SATURDAY 4 PM: FLOATING POINTS (DJ)
Saying Floating Points is a diverse selector would be an understatement. Reading interviews with Sam Shepard really gives an insight into how obsessive and caring he is with the tracks he chooses to play, and FYF was no exception. While his selections were not the most intriguing, they were perfect for the outdoor stage. Floating Points knows what to play and when to push the crowd to a different level. His pace at FYF was consistent, sticking to old classics that would match a beautiful summer afternoon in California.
NAOMI MENEZES, CONCERTS DIRECTOR
SATURDAY 4 PM: DIIV
My first weekend back in LaLa Land, I found myself in a labyrinth of stages around the Coliseum. Having the opportunity to watch DIIV, an indie rock band, perform played a prominent role in my decision to attend FYF. Obviously, there was an abundance of other phenomenal performers I was blessed with seeing that weekend, but it was DIIV’s motoric grooves that got me through the late nights of my summer.
The delirium-inducing shoe-gaze sound that DIIV was able to demonstrate live surpassed expectation. With a mix of tracks from both their albums: Is the Is Are and Oshin, the band was able to take us on an oscillating journey from atmospheric to dream-pop tones with their guitars at the crux. Zachary Cole Smith, the band’s founder and lead vocalist/guitarist, may have been at the center of the show, slaying with his eerie melodies, but it is the rest of the band who enabled his tales of struggle to have such a transportive feeling. Specifically, Andrew Bailey, the other lead guitarist, who appeared to be in a hypnotic state as he “spazzed” about the stage on his neon yellow guitar with what appeared to be sleeping mask over his eyes. As I, and the crowd around me, watched the band bob their heads as they jammed out, we could not help but to do the same. It was a sublime trance, which ended sooner than any of us would have wanted.
LIVIA AZEVEDO, DJ
SATURDAY 5:30 PM: VINCE STAPLES
Every year at FYF there is a show on Saturday that lets you know that the festivities have begun. In past years, Run The Jewels has performed the task of rising every crowd members’ energy level and penchant for destruction to a ringing peak. This year’s festival no longer had Killer Mike or El-P to do the honors.
Don’t worry 2016, we got Vince.
“Birds & Bees,” “Senorita,” “Blue Suede,” “Norf Norf,” “Lift Me Up,” “Screen Door” were all continuous highlights that gave no room for rest. Vince’s flow and production seemed to be spilling out of him, hip-hop music like his always seems to sound best in a speeding car with the windows down, and that same adrenaline rush was present during his bombastic show.
Outside of just the sounds, Vince himself was a character, he danced with swagger, something that if you’ve ever seen any of his laundry list of GQ review videos you’d know he simply oozes with. While similar acts such as Young Thug neglected any sort of visual element, Vince Staples provided an incredible visual element. The entire Main Stage screen glowed red with swarms of bees during “Birds and Bees,” even the iconic rose scene from American Beauty played on repeat at one frantic point.
Vince’s show left little to be desired from the Long Beach native, it made sure that FYF kept its harsh edge that has slowly been dulled down since its punk filled origins and stood out amongst the other rap acts.
RAMIRO MOSQUERA, WORLD MUSIC DIRECTOR
SATURDAY 6:30 PM: KAMAIYAH
Aw shit, it's Kamaiyah
Aw shit, please retire
Hot girl set the city on fire
At 7:00pm, at the Club stage during FYF, Kamaiyah came, saw, and set Los Angeles on fire.
She may not have the most prolific body of work, her most recent and only release “A Good Night in The Ghetto,” clocks in at about 40 minutes total, but Kamaiyah packs enough character into those few minutes to earn herself a tour with YG. Kamaiyah has described her music as, “a fun time with no drama and no being hurt” and she criminally understates fun in that description.
“I’m On,” “Out the Bottle,” and a song name that can not be written out on this website, all got the crowd moving in ways that most of the white Angelinos in the audience didn’t know they could. Her music just makes you move, it evokes emotion in very pure way that allows for listeners to express themselves in a free and unconstrained way. It was a relatively short set but remains one the more memorable shows out of the 10+ I saw over the weekend as many other KXSC’ers would agree.
