FYF review: Smith Westerns and the comedy stage
Los Angeles State Historic Park
September 3, 2011
Better than...Vampire Weekend wearing jaunty orange yarmulkes.
Organizers gave attendees a reason to arrive early when they scheduled hometown boys and afropop enthusiasts Fool's Gold as an opening act at this year's FYF Fest. The low-key quintet came up playing L.A. parks and neighborhood block parties, and it showed. Their pinging guitars and sunny arpeggios sparkled all the more under a cloudless midday sky.
"They're pretty bald for a rock band," my husband observed. How true, but then there's the upside to their, ahem, maturity. Clad in basic summery jeans and t-shirts, the band's quiet onstage demeanor -- plus the fact that they were clearly enjoying their own sound -- kept the focus on the music. A crowd quickly amassed; by the time they launched into their second tune, the unapologetically yearning '80s-poppy "Dive In," a crowd of mere dozens had transformed into a sea of bobbing heads.
The short and sweet six-song set drew only from Fool's Gold's recent sophomore release, Leave No Trace, and stuck closely to the recorded versions of those songs. Maybe a 35-minute set limited them, but I was surprised at how little they improvised, since their reputation as a free-form jazzy band precedes them. But Luke Top's quirky croon -- a cross somewhere between throaty rai superstar Khaled and Morrissey -- floated nimbly around the plucky snare and guest-star saxophone, all of which made the group's sudden Beach Boys-style harmonies sound unexpected.
When the band struck up "Wild Window" fans began singing along, clapping and stomping - gently of course - on the grassy turf. The first four, more conventional pop-influenced tunes warmed us up for "Tel Aviv," a desert-inflected cut with an eclectic rhyme scheme. Top sings that one partly in Hebrew, the only time he does so on Leave No Trace; by contrast, the group's eponymous break-out 2009 album was sung almost entirely in that language. If the audience's reaction was any gauge, they ought to consider keeping Hebrew on the menu.
Top didn't waste time on stage chatting up the audience, but he did let us know that they were happy to be playing "around the corner" from where they live. Yet the low-impact, familiar vibe of the gig didn't dull the polish of their playing; Fool's Gold, who seemed right at home with their craft yesterday, managed to transport us to someplace not quite here.
Personal Bias: I had a brief mid-'90s love affair with "world music".
Random Notebook Dump: The sound at "Leonardo's" stage was great; not too loud to keep us from appreciating the music, and all vital components were audible.
The Crowd: All-ages young. For a 90-degree day, too many girls in getups that involved wool felt hats, tweed shorts, denim vests, knee-high socks and leather boots. Also plenty of dresses which, because of the strong sun, became unintentionally see-through.
Set list below.