One of Sub Pop’s new indie darlings, Vetiver was the act that opened my day at FYF. Vetiver is one of those bands that’s really difficult to place within the constraints of a genre. I had never heard of them before, so I asked nearby neighbors about their sound and got a collection of responses: “ambiently sorrowful,” “indie electro-folk,” “somber and beautiful,” and, my personal favorite, “like a soft sweater hug”. Their show did an excellent job of melding all of these descriptions into a single, semi-coherent idea. Vetiver was subdued and epic, putting a far-reaching energy into their soft, minimalistic songs that reached all the way from the stage to the single water fountain in the park. While definitely more suited to night-time listening than the 2 o’clock-my-face-is-melting-from-the-heat time slot they received, I would jump at another opportunity to get another Vetiver-sweater hug.
Warpaint opened their show with a sprawling, powerful attack on the crowd that was still being lulled to peace by the Vetiver act. Their 10-minute opener destroyed the complacency that had settled over their audience, and was the coolest thing about the show. It was energetic, huge, and entrancing, pushing walls of shoegaze guitar and pulsing bass at everyone within earshot. While I felt that they lost some of their steam once they began playing the rest of their set, that first song alone started getting me pumped about the entire day, which is no easy feat in the heat of the day.
FYF Fest was a collection of bands that really didn’t belong on the same bill, which is partly what made it so awesome. The biggest exception I can think of, however, was Best Coast. Best Coast is possibly the most summer-y sounding band since Sufing-era Beach Boys, and for a festival poised to send off summer with a bang, Best Coast absolutely belonged at FYF. If you went to Best Coast hoping for those fleeting feelings of summer, they absolutely delivered. Frontwoman Bethany Cosentino stood perched in front of fuzzed-out Orange stacks, asked the audience to return her floppy sun hat if it were to fly away (it didn’t), and managed to transport everyone in the audience to the first week after middle school got out. It was simple lofi surfer rock done right, and as the day started cooling off and the wind started rolling in—which I’m convinced ocean breezes conjured by Cosentino’s coy vocals—Best Coast established FYF in my mind as the last great festival of the summer.
Titus Andronicus was my favorite show of FYF Fest for three reasons: Dusty. Moshing. Hipsters. All the previous shows I had seen were fun, but the typical detached behavior of simply standing around and listening to a band with crossed arms was prevalent. I was worried it would happen again for Titus, a band that easily crosses the line between angsty and angry. But I had nothing to worry about, for by the second or third song, there was a throng of 30 or 40 people at the front of the stage moshing their hearts out. The desert dust filled everyone’s lungs, throats, and noses, but it stopped absolutely no one from singing, jumping, and yelling their hearts out. And between the emotive frontman, enthusiastic bassist, and the electric violinist who looked like she was having the time of her life, it was clear that the band was just as into it as the crowd was. The last song resulted in a massive crowd group hug (which you can see on the FYF photo album posted below) before dissolving in a blur of plaid and v-necks. Titus Andronicus had me coughing up the desert for days after FYF, but I would have paid entry fees to see that show alone.
I had seen (and loved) Local Natives at Coachella earlier this spring, so I thought I knew what we were in store for when they took the main stage at 5:45. I was hot and exhausted from the Titus set, but I loved Local Natives and there was no way I was going to miss them. Almost as if rewarding my dedication, moments before the Local Natives, the sun started setting behind the stage and the temperature must have dropped 60 degrees. A steady breeze overcame the crowd. The Natives walked out and burst into “Camera Talk”. And fell in love with this band once more. Despite the melodic, layered rock feel, they carried the show with all the presence of arena rock stars (without the egos!). It was their first day back home in LA, and they played like they were the most grateful musicians there that day. The keyboardist even burst out between songs, “You guys give me a reason to live!” before laughing it off and going into their (very awesome) Talking Heads cover, “Warning Sign”. The band played strong and enthusiastically, welcoming the sunset and closing their set with the very appropriate “Sun Hands”. Even though I’d played the album umpteen billion times over the summer, even though I’d seen them live before, their show made it all seem new and fresh once again.
Ted Leo and the Rx
Ted Leo’s band was one of the more established acts rounding out the playlist, originally coming from the late 90s. But Ted Leo has kept active, putting an album out in March this year, and his act showed it. Despite countless technical screw ups that were not the fault of the band, including busted speakers, falling mic stands, and bad wiring, Ted Leo stayed professional and put out a great show. The band played tight and fast, pumping out their energetic indie punk like a well-oiled machine. My main complaint was that the energy of the crowd (read: the mosh pit) was completely absent from these very deserving musicians. With the exception of a few isolated audience members, most people were standing perfectly still, which is truly an affront to punk of any variety. But unfortunately, that seemed to be the theme of Ted Leo’s set: the band putting out a great performance while everything fell to pieces around them. If you get a chance to see them, do it; but make sure you slip some Red Bulls into everyone’s drink first, because seeing these guys without a jumpy crowd really sucks the fun out of it.
The Mountain Goats
Speaking of established acts, how about those Mountain Goats? After missing about half the first song due to technical mishaps, John Darnielle and company powered through almost an hour of acoustic folk rock. The delivery of everything was perfect: just the right amount of tongue-in-cheek humor, just the right amount of the actual sadness that lies behind much of Darnielle’s heartwrenching lyrics, and an intense professed love for the upcoming band, Sleep. I’m still not sure if that was supposed to be ironic or not. Regardless, The Mountain Goats carried through their power-trio folk with all the excitement of a band who knew that they were in an absolutely bizarre place in the set list (between indie punk and stoner metal) and thought it was awesome. The end result was a great, energetic set that got the crowd going and kind of summarized the idea of FYF as a festival that worked because the bands didn’t really belong together.