FYF Fest 2009: Parks and Inspiration
The festival formerly known as the Fuck Yeah Fest and F Yeah Fest is now the curiously (and redundantly) named FYF Fest. Name confusion aside, the li’l engine of the L.A. underground music scene remains committed to the basic philosophy of the previous six installments: delivering an oddball collection of avant-punk, electronic and noise artists to the Conversed, cockeyed and free-spirited indie masses. This year’s single-day FYF takes place at a new location: Chinatown’s L.A. State Historic Park, a wide-open space that holds 10,000. (Proceeds from the festival will benefit the California State Parks Foundation in an effort to forestall budget-induced closures.) In the spirit of the legendary indie parties of yore, like the late ’80s’ This Ain’t No Picnic, the FYF’s curatorial genius is such that at least a few acts gigging on Saturday will likely become household names a few years hence. Which will it be? No Age? The Black Lips? The Thermals? No telling. But below are some of the artists we’re most excited to check out.
If you haven’t yet seen Avi Buffalo, now’s the time. If you have, then you already know better than to miss the Long Beach act, a quartet of recent high school grads (mostly — one is heading into senior year) whose star is quickly rising. Avi Buffalo is both the name of the band and the pseudonym of its prodigious mastermind, a gifted singer and guitarist who still wears the chub of childhood in his cheeks. He has worshiped at the thrones of Nels Cline and Jimi Hendrix, and the influence comes across during the band’s live performances. There, Buffalo’s bluesy, youthful folk is oft recast to psych-rock’s more epic proportions, but at the core of it all is a handful of unbelievably catchy and unexpectedly resonant tunes — “Summer Cum,” “What’s In It For,” “Where’s Your Dirty Mind” — that manage to roll Jeff Tweedy and Devendra Banhart into one big ball of amazing. (Chris Martins)
Have you heard? The kids are into synth pop again. Not the DFA, disco-punk kind from the early ’00s, but that gloomy, soul-munching drone that is English post punk. Sure, Interpol won the “strikes before the iron’s hot” prize on this one, but they kinda sucked. Cold Cave, on the other hand, is a different beast altogether. If New York’s Silk Flowers pay homage to Joy Division, then Cold Cave draw from that band’s enterprising heirs, New Order. All cold and rapid with a voice that could lull a coke head to sleep, Cold Cave ride that fine Euro line of sounding like a cross between ’90s Stereolab and a bad junk habit. Songs like “The Trees Grew Emotions” and “Died” return you to a time when grunge had finally died and bands like Cibo Matto, Basement Jaxx and Daft Punk took the stage. Yes, the ’90s revival currently belongs to the flanneled and Doc Martened, but soon the inevitable keyboard will strike a chord that will shake the kids to the core. It looks like Cold Cave are going back to the beginning to start it off proper. (Nikki Darling)
Though they’ve done as much as anyone to steer the course of modern metalcore — and if that doesn’t scream T-shirt slogan, I don’t know what does — the members of Massachusetts-based Converge have never viewed their position of influence as an excuse to stop evolving: On Axe to Fall, their latest studio disc (due October 20 from Epitaph), their furious extreme-metal jams churn with a tightly honed precision the band abjured on 2006’s raw No Heroes and 2004’s sludgy You Fail Me. In one track, “Damages,” guitarist Kurt Ballou and drummer Ben Koller practically conduct a master class in riff-and-groove lockstep. The live Converge experience tends to downplay that meticulous instrumental interplay in favor of a more balls-out brand of brutality; suffice to say that both headbangers and crowd-surfers will go home happy. (Mikael Wood)
Dan Deacon’s live “act,” while inspiring, relentless and absolutely insane, sometimes eclipses the music that he’s created. The sight of the pudgy, balding former ska-band hype man losing his shit to strobing video projections while pushing forth his repetitive electronic jamz is pretty fun to watch, yes. What he’s doing sonically, though, is pretty fucking amazing. By making connections between a few decades’ worth of acid house, happy house, gabba, freakazoid IDM, early-’70s NYC serialism and the current-day circuit-bending scene, Deacon’s connecting a whole host of latent dots that, once joined, create this vision of hypnotic melodic robotic mayhem. Heard loudly and in the proper mind frame (be careful on acid — your head’ll likely explode), this music pushes and pushes higher and harder and harder from songs’ beginnings to their ends. On his recent, masterful Bromst, Deacon rides his music like some sort of Jetsons-era people mover. Expect to be people-moved, for sure. (Randall Roberts)
When “Candy Castle,” the standout track from Glass Candy’s album B/E/A/T/B/O/X, filters through speakers, you’re immediately transported to a world akin to a grandiose ’80s fantasy film with a singer who is equal parts Grace Jones, Yoko Ono and Gina X guiding you through a land of synthesizers as epic as they are minimal.