Kamaiyah may be a nascent artist but she is making a strong first impression that will hopefully continue as she battles her way through a hip-hop industry devoid of female MC’s like herself, bombastic, bodacious and in command of her future.
RAMIRO MOSQUERA, WORLD MUSIC DIRECTOR
SATURDAY 6:40 PM: SHELLAC
There is no denying that FYF has changed. But before laying into some critique based around a commercial selling-out brought to you compliments of Vans™ and Goldenvoice™ (a critique I’m not qualified to make) let’s acknowledge that we’ve all changed since 2004. Change is natural, (so I’m told) and bound to happen in a society that emphasizes growth and financial progress above all else, and if it upsets you, I’m sorry to say, don’t blame Sean Carlson blame capitalism!
My first FYF was 2013, the last year for the fest at L.A. Historic Park, and in many ways the last year of the festival still sonically resembling those first four years. Thee Oh Sees and Metz and Title Fight and NOFX played on a stage devoted to punk and hardcore, and to be honest my naive 16-year-old self didn’t see any of them. Looking at the lineup for this year, lifetime achievement award winner, Ty Segall, aside, Shellac represents some of the last drops of that original FYF pure strain, a strain that has become more and more infused with electronic and rap music as the years have gone by. And it’s difficult to tell if that’s due to some sort of selling out or if it is genuinely indicative of a shift in music counter culture from the traditional white dominated indie cultures clearly traceable from Reagan’s 80s to the early 2000s to the subversive music surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement of today. Because in many ways, that indie culture is dead, coopted by a capitalistic machine, chewed up and spit out as Walk The Moon (no offense).
Regardless of reasoning and change, Shellac belongs at FYF. Because if anyone who was at that first FYF July 2nd, 2004 attended this year’s festival, they were at Shellac, and they cheered as Steve Albini, Todd Trainer and Bob Weston, calmly walked on stage, picked up their instruments and laid into a sunset rendition of “My Black Ass.” With those opening chords, a collective and cathartic feeling of ‘Fuck Yeah’ filled the air, beginning a set that made the lack of guitar music at FYF in 2016 a little more alright.
As expected with Shellac, it was more than just the music, it was the overarching anti-corporate-music festival attitude of their set that really cut to the core of what FYF once was and still barely hangs on to. It was Bob Weston first addressing the photographers in the front row “you guys don’t have to leave after three minutes, you can stay as long as you want, we only get better” and Albini yelling at the technicians to turn the smoke machines off after their first song. It was Albini hunching over his guitar, his whole body moving up and down with each blistering chord, Trainer and Weston locking up from that first second of the set to the last with a precision that only minimalist post-rock like Shellac’s can fully capture the beauty of that let this progressed and changed festival know what it had left behind. And for 50 minutes on Saturday evening, playing towards a Los Angeles sunset, three dudes from Chicago did just that for one of the more (disappointingly) small audiences of the festival.
The band left no stone unturned with popular favorites like “Dude Incredible” and “Riding Bikes” as well as an extended and elaborated version of “The End of Radio” in which Albini managed to get a localized “Fuck KROQ” and only omitted legendary Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully from his airwave tirade. Among these better-known tracks, the band also entertained with the early B-Side “Wingwalker” which included Bob Weston running around the stage like a plane and a drawn out story interlude from Albini explaining how “the plane is a metaphor for life” to a grinning crowd. But nothing captured the set better than the “Defenders of Fun” theme song, a short jam that simply ends with a dead-panned “we are the defenders — the defenders of fun.” And in some ways, as Albini and Weston proceeded to disassemble Todd Trainers drum set, running it off the stage, finally carrying Trainer as well, there was a feeling that Shellac is some of the final defenders, not only of fun, but of an era of guitar music gone by. So long live fun, and long live Shellac, and long live the original spirit of an FYF fest that at least a few especially bread hipsters who can say they were at Echoplex Theatre on July 2nd, 2004 will miss dearly.
