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F Yeah: Frickin' Yes in the Summertime

Ami Shalev of Monotonix: His pants are probably on fire.
Brent Stewart

This weekend’s F Yeah Fest, at the Echo, the Echoplex and Jensen’s Rec Center in Echo Park, has gotten a lot of deserved ink over the past few months, the most prominent being a large spread in The New York Times. And last month, L.A. Weekly devoted ample space to interviewing festival co-curator Sean Carlson and tour manager Phil Hoelting about their experience taking the F Yeah Fest on the road. In June, the tour converged in Brooklyn and took to the highways with a bus powered by vegetable oil, crisscrossing America and preaching the gospel of F Yeah.

The exclamation point at the end of the summer is this weekend’s activities, which include a full day of music and comedy on Saturday, followed by a wild-ass scavenger hunt — and more music — on Sunday. All the ink the fest has received? Totally deserved, and co-curators Carlson and Keith Morris deserve a huge round of applause for their taste, which offers abundant proof of rock & roll’s vibrancy. What follow are a handful of recommendations — and one pan — for Saturday’s action, which commences at 2:30 p.m. For a full accounting of Sunday’s scavenger hunt and music, see the Go picks in the Weekly’s Music section. And for a full listing of bands and set times, go to www.fyeahfest.com

 
Abe Vigoda

Like the palms that line some of L.A.’s most grit-bearing neighborhoods, the Chino-born four-piece Abe Vigoda bestow an oddly idyllic atmosphere on outcroppings of stratified dissonance. Their just-released and well-loved third album, Skeleton, is a bright and shining collection of relentless rhythm, crashing cymbals, airy vocals and remarkable texture defined by its gorgeous, mbira-imitating guitars. That Zimbabwean edge (along with the band’s choice of MySpace genre tags) has earned Abe Vigoda the now ubiquitous “tropical punk” label, but their dirt-caked pop is more vital and interesting than any of that would imply. (Chris Martins) 

 
Crystal Antlers

2008 has been a stellar year for Long Beach’s Crystal Antlers. They’ve released a new EP, gained scores of fans with their fantastic live shows, and signed to the respected Touch and Go Records, where they join the prestigious ranks of Black Heart Procession, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and TV on the Radio. The California-cool guitar stylings of Andrew King, shirtless knock-around drumsticks of Kevin Stuart, psychedelic octaves of organist Victor Rodriguez, passion percussion employed by Sexual Chocolate, and Jonny Bell’s full-fisted bass and voice have merged to form an L.A. County classic. (Rena Kosnett) 

 
David Dondero

Out of the small handful of authentically grizzled younger singer-songwriters currently tumbleweeding down the highway, stone-faced David Dondero is maybe the most naturally gifted, lyrically speaking. His tales of doomed loves, crumbling ambitions, dying towns and the wind in the woods are conveyed with a picturesque wordsmithery that betrays much of the sarcasm and irony that many others offer these days, conveying a satisfying sentimentality that skirts the saccharine with rather righteous aplomb. He’s an almost miraculously straightforward singer, too, a reedier version of Bill Callahan, and his folk- and roots-rock material benefits enormously from that. Dondero’s latest is called Simple Love, where his deceptively simple stories are given a resonant twist by the excellent backing band that will accompany him at this performance. (John Payne) 

 
Fucked Up

If there’s one band in North America that can do for 21st-century hardcore punk what Marduk and Emperor did for Nordic black metal and Astrud Gilberto did for bossa nova, it’s Toronto’s Fucked Up, who create some of the sturdiest, hardest, fastest and angriest rock & roll — punk, metal, screamo, post-punk or otherwise — there is. These men (and, often, female guest vocalists) reveal nearly every other guitar band of the century to be flaccid and weak. Most impressive, Fucked Up have nearly single-handedly resurrected a subgenre — hardcore — that lunkhead labels like Revelation and Victory Records so ably ruined. (Randall Roberts)

 
Glass Candy

Smoke a doobie, maybe some opium if you can get it, sip on some syrup and wait about an hour. Okay, now slam two Red Bulls and slap yourself hard in the face. Bingo: Glass Candy, whose disco music is way drunk on downers but fizzy with a tinge of speed you need to dance while you’re droopy. Part of the fantastic Italian for Beginners posse, Glass Candy are to new-era disco what chopped-and-screwed Houston syrup-sipper DJ Screw was to the rap game. Someone stepping on the brake, wallowing in the grease between the beats. Like New Yorkers Morgan Geist and the DFA crew, Glass Candy, from Portland, Oregon, have found the artful, colorful mold that lives on disco’s cheese, and we’re all the happier, and creamier, for it. (RR)

 
Graham Forest

Rumor has it that Graham Forest sits cross-legged on the ground while entertaining Native American children, strumming his guitar and spinning tall tales. It’s also suggested that Graham Forest lives in a trailer in the forests of, um, Fresno, and his quarters are overrun with marionette parts, leatherworking tools and ancient mortar holes. Graham Forest, it is said, hones his powers from the Indian burial ground and nonworking satellite dish that his backyard comprises. Whether all this is true or not, the mostly unknown yet easily embraced Central Valley Neil Diamond known as Graham Forest possesses a wholesome goodness that is greatly appreciated amid much of the F Yeah Fest’s chaos. (RK)


