FYF Fest Day 2 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 2


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Aesop Rock

On the last day of FYF Fest, a large crowd gathered around the Hill St. stage for Aesop Rock. A hip-hop act at a primarily indie music event is almost always seen as one of two things – a breath of fresh air or a novelty act. Unfortunately for Aesop Rock, L.A. is a smoggy city and fresh air is hard to come by. The beats were catchy enough and the rhymes weren’t half bad. Yet, it all seemed too gimmicky. When you start playing games with your audience from the stage, such as “What‘s your favorite letter?” and “Let’s bring out this guy and cut his hair as we rap”, there is something other than the music that the audience is made to focus on. Perhaps it’s necessary because without the games, the audience might actually realize that they should have opted for another stage.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Converge

The heavy metal/hardcore band veterans, Converge, seemed to please the audience at one of the smaller stages at the festival. Their bass-heavy songs had heads banging throughout their set. Main singer, Jacob Bannon has a kinetic energy. He runs from one end of the stage to the other before delivering intense vocals which impressed those in attendance. The rest of the band could not equal Bannon’s energy, yet they were literally bouncing on the stage, which fed into the audience’s energy. Surely this is a good thing.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Against Me!

It’s always a good sign when people are literally running to a stage to see a band. I found myself doing the same as I heard the catchy beat of Against Me!’s “Don’t Lose Touch” getting louder as I neared the stage. I would like to think that it wasn’t because everybody wanted to see what the band looked like now that main singer Tommy Gabel is Laura Jane Grace, but I’m sure there were more than a few curious in the crowd.

As if reading the audience’s mind, Grace went into a new song, “True Trans Soul Rebel” that will be on the new Against Me! album, Transgender Dysphoria Blues. The lyrics are telling as Grace sings “You should’ve been a mother/You should’ve been a wife/You should’ve been gone from here years ago/You should be living a different life.” It’s a testament to Grace’s personal lyrics and powerful delivery. The dedicated Against Me! fans embraced the new songs the same as old classics like “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong”, which meant crowd surfing prevailed during the band’s set. The screens on either side of the stage showed the fans singing along to every single word of every song as they surfed on a wave of hands. It was a heart-warming to see Grace smile on as she witnessed that sight.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Paul Banks

Dressed all in black, Paul Banks took the stage in one of the smaller stages at the FYF Fest. As the main singer of Interpol, it would be expected that a large stage and larger crowd would be expected. Yet, neither was the case. The crowd was a mix of people who were obviously dedicated Interpol/Paul Banks fans and those just interested in seeing what Banks outside of Interpol would sound like. There shouldn’t have been much of a surprise, since he sounds a lot like the main singer from Interpol.

Guitar in hand, Banks was confident on stage as he was backed by a talented band that brought out a much clearer energy to the songs from his debut solo album as Julian Plenti. He also treated the audience to new songs – “I’ll Sue You”, “Paid for That”, “Arise Awake”, “Over My Shoulder”, and “Young Again”. The music is broody with a hint of contentment, which was visible in the slight smiles he would give the audience. Perhaps it was the beautiful summer night that made Banks’ disposition so cheery, but for the audience, his velvety voice on set closer “Summertime is Coming” is what made the summer night majestic.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Yeasayer

The Brooklyn-based band has a plethora of categories in which their music can be placed, but the audience at the main stage on Sunday at FYF Fest didn’t seem too bothered. As soon as the group hit the stage, the crowd started dancing. Taking from their past and most recent albums, Yeasayer has an interesting selection to choose from to make a setlist. Main singer, Chris Keating’s vocals can range from poppy to soulful and the same can be said for the musical arrangements, as different musical genres can be found within one song. Switching vocal duties with guitarist, Anand Wilder also made for a nice change as Wilder’s vocals made some songs dreamy and added to the eclectic nature of the band’s set.

Going with the summer theme of some of the bands, Yeasayer was not left behind. The band’s “Wait for the Summer” proved to be the ultimate crowd pleaser, as it elicited big cheers from the audience. The mix of Middle Eastern and Latin rhythms with a psychedelic twist sounded much bigger in a live setting than on their debut album. The smile on singer, Chris Keating’s face could not have been wider as he continuously declared his love for Los Angeles. Before the night was over, he confessed his love once more and, perhaps swayed by the audience’s reception, he declared a love so strong for the city that he confessed to deciding to move soon. Wow, so I guess Yeasayer really is that into you L.A.


(photo credit: Marcello Ambriz)

Beirut

Something must be said for a festival that makes Beirut a headliner on the last day of said festival. The guys from the band may not have even believed it themselves when asked, but such are the beautiful, eclectic workings of FYF Fest. A band like Beirut, with their melodic influence on the music scene, would not be the obvious pick for a festival to end their weekend. Most festivals aim for a big, pompous ending. Yet, this choice suited the festival perfectly and it worked like a charm.

As main singer Zach Condon took the stage and greeted the crowd, he was met with genuine cheers and the band went straight into the perfectly lovely “Santa Fe” from the band’s last album The Rip Tide. As Condon sang in his innocence-tinged voice, the lyrics could have easily been switched from Santa Fe to L.A. It seemed like a homecoming of sorts. Even though Condon’s music is very much rooted in New Mexican and gypsy influences, the L.A. audience connected with it in a very real way. I overheard a guy telling his friend “How does everybody know the words?” I wanted to turn around and tell him that not everybody knew them… but they did know them, even if they didn’t know them before. Something about the subtle way the horns come in and fill the night air as Condon sings “Well it’s been a long time, long time now” on “Nantes” made everything seem so possible, like knowing songs you didn’t know you knew before.

Beirut’s set also proved to be a first as I had never experienced an audience cheering as a tuba comes on stage (as carried by band member Ben Lanz). That’s an incredible accomplishment in itself. Making the tuba an instrument worthy of admiration is a testament to Beirut’s talent. The set consisted mostly of material that utilized the horns as the main instruments. Yet, a welcomed surprise came in “My Night with the Prostitute from Marseilles” as it broke up the setlist with something that had people, including Condon, dancing before heading into the last song, “The Gulag Orkestar”, which showcased the gypsy influence in Beirut’s music. When the set came to an end, Lanz addressed the audience and expressed something everybody that weekend was thinking: “You’re so lucky to have this festival. It’s awesome.”

Until next year FYF Fest.

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