Tuesday, September 6, 2011 at 8:22 a.m.
FYF Fest in Los Angeles provides a valuable service to indie music and fans thereof. It's been fun to see it grow over the years, from humble beginnings at Echo Park venues, to a three-day outdoor bender of all that is good from the underground, to the Goldenvoice-promoted music aficionado Mecca it is today.
The festival has now reached a good balance in the festival realm in terms of crowd size and control, food and drink options (mmm...Spicy Pie), and quality of bands. This year's lineup looked really good on paper, what with the reunions, rare performances and prime up-and-comers. But when I got up to the stage, ready for a "fuck yeah!" I was left underwhelmed. I'll chalk up my perpetual disappointment to the fact that I missed early-birds Avi Buffalo, Tijuana Panthers, OFF! and the Smith Westerns. A special thank you to our friend security for the delay... So with out further ado, a look at some bands that played after 3 p.m. (See Brandon Ferguson's additional, more positive, coverage here.)
Austin's the Strange Boys have gained moderate success riding the wave of the surf-influence garage rock revival. They returned to FYF this year for the fifth time, but veterans or not, their set ran monotonous and varied little from their signature sound. This isn't to say their signature sound isn't a good one, but forty minutes of the same tunes with minimal showmanship to at least try to break it up? No, thank you. They're a band that didn't seem to fair well in the sun-lit open air of a festival. Perhaps they would be better in a small, dark, sweaty venue where the audience excitement is palpable enough to bounce off the walls and on to the stage.
They attempted a cover of Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People" which could have been fun, but fumbled and giggled through the intro and aborted after about 45 seconds.
LA's own No Age was another band we were wrongfully excited to see. We believed the hype. Their set began abrasively with screeching feedback and not singing, but more stylistic caterwauling. They had a very primitive punk sound, similar to one a thirteen-year-old who just discovered Black Flag might start. In between caustic explosions of noise-making, they delved into long bouts of droning cacophonies.
The newly reunited Guided by Voices performed a rather enthusiastic karaoke session, complete with off key vocals, generic alt-rock instrumentation and everything! Would they have been asked to play the main stage at 8 p.m. if they were judged solely on their current stage performance and not their former glory? No, probably not. They should thank the Descendants, who went on right after them, for ensuring a crowd stuck around. "Some Drilling Implied," was the closing song and a few lyrics summed the our take on the performance: "Of course I'm not complaining/ I'm simply dying/ Yes I'm waiting [for this whiny set to be over]."
Death From Above 1979 reunited this year after nearly five years of inactivity. They've made up for lost time by playing just about every major music festival of the summer. They played their dance-punk with the high-energy they're known for despite troubles with the sound. They both had difficulty hearing through the monitors and playfully sassed the sound guy to turn everything up until he got it right. "Break that amp," Sebastian Grainger (vocals, drums) said. "It's okay. We're the last band." They handled it with good humor and didn't let it effect their performance.
To see Death From Above 1979 live is to experience a sonic assault. The experience similar to someone grabbing you by the shoulders and trying to shake you out of your hysteria. Grainger was noticeably more high pitched live than in their recordings, which at times lessened the assault feel. They were as tight as if they had been playing the songs all through their five year breakup. Sebastian closed out evening by jumping off the main stage and singing atop the crowd.
Y▲CHT threw one hell of a dance party. They played such intensely infectious electro tunes that it's hard to stand still through one song. The set began with an incredibly endearing welcome from Claire L. Evans (vocals), claiming that in all honesty, Los Angeles is her favorite city in the universe. After just a few songs it became apparent that their recordings are incapable of capturing the vibrance of their live energy. They seemed as if they were having as much fun as the audience and indulged in a fair amount of audience interaction. For example, Evans asked, "Do you guys have any questions?" One audience member yelled out and asked what program they used to make the collection streaming images behind them on stage. The video images ranged from ecstasy pills to wild, blowtorch-like flames and all of which had a giant yellow triangle with a smiley face placed in front of it.