BROCK STUESSI, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR FROM WNUR
SATURDAY 9 PM: TAME IMPALA
I'm Not Angry, I'm Just Disappointed
Kevin Parker can’t help but to put on a great show. The clear quality of his work demands attention, and thus Tame Impala’s Main Stage show on Saturday was well worth the hype. All the elements came together beautifully; the stellar graphics paired well with psych-rock reverb and layers of immersive sound. From my position in the middle-center of the crowd, I was able to really ride the good vibes group mind. And yet - I found significant fault with Tame Impala’s FYF set. The last time I saw the band perform live was over a year ago at Coachella in 2015. This time, like the last, I was disappointed by their choice to play not only one but both of their mega-hits, “Elephant,” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards.” While Currents had not yet been released in April of 2015, possibly necessitating the move, Tame Impala’s repertoire has advanced significantly since, and I expected the same of their live show. Post-Currents, Tame Impala no longer has to rely on the songs that threw them into the spotlight 4+ years ago. Additionally, the choices to play Mark Ronson-produced “Daffodils” and feature a cryptic blink-and-you-miss-it cameo by Lady Gaga indicate a similar trend of stagnation. Instead of taking advantage of the traction that he has gained in the mainstream to explore, Parker is resting on his laurels and taking in the view. This is only problematic if it impedes the quality of Tame Impala’s releases. While many critiqued Currents for being far more accessible than previous work, I appreciated the album. The simplistic lyrics pack an intense emotional punch and one can spend quite a bit of time dissecting the nuances of the music. I don’t regret dedicating an hour of my weekend to this show; I just don’t feel that it bettered my life in any significant way. Despite it all, I lost it during “The Less I Know The Better.”
ELIZA MOLEY, HEAD OF CONTENT
SATURDAY 9:20 PM: KELELA
Kelela took the stage at FYF as a Cute-Femme-Fatale-Robo-Diva. She looked like she could kill you without getting a stain on her sheer white body suit and pants. The artist effortlessly blended ambient, sometimes dissonant electronics with emotional R&B vocals. Sometimes she comes off as sort of FKA twigs meets Rihanna with her deadpanned delivery, but don’t be fooled, Kelela can belt it out when she needs to. Kelela’s work is filled with her heart and you can feel it even more when she’s performing on stage. She took a break to speak to her audience about leaving DC, her hometown, for Los Angeles to “blow up” and her anxious excitement as she moves to New York City – literally as soon as she finishes this set. She leads the crowd through a mix of slow songs with faster tracks from her Hallucinogen EP and Cut 4 Me. The audience was bumping and grinding with Kelela all the way ‘till the end of her set.
SAMUEL JOSEPHS, DJ
SATURDAY 9:30 PM: FLOATING POINTS (LIVE)
Floating Points live is a unique experience. This producer and performer has gathered a group of talented musicians to bring his EP Elaenia to life in a stunning performance. This album gives the band a rich source material to bring to the live experience of a show. The live performance followed the path of the album which bends genres of jazz, rock, electronic, and R&B. Floating Points’ diverse taste as a selector that finds its way into a cohesive and incredible live performance is something truly unique.
NAOMI MENEZES, CONCERTS DIRECTOR
SATURDAY 10 PM: SHEER MAG
Sheer Mag’s set at FYF was a powerful demonstration of the pure intensity and magic of their music. Coming immediately after Tame Impala’s psychedelic and polished set on the main stage, the close-up rawness of Tina Halliday and the rest of the band at the Club Stage was like a breath of fresh air. Commanding the stage with her powerful voice, tracks like “Fan The Flames” were pure AM-rock-radio fire, with indelible riffs and chugging basslines leading to some truly excellent dance moves in the audience. “Nobody’s Baby” off of Sheer Mag’s latest release was a highlight, with Halliday’s growls of “Treat me the way that I deserve!” giving an empowering late-night moment that was much in need.
ALLEGRA ROSENBERG, DJ
SATURDAY 10:10 PM: HOT CHIP
Hot Chip holds a special place in my heart but I will try to refrain from this bias influencing this review too deeply.
