Big music festivals almost always require tough decisions. There will be two-hour chunks in which you care very little about any of the bands playing on umpteen stages — and then, bam, three of your favorites are playing at the same time in the three different far-flung corners of the festival grounds.
Are there bigger problems in the world? Sure. But few require you to walk so quickly across a dusty field while yelling at your friend that she's just going to have to wait to buy another beer. And don't even think about going to the bathroom, lady.
On Saturday, I decided to see every single band, DJ and Kanye that was playing FYF Fest — 31 acts total. I'd done my usual poring over the schedule, and trying to decide what, when and where, and how just became too much to ponder. So I decided to do it all. See everything. All 31 acts.
Would that even be possible?
The rules were simple: I had to hear at least two songs from each artist, and I had to get deep enough into the crowd that I couldn't hear any other nearby bands. There would be no standing between two stages, trying to snatch a little bit of each. Because that's no fun.
My brain was an overly stimulated bag of mush by the end, but thankfully I took some notes:
“We're excited to be the first band playing this whole weekend,” says Junk's Evan Weiss. There are maybe 100 people standing in front of the Trees Stage, and it's hot. A few groups dance to the grooving bass, but that frivolity soon melts in the heat.
Junk might be excited to kick off the festival, but I'm just glad I made it through the gates on time after being stuck behind two dudes who were begging security to let them keep their vape pens. Come on, guys. Vaping is dumb. Let's go.
Kevin Morby plays “Harlem River,” a song about being in love, love, love, love. A couple in the crowd — he in long pants, she in short shorts — face the Lawn Stage and sway to the music. Long Pants swings his hand subtly, fingers gracing the outside of her bare thigh, his touch lingering with each advance. Short Shorts drifts away ever-so-slowly, moving an inch with each step.
Horse Meat Disco are spinning at the Woods all day. With shiny streamers overhead and plywood on the dirt, this whole area feels like a high-school dance party in a suburban backyard where you'd be expected to chip in for the keg. Four bros stand on the side and watch the rest of the crowd move. There aren't a lot of over 21 wristbands here, but there is shade. I'll be back.
When you see 31 acts in one day, you're going to discover some music you've never heard before, and I am an instant Broncho fan. Comparing lead singer Ryan Lindsey to Kurt Cobain is probably too easy, but the man looks similarly dirty and acts almost as spastic onstage. Oh, and they've got a song called “I Wanna Put It Where Kurt Put It.”
A goth gal walks through the crowd at Mikal Cronin, holding a sunflower in the air.
“I'm not a baseball fan,” says Alvvays frontwoman Molly Rankin, sporting a sweet Oakland A's top. “I didn't even know this was a baseball shirt. So if you're going to boo me for wearing the wrong team, go ahead.”
No one boos. The worst thing said is, “They sound a little like Best Coast.” Which isn't so bad.
Two songs per artist, right? So how's that work in the continuous-mix context of DJ Dodger Stadium? Let's go with 10 minutes. It's really dark inside the Arena, and new arrivals keep fumbling and bumping into each other as their eyes adjust.
On the way back to the Trees Stage I cruise through Horse Meat Disco again. There's a kid sprawled face-first on the ground, gently petting the dirt with his right hand.
Everyone knows you don't wear the band's T-shirt to the concert. Are festivals different? Because here's a guy with a Bloc Party shirt, watching La Femme on the Trees Stage. His will be the only Bloc Party shirt I'll see today, but attire abounds for Morrissey and Yeezus, not to mention one dude with a Fuck Kanye shirt. Because if you hate something, you should put it on your chest.
I was a big fan of Tennis' debut album, Cape Dory, and I've always wanted to see “Marathon” played live.
So far I don't recognize the first two songs. I hope they play “Marathon” before I have to bail.
The third song is not “Marathon.” I'm about to fall behind schedule.
The fourth song is not “Marathon.” I feel like the bank robber in the movie who breaks the cardinal rule about staying in the vaults longer than planned.
Dammit. The fifth song is not “Marathon.”
Thank goodness for pop punk. Two songs from Joyce Manor go by in less than five minutes. I'm back on schedule. I'll be running in a big circle for the rest of the evening, from the Main Stage to the Arena to the Trees Stage to the Lawn Stage and back again.
And there's always Horse Meat Disco at the Woods.
After emerging from BadBadNotGood (none of which is true) at the Arena, I'm back in the bright sun at the Trees Stage for Metz. It's always a bit weird to see a hardcore band in the middle of the day. Pain and screams are better suited for night. But Metz is blasting away, and the guitars blare all the way across the grounds to the iconic facade of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Am I over-stimulated already? Melody's Echo Chamber just seems boring. That's what I get for eating a jalapeño-bedecked burrito while listening to hardcore just 20 minutes earlier. But maybe it's not just me. Maybe it's also Melody's Echo Chamber.
