Every Act Playing FYF Fest 2017, Ranked

Built to SpillEXPAND
Built to Spill
Laurence Bishop

35. Built to Spill (The Trees, Saturday, 7:35 p.m.)
How's this for a booking coup: Not only did FYF get indie rock legends Built to Spill to replace Grandaddy (who sadly had to cancel after the recent death of their bassist, Kevin Garcia) on short notice, they got them to play their classic 1999 album, Keep It Like a Secret, in its entirety. OK, so BTS were already planning to do Keep It at Riot Fest in Chicago in September, but still. Even stripped down to a trio, which is how they've been performing of late, Doug Martsch and co. are capable of kicking up a mighty racket.

34. Thundercat (The Lawn, Saturday, 5:30 p.m.)
Bassist extraordinaire Stephen Bruner has always had one foot squarely planted in '70s soul and soft rock, so it shouldn't have come as that great of a shock that he enlisted Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald to do guest vocals on his latest album, Drunk. It shouldn't have, but it did. People are easily shocked these days.

33. The Black Madonna (The Woods, Saturday, 11:45 p.m.)
32. Motor City Drum Ensemble (The Woods, Saturday, 6 p.m.)
Fans of classic Chicago house have at least two reasons to hit FYF this year: Chi-town's own Marea Stamper aka The Black Madonna, who keeps her city's fat four-on-the-floor beats and church-service vibes alive both in her own celebratory mixes and as creative director of the influential club Smart Bar; and Germany's Danilo Plessow, who resuscitates old-school, disco-inflected house to great effect as Motor City Drum Ensemble. I'm ranking MCDE ahead of The Black Madonna only because we get fewer chances to hear him on the West Coast, but both are outstanding deckhands who know how to keep a festival crowd moving.

31. Noname (The Trees, Saturday, 6:20 p.m.)
When this Chicago rapper and slam poet breaks out her luminous hit "Diddy Bop," people hearing it from a distance probably will think Erykah Badu changed her time slot. But the artist formerly known as Noname Gypsy is more than the sum of her influences, which also include Lauryn Hill (for whom she's opened), D'Angelo and Nina Simone, as well as authors like Toni Morrison. She's a gifted storyteller with an ear for smooth, soulful melodies that buoy her tales of growing up young, gifted and black in Chicago.

30. Helena Hauff (Outer Space, Friday, 11:45 p.m.)
Hamburg's Helena Hauff is one of those techno producers who can somehow imbue the most mechanical sounds with soul. Though her music is all sleek surfaces and sharp edges, often piercing into the realms of industrial and EBM, it's also richly detailed and full of little melodic twists and turns that remind you of the humanity behind it. If her latest track, a banger of a collaboration with Greek producer Morah called "The Royal Game," is any indication, her FYF set might be one of the weekend's hardest.

29. Chicano Batman (The Lawn, Sunday, 4:15 p.m.)
Memo to festivals: Stop giving L.A.'s favorite rock 'n' soul combo daytime slots. They wear tuxes, for God's sake. Are you trying to sweat them to death? Plus, even though their music can have a laid-back, summery vibe, they also know how to get a crowd moving after the sun goes down.

28. Little Dragon (main stage, Sunday, 6:25 p.m.)
Here's an indicator of how good the FYF lineup is: When I ranked the 2017 Coachella lineup, these guys came in at No. 21. They don't drop to No. 28 because their latest album, Season High — released after I did my Coachella rankings — isn't any good; on the contrary, it may be my favorite work from them yet. But even though FYF is smaller than Coachella, it's mightier. So don't worry, Little Dragon — I still love you. And maybe I'll even catch more than two songs of your set this time.

27. Nadia Rose (The Club, Sunday, 6:05 p.m.)
If more U.K. grime acts sounded like Croydon's Nadia Rose, I would totally be on the grime train. A cousin of the genre's current superstar, Stormzy, Rose flows with equal assurance over uptempo dance tracks ("Boom") and slower, more menacing cuts ("Murder"). And if the video for "Skwod" is any indication, she might be second only to Missy Elliott at FYF when it comes to busting out the well-choreographed backup dancers.