They played on the lawn stage, a stage that consistently had what felt like one of the best mixing teams I’ve ever heard at an outdoor festival. It was also the stage that Air just played a wonderfully ephemeral and enlightening collection of songs. What I’m getting at is that the setting and ambience was perfect for Alexis Taylor and Joe Goddard to take the crowd on a journey. A journey away from the long day baking in the sun, listening to loud music and eating expensive food. A journey, just for a moment, back to youth and the confused warmth that comes from reliving it.
Hot Chip’s performance on Saturday night, playing hits from that album like “Boy From School” and “Over and Over” had a certain wistful nostalgia, remembering those past school days when they first met in secondary school in Britain.
Hot Chips show was technically spectacular, as I said before the sound was perfect, the vocals and discordant and cacophonous electronic undertones pierced or soothed depending on their intention. Nothing felt off, and although they are now singing and playing songs over 10 years old, they still understand those same feelings that went into writing the music and managed to transmit them to a dancing throng of FYF go-ers.
RAMIRO MOSQUERA, WORLD MUSIC DIRECTOR
SATURDAY 10:10 PM: HOT CHIP
At FYF last Saturday night, the British electro-indie-pop band Hot Chip closed out the Lawn stage with a highly entertaining set that had the crowd jumping. Also slated to play a DJ set later that night to wrap the day's festivities, their live set was energetic and entrancing, showcasing the band's hypnotic blend of electronic and live instrumentation. Led by front man Alexis Taylor, who looks like he could be your father's accountant but is in fact an accomplished singer/songwriter/musician, the band opened with their ten year-old hit "Boy From School", and played a dozen songs that nicely blended some of their established favorites like "Over and Over" and "Flutes" with newer songs such as "Huarache Lights", from their latest album. They even threw in a couple of great covers, paying tribute to Prince with his "Erotic City, and closing out the set with a version of Springsteen's 'Dancing In The Dark" that was really fun and well suited to their inimitable sound. Taylor deftly maneuvered between keyboards, guitar and percussion while performing lead vocals, and along with the rest of the band, kept the capacity crowd moving and shaking. Although I was personally a little disappointed they did not play "Atomic Bomb" ( originally a William Onyeabor song from 1978), one of my favorite summer tunes from '14, I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit with this band live, and it was a highlight of the night.
MR. BERNSTEIN, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR (HEAD OF PUBLICATIONS, MOLLY BERNSTEIN'S DAD)
SATURDAY 11:15 PM: KENDRICK LAMAR
“Image valued more than truth” reads the gray long-sleeve draping Kendrick Lamar, as he walks onto the mainstage Saturday night.
Image and truth. Truth: It’s impossible to know what Kendrick may have been thinking about as he looked out to the crowd of thousands gathered within spitting distance of his childhood home, impossible to know if Kendrick truly felt the homecoming he described with a “glad to be home” or if, as his shirt suggested, he was only acknowledging the geographical image of his home antithetical to the truth that the thousands who had gathered did not truly represent the LA he grew up in. Image and truth. Truth: No city puts those two words at odds like Los Angeles, and no festival represents the disparity between the two inherent to the cultural fabric of the city like FYF. A festival that began as a one-night affair at Echoplex, showcasing local indie post-rock and hardcore talent, grown into a two-day affair that reflects the overall shift within critically acclaimed music from white-dude-centric indie rock to rap with a headliner like Kendrick Lamar. Image and truth. Image: I look around me at an audience largely informed by the commercialized indie culture that FYF began within the dying days of its sincerity. A concentrated population of people bought and sold by a capitalist takeover of the indie aesthetic, wearing clothes they probably paid too much money for, listening to music fed to them by Pitchfork™; fed forever on by a judgmental air as thick as the smog that envelops the city. And then I look down at myself and realize, well, I’m no better. Truth and image. Truth: I’m a white cis-male who grew up in a middle-class American family, who will probably sing along to most of the songs Kendrick plays tonight and will maybe even slip, caught up in the passion of performance, and say the n-word once or twice. And it’s hard to say if that’s the image Kendrick Lamar is okay with seeing tonight.
