FYF Fest 2011


FYF Fest – LA State Historic Park
Live Review: 9/3/11

This year’s FYF Fest managed to take care of the logistical nightmares of festivals past. More food vendors, ample water, accessible shade and prompt set times appeased the almost sold-out crowd at LA’s State Historic Park. Putting together a lineup of seminal punk and indie rock bands, FYF also pulled off one of the summer’s most affordable and memorable music festivals. EM writers Solomon Sloan and Abe Ahn covered several of this year’s acts, including local newcomers Touché Amoré, Elephant 6 legends the Olivia Tremor Control and the reunited Death From Above 1979.

Touché Amoré

Solomon: Might as well kick off the festival with some high energy and get the morning blood flowing (yes, my mornings start at noon). After all, I needed to ditch all this residual aggression from not having any breakfast. Touché Amoré is making waves across Los Angeles and is quickly becoming a fixture to the city’s hardcore punk scene. They had humble beginnings playing at well-known Burbank house venues such as the Spread and I’m glad to see that they are beginning to tour extensively across the U.S. as well as making a presence in the U.K. They’re one of the hardest local bands I’ve seen in ages. Even if I were to remove and cauterize all of my limbs to keep myself from dancing in the circle pit, I’m sure phantom nerve endings will find a way to thrash about. I wish them continued success when they take their tour to Australia with fellow FYF performers, Title Fight.

Photo by Solomon Sloan

Avi Buffalo

Solomon: Los Angeles natives Avi Buffalo often find themselves overlooked in the indie-rock circuit and undeservedly so. Their poppy overtones are reminiscent of older groups like The Shins, the Olivia Tremor Control and Built to Spill. Reconciling the poppier sounds with enchanting and ethereal executions prove to be no easy feat, but they manage do it with very little difficulty. Frontman Avigdor Zahner-Isenberg gives us his distinctive falsetto that has this inherent youthful and playful quality, which affirms that Avi Buffalo is still a young band that will soon find themselves growing on those who are willing to listen.

Ty Segall

Abe: San Francisco’s Ty Segall has come a long way in expanding his catalog of lo-fi garage nuggets into more fleshed-out, melodic rock. His music still remains raucous and sinister, and is best listened to loud and up-close, but in the space of the festival, the effect was somewhat lost. Songs like “You Make the Sun Fry,” however, with its flashes of John Lennon, sounded appropriate in the open air.

Photo by Solomon Sloan

Future Islands

Abe: Singer Samuel T. Herring had one of the most expressive performances at this year’s festival. The way he gesticulates on stage reminds me of a hellfire preacher, but instead of provoking fear and guilt, he makes you feel like you’re not alone in your loss or longing. Packed inside the Splinter’s Den tent, the audience danced and crowd-surfed like it was a New Wave spiritual awakening. The band performed several songs from their new record On the Water, which sounded excellent. By the end of the set, the front row of the audience had climbed up the stage to dance along with Herring, who, despite his shirt being soaked through with sweat, looked like he was enjoying every moment of the performance.

Photo by Solomon Sloan

The Olivia Tremor Control

Solomon: The band I was absolutely dying to see after waiting in ignorance to know whether or not they’d be returning from a long series of hiatuses. These Elephant 6 heavy-hitters brought back their brand of dreamy, lackadaisical psychedelic rock that tugged on every one of my brain-strings and was nothing short of spectacular. Their fuzzy wandering melodies have the uncanny ability to take you to the deeper recesses of your imagination so effortlessly as demonstrated in songs like “Define a Transparent Dream.” We can expect a release sometime in the near future and it’ll be interesting to see how the style of these indie-rock pioneers has fermented in the past decade.

The Strange Boys

Abe: The Austin-based garage band made a return to FYF Fest since performing two years ago with former members of Mika Miko. With another lineup change, the Strange Boys have since leaned more heavily on country and the blues, resembling early Rolling Stones in sound if not exactly temperament. Unlike the Stones, the Strange Boys don’t quite ooze sensuality. Their boyish good looks also make their throwback sound more accessible to a younger (female) crowd. Their live act could still use a little work on pacing, as frequent pauses made them sound a bit tentative on stage, but the band, when performing newer material, demonstrated they could shred as much as their musical forebears. Singer Ryan Sambol also showed his range on harmonica and guitar, channeling a young Dylan with his look and nasal delivery.

Photo by Solomon Sloan

Cold War Kids

Solomon: This indie-rock four-piece coming hot off the heels of their latest album Mine Is Yours came back with their unabashed and unpretentious attitude. Their soulful lyrics arouse the notion of Americana and down-home enthusiasm that is hard not to like, which is no wonder as to why they got the big stage. Something vaguely reassuring and a sense of protection heard in Nathan Willett’s vocal style were enough to draw in swaths of dedicated fans to the Leonardo Stage.

