After such a strong Saturday, where could FYF Fest possibly go from there? Most other festivals would be lighter and more relaxed after such a day, but FYF pulled off the unenviable task of matching and surpassing it.
The magic continued into the festival’s second day, which is when the fest channeled a Primavera Sound-esque vibe. This epiphany hit during Julia Holter’s otherworldly 4 p.m. performance. Where else can I witness an intimate performance that eschews a traditional band setup in favor of a string section after Julien Baker and before Blood Orange, Charles Bradley, Father John Misty, Anohni, Grace Jones and Chelsea Wolfe? And that’s not even counting an unplanned walk through the blissed-out zone surrounding what must have been Beach House’s hundredth SoCal performance in the past year and catching Floating Points’ stellar closing tracks.
In short, Sunday was one of the best festival days I’ve ever experienced, thanks to its impeccable mix of great and amazing performances that all offered a distinct sonic voyage and included some rare sets and “you had to be there” moments. And this is saying a lot since I’ve been attending festivals for 13 years now. My only question is, how can FYF match or top this year in 2017? I can’t wait to see. – Frank Mojica
As Sunday festivities got under way, Preoccupations took the stage to open things up for those who managed to crawl out of bed and get down to Exposition Park after Saturday’s slate of raucous performances. Perhaps owing to that, the crowd at the Lawn stage seemed more entranced than energized by the post-punk’s brutal forthright sound.
Preoccupations’ set also featured the latest roadie assist in a set I’ve ever seen, during the set-closing behemoth of a track, “Death” (clocking in around the 45 minute mark). With such attention to detail, and an irresistible stage presence, this newly rechristened live act made more than the best of their surroundings to deliver a punishing yet enjoyable set. – Lee Bedrouni
Meanwhile, at the Club Tent, Julien Baker offered a completely different way to start the day. Armed with a guitar, her voice and a collection of exquisite songs, Baker utterly entranced the crowd of early birds that weren’t too hung over to arrive in time for her 2:45 p.m. set.
Punctuating the emotionally gripping tunes that dropped jaws and pulled tears from the fans on the rail were Baker’s charming, self-deprecating quips. At one point she commented on the tent’s disco balls and mused that the crowd could get dancing to her upbeat music if there were any lights.
“The good news is that it can only get better from here,” Baker remarked. I don’t know about “better,” but her set was the start of a day loaded with an assortment of nothing but great or incredible performances. – Frank Mojica
Even at the most well-ran, professional festivals there are bound to be some technical issues. When those surface, it is typically up to the artists to rise above such issues and deliver a worthwhile performance. Julia Holter was not the only such artist to be faced with technical issues this FYF weekend (Grimes prevailed through problems of her own), but the way in which she and her sextet managed to prevail over the conditions (a midday tent set doesn’t always lend itself well to baroque pop medleys) was admirable.
As Holter and company ran through a set primarily comprised of songs from her latest release (Have You In My Wilderness), the sounds, lighting and atmosphere combined to create a dream-like state that only dissipated between songs and at the end of the show. A lovely dream to be lost in, that’s for certain. – Lee Bedrouni
Part of me will always miss Dev Hynes’ Lightspeed Champion project and is curious about what that would sound like now. If Emmy the Great was involved again, then that would be even better. After witnessing Blood Orange at FYF, this possibility seems even more remote because the performance was that perfect.
Hynes brought the full Guestchella experience to FYF with an array of guest vocalists. First came Carly Rae Jepsen for “Better Than Me,” followed by “Everything is Embarrassing” and “You’re Not Good Enough” with Sky Ferreira. Later, Zuri Marley dropped in for “Love Ya,” followed by Nelly Furtado on “Hadron Collider” and Empress Of on “Best of You.”
