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Live review: Despite failures, FYF Fest gives crowds a lot to cheer about

Bestcoastfyfest The annual FYF Fest, now in its seventh year, experienced serious growing pains Saturday at the Los Angeles State Historic Park downtown, even if the music onstage offered gratifying highs. The daylong concert featured 35 buzzing bands, a combination of rising, boundary-pushing underground acts and seasoned rock stalwarts, and drew an enthusiastic crowd estimated to be 20,000.

But just as last year, those arriving early to catch the first roster of bands were left stranded in interminable lines. Although the musicians onstage played to eager enthusiasts, the behind-the-scenes organization was visibly lacking throughout the day and night, as evidenced by overflowing trashcans, lack of water dispensaries and endless queues.

Festival-goers are nothing if not a dedicated bunch, though, and despite the many problems, the patient and the persistent experienced a hefty offering of musical joy. Here are highlights and lowlights:

Best costumes: The Dead Man's Bones children's choir was called Warm Glass of Milk, and it arrived decked in period costumes. The kids, ranging in age from preschoolers to teenagers, came portraying (among others) Charlie Chaplin, Audrey Hepburn, Janis Joplin and Ludwig van Beethoven, stood behind Bones' founders Ryan Gosling (yes, the actor) and Zach Shields and belted out a wonderful array of couplets, the best of which was "I raise my flag up into your heart / You let the winds come tear it apart."

Best singalong: It's hard to imagine that one year ago Local Natives were hustling the Eastside residency circuit. Because if the crowd's instant, rapturous reaction to the boozy piano intro to "Airplanes" was any indication, they were born to play to fields of thousands. It takes a special skill to make a line like "Every question, you took the time to sit and look it up in the encyclopedia" into a lighters-up moment, but the Natives' crystalline harmonies could make a cookbook feel anthemic.


Most inescapable fashion trend: The floral women's jumper, seemingly filched en masse from the closet of "Blossom," our early '90s sartorial saint. The hills of the L.A. State Historical Park were alive in rayon-floral jumpers and linen lady onesies. So the question is: Will the '90s revival last till next year or are we already nostalgic for 2000 and its velour track suits?

Best seamless incorporation of a train: Washed Out's set was too quiet, unfortunate considering the gorgeously subtle textures of Ernest Greene's bedroom chillwave. But every time the Gold Line train whizzed by the stage, quiet yet forceful, it so beautifully matched Greene's smoothed-out pastel pop that we wished for a sudden rush hour to occur at 8 p.m. on a holiday weekend.

Best evidence that rock 'n' roll is no longer dangerous: In addition to more mustaches spotted on Saturday, there were marked differences between Saturday's rock-oriented FYF and last month's electronic dance festival Hard, both of which were at the same location. For one, there were no police helicopters buzzing overhead keeping an eye on the "ravers" like at Hard. Nor were there the dozens of uniformed officers and squad cars guarding the periphery of the park. Rather, a lone cruiser sat parked at an intersection on North Spring. The scariest place at the fest was in the mosh pit for 7 Seconds, but the slam dancers managed to police themselves just fine, thank you very much.

Best dance set of the night:
The sprawling crew that goes by the moniker !!! originally formed in Sacramento and have become reliable shepherds of the beat, never straying from their North Star of propulsive, thinking-man's funk. It's always a good sign when the viewers closest to the stage aren't the only ones dancing. All over the park, bubbles of dance erupted, pushing sweaty strangers closer together, everyone on a fearless mission to get down.

Most perplexing start: For the first portion of Panda Bear's set, Noah Lennox, as he's known to the DMV, seemed determined to scare off anyone seeking the saltwater lull of his breakthrough solo work, "Person Pitch," or the obsessive jams of Animal Collective. He opened with synth monoliths, almost violent in their inescapable tension, which were eventually spliced with disembodied rips from "Merriweather Post Pavilion." A little later, Panda Bear weakened a beautifully slumberous loop with mismatched vocals and guitar. It seemed like every time a lovely moment would take flight, Lennox would attack it with his version of musical DDT.