High Places

Not sure if the phrase “turd in the punch bowl” gets used anymore, but at least in regard to F Yeah Fest, High Places are, like, the opposite of that. In contrast to the aggressive, shit-kicking tenor of many F-ing bands, this Williamsburg duo’s simple songs consist of little more than Mary Pearson’s coy, slightly flat melodies, and waterlogged drum machines. Recently signed to Thrill Jockey off the strength of their singles collection, 03.07-09.07, High Places are set to drop their debut LP in October. If you liked the former, the new one contains 40 more minutes of a similar thing, but with better production and more cleanly enunciated roots in the soca music of Trinidad and Tobago and Asian peninsular music. (Ian Cohen)


Mannequin Men

Chicago’s Mannequin Men put out Fresh Rot last year, an amazing thing that crammed in every grand or garbagey piece of rock & roll detritus you ever heard, ran it through a wickedly drunken punky blender and ralphed it all back out into the ionosphere, where it slowly shimmered down to Earth, puncturing the ozone layer, contaminating every river and making baby harp seals unhappy. Yes, it was that good/bad. The Mannequin Men sang about sex, beer and partying, their music was truly middle-class pointless and brainless, and they were proud of it. But then, few can pull off these intricate blends of Stooges/Velvets/Kinks/Television with such free-flowing ease without having intuitive smarts, the kind of brains that deliver one of the most insanely over-the-top live shows you’ll ever see. (JP)

 
Mika Miko

In the video for their angular anarchic screecher, “Business Cats,” the ladies of Mika Miko spew out a black sludge that gradually, through the miracle of stop-motion videography, climbs the room’s walls and coats its ceiling — not a bad metaphor for the local party-punk quintet’s story thus far. A series of frame captures spanning Mika Miko’s six years would reveal a measured canvassing of the nation’s noisenik communities (they were the Smell’s first ambassador band) with music not unlike that goop: mostly spat out, unswervingly monochromatic and plenty sticky. Their patent “pony thrash” isn’t necessarily all that patent (see late-’70s Swiss act LiLiPUT), but when dueling vocalists Jenna Thornhill and Jennifer Clavin shout shrill nothings into their mic-rigged red telephone and hair dryer, it’s hard not to fall in love with the fun all over again. (CM) 

 
Monotonix

Three mangy perverts from Tel Aviv who play an extremely chaotic form of punk rock, Monotonix consist of singer Ami Shalev, drummer Haggai Fershtman and guitarist Yonatan Gat, and claim Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow as a heavy influence, along with actual rainbows. Their recent EP on Drag City, Body Language, gives you a teensy hint at the sheer madness of their already legendary live shows. Rough, raw, dirty, sweaty, gritty, hellish, sure, but, interestingly, they’re sneakily supercapable musicians who slip in, amid the bedlam, mathematical and slinky loads of Band of Gypsys–type intelli-funk and “jazzy” touches. You, however, will be mainly amused, then shocked, then totally awestruck when you see how far these three big-fro’d lunatics take things — the drummer will no doubt decide to move his kit at some point during the set, but the singer, whose pants might be on fire, will find him and proceed to tear the drummer and his drums a new bumhole. (JP)

 
No Age

The consummate band-as-artists and holy shepherds of the Smell’s experimental cadre, No Age are becoming the stuff of legend despite the duo’s mere 30 months as a performing unit. Drummer/singer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall make some beautiful noise, and their presence in Los Angeles has been nothing short of transformative. No Age have turned both the Central Library and the L.A. River into acceptable music venues, Spunt’s PPM label plays host to some of the city’s greatest young talent (Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko included), and the pair’s vegan, prohuman, D.I.Y. aesthetic is enough to inspire any old scenester to get out and make something. Of course, as their recent Sub Pop debut LP, Nouns, attests, No Age have set the bar mighty high, specifically, in the upper climes of the atmosphere where thick, ethereal waves crash against untamed rhythms. (CM)

 
Two Gallants

Conor Oberst might be recording deadly-dull folk-rock for Merge these days, and Rilo Kiley aimed for Fleetwood Mac and hit squarely on Tango In the Night, but at least the wildly pretentious Two Gallants are keeping up the Saddle Creek tradition of being young and full of shit. If they’re more (in)famous for their recording of the old slave song “Long Summer Day” (yup, N word included) and a wickedly violent dustup with the cops at an Austin club, well, that’s probably because controversy is something they’re far better at than resonance. Rarely anything less than lumbering and lugubrious in their acoustic Joyce-summoning dirges, Two Gallants more often assume heft due to their own portent than create it. (IC) 

 
War Tapes

In just a few short years, War Tapes have become a staple of the local scene, with the band playing everything from Hollywood dance nights to South L.A. loft parties. In between charming hipsters with their self-proclaimed (via MySpace) “heart-quaking doom-pop,” the band have been courting the gothabilly crowd with dates opening for Tiger Army. War Tapes’ appearance at F Yeah Fest precedes the September release of a self-titled EP fueled by guitar-heavy tunes that are morose in that mid-1980s KROQ way. Standout lines from the release include “All day long, I sit and communicate with the dead corpse that I call my girlfriend” (from “She Lied”). That should be enough reason to see this band. (Liz Ohanesian)

The F Yeah Fest takes place at the Echo, the Echoplex and Jensen’s Rec Center on Saturday, August 30 and Sunday, August 31. For a complete schedule, check www.fyeahfest.com.


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