Ultrahip duo Glass Candy straddle the extravagance of disco and the simplicity of post punk with Johnny Jewel’s synth lines flitting between lush and stark and Ida No’s vocals teetering on the edge of breathy melancholy and cool detachment. In many ways, Glass Candy are more like an Italo disco–influenced Saint Etienne than a typical 21st-century electro outfit. At times, they’re downright soulful, with horns swirling through the mix for a strange ’60s-’80s-now hybrid. With thoughtful creativity and oodles of rhythm, Glass Candy are the band to get you dancing right now. (Liz Ohanesian)
Har Mar Superstar
It’s been a while since we here in the States have heard from Har Mar Superstar, who’s presumably been busy of late, building his brand in the U.K. Over there, the portly R&B parodist is something of a celebrity on the order of Paris Hilton–meets–Andrew W.K. This fall, Har Mar (born Sean Tillman, and familiar to fans of early-’00s emo-folk as Sean Na Na) returns to active duty with a new album called Dark Touches, which features an unlikely cast of collaborators, including Jonas Brothers producer John Fields, TV actress Samaire Armstrong, Adam Green of the Moldy Peaches, two dudes from the Faint, and both members of the Bird and the Bee. It’s probably unwise to expect that any of these luminaries straightened out the kinks in Har Mar’s act; if he doesn’t end up in his underwear here, it’ll be because he wasn’t wearing any to start with. (Mikael Wood)
If GG Allin, Roger Rabbit and the Shangri-Las had a love child, it would be Nobunny. A mysterious masked man, Nobunny is a mesmerizing blur of obscenities, insecurities and (literal) hopping around. His performances are an incitement, a call to action for good old-fashioned showmanship. The sound is a jangly mess of tongue-in-cheek poppy punk — without the irritating problem of being actual ‘pop punk.’ Recalling the bygone days of such classics as the Angels’ “My Boyfriend’s Back” and other great girl-group sounds, Nobunny’s music swirls with his dirty Cramps-inspired antics; he delivers with nary a breath to take — outside the occasional stage rant. His recent Love Vision, released on Bubbledumb Records, is an exhilarating rush of lightheadedness and repulsion. Songs like “Boneyard” and “I Am a Girlfriend” sparkle with overt, confusing misogyny in the way that American Psycho did. Whether you get it or you don’t, Nobunny will have you snapping your fingers on the walk home — while wondering who exactly lives behind that disgusting mask. (Nikki Darling)
Tim & Eric
When L.A. Weekly caught Adult Swim stars Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim at Comic-Con in July, we were floored. The duo, best known for their shows Tom Goes to the Mayor and Tim & Eric, Awesome Show, Great Job!, emerged from behind the stage curtains in disturbingly outrageous nude body suits, singing and dancing about bodily functions. While this might prompt people to say, “That’s a bit juvenile,” the truth is that Heidecker and Wareheim are simply too odd for such a snap judgment. Live, the duo combines musical sketch comedy with variety-show acts stemming from Awesome Show, Great Job! in a manner that will make you nostalgic for the days of public-access television. Whether or not the FYF performance will resemble their Comic-Con engagement remains to be seen. Regardless of what Heidecker and Wareheim have in store, you can be certain that it will be strange and you will be laughing your way through the set. (Liz Ohanesian)
This year’s FYF Fest is heavy on the hardcore, post-hardcore, pre-grunge punk — you know, the guitar grind that first hit in the late 1980s and early 1990s with the legendary labels Amphetamine Reptile, Touch & Go, Homestead, and pre-Nirvana Sub Pop. That first wave grew tired of the faster-faster-faster sentiment of the mid ’80s and, fucked up on beer and drugs, slowed punk to a more manageable, and lazier, pace. Torche draw from that wall-of-guitar melodicism, add a load of exclamation-point drum fills and double–bass kick action to create insistent, totally catchy and scream-along-able choruses and Naked Raygun “whoa whoa” parentheticals. (They’re so melodic that if you replaced a few of these songs with a buried female vocalist, they could be shoegaze outtakes.) Over the course of a couple EPs and two killer albums, the Miami-based Torche have established themselves as one of the smartest, most consistently surprising sludgecore bands going. Last year’s expertly titled full-length Meanderthal, released on L.A.-based freak-metal label Hydra Head, features songs that sound like old Helmet, Tar and Naked Raygun tracks — a great thing, in this old-schooler’s opinion. (Randall Roberts)
San Diego noise-popper Wavves, a.k.a. Nathan Williams, has plenty to offer festival rubberneckers and indie aficionados alike. For one, there’s the 22-year-old’s music, which really should be enough. Late last year, Williams poked his head out from a house-bound haze of pot smoke and Seinfeld reruns just long enough to release a self-titled debut on Woodsist that caused a minor stir. In March, many of those songs were rejiggered into the Fat Possum release Wavvves (three v’s), an album that earned its acclaim by burying downer sing-song surf anthems in loads of wonderful slack. Before Wavves, Williams had never made music, and in the song department, that seemed to show in the best way. Unfortunately, a high-profile meltdown at a recent Barcelona festival proved otherwise where touring was concerned. Wavves’ then-drummer emptied his beer over Williams’ head after the singer druggily botched their set and berated the crowd. Williams has graciously apologized since and hired a new drummer: hella kit-destroyer Zach Hill. (Chris Martins)
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