FYF Fest 2017: The Best and Worst

Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor at FYFEXPAND
Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor at FYF
Mathew Tuccarione

Our feet are sore, our ears are ringing and our hearts are full: Yep, we must've survived another FYF. The 2017 incarnation of the once-humble punk-rock gathering called Fuck Yeah Fest was easily the best yet, with so many outstanding performances that it's almost impossible to pick our favorites. Combine that with steadily improving amenities and logistics (apart from the 45-minute exercise in human cattle-herding anyone who stayed till the end of Frank Ocean's set had to endure), and FYF is now easily one of the best festival experiences in Southern California, if not the entire country.

Was FYF perfect? Of course not; no large-scale event ever is. So with that in mind, here were our favorite — and least favorite — experiences from our three days of stage-hopping and Spicy Pie scarfing at Exposition Park.

Best: Nine Inch Nails’ David Bowie tribute
During Nine Inch Nails’ electrifying set, which closed out the festival Sunday night, Trent Reznor took a moment to briefly address the audience, noting that since the band's last shows three years ago, "I've lost a few people that meant a lot to me personally, one of which probably meant a lot to you: my friend David Bowie." Then he and his backing musicians played a brief, hushed and incredibly powerful version of "I Can't Give Everything Away," the last track off Bowie's final album, Blackstar. It was one of several moments during NIN's otherwise relentlessly loud, fast-paced set when you could hear a pin drop, and it played like an elegy not just for Bowie but for Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington and all the gifted artists these past two years have robbed us of. —Andy Hermann

Best: Solange
Considering this was Solange's first show in Los Angeles (and one of only a handful in the United States) since the release of her 2016 chart-topping, critically acclaimed album, A Seat at the Table, it's likely that a decent portion of the crowd had never seen the singer perform before. It's also likely that, after her absolutely gorgeous set, much of the crowd are vying to see her again as soon as possible. The stage was flooded with vibrant pink, orange and magenta hues as Solange and her crew of angelic backup vocalists laid out choreography that was untamed and energetic, but clearly imagined and executed with precise vision (and, in fact, Solange herself created it). Add in a couple quips from the younger Knowles sister about almost losing her wig while rolling about the stage, and she became, in all her majesty, human and relatable. With stunning vocals and a truly impressive backing band, Solange's performance topped our list as one of the most sincere, visually impactful, technically flawless and inspiring of the weekend. —Artemis Thomas-Hansard

Worst: Arca
I'm all for letting experimental artists be experimental and confound their audience's expectations. But Alejandro Ghersi's FYF DJ set didn't feel experimental; it just felt like the work of someone who was in a bad mood (perhaps due to technical difficulties, as confirmed by a representative from his label) and phoning it in. Nothing he played had the moody, intricate layers of vocals and electronics that characterize his work as Arca, or his collaborations with Björk, for whom he had served as DJ/keyboardist the night before. Instead, he just chattered unintelligibly through layers of reverb and played a few tribal drum loops, some bad house music and, at one point, something that sounded like Gipsy Kings. The visual portion of his show — allegedly so important that his visual collaborator, Jesse Kanda, was billed alongside him on the festival schedule — was a screen barely big enough for a PowerPoint presentation, over which some random lights occasionally flickered. The half-assed nature of the whole thing was especially galling because I had left an excellent set by A Tribe Called Quest to catch what I was sure would be one of the highlights of the festival. Boy, was I wrong. — A.H.

Erykah BaduEXPAND
Erykah Badu
Mathew Tucciarone

Best: Erykah Badu
Looking regal in a colorful cloak and the kind of 10-gallon hat Pharrell wishes he could pull off, the Queen of Neo-Soul arrived at the Lawn Stage roughly 30 minutes late but made up for lost time with a set that was jazzy, luminous and punctuated by the kind of stage banter only Badu can do — a mix of silliness and sagacity that had the crowd in the palm of her hand. She noted that her debut album, Baduizm, turned 20 this year, and gave a shout-out to the younger fans who, as she put it, had been listening to her music since they were in the womb. "I been waiting for you," she said, before treating them — and the rest of us — to versions of "Appletree" and "I Want You" that sound as fresh now as the day they were released. —A.H.

Worst: Erykah Badu's Late Start
Disclaimer: This is by no means a criticism of Badu's actual performance ability. In fact, there's not much to criticize of Badu's performance as it was, sadly, incredibly short; her set began half an hour later than scheduled but still ended on time. When she did emerge, Badu was glorious and enchanting, and it surely was an honor to be in her presence. However, for many in the crowd who showed up to catch the legend — most of whom, I would guess, had not seen her before — their opportunity was wasted. Torn between waiting out the exponentially frustrating delay to catch a one-of-a-kind artist and splitting to stake a spot at Frank Ocean's set, it seemed much of the crowd chose the latter — and we can't blame them, as Ocean's return to the stage was, as we pointed out last week, the most anticipated show of the entire festival. We just hope this means Badu will make her return before too long. —A.T.