Best argument for organizational skills:
Dear promoter Sean Carlson: We love you, and the Los Angeles music scene is all the better for your ambitiousness and boundless enthusiasm. But it's time to stage an intervention: The last two years of FYF have been some of the most frustrating concert experiences in recent memory. Want a bottle of water? Wait in line for 45 minutes. Have to use the facilities? That'll be an hour. Want something as wantonly luxurious as a cold beer? Soviet bread lines moved quicker. A great lineup means nothing if you spend half your time beneath punishing, shadeless sun unable to meet any basic human needs. Next year, double your capacity for every amenity or the "Y" in FYF may come to mean "You" instead of "Yeah" -- and you can fill in the rest of the acronym.

Most unceremonious close: At other festivals and at their own concerts, the Rapture has been known to kill the crowd with a cowbell-laden dance-punk frenzy. Not so for its closing set at FYF. Perhaps Luke Jenner and company were directed to keep it chill for the finish lest all those American Apparel employees on their night off burst into rioting, but the last three or four songs were the equivalent of sticking a knife in a fat tire.

-- August Brown, Margaret Wappler and Randall Roberts

Photos: Best Coast performs on the Oak Stage (top); Local Natives plays to the crowd (second); fans rock out (third); and Ted Leo performs in the hills of the L.A. State Historical Park with 35 other acts at the FYF Fest. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times.

Comments () | Archives (16)

(insert gushing review of SLEEP here!)

What festival were you at? Helicopters all day!

Show was great. The will call and entrance lines were really horrible. The only saving grace was a "vip will call" that was shorter. IF you were GA will call, well, hopefully you got in by now. (Its ok, we all can't have LA times credentials!)

They ran out of beer (seriously WTF) and water was 4 dollars. But I really cannot be mad at the FYF peeps. They seem to be *giving* a lot of money back if you went to ANY of the after shows (including panda bear Sunday night show).

Next year: Have a f'in vip entrance like it said on the website, don't put the friggin headliner on the stage in the dirt, and fix the ticket situation.

Most inescapable fashion trend:
how about the cut off mom jeans? Everywhere you looked girls were wearing the most unflattering shorts made out of 90's mom jeans. I'm not sure where people got the idea that that was a good look.
The other one is Native American garb in the form of moccasins, face paint, and feather headdresses worn by white people. Guess that's ironic?

Biggest rip off:
all the food and especially the water.
God knows how long the wait time was for the ONE water fountain.

Three writers and coverage of only four or five bands? How was Sleep? Or the Magic Kids? Or Cold Cave? Or Titus Andronicus? Or how did some of the newer, lesser-known bands fare? What's Man Man up to? Perhaps you guys spent too much time waiting in lines for a "wantonly luxurious" beer than seeing music.

Why would a solo artist play the same exact style of music their band was known for? Seems like a simple question --- so why were you all expecting Panda Bear to be just like an Animal Collective show? Seems rather naive, especially for "professional" music critics. What makes Lennox so great are his atypical rhythms, his haunting and ethereal soundscapes; he's not that 16 year-old-with-no-bra-and-facepaint-on quasi raver crap and I wouldn't even want him to be. His set was perfect. You all are just uncultured and insane. Go keep drooling over the played out "I'm so indie" dad-rock of Ryan Gosling, why don't you?

Waters should be $2 cheaper for the size of those bottles next year, and they should have quadruple the amount on hand. (Not to mention, backstage there were about 20 flats of water and a ton of unfinished artist waters just sitting while people were passing out in the heat. Good show!) Increase entrances/security checkpoints from four lines to 16, don't allow will call anymore (seems to cause too many issues with the line), cut the capacity by 5,000 --- and I think things will even out, if not improve.

I think this will have be the last year I attend. I only considered attending this year after being promised in emails and websites that things would be different, that they've had the long lines figured out, that there wouldn't be much of a wait to get in, etc. But it was worse than last year in many ways. A line to get into the VIP section? Really? After you've spent an additional $35-$45 for the honor? Also, the line for will call: no signage as to why there are 2 lines, just hot sun and miles of hip.

Sean, you promised you'd have things fixed from last year, and you did not. It almost seemed as if there wasn't an attempt at all to fix anything. Clearly you couldn't care less about the attendees as long as most of them are gullible enough to come again next year, spend another $200, and then sheepishly accept your weird, post-event, emailed psuedo-apology because you're "such a nice guy." For me- count me out! No line up of bands is great enough to make me want to deal with that mess for a third year. And mark my words, despite what those at the FYF organization may tell you: next year will not be any different.

