It was dusty, at times it was hot, it was pretty much always a real-life, live action caricature of hipness and most of all, FYF Fest 2013 was an overwhelming, across-the-board success. In a city short on unifying events, this one, albeit only congregating a small chunk and demographic, brought together thousands of like-minded music enthusiasts and scenesters to downtown LA’s State Historic Park for two very full days of brilliantly curated modern music (and a few more classic acts like The Breeders, Melvins and My Bloody Valentine) at an event that was notably comfortable, easy-to-maneuver, and mostly without any major logistical hitches one comes to expect at such gatherings. Continue below for several highlights from FYF Fest 2013.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM SATURDAY
CHARLES BRADLEY STILL LOVES YOU
He’s the undisputed people’s champ of the modern funk and soul landscape. We tried to keep track of how many times Bradley told he loved us during the hour set but lost count around ten. You might ask: how in only a little over two years has a previously obscure / almost entirely unknown artist in his mid-60s become such an in-demand commodity at music festivals nationwide? Bradley once again answered this question on Saturday afternoon by pouring every ounce of emotion and soul (there’s still apparently a reason why the genre is named as such) into his craft once he strutted out to the stage and commanded the vintage mic at the center of the stage.
Bradley featured songs from this year’s Victim of Love like “Hurricane” (replete with an environmental warning) and the ripped-from-the-golden-age instant classic “Strictly Reserved For You” early on. Some of the more somber and poignant tunes from 2011’s No Time For Dreaming flurried in as the always-debonair Bradley conquered the stage amidst a flurry of horns, a surplus of sunshine and one totally locked-in backing band laying down the groove. Midway through the set, the Screaming Eagle of Soul instructed the main stage crowd, saying “Raise your hand if you wanna go to church,” before kicking into “You Put the Flame on It.” With heat levels rising, Bradley threw off his vest and immersed himself fully into the song while gyrating and showing off some slick moves with the mic stand. We love you too Charles.
TORO Y MOI’S SATURDAY ATMOSPHERICS
Artists like Toro Y Moi prove there is still room for sonic depth and meaning within the bounds of electronic music (that makes you
wanna need to shake it). As the sun continued to beat down, the South Carolina native Chaz Budnick and his band created quite the atmosphere with their bouncy brand of chillwave and lush and mellow funk. Moments of adventurous and instrumentally-driven bliss bubbled through during the intricate and pulsing “Still Sound” while many of the newer tracks from this year’s Anything In Return boiled over with vibrance and blistering, crowd-driven energy.
DEERHUNTER DELIVERS THE SET OF THE WEEKEND (WITH BRADFORD COX IN DRAG)
Since headlining a much-smaller FYF Fest in 2007 (my first time seeing the band), Deerhunter has become one of the most exciting and well-known acts in the nebulous “indie-rock” milieu. Bringing their trademark sheets of overlapping sound, Deerhunter immediately ran through a tight set heavy on Cox’s punkish howls (while wearing a dress and black wig) amidst a continuous barrage of droning, textured guitars and effects. The set provided a nice mix -- trading moments of pure transcendence (such as during an absolute monster -- the always sprawling “Nothing Ever Happened,” a rendition that pushed on for nearly 15 minutes) with more uptempo, straight-laced rockers from Halcyon Digest like “Desire Lines”. After this set, I couldn’t get it out of my head that we had probably just seen the peak moment of the festival early on Saturday night and it still rings true here on Tuesday.
TV ON THE RADIO PROVES THEIR METTLE AS A FESTIVAL HEADLINER IN THE UNDERCARD SLOT
Hitting the stage just before Yeah Yeah Yeahs, TV On The Radio resiliently proved that they are every bit as deserving of a future headlining slot as bands like last year’s headliner M83 and this year’s main stage juggernauts My Bloody Valentine and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. With a monster sound and a set list featuring some notably heavy and anthemic new material, TVOTR blasted out their indescribable brand of rock music, resonating over the State Park grounds and banging off of the nearby warehouses in the area. Full of joy at times, yet dark and heavy all the same, this set treaded a stylistic and emotionally-wrought tightrope few artists can even begin to approach within the bounds of an hour set.
