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Comedy Stage and Smith Westerns

FYF Fest

Los Angeles State Historic Park

September 3, 2011

Better than…last year's FYF Fest.

Attendees of FYF 2010 complained of interminable lines, insufficient porta potties, and a lack of water. This year's fest ran more smoothly, however. Getting inside was easy; closing off Spring St. to traffic proved a big help, although parking proved to be near-impossible. Fortunately we were able to find a spot in a Chinese market's lot; for cover, we copped a bag of bean sprouts on the way out.

Smith Westerns came on at about 3:30 in the afternoon, before a large crowd. I'm a fan of the group, but it was shocking to see how young they looked in person. They appeared even younger than the crowd, many of whose presence must have saved their parents money on daycare. Not that it was always easy to see the band members' faces. There was a light wind, so lead singer Cullen Omori didn't spend much time with his long dark locks not in his face. (Don't they have rubber bands in Chicago?)

This pretty much summed up the demographic; Credit: Ben Westhoff

This pretty much summed up the demographic; Credit: Ben Westhoff

Super melodic music doesn't always work in a live festival setting, with the elements and the speaker systems often obscuring the textures, but that wasn't the case here. The sound quality on “Leonardo's” stage was first rate. (Not so, however, for The Olivia Tremor Control on “Donatello's” stage. The band sounded off, but that may have been their playing itself rather than the equipment.)

“I was backstage crying, getting ready to play this one,” said Omori before Smith Westerns performed “All Die Young.” I seriously doubt he was being sarcastic, because A) the lyrics to the track include lines like “I don't know if you mean you are the one to love” and B) you usually don't discover sarcasm until, like, high school, right?

I kid because I love, and indeed the folks watching were all clearly obsessed as well, though that doesn't mean we were giving any outward indications. Indie rock shows are all about showing restraint. Fans of the genre are genetically incapable of dancing since birth, after all, but that doesn't mean we're incapable of deep feelings. Quite the opposite. So we're stuck, bursting on the inside but paralyzed with self-consciousness, worried that if we so much as awkwardly sway those nearby will judge us. (They will.) Even mouthing along the words is considered a rather ostentatious display of emotion.

In any case, before ending on “Smile,” “Weekend” and “Dye The World,” Omori announced that the band were about to launch into their “money-making set,” but, c'mon, they're surely already thousandaires off of that Pitchfork money, which is a king's ransom when you're still on your parents' insurance.

Set list and comedy stage review below.

Marc Maron; Credit: Ben Westhoff

Marc Maron; Credit: Ben Westhoff

The FYF comedy tent had its location going against it, as it was adjacent to the day's loudest stage, Donatello's. Every time a comedian reached for a punchline, Touche Amore or OFF! or whoever blasted a power chord. The tent had one thing going for it, however: co-host Kumail Nanjiani, an uproarious, fairly-recent L.A. transplant who arrived by way of Pakistan, Iowa, Chicago, and New York.

His specialty is picking apart sci-fi and horror movies, and he analyzed the crowd's reaction at a Freddy vs. Jason screening back in the day. At one point, Freddy was deciding between killing a white girl and killing a black girl, and he opted for the latter because of her “dark meat.” The crowd groaned, causing Nanjiani to question why slashing children with his razor gloves was par for the course, while casual racism was simply not okay.

Marc Maron headlined the first show, and while it was a bit strange to hear him not dissecting the all-consuming existential crisis that is his life or fighting with Gallagher like he does on his podcast, it was pretty funny hearing him bemoan the parking situation, noting the oddness of FYF encouraging people to take public transit. Then again, was he as comical as this guy? Tough to say.

Credit: Ben Westhoff

Credit: Ben Westhoff

Personal Bias: I secretly sometimes listen to music that doesn't have an edge to it.

The Crowd: Hipster nerds.

Random Notebook Dump: We strongly considered getting a free tattoo from artist Grant Cobb in the Sailor Jerry airstream, but that may have just been because we were dizzy off rum and Dr. Better.

Smith Westerns set list below.

LA Weekly