For the last weekend of August, I was in LA for FYF Fest 2016. I’m not sure what 2015 was the year of, but 2016 is now undeniably the year of festivals – this one was 4 of 5 for me and my crew of usual suspects. I consider FYF to have the strongest lineup of the Summer festivals, expertly curated and not simply a regurgitation of the acts that were on every other festival bill. I had very high expectations, and let me tell you, FYF did not disappoint.
Day 1 – Saturday // 8.27.16
I started Day 1 of FYF during the middle portion of Floating Points’ DJ set at the Woods stage – a forested set-up outdoor club/oasis in the shade, which we dubbed tinseltown because of the tinsel streamers hanging down from the trees.
Floating Points, aka Sam Shepherd, has become a fast favorite of mine over the past few months – he has an incredibly wide range of musical knowledge, playing eclectic sets that last for hours with disco, techno, jazz, afro-beats and everything in between. He has a PhD in Neuroscience. He also has a live project where he composes his own music and plays with an 11 piece band. He started a record label that, among other things, re-issues his favorite rare vinyl records. Swoon.
As soon as we stepped into the Woods, it was as if the tortuous 45 minute wait in queues that we endured in the 80 degree heat to get into the festival never happened. Mr. Shepherd knows how to throw a seriously blissful party – even at the 5PM hour. It was a real treat to finally catch him in his element, and I can’t wait to hit the dance floor with him on the decks again as soon as possible. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to his superb BBC Radio 1 Essential Mix on repeat and his radio show on NTS – highly recommend you do too.
While I would have stayed until the end of Floating Points’ 3-hour set, we had other important business to attend to: Todd Terje & The Olsens at the Lawn stage. A longtime TML Favorite, Todd splits his time between doing DJ sets and playing live with his band. While I’ve seen him DJ twice, this was the first time I had the opportunity to see him play live and I wasn’t going to miss a single minute.
Originally disappointed that it wasn’t a night set (dance music like his is best suited for a nighttime slot IMHO), we quickly realized that the sunset slot was the absolute perfect time to hear Todd and his band take us to a tropical disco paradise on a stage outfitted with massive palm trees and Todd’s signature whimsical visuals. It was nothing short of amazing to see electronic music (that very well could have been programmed on a computer) played by a live band with real instruments (bongos!) and synths, proving just how much artistry goes into his musical creations.
After a disappointing Grimes set at Sasquatch, we opted to swim upstream from the masses headed towards the Main Stage and instead made a triumphant return to the Woods aka tinseltown to dance into the night with Gerd Janson. To be honest, I knew nothing about this seasoned German DJ before that night, but loved every minute of his house and disco set that I caught – the beauty of music festivals and the discoveries that come with them at it’s finest.
Again, if it weren’t for another hotly anticipated set at the Lawn stage, I probably could have stayed in the woods until the end of the night. This time, we tore ourselves away from the hypnosis of the Woods to see french duo Air, psychedelic electronica extroadinaries and composers of The Virgin Suicides soundtrack. While they’ve been on the festival circuit a bit this year, they are much rarer act to catch and none of us had ever seen them live before. There’s something really special about seeing a veteran band who’s been around for awhile, a certain level of execution and expertise that emanates from the stage. In Air’s case, they brought us on a musical journey back in time that will remain a favorite festival set for many years to come.
Continuing on the psychedelic train, next up was TML Favorites Tame Impala on the Main Stage. Tame Impala’s sophomore album Currents is probably my favorite album of 2015 and while I’ve seen them twice in festival settings, each time I’ve seen them there’s been sound issues that simply don’t do the incredibly lush sounds on that album justice. However, this time the curse was broken and the sound was on point, as were the visuals. I finally felt like I got a live Tame Impala experience that matched the stunning quality of their recorded albums. The setlist was a perfect mix of old and new tracks, and I was so immersed in the music that I didn’t even notice Lady Gaga joining lead singer Kevin Parker onstage for the last song of the set. But maybe let’s chalk that one up to me being 5 foot 2.
At this point in the night we took a break and wandered around the festival grounds, enjoying the perfect evening warmth of the LA summer and catching a bit of Hot Chip as we made our way back to the Main Stage for Kendrick Lamar‘s headlining set.
Kendrick never disappoints. I first saw him at Outside Lands in 2015 and walked away from that set with my mind totally blown not only by the artistry that Kendrick brings to the stage but also the power and energy sustained over the course of 2 hours. His FYF headlining set was no different – and the preternatural precision of his performance had a level of athleticism that was akin to watching one of the world’s greatest athletes compete.
After something like that, the only thing that made sense was to once again go back to the Woods aka tinseltown to wind down with a hot minute of a Hot Chip DJ set. Then it was back to the hotel to try to wrap our brains around just how spectacular Day 1 was, and to chow down on some late night burgers to fuel us up for Day 2.
As with every festival, there’s always some tough scheduling conflicts – missing dynamic Long Beach rapper Vince Staples and exquisitely beautiful alternative R&B singer Kelela were unfortunate tradeoffs that had to be made. But unlike most festival days, there wasn’t a single flop or disappointment on Day 1 of FYF, something I don’t think I’ve ever been able to say before. After just one day, FYF had captured my heart.
Day 2 – Sunday // 8.28.16
Another beautiful thing about FYF is that it starts late and ends late, meaning that the first thing we needed to get to for Day 2 was Blood Orange‘s Main Stage set at 5PM. Blood Orange aka Dev Hynes is a contemporary R&B mastermind, if you can even contain him to one genre. His third album Freetown Sound, released in late June of this year, is a frontrunner for my top album of 2016 – even during a Yeezy release year. Those who know me well know that it took me a few years to warm up to Dev Hynes’ work as Blood Orange, but Freetown Sound converted me into an all out Dev Hynes fangirl.
I was lucky enough to snag tickets to Blood Orange’s pre-FYF Thursday night show at The Theater at The Ace Hotel. It was a truly gorgeous evening, filled with all the feels of getting to hear the songs you’ve listened to over and over again all summer finally performed live. Not only that, but it was a star studded event with every female guest vocalist (excluding Debbie Harry) featured on the album making an appearance on stage – including Carly Rae Jepsen, Zuri Marley, Nelly Furtado and Empress Of.
Dev is a true artist – not only because he composes, produces, sings, dances and plays piano, cello and guitar like no one’s business, and not only because he brings multitudes of creators of all types together, but because he knows exactly how to adjust his performances to the spaces they are in – whether that’s a night at the theater, or the Main Stage of a music festival. Elevating his performance yet again, he brought out all the superstars from Thursday plus an appearance from Sky Ferreira to join him on “You’re Not Good Enough”. The crowd went wild, but I personally just don’t get Sky’s IDGAF schtick. I guess he knew what he was getting himself into, but if you’re going to come out with Dev Hynes and sing his most popular song, you shouldn’t need to read the lyrics off of a folded piece of paper.
Luckily, the rest of the set was flawless – from the Savion Glover tap dancing videos overlaid with New York City cityscapes, to the impeccably cool style of Dev and all of his band members to ending the set with a version of “Uncle ACE” that had us dancing as if we hadn’t been on our feet for 10 hours the day before. Long story short, if you have the chance to see a Blood Orange show, don’t miss the opportunity.
Next, we took a breather and checked out some of Charles Bradley‘s soulful James Brown reincarnated set at the Lawn stage. If you don’t know his story, get familiar with it. While we then had every intention of going back to the Woods to catch the esteemed The Black Madonna, we instead found ourselves on an epic quest for Gatorade that ended up being fruitless (the lack of Gatorade the only other real complaint I have of FYF besides the horrible lines to get in each day). Needless to say, I was absolutely crushed the next day when I found out Robyn joined The Black Madonna on stage for a live rendition of her “Indestructible” remix.
The evening was just getting started, and next up was TML Favorite Father John Misty‘s sunset set. You never really know what you’re going to get with FJM (read: XPN fest), but despite ending 10 minutes earlier than scheduled, we got J. Tillman, lovable troll, at his finest – his wildly entertaining misanthropic tendencies, a perfectly executed “introducing Grace Jones” prank, background visuals that included a fake iPhone “Software Update Failed” message and the Microsoft Start menu superimposed on Level 1 of Doom. And, of course, a performance that he poured his soul into, despite his cynicism. Even with FJM’s apparent love/hate relationship with festivals and the people that attend them, it’s in the festival setting where he truly shines.
Then, it was back to the Woods (noticing a pattern here?) to catch a bit of UK DJ duo Bicep‘s set. They were spinning tracks that were on the more darker techno side when we arrived, so instead we opted to head to The Club to check out another UK artist, Gold Panda. His more ambient Electronica sound was a nice reset button heading into the rest of our action packed night, but then it was back to the Woods one last time. Bicep was still on the decks, but the latter half of their set was much more disco-tinged and was a perfect way to say goodbye to our favorite little festival sanctuary, and to transition into saying hello to Jamaican singer/actress/model/superstar Grace Jones.
In hindsight, we probably should have stayed for more of Grace’s set (read: LA Times Review). At 68-years old, it seemed like there was nothing this lady couldn’t do – including wearing full body paint, topless with a rotating sequence of different headdresses. Truly a legend.
Sunday night more so than Saturday was a lot of bouncing between acts of different genres and energy levels, but dream pop duo Beach House just makes me feel great no matter what the situation is. I have a huge girl crush on singer Victoria Legrand, whose Nico-esque vocals took me to heaven as they always do. At this point in the night we were heading into 16th hour of FYF, and if you’ve ever done a multi-day festival before, you know this is when your body wants to start giving in on you. Luckily, Beach House is the best medicine for any aching muscles and brain cells, and their performance of “Space Song” was exactly what I needed to get myself ready for the closing set of the weekend: LCD Soundsystem at the Main Stage.
Like many others in my age bracket, until early this year, I assumed I would never get to see the formerly retired LCD Soundsystem live. Lucky for me, FYF was the second time I had the pleasure of witnessing what I consider to be the greatest festival band in existence. No one throws a party quite like James Murphy (see: Despacio). Any fatigue that the crowd was experiencing during the final hours of FYF instantly evaporated when the band took the stage and started with “Us Vs Them”, a massive disco ball illuminating the giant audience with sparkling lights. Drummer Pat Mahoney is next level in terms of percussive energy, and there’s a fullness to LCD Soundsystem’s sound that’s truly unparalleled. We even got a tiny smirk from the otherwise stoic Nancy Whang, who controlled the keyboards and synths like the bad b*tch she is for the duration of their nearly 2-hour set. There’s a reason there is so much hype around LCD Soundsystem, and we should only hope that James Murphy continues to bring magic into the world for years to come.
Approaching the end of a festival weekend never feels good (talk about the Sunday scaries). But if anything can make you feel okay about going back to the real world, it’s being surrounded by people you love and dancing your butt off to LCD Soundsystem playing a near perfect performance of “All My Friends”. That and a trip to the 24/7 Subway on Hollywood boulevard. Just saying…