Review: FYF Weekend – Looking Back and Moving Forward

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Morrissey closed out the best year yet for FYF Fest on Aug. 23. (Kelsey Heng for FYF Fest)

Morrissey closed out the best year yet for FYF Fest on Aug. 23. (Kelsey Heng for FYF Fest)

So what did we learn from FYF weekend 2015? Well, Day 1 was an absolute blast, from the experience of seeing bands like Bloc Party, who have not played a show in more than two years, to seeing artists like Aussie electronic musician Chet Faker and, of course, last-minute hero of FYF, Kanye West who put on an explosive star-packed performance. It would seem like a hard day to top, but they did.

Here’s what had been established in the time since we were there on Day 1:

•    Kanye killed it on the first night – There was not one person who wasn’t talking about West’s incendiary live show in which Rihanna and Travis Scott both contributed guest vocals to a frenzied crowd.

•    $12 for 9 oz. drinks is so trippin’ – The second time around we wised up and decided to pregame a little bit. But really, it’s a little insane to pay so much to get so little back. The vodka mules were good and all, but let’s try and lower those drink prices by a dollar or two, FYF. You’ll make your money, don’t worry!

•    On Day 2 Morrissey was headlining the main stage, so no matter what the night was going to be amazing.

As we were approaching the front gate, the natives grew restless of the winding barricades and simply lifted the gate, which cut our walk time in half. It was the most punk thing to do, which seemed fitting since I needed to book it in time to make it for Title Fight who were going to be playing the Trees Stage at 5:25 p.m.

The Pennsylvania-based, post-hardcore band kicked off their set with the power punch combination of “Murder Your Memory” and “Numb, But I Still Feel It,” as the crowd became a swarming mass of bodies and crowd surfers kicking up dust all while screaming every lyric back. Their set consisted of cuts from Hyperview and Floral Green, including crowd favorites such as “Leaf” and “Like A Ritual,” and ending with “Secret Society.” Their performance was heated, both musically and because it was so damn hot, that between breathing in dust and sweating our asses off in the crowd, the intimacy that that their shows have had in a small-venue setting may have gotten lost in open-stage atmosphere.

Even early on, the cult of Moz fans had already infiltrated the grounds and were walking around in their best Smiths/Morrissey shirts from their probably expansive collection.

Toro Y Moi put on a great performance on the Main Stage, that I had to unfortunately leave early for to catch Solange – who, in my mind, graduated from “Beyoncé’s little sister” to “WHOA, SOLANGE!” after catching her soulful and gripping performance. My only prior reference to to her was in cameos on bands like Chromeo’s cuts, but her music invokes the spirit of mid-’90s R&B when Sade reigned supreme. Her set started a bit late due to what seemed like technical difficulties, but she did a great job of playing it off, telling the audience: “I’m rolling the biggest joint of all time,” jokingly, of course.

Flume, a.k.a. Chet Faker’s BFF, put on a mesmerizing performance with great visual graphics that were as surreal and captivating as his music. He even brought out British singer Lorde for a special remix performance of her single “Tennis Court.”

Experimental hip-hop group Death Grips had one of the largest pits of the night, hitting the Trees Stage hard with ferocious blend of electro-punk and hip hop.

Recluse R&B sensation D’Angelo had the difficult task of performing at the same time as the main draw of the evening, singer Morrissey, who put on an electrifying performance to what seemed like the entire FYF crowd. The British singer kicked off his hour-long set with “The Queen is Dead,” the title track to the Smiths’ most staple album, followed by “Suedehead” and the sleeper hit “Alma Matters,” from what is perhaps his most underrated album, 1997’s Maladjusted.

A recent addition to the singer’s set has been the song “Ganglord,” from 2009’s B-side album, Swords. The song was accompanied by harrowing footage of police brutality from across the United States, including clips of Michael Brown and the infamous clips of Rodney King which ultimately sparked the 1992 L.A. Riots on the same ground that we were now watching Morrissey. It was a sobering and haunting feeling to see how little has changed in regards to police brutality except for our tolerance to it over the decades, which was perhaps his point for showing it.

He played cuts from his latest album World Peace Is None of Your Business, with songs like “Istanbul,” “The Bullfighter Dies” and “Staircase at the University.” Morrissey’s performance was as transcendent as it was eye-opening, as he chided the audience by asking, “Are you all ready for President Trump?” which was followed by the biggest round of boos the Manchester singer and former Smiths frontman has probably ever encountered in his illustrious career, followed then by “I Will See You in Far-off Places.”

Moz rounded out his set by first thoroughly bumming everyone out with his staple song “Meat Is Murder,” from the Smiths’ 1985 classic album. The song live always features intense and gore-filled footage of animals being slaughtered and processed and is usually met with everyone either looking away or inspired to never eat meat again. Morrissey, never being one to hold back from what he feels or thinks, almost seemed to revel in the audience’s disgusted looks.

He finished off the hour-long set with a banger three-punch combo of “Now My Heart Is Full,” “Everyday Is Like Sunday” and a classic Smiths track, “What Difference Does It Make?”

For it being my first FYF, it was definitely as surreal as it looked in years past on social media sites. The atmosphere, the music and the people make this one of the premiere festivals in Los Angeles, because in essence, it is Los Angeles.

After 11 years of the L.A. area being the main hub for FYF and seeing the meteoric rise of the festival’s name become something on par with names like Coachella and Lollapalooza, what could be next for FYF, after conquering bringing two of the biggest names in music, Morrissey and Kanye, to this corner of the world for one weekend? What could they possibly do to set them apart from the rest?

How about a record label? Perhaps the biggest piece of news from the festival was the announcement of FYF Records.

The new venture released a limited-edition clear vinyl seven-inch from the band Junk on Aug. 21. Copies were available on site at the festival, but honestly, who wants to lug a seven-inch around all day?

According to a statement from FYF, “as a side project we have taken on putting out some 7” records of a few of our friends’ bands. We have been excited by a lot of what is coming out of Los Angeles recently and want to have a medium to share some of our favorites with you.”

Junk, which features former members of Girls, Wires On Fire and Slang Chickens, have been playing around Southern California for the past year and even kicked off this year’s festival on Day 1.

With a new layout to make treking across the grounds easier for patrons and an exciting new venture into the record label business, it’s safe to assume that FYF will continue to push the boundaries with the amazing blend of independent music and lifestyle that their brand and the city they call home are famous for.

See you next year, FYF.

Evan Solano is a Staff Repoter for Living Out Loud - LA, covering arts and entertainment. Follow him on Twitter: @ThisCharmingEv
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