FYF Is On the Brink Greatness— If It Stays the Course

By now, most Southern California concertgoers have attended or at minimum, have heard of Coachella. If not, c’mon! The 800 pound gorilla has become a right passage for many, with the festival serving as a cultural phenomenon rather than music festival. This much we all can agree on.

Now that that’s out the way, the festival’s younger brother, FYF, is finally ready to stake it’s claim to be a more important event. That’s right, big brother has been usurped.

Since Goldenvoice bought the festival, the quality of the event has steadily improved. Sure, the fun, mish-mosh of a clusterfuck that marked the early years is (mostly) gone, but going professional has enhanced both the FYF brand, and concert-going experience.

Unlike Coachella, the expectations for FYF are only high among locals and those loyal to the former punk festival’s friend. From its beginnings in Echo Park to the old Los Angeles State Historic Park to its current location at the Coliseum and its grounds, FYF was loveably renowned as a top notch fest, if only it could get its shit together. Stellar lineups were offset by massive disorganization, which are too many to revisit for the sake of this article. But, last year marked a turning point.

Following the debacle of 2014 (remember trying to get in to the Coliseum, nevertheless the arena?), the organizers went on a tour of festivals around the world to do some much needed research, which in turn led to a much better experience. Sure, having a fest on the ground closer to the Coliseum are less than ideal when the heat is permeating from the unforgiving concrete, but hey, it’s progress?

The one thing that FYF has always gotten right is its bookings. Ambitious and fearless (who could forget the My Bloody Valentine issue of 2013?), FYF had enough caché to book Frank Ocean in 2015, and when he dropped out at the last minute, snagged Kanye West to fill in. This is obviously not just Coachella Jr. anymore. As a not-so-much pop fest, FYF has settled nicely into an aesthetic that keeps some elements of its punk roots — with the booking of Pop serving to placate longtime fans — while forging ahead to be perhaps L.A.’s greatest large scale festival.

It’s interesting that FYF moved from it’s traditional end of August date to mid-July. This could be happenstance, but nothing with the promoter ever is. It’s nestled in a spot where it has no competition locally and nationally for attention. FYF hasn’t received the national spotlight as a big time festival. If (and that’s a BIG if) there manages to be enough hype around this weekend, it wouldn’t be surprising if FYF gets on the same scale as some of the second tier festivals.

Though it doesn’t retain the brand loyalty of the big festivals, it doesn’t phase FYF. It’s status of an under the radar event to those beyond Southern California suits it just fine. Last year, it dipped into genericville with LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala and Compton superstar Kendrick Lamar, but booking Grace Jones was enough to keep FYF weird.

A few short years ago, I didn’t think FYF would be able to survive without a major overhaul. It seems like all parties involved decided that this would be what it would take to get the festival to another level. The off-the-record punchlines about FYF’s problems have been replaced gradually by eyebrow raising respect. FYF isn’t ever going to be Coachella, which in this case, is a good thing. It’s quirkiness is what gives it personality, and that personality has endeared it to legions of music — not culture — fans. With the flooded festival bubble set to pop, FYF isn’t going to be one of those fading quietly into bankruptcy. Instead, FYF managed to correct its most glaring mistakes to ensure that the festival experience is top notch, which is what Southern California deserves.

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