Guided By Voices, the Descendents lead a Goldenvoice-bolstered FYF Fest
Less than 24 hours after the conclusion of 2010's FYF Fest, promoter Sean Carlson issued an apology. The Labor Day weekend event, a celebration of underground and adventurous music, was soured by a lack of water, interminable lines and an overall dearth of organization. Yet Carlson promises a more grown-up fest for 2011, having turned to local promotion powerhouse Goldenvoice to anchor Sept. 3's FYF Fest, to be headlined by punk vets the Descendants, alt-rock forebears Guided By Voices and gloomy instrumentalists Explosions in the Sky.
"We wanted their expertise," Carlson said Tuesday afternoon of Goldenvoice, the AEG-owned promoter behind the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival. With Goldenvoice at the helm, the fest has shifted from its location the past two years, moving out of Chinatown's Los Angeles State Historic Park and onto the streets surrounding City Hall. The area around First Street and Main Street had been previously used by Goldenvoice to stage the LA Weekly-sponsored Detour Fest.
Tickets, $35, go on sale at 3 p.m. Friday via TicketWeb. Other artists booked for FYF include the militant dance rock of Death From Above 1979, Canadian indie-pop act Broken Social Scene, Philadelphia's beloved late-'90s hardcore act Kid Dynamite, local noise rockers No Age and the playful retro pop of Mister Heavenly, among many others.
Yet the very fact that FYF is returning for Year No. 8 is something of a local rock miracle. After last year, in which the purchase of a $4 bottle of water on one of the hotter weekends of the summer could take more than an hour, The Times wrote that it was "time to stage an intervention," adding that "a great lineup means nothing if you spend half your time beneath punishing, shadeless sun unable to meet any basic human needs."
Carlson said he heard the criticisms loud and clear. "Running the festival and dealing with all of the logistics burnt me out," Carlson admitted. "I didn’t want to do that anymore.
"I just wanted to focus on the booking, marketing, promotion and layout of the event. I don’t want to deal with all the small details. That’s what hurt FYF last year. We were spread too thin. People think this is a massive festival. It draws 20,000 people, but about six people worked on it. Things fell through the cracks."
A few of those "small details" came up in a short conversation with Carlson. While casually talking about some acts on the bill, a pair of oversights popped up. Like that Sub Pop's Mister Heavenly was not on the initial promo poster that FYF would be using in advertisements this week.
Carlson was suddenly heard furiously typing and apologized numerous times. "It's very common that this happens to us," he said. Yet when the conversation resumed, Carlson caught another error on the poster, noticing that Off!, the latest punk project from Keith Morris (an FYF Fest founder, no less), was also absent.
"Amazing," Carlson shouted when he saw the error. "I just caught another one that was not on the flier. Off! This is incredible. I’m sorry. Wow. God. This is amazing. I think a person forgot a whole line. "
Such minor technicalities aside, Carlson promised that with the power of Goldenvoice behind him, the fissures would be sealed. Simple solutions will include $2 water and the addition of another entrance, and the city streets should add a more spread-out feel. There will be four stages this year after last year's three and "three times" as many food vendors. Those interested in a VIP experience will be happy to hear they will have a separate entrance.
Last year's problems, however, furthered the perception that while Carlson's boundless enthusiasm is hard to match, FYF was in over its head with attempting to stage an event for 20,000 people. The 26-year-old Carlson has been largely learning on the fly, noting that he "became a go-to person to do shows, but I still don't look at myself as a promoter."
Carlson has worked with Goldenvoice, having booked at numerous Goldenvoice venues. FYF also teamed with Goldenvoice for Las Vegas event Matador at 21. Carlson said he and Goldenvoice head Paul Tollett pledged to work together on FYF on Christmas Eve.
"The reason we partnered with Goldenvoice was to fix this problem and bring the fans comfort," Carlson said. "You’ve got to have fun with this. We are fans. We like communicating with fans. We don’t want to string people along, but we want to make it entertaining. There’s no promotion company or festival that’s as dumb as us, as ridiculous as us and more stoked on music as us."
The complete lineup as of June 15 (Carlson promised a surprise would be announced on the day of the show):
Death From Above 1979
Explosions in the Sky
Broken Social Scene
Cold War Kids
Guided By Voices
Simian Mobile Disco
The Dead Milkmen
The Head & The Heart
Olivia Tremor Control
The Strange Boys
— Todd Martens
Photo: Last year's FYF Fest at Los Angeles State Historic Park. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / For The Times.