If someone has to block your view while watching Dinosaur Jr., you could do a lot worse than a toddler wearing headphones while sitting atop the shoulders of his Gen X dad.
Growing up in Houston, we had an amusement park called Astroworld with a crappy planetarium where everyone sat on a grody carpet floor and stared up at the ceiling. The show wasn't that good, but it was one of the few indoor places with air-conditioning in the whole park, so we spent a lot of time in there.
I'm sitting inside the Arena watching Kaytranada.
Goldroom at the Trees Stage is basically where the Horse Meat Disco crowd goes after they've graduated college and gotten jobs. One fan is wearing a flowing cape that she swings like wings. Another grown woman wears a tiny teddy bear backpack and gigantic platform shoes. Electro-pop washes across the field.
Cue the first disappointment. I saw The Drums last October at the Mayan downtown, and their hooks and lyrics were super catchy in a venue of that size. Put them outdoors at the Lawn Stage, and suddenly they don't look or sound so great in the light of day.
My feet hurt. As does my brain. I'm not even halfway done yet.
Run the Jewels are on the Main Stage. I have a beer in my hand and nowhere else to go for 20 minutes. The heat has broken. The sun is setting. There's a half-moon overhead.
I just might make it.
A quick 10 minutes of Shlohmo at the Trees Stage is followed by Flying Lotus at the Arena. There's a line to get on the floor, and EDM fans are crawling all over each other for seats, their movements syncopated by strobe lights and self-doubt. Up near the top, teenage couples make out aggressively. A woman watches the show while sucking on a pacifier that blinks like a bike light.
You sometimes hear about super rich people paying bands like The Rolling Stones a million bucks to play weddings or parties. If I had that Gatsby money, the first thing I'd do is build a big house with a secret passage you activate by pulling a book off the shelf. Sorry, I can't tell you which book. The second thing I'd do is throw a huge party and have !!! play.
!!! put on one helluva live show. Lead singer Nic Offer is bouncing all over the Lawn Stage. Then he's crawling over the barricade and joining the crowd, surrounded by a halo of fans' smartphones. Now he's back on the stage, strutting in his short shorts like a forty-something sex god.
Another band member hops to the front of the stage on crutches, holding a tambourine. He drops a crutch and starts jumping on one leg. The front half of the crowd joins him.
This is live music.
I hope none of these Chet Faker fans just came from !!!'s performance. For Faker's sake.
The flame is burning over the Coliseum, and Savages are playing the Trees Stage.
My body is strong, but my mind weakens.
Flying Lotus was the apex of the Arena Stage. I now have no trouble making it onto the floor for Jon Hopkins. The video for “Open Eye Signal” plays on the wall behind him, and that beat-up skateboarder just keeps rolling through the high desert.
“Come on, you motherfuckers, jump!” yells Bloc Party lead singer Kele Okereke. The band has just flowed into “Banquet” halfway through another track, almost saying, “Look, we know you're probably just here for this one song, and fine, we'll give it to you, but we're not even going to introduce it properly.”
Cold Cave is not crowded at all. Too much overlap with Bloc Party? Or is everyone over at the Main Stage, waiting for Kanye?
Everyone is at Kanye.
No photographers are allowed in the pit, and the big screens only show him from a distance. He's a silhouette, sashaying under the bright lights. You can hear him breathe, a refreshing change from pitch-perfect backing tracks heard elsewhere today. He lies down. Up again.
I've got to run inside the Arena to catch Bonobo. BRB.
The Arena is almost empty. Gone are the teenagers making out near the rafters. Nowhere to be seen, that gal with the blinking pacifier. I've got no problem with Bonobo, but I'm here for 10 minutes and then it's back outside.
Kanye is so much more in control of the situation than he was at Coachella a few years ago. His directions to the sound board are confident — not needy, fake-confident. He's at ease. He knows what he wants, and he knows what the crowd wants too.
Rihanna appears for a few quick vocals. Kanye plays the first half of jam after jam. He calls out the minutes left after each half-song. “We've got 10 years of hits to get through,” he yells, and he does just that.
I hope none of these Purity Ring fans just came from Kanye's performance. Odds are they did.
Jesus and Mary Chain, you're cool, but we gotta move this night along…
Tomorrow I'll remember seeing Simian Mobile Disco, but it'll all feel like a dream. A surreal dream. A dream not deferred. A dream complete.
Video proof of the whole crazy endeavor: