Dear FYF, Your Lineup Is Bumming Me Out

Hipster fatigue at FYF 2013EXPAND
Hipster fatigue at FYF 2013
Photo by Art Tavana

[Editor's note: Obviously, this piece was written and published before Thursday's surprise announcement that Kanye West would be replacing Frank Ocean as Saturday's headliner. Although we doubt that would have changed the writer's opinion about this year's lineup.]

An open letter to Sean Carlson, founder of Fuck Yeah FYF Fest:

Hi, Sean. So I was just listening to Jason Bentley's monotone-prattle on "Morning Become Un-Eclectic" and, well, I thought we should chit-chat for a sec. Perhaps over an iced coffee at some artisanal joint? But first, can you turn off that shitty Solange-Shlohmo-Flume mix you're unhealthily into? Thanks.

Now let's talk about your festival, FYF, which is 12 years old and going through a super-awkward puberty phase. Think of what I'm about to say as some much-needed acne cream.

Let me begin with this bad idea:

FYF 2015 billboard on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park
FYF 2015 billboard on Glendale Boulevard in Echo Park

You've since deleted some of the angry Instagram comments, but this shaved away the last bit of street cred you had. Look, I get it, it's not easy to sell 40,000 tickets to a festival headlined by three hermits (Frank Ocean, Morrissey, D'Angelo). And last year wasn't exactly good for your rep around town. Were you trying to fuck up my feet? My calves still hurt after waking from stage to stage, which was like a mile or two, and had me in a constant state of FOMO. I accept your apology for giving me shin splints and fucking up my Vans, but a billboard on Glendale Boulevard? This is the music-festival equivalent of gentrification. What are you now, American Apparel? 

And thanks, by the way, for the painful reminder that Chet Faker is back for yet another soulless exhibition of neo-snooze. Blech. And why the fuck is Solange on this billboard? Isn't The Jesus and Mary Chain an actual headliner? Where are they?

Look, diversity is important for a festival (we need more women here, bro), but follow me out of your Silver Fake distortion field and pay close attention: Your real problem is how you went from being DIY to being a trend zombie with bad taste. I don't care if you've fixed the logistical problems from last year or that you're basically an urban version of Coachella. It doesn't even bother me that you think this guy is cool:

Chet Faker
Chet Faker
Downtown Records

What bothers me is that you've left us behind, the bitter punks, who thought you still cared when you booked Murder City Devils last year, or when you brought back your old pal Keith Morris in 2013. But suddenly, you've dropped us like baby fat, ripped out your rock & roll roots and replaced them with electronic weeds. I need more punk bands and women on this bill, not a walkway, or a Mac DeMarco tent, or more DJs spinning Bentley's favorite mixes until 2 a.m.

It's not just me. I talked to a guy who worked FYF in the early days, and boy, he's pissed that you bypassed every single interesting punk band on the planet for a DJ named after an overcrowded bar in Echo Park. 

The whole point of FYF was booking local punk and indie. "But dude, that hasn't been our brand for years," is what you're thinking right now. I think you've just lost your booking mojo. You're too busy apologizing to spoiled hipsters and booking bands to appease angry managers, while forgoing what made you cool in the first place: taking chances. "But man, we booked Death Grips." Yeah, and you've done that before. We know you think they're punk (they sort of are), but who cares — stop wearing the same shirt to class. 

Sean Carlson, a girl in a Santa hat and a can of PBR
Sean Carlson, a girl in a Santa hat and a can of PBR

The truth is that you're now booking a festival the way KCRW creates its bland playlist every morning: by considering the musical palate of upper-middle-class snobs, instead of local L.A. teenagers who were the backbone of FYF in the early years. Your only "Smell bands" are hype bands designed to hit a specific demo that Goldenvoice probably sent over in a PowerPoint. "Booking Morrissey this year is how we hit the vegan Mexi-teen demo" might be good for business, but it makes you look like a Republican running for office and pandering to your base. In the process of going electro and risk-averse, you've lost touch with your guitar-driven roots and let any number of other upstart festivals steal your mojo.

You could have reunited Royal Trux or No Hope for the Kids — but Berserktown did that instead. Or booked Toys That Kill, whom you booked in 2007 — but Runaway booked them in 2015. You could have booked something new, like ho99o9, instead of trotting out Death Grips again. Or possibly tried to reunite an old Smell band like The Mae Shi (they're down, ask them), or booked some interesting hip-hop artist who isn't necessarily trendy on the indie blogs. Shoot an email over to hip-hop head Jeff Weiss, he'll give you some names for next year, like Antwon or Giovanni Marks (formerly Subtitle).

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At least you got the Canter's truck this year, which is ironic, since Canter's Deli is such a rock & roll landmark and uber meat-friendly. Will Canter's go meatless on Sunday when Morrissey is backstage eating lettuce? Will Marc Canter be reuniting Guns N' Roses? Also, whose idea was it to book Morrissey and the Horse Meat Disco DJ collective on the same weekend?

Label me a "rockist," or a Luddite, or a dude who still listens to punk rock (and calls it "punk rock"), but what's with you following KCRW into the soft recesses of keyboard music? Where's your memory of being 18 years old and listening to The Descendents? (Whom you booked in 2011, the year Goldenvoice became your partner.) Of the 59 bands playing your festival this weekend, there isn't a single interesting punk band — not even a corporate one, like Bad Religion (even Goldenvoice still books them). 

Also, if you're so "diverse," where are all the women? Of the 59 acts (I won't even use the word "band" anymore), you have about 11 that are either fronted by women or simply have a female presence. I like that you booked Savages and FKA Twigs, perhaps the two most interesting acts on the lineup, but why didn't you book a single L.A.-based female artist? (Girlpool moved to Philly, so they no longer count.) "There are schedules to consider," is what you're going to say in an email to HelloGiggles next week. But if Burger Records can book an entire festival of talented women, you can book fewer overrated male DJs and sausage-fest keyboard bands.

Look, I'm not asking you to grow a mohawk or become a feminist. I don't even need you to bring Keith Morris back to help with booking, or go to the Smell and listen to real local bands. I'm asking you to stop apologizing and start innovating. I'm asking you to surprise us. I'm asking you to stop being a politician and start being someone I can have a beer with. 

But OK, let's say you want to continue booking disco acts and overrated music-critic pets like D'Angelo. The truth is, it isn't working, is it? FYF was sold out by this point last year. Not this year. Because even in L.A., there aren't enough hipsters, bloggers and music-industry types to fill Exposition Park.  

Wait, am I still invited this weekend?

Love and kisses,
Art Tavana

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