26. Big Thief (The Club, Saturday, 4:45 p.m.)
Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker is an extraordinarily gifted songwriter, able to depict the welter of sensations and emotions that accompany trauma with clear-eyed, unflinching detail and so much empathy that her quietest songs can be downright harrowing. Her bandmates support her with arrangements that sometimes rock out with free-falling forward momentum, and other times hang back with exquisite restraint. It's hard to think of any artist since Elliott Smith who can spin sadness and suffering into such hauntingly beautiful music.

25. Survive (The Club, Friday, 10 p.m.)
I ranked these Austin synth-rockers high on my 2017 Coachella list on the theory that their set would be a magnet for cosplay fans of Stranger Things, the hit Netflix show for which they did the soundtrack. I missed them, so I have no idea whether they attracted a mass of nerds in Demogorgon masks and Eleven dresses with Peter Pan collars. But it doesn't really matter — their haunting music, all '80s horror movie synths and creeping atmosphere, is reason enough to make sure I don't miss them this time. (Except that they're on at the same time as Slowdive and Anderson .Paak, so I probably will.)

24. Moses Sumney (The Club, Sunday, 7 p.m.)
There probably isn't a more original artist on the FYF lineup this year than Sumney, who combines looped vocals, guitar, synths and complex rhythms often borrowed from Ghana, where he spent much of his childhood before returning to Southern California, where he was born. He can sound like Nick Drake, Bon Iver or D'Angelo, sometimes on the same song.

23. Avalon Emerson (The Woods, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)
One of my favorite things about well-curated festivals like FYF is how often they introduce me to artists I might otherwise have overlooked. Even though she's originally from California (SF, not L.A.), Berlin-based DJ/producer Avalon Emerson had somehow escaped my notice. But I'm kind of obsessed with her music now, which is dark, deep and highly atmospheric — think Gui Boratto at his moodiest, or Sasha when he anchors his fluttering melodies in a good, propulsive bass line. (P.S. Kudos to FYF for booking so many gifted female DJs this year — and all other festivals, for fuck's sake please take note.)

22. Flying Lotus (The Lawn, Friday, 12:20 a.m.)
FlyLo's FYF show is being billed as happening in 3-D. I thought all live concerts were in 3-D (aka reality) but whatever. The producer born Steven Ellison is known for putting on visually dazzling, high-tech shows to match his dense, futuristic music — at Coachella in 2015, he performed inside a goddamned hypercube — so I'm sure whatever he has up his sleeve will be worth putting on those goofy glasses for. Hopefully, it will include some new music — he hasn't released any since 2014's You're Dead!, but a new album from his animated alter ego, Captain Murphy, reportedly is coming out later this year.

21. Seun Kuti & Egypt 80 (The Lawn, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.)
Nigeria's Seun Kuti is Afrobeat royalty — the youngest son of the legendary Fela Kuti and leader of his dad's celebrated band, Egypt 80. If you like horn-laden funky jams with endlessly intricate African rhythms and politically charged lyrics (see "IMF," an ode to the controversial International Monetary Fund that renames it "International Motherfucker"), you might find yourself unable to stop dancing for all of Seun's set.

20. Angel Olsen (The Lawn, Friday, 7:50 p.m.)
Angel Olsen could probably sing the fine print on her Jagjaguwar recording contract and make it sound dramatic — she just has one of those voices, quivering with emotion and forever implying even greater depths of passion and sorrow caught somewhere in the back of her throat. Her latest album, My Woman, rocks harder than her previous efforts and includes at least one song, "Shut Up Kiss Me," that in any other era would be blasting out of every car radio from here to her home base of Asheville, North Carolina.