MAC DEMARCO AND CO. TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS
Mac DeMarco is a weirdo, but he also may be a genius. The artists I remember most are the ones who are without parallel as both stage presence and musician. On Sunday, Demarco wasn’t short on his trademark slacker / stoner charm and his backing band showcased an abundance of talent. While playing his ode to his favorite brand of cigarette “Viceroy,” crowd surfers lit up the scene down below. However, despite playing a number of tunes from his first-rate breakout LP 2, the takeaway from the set was the jukebox-on-random medley of covers that began with “Takin’ Care of Business,” a lyric from Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” a hardcore version of The Beatles’ “Blackbird” and a quick shout to ole Fred Durst with Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.” Always good to have a few laughs during a rock set. Truly one-of-a-kind and there’s almost no chance I’d miss Demarco next time he comes around LA.
KURT VILE BLISS-MODES THE EARLY SUNDAY CROWD
Kurt Vile is having one of those so-called “moments” in 2013. It seems every week there are new raves coming from almost every press outlet imaginable about the prolific artist’s latest record Wakin On A Pretty Daze. This year, alongside the Violators, KV has stepped up his live game thanks to an extensive and relentless touring schedule that has seen Vile stop at most major festivals and repeating in certain markets. On Sunday, Vile’s set opened with the always-pristine and dreamy “Wakin’ On A Pretty Daze,” setting the tone for a stunning Sunday set that far exceeded the one I just got to see a couple weeks prior at SF’s Outside Lands. The set’s highlight came when Vile invited out LA’s Farmer Dave Scher to add a hefty layer of steel to “Was All Talk”. “Freak Train” made it’s welcome appearance late in the set and alas, Vile took a few moments to showcase his acumen as one of modern music’s best songwriters during the older “Peeping Tomboy,” performing it solo.
BARONESS MAKES THEIR MARK DURING A TRIUMPHANT RETURN
Baroness’s heavy brand of psychedelic prog-metal and rampant sense of badassery commanded respect long before the band returned earlier this year from a harrowing bus crash that nearly took the band’s lives only a year ago. Last year’s FYF Fest took place only a week after the their tour bus plunged off a mountain side road into a ravine and the band was obviously forced to cancel while each of its members began to recuperate in the hospital. Front man John Baizley had to relearn the guitar (and I’m happy to report he hasn’t lost a single step) and it was cool to see the lead singer mention that “the band had to cancel last year” without even directly referencing the crash. Baroness is what any “full band” should be, and each member is an utterly essential piece to making this freight train maintain such a frenetic and meandering pace. The oddly-Deadish “Green Theme” and the ripping “Take My Bones Away” stuck out most On Sunday afternoon, Baroness showed that they’ll keep on chugging ‘until the wheels fall off.’ And who knows, perhaps one day these guys will be fully appreciated by the masses as the modern metal geniuses they are.
WASHED OUT (NOW IN COLOR)
I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been a huge fan of Washed Out since I first heard tracks from his debut EP Life of Leisure. I very much wanted for the live offerings of Ernest Greene and Co. to compliment the goods Washed Out has been able to deliver up in the studio (or bedroom, depending on the song) but it just didn’t…until now. With a fresh band (that still includes his wife Blair Greene on keys and synth), Washed Out now has a less drowsy, fuller and abundantly lustrous live sound that was on full display on Sunday night in front of a large crowd.
Up front by the rail, the crowd was fully immersed in the show, yet it did seem behind us that many were beginning to wear down from a long weekend. At any rate, hearing newly-energized takes on “Feel It All Around” and “New Theory,” as well as new tracks like “It All Feels Right” and “Don’t Give Up” was a major highlight of the whole weekend and re-piqued my interest in Washed Out as a live act.
HOLY GHOST! ICES THE CAKE
While My Bloody Valentine made their highly-anticipated first US festival appearance in eons over on the main stage, Holy Ghost! had the big task of closing out the festival weekend with the latest set, taking the stage at 11 pm and going a few ticks past midnight on Sunday. Those sticking it out for this one were handsomely rewarded with arguably the most danceable and good-times-focused sets of the weekend. Leaving a marathon festival weekend with an afterglow is always a huge bonus and icing on the cake. This set boiled over with effervescence as the stylish NY band laid down a healthy slice of disco funk that combined live instrumentation and vox with live and synthetic drums, technicolor DJ consoles and keyboards. It was unyielding-ly funky and much like the whole weekend that preceded it, an outrageous amount of fun.
Finally, don’t miss the photo gallery below.