Agreed! It's time for an intervention if FYF is going to grow into the perfectly awesome music festival that it has the potential to be. I'm new to LA so this was my first FYF and I was looking forward to this more than any other concert/festival that has happened this past year. However, my festival dedication wore thin and I left halfway through Sleep's set. It was a long hot day and after arriving early for the Blow and Best Coast there was no way I was going to stand in line (again) for an hour for ridiculously overpriced water and mediocre food.

There were enough toilets if you knew where to look for them, the far ends of the park, but the food and water situation needs to be improved for future fests. This is LA - land of food trucks. Where were they?

Not "getting" a set by Panda Bear means you are uncultured - Guy Who Thinks Listening to Animal Collective Makes Him Cultured

I no like hipsters and their very not good music.

12 hours worth of music and this is all the coverage? Sad. I did a better job and I was the only writer/photographer for my blog.


This was my first FYF, but I have been to countless other music festivals all over the country...

I feel guilty even thinking about complaining about a festival that only cost $20 (I bought early bird tix) and I'll start by saying the lineup was great - I was able to see a lot of fresh, interesting acts that I'd been wanting to check out all in one day. But when I arrived in the mid afternoon, my initial impression of the festival was that it had the vibe of an african refugee camp.... thousands of people sitting on the ground, clustered under trees, in whatever little shade they could find. And long lines of people everywhere, so long that you couldn't even tell what they were waiting for. I saw one HUGE line that I just had to follow to see what they were waiting for... and it was the ONE water fountain. It was so comical, I had to take photos, never seen anything like it. Also, huge lines to get into the beer gardens, the VIP areas, the food vendors, and those 2 food trucks (why only 2?) had insanely long lines as well. And if you're going to prohibit people from bringing in their own refillable water containers (who does that these days?) and then charge $4 for a small bottle of water, it seems like a rip-off, and not very eco-friendly either. I didn't buy any food, but I heard that was really expensive too.

The entire event had a rather amateurish, thrown-together feel, what with the signage sloppily scrawled in sharpie, a stage set up in a field of dirt and rocks, etc... but I guess that was sort of the "charm" of this festival... and again, what can we reasonably expect for only $20-30?

I will say that, by the end of the night, I was satisfied, heard some great music and had a great time. But those first couple hours in the hot sun and walking around all those lines of miserable-looking people, I thought it was a complete disaster.

Nonetheless, I'm looking forward to next year!

titus andronicus.

Great article. I like many of the attendees enjoyed the music but the lack of free water via water fountains was just plain ridiculous. And since, there was only two drinking fountains in the whole venue it would of been nice if the vendors sold water for 3 bucks instead of 4. If a venue has to provide a certain amount of toilets per a certain estimated volume of people, the same venue should have to supply a certain amount of free water outlets. We are talking about water here, you know that thing to keep you from dehydrating on a hot day. I saw kids who were out of money taking empty plastic beer cups out of the trash to use at the water fountain which has a line about an eighth of a mile long. I understand the profit margin on food, so go ahead and charge 12 bucks for a burger but have free water available as well.

The music, though, was so awesome. Man Man was a highlight for me. Local Natives sounded as lush as they always do. Screaming females were insane. Let's Wrestle were cool and charming. Best Coast were cool. Warpaint pleased the crowd. My disappointments: I missed the Ohsees- didn't set foot in comedy tent and didn't have the nerve to say hi to Marissa Paternoster.


what are the chances of running into someone you met at the festival? FYF was awesome by the way

I don't care how ambitious and enthusiastic the writers like to think he is, Sean Carlson is a charlatan. He's been ripping off bands and fans for over seven years now with his hokey "it's all good, Bro" routine. If, after seven years, he can't manage to get a truck of water to a downtown LA park, he really shouldn't be in the position to make a difference to the physical well being of other people.

But he doesn't care, because he's in the VIP area chilling with the beautiful people. He doesn't care if you're miserable in a 90+ degree dust pit, or if the sound is terrible, or if the equipment he supplied to your band is broken. If you call him out on his willful incompetence he'll just deflect it back on you and claim that you're the one with the problem. I know, because I've had to deal with him. The only thing I'm not sure of is what the balance is in him between scam artist and idiot.

one compound word; warpaint.


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