19. Tiga (The Woods, Sunday, 9 p.m.)
18. Daniel Avery (The Woods, Saturday, 10 p.m.)
Two DJs with very different approaches to their craft — Montreal's Tiga favors bright, shiny electro-house and winking, tongue-in-cheek disco, while Londoner Avery is all about the moody, mind-expanding grooves of melodic techno — but with the same end result: Both will make you dance your ass off.

17. Sleep (The Club, Saturday, 10:15 p.m.)
I can't say I'm personally a huge fan of Dopesmoker, the one-hour drone session that made this trio instant legends in doom-metal circles. But I'm kind of fascinated to see how Sleep's music will go over in a large festival setting in front of a crowd that's probably mostly there to see Run the Jewels or Nine Inch Nails. Sleep's brand of doom is the very definition of uneasy listening, a thunderously loud, almost amorphous wall of guitars and drums meant to be appreciated more as an enveloping force than as mere sound. How will the crowd react? Will people start a pit or stand transfixed in confusion and awe? Will they stay for the whole thing or leave after five minutes? Whatever happens, I bow down to FYF for slipping something this fucking heavy into the lineup.

16. Beach Fossils (The Lawn, Friday, 6:30 p.m.)
Based on their name and first couple albums, I pretty much wrote this Brooklyn band off as yet another in the parade of jangly surf-rock bands that turned indie rock into the world's least interesting beach party from about 2009 to 2012. But their latest album, the recently released Somersault, is a stunner, shedding Beach Fossils' lo-fi roots in favor of a more richly orchestrated, almost jazzy sound with echoes of everything from The Clientele to Washed Out to Steely Dan.

15. DJ Harvey (Outer Space, all day Saturday; The Woods, Sunday, 2 p.m.)
We named Harvey Bassett L.A.'s best DJ last year, which is why I'm ranking him the highest of all DJs spinning at this year's FYF. A typical Harvey set — what am I saying? There's no such thing as a typical Harvey set. He'll drop disco, house, Afrobeat, funk, garage-rock and everything in between, in ways that will delight your ears as much as move your feet. Wisely, FYF has booked him to play 15 hours (with help from Horse Meat Disco and Young Marco for 10 of those hours, but still) — and if you stick around for all of them, you won't hear the same record twice.

14. Joey Purp (The Club, Sunday, 5:25 p.m.)
When it comes to Chicago hip-hop, Joey Purp got next. He's part of SaveMoney, the collective that also gave us Vic Mensa and Chance the Rapper, and shares their gift for rhymes that are street-smart and confessional, set to soulful tracks with lots of horns and funky percussion. His latest mixtape, iiiDrops, echoes other great Chi-town sets like Chance's Coloring Book and Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor while flaunting a style and sensibility entirely his own.

13. Cap'n Jazz (The Club, Saturday, 6 p.m.)
This Chicago band is sort of emo's answer to Slint — a group that toiled in relative obscurity while they were still together but reached near-legendary status after breaking up. This is their first show since 2010, and it's a big, big deal to anyone who still remembers FYF from back when it was still called Fuck Yeah Fest and featured a lineup of bands that could nearly all name-check brothers Tim and Mike Kinsella (later of Joan of Arc, Owls and American Football) as sonic touchstones. Their early-'90s catalog, most of which was later collected on Analphabetapolothology, still has a raw, ramshackle energy that might shock anyone for whom the term "emo" still evokes more polished latter-day acts like Taking Back Sunday and Jimmy Eat World.

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12. Solange (main stage, Sunday, 8:25 p.m.)
While her big sister Beyoncé was turning pop music sideways with Lemonade, Solange Knowles was quietly gearing up to release her equally provocative A Seat at the Table, an album that finally achieved the not-inconsiderable feat of moving her out of Queen Bey's shadow once and for all and getting her the critical acclaim and commercial success she has long deserved (and if you don't believe the "long-deserved" part, look up her criminally slept-on 2008 album, Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams). A Seat at the Table has done at least as much as Lemonade, if not more, to spark a conversation about how African-American women are represented, and given room to represent themselves, in popular culture — and it's done it with tracks like "Don't Touch My Hair" and "Cranes in the Sky" that are both witty and flat-out gorgeous.