Best: Anderson .Paak
Ever since the release of his sophomore album Malibu in early 2016, the artist formerly known as Breezy Lovejoy (no kidding — look it up) has been on fire, dropping guest verses and hooks seemingly everywhere, releasing a debut album from his side project NxWorries that was nearly as good as Malibu, and somehow managing to do it all in the midst of an almost nonstop touring schedule. That all culminated on Friday with a ferociously entertaining set that was, for my money, that day's best performance (you can read the full review here) — and maybe the best of the entire festival. He's just operating at another level right now, and it's thrilling to watch. —A.H.

Cap’n Jazz’s Tim Kinsella, showing the kids how it's doneEXPAND
Cap’n Jazz’s Tim Kinsella, showing the kids how it's done
Mathew Tucciarone

Best: Cap’n Jazz
Playing their first show together since forever, influential early-’90s punk/emo group Cap’n Jazz showed no signs of rust as they tore through songs older than half the people in the crowd but packed with just as much youthful energy. Fanboy Devendra Banhart came out to provide additional vocals for "Little League," but his presence couldn't upstage frontman Tim Kinsella, whose entire performance was a cheerfully flipped bird to any notions of aging gracefully. He screamed, he crooned, he crowd-surfed, he played catch with the audience with a tambourine and a roll of duct tape (the latter of which clocked someone in the head; "I’m sorry," the singer said after the song ended. "I blame vodka, Red Bull, whiskey, Xanax, my parents ..."). For the band’s guitars-to-11 cover of a-ha’s ’80s nugget "Take on Me," he gave the mic to someone in the crowd, then helpfully picked up a floor monitor and pointed it their way so they could at least try to sing on key. "Be yourself. That's your only job," he advised fans at the end of the set. At FYF, Tim Kinsella lived those words every second he was onstage. —A.H.

Worst: No pit at Ty Segall
You'd be hard-pressed to find a performance delivered by prolific psych-rock star Ty Segall that doesn't incite a massive, swirling tornado of people — his music is inarguably energetic, and it's a surefire way to hype up a crowd of guitar-rock fans (which is no doubt why FYF books him basically every year). But, for whatever reason, this year was completely different. Segall and company shredded out a slew of jam-band breakdowns, with soaring guitars, striking percussion and a few surprising solos. But no matter what angle you entered the crowd from, there was no pit to be found. For those who don't mosh, this probably isn't really that big a deal. But for those who do, and go into a show expecting there to be a swarm of people to run around in, it's pretty disappointing. It was like being blue-balled by an audience, which is something that probably has never happened at a Ty Segall show, and hopefully won't happen again. —A.T.

Careful with that ax, Frank.EXPAND
Careful with that ax, Frank.
Mathew Tucciarone

Best: Frank Ocean's Concert Cinematography
As Ocean was one of the festival’s most highly anticipated performers, curiosity about how he would handle his comeback set — including a sneaking anxiety that he just wouldn't show at all — drew what appeared to be the largest crowd of the weekend. Ocean, despite being on the scene for far less time than his fellow headliners, has already wiggled his way into that sweet spot of having an audience with high expectations and being able to actually meet those expectations — and, at times, even exceed them. In this case, Ocean did just that by bringing on mastermind director Spike Jonze to orchestrate the big-screen feed of his set, which was some of the most innovative and cinematic live concert videography to ever go down at FYF. The stage appeared as a golden-hued hearth, and Jonze captured the sweetness and warmth of Ocean's performance. Tracking the singer around the small stage Ocean and his musicians occupied out in the middle of the crowd, Jonze captured vignettes that, at the right angle, gave the feel of being in an intimate space, like a bedroom or even, at times, a confessional. Jonze and Ocean were clearly attempting to make the massive show feel inclusive, and it worked. —A.T.

Worst: The woman who bit my friend's arm while rushing the stage during Björk's set
Stage-rushing is an unavoidable nuisance at all festivals; there's always going to be some asshole who thinks they're entitled to watch an artist's last three songs from the front row, even though they spent the whole first half of the set doing blow in the bathroom. But it seemed to get especially egregious at times at FYF — especially when a young woman who was really determined to get a better view of Björk's pastel marshmallow costume couldn't figure out a way past one of my friends and so decided instead (like you do) to bite him on the back of the arm he had around his boyfriend's shoulders. "You put your arm in my mouth!" she protested lamely when he confronted her. On the plus side, everyone in the crowd who saw the exchange took my friend's side, and her stage-rushing attempt was rebuffed. But Jesus Christ, stage rushers. Calm the fuck down — especially when it's Björk and not, you know, Iggy Pop. —A.H.


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