’t matter where you traveled from to be at FYF Fest, at that moment, everybody was an Angeleno.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Refused

Closing the first day of FYF Fest were headliners Refused. The Swedish punk band, formed and disbanded in the 1990s, had not performed in Los Angeles for 20 years, for which main singer Dennis Lyxzén apologized in his nearly unaccented English, and then suggested that the audience were the ones who kept the music alive. After having taken the stage in an explosion that sent the crowd into a wild frenzy of moshing and crowd surfing, an apology from these Swedes would immediately garner forgiveness. The audience was under the spell of Refused and Lyxzén made sure of that with his energetic performance.

In acrobatic, Mick Jagger fashion, Lyxzén strutted onto the stage wielding and swinging the microphone before abusing it with his powerful voice on songs such as “The Refused Party Program” and a slew of others, primarily from the band’s seminal album, The Shape of Punk to Come. Despite the bravado, Lyxzén offered heartfelt insight throughout the set as he repeated the theme of “Music means something”. Connecting his insight, he gave the obligatory “Free Pussy Riot” speech that many musicians have been giving in support of the fellow artists. Refused went one up as the kick drum shows “Free Pussy Riot” in large writing and Lyxzén goes on to dedicate the explosive and poignant “Rather Be Dead” to the Russian band as a sign of camaraderie.

By the time of the encore, as “New Noise” and its distinctive intro began, the crowd seemed to be following Lyxzén’s insights as the music took over the crowd. Several bodies floated above a sea of arms and clouds of dirt were kicked up into the air. Before the last song, Lyxzén offered his last inspirational thoughts of the day as he advised the attentive audience to “Never let anyone tell you how to live your life! Live f***ing wild! Stay hungry!” The crowd cheered in agreement and Lynxzén didn’t seem too want to let go of the night as he suggested that the audience should go back to his house and play awesome records. He further enticed by offering to whisper dirty secrets in Swedish and quickly added “It could happen!” as the crowd giggled at his joke. After realizing the limited amount of time left in the set, Lynxzén exclaimed “30 seconds!” and as a last energy booster to the audience, the band did a 30 second reworking of “Tannhäuser / Derivè” before bowing out to an audience that will definitely stay hungry.

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