11. Badbadnotgood (The Trees, Friday, 7:20 p.m.)
This Canadian group's music is usually described as jazz, but how many other jazz ensembles have a collaborative album with Ghostface Killah? On their latest album, IV, the quartet venture even further from their base genre, exploring David Axelrod–like soundscapes on "And That, Too" and turning Future Islands' manic frontman Samuel T. Herring into a quiet-storm crooner on "Time Moves Slowly." As good as FYF's lineup is, you won't hear a tighter group of musicians all weekend.

10. Björk (main stage, Friday, 8:50 p.m.)
Fans of Iceland's greatest export will cry foul that I'm not ranking her higher, and I can't blame them. But Björk's highly esoteric music, especially on recent albums such as Biophilia and Vulnicura, is an acquired taste, and it's not one I've ever been able to acquire. That being said, even casual fans who've never heard her extraordinary voice live shouldn't miss out on a chance to do so — and if she decides to break out some of her earlier, more straightforward material, like "Hyperballad" and "Army of Me," her set could be one of the weekend's most talked-about.

9. Run the Jewels (The Lawn, Sunday, 9:35 p.m.)
Has any rap group over the past four years had a better run than Run the Jewels? That's a rhetorical question; the answer is demonstrably "no." In that short window of time, El-P and Killer Mike have turned out three masterful albums (of which their latest might be their best yet), crushed back-to-back Coachellas and even dropped a you-gotta-be-kidding remix album, Meow the Jewels, that should've been a throwaway but was actually kinda brilliant. (It's new versions of their songs based entirely on sampled cat sounds, and it has no business being as good as it is.) Mike and El-P clearly inspire each other to ever greater heights, and it's a joy to watch. Plus, their live shows tend to erupt into nonstop mosh pits, and when they play L.A., Rage Against the Machine's Zack de la Rocha often shows up to holler his part on "Close Your Eyes (and Count to Fuck)."

Anderson .Paak
Anderson .Paak
Danny Liao

8. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals (The Lawn, Friday, 10:10 p.m.)
In a way, Anderson .Paak is a throwback — a born entertainer in the mold of a Prince or a Stevie Wonder who can seemingly do it all. Live, he raps, dances, sings and plays drums like a motherfucker. Sweat and charisma fly off him like sparks off a lowrider tailpipe. His backing band, The Free Nationals, give his songs an extra layer of funk and an occasional flourish of rock & roll, especially when guitarist Joey Rios rips a solo. This may be one of the last times you see Paak's name on a festival flyer where he's not the headliner — he's that good, and somehow keeps getting better.

7. A Tribe Called Quest (main stage, Saturday, 8:30 p.m.)
Yes, their performances at the Grammys and on SNL were kind of a mess, and there's no filling the void left by the late, great Phife Dawg. But this is still Tribe we're talking about — one of the most influential and wildly entertaining hip-hop groups of all time, with a certified resident genius in producer/frontman Q-Tip and a 2016 comeback album, We Got It From Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service, that improbably holds up against their best work. Expect party vibes, guest appearances galore, tears for Phife, middle fingers for Trump and a nonstop hit parade of indelible tracks like "Award Tour," "Can I Kick It?" and, of course, the song that put El Segundo on the map.

6. Erykah Badu (The Lawn, Saturday, 9:50 p.m.)
The queen of neo-soul has always been great, but in recent years, she's achieved a kind of elder stateswoman status that's extremely gratifying to everyone who stayed loyal to her buttery, vibed-out sound even while it fell out of fashion in the mid-2000s. Now, you'd be hard-pressed to catch every act on the rest of the FYF lineup who owes her a debut: Solange, Anderson .Paak, Noname, Frank Ocean, Thundercat, Kehlani, Little Dragon. Fans are still longing for another studio album — her last, New Amerykah Part Two, came out in 2010 — but a couple of 2015 mixtapes had some fun highlights, and seeing her live is really about hearing her belt out classics like "On & On" and "Love of My Life (An Ode to Hip-Hop)" anyway.