“Image valued more than truth.” Image: Fire shoots up on the stage as “untitled 07｜levitate” starts, the crowd bounces and an hour and a half of music is suddenly underway. On stage: a drummer, a bassist, a guitarist and a keyboard player, a sight you won’t see behind Vince Staples or Young Thug and almost a statement of validation Lamar makes for his music, headlining a festival historically dominated by live bands. And he is levitating, around the stage, here not only to share his music but also to prove something in this city of his youth, of image and truth. Image: Oprah flickers on the screen. Found footage of black icons will roll behind Kendrick as the concert progresses, images of Muhammed Ali, of James Brown, of Snoop Dogg, and those white oppressors like George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan and Bill O’Reilly roll as well. Images, each with their own truth playing to an audience of images enveloping the truths of individual existence. But it’s not really individual existence here, at least that’s not what Kendrick intends when he very early on asks the crowd “Where are my day ones at?” Image and truth. Truth: Day one, really, you’ve all been fuckin’ with Kendrick since day one? Since before Overly Dedicated? Because I know I certainly haven’t, but do I yell? Do I project an image of support, of insiders, of wanting to be part of a community and be validated before it, over the truth that I was not listening to Kendrick Lamar in 2010? Yes. And so do those around me.
Image and truth. Image: Isaiah Rashad joins Lamar for a duo rendition of “Free Lunch,” Jay Rock joins for his verse on “Money Trees,” Kendrick reworks his verse on “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe;” these are things I see. All the while Kendrick bounds through verse doing vocal gymnastics, proving with ease and grace to those who may still be skeptical of his abilities. Why he’s on the stage: proving to the heckler in the front row with a “seriously?” before launching into the whirl or words of “For Free?” all the while staring down what appears to be his sole doubter left in the audience that night. Proof, as if he still needs that. But again it’s LA after all and who can really tell the difference between truth and image in this city anyway. Proving: only fulfills itself with a sort of validation, and it’s clear that Kendrick needs that tonight too, constantly asking the crowd “Are you still fuckin’ with me?” jabbing with an “I know you’re not tired now, because I’m certainly not.” As if he recognizes the dissonance of it all, the thousands of people bouncing and singing “we gun’ be alright” who aren’t really part of the “we” that lives a few miles south. Image and truth. Truth: I am not the “we.” You are probably not the “we,” but Kendrick seems to acknowledge this, seems to know that this performance is not about “i”. Not addressed to the same crowd as his speech interlude on “i” on To Pimp A Butterfly either; more about the image of it all, the image of community and cohesiveness around a genuine counter-culture and music of protest today.
Image and truth. Sometimes image weighs more than truth, genuinely (you can buy that shirt that Kendrick is wearing from Los Angeles fashion brand Hymne here: http://hymne.us/products/image-more-valued-than-truth-t-shirt-soft-white for $78) because in truth Kendrick is maybe also no longer part of the “we” he raps about, and could never truly play a public homecoming show in Los Angeles that wouldn’t be swarmed with the same people surrounding me right now or comfortably buy that shirt he’s wearing if he was still part of that “we”. Maybe in some ways that truth doesn’t matter, and to be clear I’m not saying that Kendrick’s music doesn’t come from a genuine place of truth and experience as a black man in America, because it whole-heartedly does and in that way he still speaks for a “we” myself and those around me are not a part of. But rather the truth of this experience, the truth of Kendrick Lamar headlining FYF Fest in front of an audience that comes from a different part of Los Angeles than the performer, because if image can over ride that truth, then this music is really for everyone. Tonight there is a beautiful image of community and unity, an image of thousands of people shouting words in synchronicity that call for radical racial change in America, an image of an artist and a movement the American capitalistic structure hasn’t completely figured out how to mine and destroy yet. And somewhere in that image, that image that Kendrick looks out upon, I hope there is some truth, a truth that arises out of this hyper-image culture of Los Angeles that somehow brings us all closer to understanding and empathizing and just being better people. “Image valued more than truth” because hopefully sometimes that image can become a sort of truth.
BROCK STUESSI, GUEST CONTRIBUTOR FROM WNUR