Photo by Tulasi Lovell

Four Tet

Solomon: Kieran Hebden, under the moniker Four Tet, brings to us his distinctive European minimalist sound, which is a breath of fresh air that gives us Angelenos a much-needed break from all the hard electro-house and dubstep that’s inundated the scene lately. The abstract palette of sounds triggers explicit emotions that could be best explained through light and color. The progression of these beats are more evocative of some greater narrative or story progression without regressing into familiar beats, but not at the expense of retaining a danceable tempo.

Photo by Tulasi Lovell

Broken Social Scene

Abe: There are whispers that Kevin Drew and company may be on hiatus for a long while, and the band confirmed as much when Brendan Canning announced on stage that they wouldn’t be back in LA for quite some time. Sure, there’s a likely reunion tour in the horizon, but in the way that band members kept thanking fans for their support, you’d think they were breaking up for good. I’m not a big fan of either Forgiveness Rock Record or Drew and Canning’s solo efforts, but given the context of this final performance, the set, featuring sections of You Forgot It in People and a Modest Mouse cover, felt bittersweet. Overall, the band played up to their reputation, although Drew’s parting words to the crowd (“Have a great life. Do something with it.”) felt uncomfortably sardonic.

Photo by Bao Nguyen


Abe: As one band’s career ostensibly neared its end, another career was enjoying its rise on the other side of the festival grounds. San Francisco’s Girls put on a solid performance with a full band at its disposal and a cast of backing singers providing harmonies to singer Christopher Owens. If the Broken Dreams Club EP proved Owens’ songwriting prowess, the live act portended the full range of sounds and ideas to be included in the band’s upcoming full-length Father, Son, Holy Ghost. They no longer displayed their earlier awkwardness on stage as they resembled a more confident, more coherent band.

Photo by Tulasi Lovell


Solomon: Talk about an all-out assault on the senses, and I mean that in the best possible way. Electro-dance-pop group YACHT, whose members hail from LA, Portland and Texas, culled together their collective talents to barrage the audience with an artillery of color, sound and video art. Their set started off with a video piece spanning evolutionary progression from a single-celled organism to the emergence of frontwoman Claire Evans. For those with a taste for the theatrical, Evans sure knows how to rouse a crowd from start to finish. YACHT is oddly reminiscent of Devo but is especially tailor-made for all of us Gen Y babies who were too young to appreciate Devo (hopefully I’m not alone on this one).

Photo by Stephen Loh

Nosaj Thing

Abe: I got to see a lot of dancing as I sat at the far end of the grass, too exhausted to join in at this point. One guy who was likely professionally trained put on some very adept interpretive moves to all the crazy time signatures in the beats. Another girl, wearing what looked like multiple layers of boxers with her pants sagged down to her thighs, was bumping and grinding like it was a hip-hop show. An electronic set is only as good as the movement it elicits from the crowd (along with the drugs in their system). From what I saw, I’d say Nosaj Thing did a pretty good job, although I was too tired and lethargic to dance myself.

Dan Deacon

Abe: Dan Deacon is a performer who likes to motivate and orchestrate a crowd. The last time I saw him, he performed at my college and had everyone get into a circle. There was a lot of communal and tribal dancing along to music that’s loop-based and full of cathartic moments. Too many bodies near the stage prevented Deacon from organizing the crowd to his taste, so it devolved to a more conventional experience albeit with acid trip projections and lots of crowd-surfing, the latter about which Deacon joked, “Stop crowd-surfing. This isn’t a Pearl Jam show.”

Photo by Tulasi Lovell

Explosions in the Sky

Solomon: Explosions provided an appropriate nightcap to a high-energy and physically exhausting festival. The combination of uninterrupted meandering melodies with subdued guitar riffs established a spectral atmosphere against the glimmering backdrop of Downtown LA in the background. At this point in the evening, the hypnotic droning rendered the audience incapable of deciding whether to dance or sprawl out over each other on the dirt. Despite an energetic performance, everyone was ready for a tranquil wind-down to FYF.

Photo by Tulasi Lovell

Death From Above 1979

Abe: DFA 1979 is a band that built its fanbase and notoriety off their one and only record, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine. I first listened to the record in high school, when I was just coming off of my hardcore/punk rock stage. It was loud and aggressive and fit the rebellious strain I felt as a teenager. After five years of inactivity over irreconcilable differences, the duo of Sebastian Grainger and Jesse Keeler got back together this year to perform a slew of shows. Hearing them live, I enjoyed the violence of drum and bass played to their most ear-blasting levels, although I found Grainger’s on-stage presence a bit petulant and self-important. It felt at certain points that the band might walk off over some issue with the sound or that they might at any moment just walk off stage over some perceived sleight. After their oft-remixed single “Little Girl,” I left the festival grounds, and long after I had entered the car and was driving away from the state park, I could still feel the sounds of drum and bass vibrating against the car windows.


via EM Staff, 5 September 2011 1:10pm |