5. Nine Inch Nails (main stage, Sunday, 10:45 p.m.)
I wasn't a Trent Reznor fan until I saw NIN live for the first time, at Coachella in 2005, where he and his bone-splintering backing band blew my mind. They remain one of the best live acts in the business, combining state-of-the-art visuals, top-notch musicianship, propulsive grooves and Reznor's riveting vocals into a sound and spectacle that whips festival crowds into a frenzy. And their new stuff isn't mere set padding; more recent tracks like "Came Back Haunted" off 2013's Hesitation Marks and "The Hand That Feeds" off 2005's With Teeth are just as intense as the classics "Closer" and "Head Like a Hole." This is their first show since 2014 and you can bet Reznor will have some surprises in store.

4. Arca + Jesse Kanda (The Club, Saturday, 8:45 p.m.)
It's likely you've never heard of London-based, Venezuelan electronic producer Arca, but even likelier that you've heard his work: He co-produced most of Björk's Vulnicura, as well as Kanye West's "Hold My Liquor" and FKA Twigs' "Water Me." I know ranking Björk's producer higher than Björk herself probably seems crazy, but I honestly think Arca is one of the most exciting producers working today in any genre, and he very rarely plays U.S. shows (FYF is only his second L.A. show ever, following an appearance at Hollywood Forever in 2015). His ominous, clattering music is utterly alien but also deeply soulful — especially on his latest, self-titled album, his first featuring his own singing. For FYF, he's presenting Trauma, an ongoing collaboration with filmmaker Jesse Kanda that's even trippier and more disturbing than his music — but if you already played the video above, you don't need me to tell you that.

3. Frank Ocean (main stage, Saturday, 11 p.m.)
Frank Ocean is the most mercurial performer in contemporary R&B. Odds are probably 50-50 that his FYF set will be a huge letdown, or possibly not even take place at all; he famously canceled his FYF appearance in 2015, when he was replaced last-minute by that relative paragon of stability, Kanye West. But he's also a genius, and a notorious perfectionist, so odds are probably also 50-50 that people will still be raving about this performance a decade from now. Ocean's music isn't exactly party-starting stuff, but it's incredibly powerful and emotive, and hearing tracks like "Nikes" and "Pink + White" live for the first time (not literally, but he's only performed them live a handful of times, and never in North America) on FYF's main stage should be riveting.

2. Iggy Pop (The Lawn, Sunday, 7:20 p.m.)
Our own Henry Rollins calls Iggy the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of Rock & Roll, and it's hard to argue. He's the last man standing from his generation of proto-punk rebels, has a deep catalog of indelible anthems ("Lust for Life," "Sister Midnight," "I Wanna Be Your Dog") and can still belt out that distinctive baritone with the vigor of a man half his age. He's currently doing a victory lap for his most recent album, last year's excellent Post Pop Depression, which might be his last — at least that's certainly what its final track "Paraguay" implies. So catch him while you can. He's at least as important in the pantheon of rock as anyone who played Oldchella.

1. Missy Elliott (main stage, Friday, 11:15 p.m.)
I mean, c'mon, did you see Miss Supa Dupa Fly totally steal Katy Perry's 2015 Super Bowl halftime show? The world has been starved for more Missy ever since (and for a long time before that, actually) and this is her only scheduled performance of 2017. New single "I'm Better" is kinda whatevs, if we're being honest, but the video is pure fire, which bodes well for what should be a flashy, high-energy live show that will almost certainly feature every hit you could hope to get ur freak on to.

[Correction: An earlier version of this list omitted MGMT. We regret the error.]

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