Guests aside, Hynes and company blended genres for one of the weekend’s most captivating hours of musical riches. The highlight of the set may well have been Hynes’ wicked shredding during the end of “Bad Girls.” In a weekend full of “holy shit” moments, that was one of the biggest. – Frank Mojica
Father John Misty
I made my way over to Father John Misty’s late afternoon set fully aware that indie rock lounge singer-come-mischief-maker’s performances as of late had a particularly rant-y bent to them. I steeled myself in preparation for this and, in a way, it did dull my expectations for his set. However, over the course of 10 songs, Father John Misty and his band utterly smashed any preconceived notions I had.
Whether it was coyfully using classic Mac error messages projected behind him as the backdrop to his orchestral musics on love, or announcing the appearance of Grace Jones on stage as a guest before gesturing to the side and reacting as though the “appearance” had been nixed unexpectedly, Father John Misty’s self-awareness and humor shone just as brightly as the music. And don’t let me sell him short on his abilities as a showman, either. J. Tillman gives it his all live and is an undeniable can’t miss live acct at this point in his career. – Lee Bedrouni
“If you missed Grace Jones, you fucked up. I don’t care if you were somewhere else and finally connected with the love of your life; if you weren’t at Grace Jones, you fucked up.” – James Murphy, during LCD Soundsystem’s upstaged headlining performance
Truer words have never been spoken at FYF. Grace Jones doesn’t tour often and is a non-presence at festivals, so her FYF performance came with an inescapable can’t-miss vibe by scarcity alone. Even if it weren’t for the fact that this was the first and possibly last opportunity to see a rarely-touring living legend, Jones made it a once-in-a-lifetime treat by giving FYF its greatest performance and spectacle.
Once she took the stage, she set the tone for a set that was truly for the ages. The 68-year-old icon performed topless and painted in elaborate white paint that emitted an unearthly glow while donning different accessories, masks, capes and more for every song.
You want shocking moments? How about the body-painted pole dancer or the cover of David Bowie and Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing?” The dance and sing-along for her cover of “Love Is the Drug” or when she mounted a staff member’s shoulders and worked the entirety of the photo pit and crowd control barrier, all the way to the soundboard? But really, like any true star, Jones saved the best for last by hula-hooping during the entirety of “Slave to the Rhythm,” which she belted out flawlessly? Now that’s peak Grace Jones. – Frank Mojica
At this point, there’s little that can be said about LCD Soundsystem on this reunion tour as a live act. The most noteworthy part of the show was James Murphy’s constant proclamation that if you had missed Grace Jones’ set earlier in the evening, you fucked up. And, I mean, honestly? It’s pretty apropos for a band like LCD Soundsystem, who wear their influences on their sleeve, to turn the spotlight elsewhere.
That doesn’t mean they skimped on the performance, though, as the band stomped through an hour plus of highlights and hits that few artists today can come close to matching in their live execution. Simply put, LCD Soundsystem have made a case of being the hardest and best working live act in music, a case they build upon every night with performances like the one they left the FYF Fest crowd on Sunday night. – Lee Bedrouni
Not “All My Friends,” but nearly most of my crew opted to conclude their festival experience with an LCD Soundsystem dance party. Considering how incredible their reunion shows have been, missing them should be unthinkable. However, some of us had something else on our agendas. For those of us in the know, there was no possible way we’d miss Chelsea Wolfe.
Wofle and her black-clad band appeared as shadow people amidst an ectoplasmic portal to another realm with a special light show that heightened the already crushing intensity of her moody, doomy set. Her latest album Abyss is her best yet, and Wolfe’s mastery of the dichotomy between the angelic and the demonic proved even more formidable than when the tour began last April at Desert Daze.
Lamentably, sound issues once again surfaced during one of the weekend’s best performances, and may have left a song or two unplayed. Nevertheless, the 45 minutes or so we received were the darkest and heaviest of the weekend.
During the end of closing number “Pale on Pale,” Wolfe emerged from the shadows to stand at the edge of the stage and unleash the unholiest of shrieks into her guitar’s pickups. What better way to conclude a festival than with genuine night terrors? – Frank Mojica
All photos by Natalie Somekh, except for Chelsea Wolfe by Frank Mojica. Words by Frank Mojica and Lee Bedrouni.