LIVE REVIEW: FYF Festival 2011

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The Descendents, Broken Social Scene, Death from Above 1979
Story/ Heather Seidler   Photos/ Ericka Clevenger

Now in its eighth year, the once renegade punk party FYF (Fuck Yeah Festival) has become an unlikely Los Angeles mainstay and festival institution. Formerly held at the Echo in its infancy, FYF returned to the Los Angeles State Historic Park, backed by So Cal promoter Goldenvoice (the force behind Coachella Festival) to draw an audience of 20,000 along with some of the planet’s most diverse and engaging talents, both up-comers and veterans.  Bridging the gap between twenty-something shoegazers, first-generation punk acolytes and Gen Xers alike. An assembly of Black Flag bars, felt hats and thrift store sweaters were peppered throughout the crowd.
Indie music fans lamenting last weekend’s collapse of the Sunset Junction festival found refuge on Saturday at FYF. The day-long event started at 12pm and ended at 12am. Among the 37 acts were headliners Death from Above 1979, Broken Social Scene, Cold War Kids, Cults, Future Islands, the Descendents, Explosions in the Sky, Dead Milkmen, Dan Deacon, Glass Candy, Guided by Voices, Smith Westerns, Fool’s Gold, Girls, Kid Dynamite, Avi Buffalo, Cass McCombs, Four Tet, The Weakerthans and Twin Sister. Returning local acts include Off! and No Age, who have performed at virtually every FYF. Simpatico with the fest’s DIY aesthetic is the surprising fact that only four of the slate’s 37 artists are signed with a major label, proving even that doesn’t matter much these days. It’s a festival where the faded-but-much-loved, the underdog champs, the big-name-staples-of-punk-rock and the young-indie-darlings coincide together with nary a hint of the commercial gloss that Coachella boasts.
This year the event was better organized: less lines for food/booze, more shade, plenty of water and toilet paper, a plethora of beer backstage, and bands running on-schedule—a big turn around from last year’s lack of all of the above. And if you got the $35 discount ticket and hopped masterfully between the three stages, you could have seen each band for the slaphappy value of less than a dollar a piece.
Now for the bad bit: the VIP lounge was mostly a joke—a tent with no apparent purpose other than to charge people $99 to sit segregated on damp ottomans and indulge in the “Exclusive dining options” which equated to not much except chili-cheese fries, hot dogs and BBQ beef slop. The small “media section” where I was supposed to conduct my band interviews was so close to the stage that the noise level and distortion made it grueling. The free ice cream from would’ve been the best part of VIP if I wanted to induce myself into a sugar coma.
Anyone who roamed through that downtown park in the dry 90-degree weather quickly discovered that meant withstanding dirt storm clouds, at times far larger than the Mainstage, resembling the dustbowl itself. Many resourceful festival-goers (my party included) took off their shirts/cardigans to use as makeshift handkerchief face-masks, which at FYF is par for the course and a sure sign of a good set. Apparently the festival’s investment in hundreds of tons of woodchips to control the dust was an entirely futile attempt to control the inevitable.
One of the festival’s many highlights was Canadian alterna-rockers Broken Social Scene, who announced it would be their last show in LA for a long, long, long time, sparking rumors of the band’s retirement. But rest assured, according to BSS singer Lisa Lobsinger, they’ll just be taking a break from touring, not from music.
One of the festival’s most comedic moments was when the Descendents brought their befuddled kids onstage to read their version of the Ten Commandments from All-O-Gistics, turning the stage into a punky Knott’s Berry Farm. It was a tremendous combination of energy, nostalgia, sound and execution; proving a middle-aged, gray-haired man dressed in a baseball hat and khaki’s can still make even the 18 year-old white girls go berserk in the pit. The amount of bloodied, one-shoe’d, black-eyed, rip-skirted ladies that emerged from the moshpit would’ve made the harshest metal mob proud. It got so hairy during the Descendents set that NO press were even allowed in the press pit due to “safety issues” caused by zealous stage divers/crowd surfers of mythic Megadeath-like proportions. But it all came out in the wash because most of us crafty media folk snuck along the side and back of the stage and comingled with transfixed teenagers and seasoned pros.
All in all, the festival’s spirit out shined any of its hiccups. Its founder Sean Carlson who started FYF when he was a bored 18 year-old youngster, because he “wanted to do something to contribute to the scene that was more than just doing a zine,” certainly has proved the fest contributes more than the sum of its moving parts.

Award for break out performance goes to: Future Islands
Award for arena sound mastery: Broken Social Scene
Award for being more than a three-hit wonder: Cold War Kids
Award for smoking till you die: Guided By Voices (smoking during soundcheck, smoking during the show and chain-smoking backstage)
Award for being downright weird: Dan Deacon (the Dean Martin of self-soldered electronics)
Award for best light show of the night: Simian Mobile Disco (their equipment looked like a Nikola Tesla experiment)
Award for best guitar frenzy jam-band: Explosions in the Sky
Award for bringing down the house: Death from Above 1979

For more pictures click here.



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