[See also Timothy Norris' slideshow “FYF Fest 2010 with The Rapture, Dead Man's Bones, Panda Bear and More”.]
Given that I refuse to pair a word as lovely as “summer” near detractors such as cruel “end” or the gentler “fade,” I'll say this: Labor Day marks the end of nothing, except the death of any residual negativity I might feel for Coachella.
With September settling in, suddenly the Outdoor Stage is forgiven for being so soft-spoken, memories of accidentally showering with Vodka-filled 'water' bottles are replaced with an irrational appreciation of dry shampoo, and beach days are wasted dreaming about the desert sun setting all shades of purple against that iconic row of Palms. Coachella may well be some sort of eighth world wonder, or, at the very least, my happy place – but Saturday at L.A.'s State Historic Park, I cheated on 'Chella. And I liked it.
In its seventh year of existence, FYF Fest finally proved itself a worthy competitor, quenching and stirring all that hot, dusty 'Chella-stalgia in a single serving format closer to home and at a fraction of the cost and effort output. Certainly we battled dehyrdration, an abusive sun, and massive (but stylish!) crowds, but FYF ultimately provided just enough well-curated magic to keep us happy – and by magic, we mean Panda Bear. In the spirit of the 'perfect mix tape' that inspired it, LA Weekly presents FYF's Greatest Hits:
Most Proudly Repping the F-Yeah in FYF: Moshing Tweens at Davila 666, Wavves
I hadn't heard them before wandering towards warbly Spanish screams, but these Puerto Rican punks are mega loud in the spirit of FYFs passed.
Wearing a ripped-up Budweiser romper and a mullet or two, they look a bit like Latin Die Antwoord, and seemed to be having as much fun as the kids kicking each other's asses in the audience.
The audience at Wavves got to moshing, too, as Nathan Williams thrashed like a good San Diego-raised Blink 182 devotee — but the bass wasn't working, the music didn't sound quite right until “Green Eyes,” and everyone not crowd surfing through dust was waiting for a Primavera meltdown. (Also possible that I'm a brat, and just wanted to hear “Vermin” as a break from the new album's violent bursts of energy).
Best Vibes/Most Loyal Twitter Followers: Best Coast
Wearing a floppy hat and big sunglasses, L.A. lady Bethany Cosentino looked like a lost Dirty Projector, strumming her sky blue guitar and whispering gossip about booooys and cats and weed. I'm a girl from Southern California who digs those things, so I dig her sunny, melody-driven tributes to garages across California. Everyone in the front row knew every word to every song, and even noticed when Snacks (her infamous, much-tweeted about cat) got a little shout-out.
Fashion Trend That Came Outta Nowhere, And/or Ariel Pink is a Crazy Person
The New York Times recently published a great story on Elaine Benes as style icon. While I at first found this headline completely absurd, once the lols died down and I looked around the festival, I simply shortened Elaine's Amish hemline in my head and ta-effing-da, chic 2k10 Urban Outfitters ad. Ms. Benes is famous for wearing god-awful floral prints layered under hyper-masculine jackets, paired with functional shoes. It's the classic Masculin féminin, as translated by the god-awful '90s (don't get me started on flannel).
And while I haven't been to New York this summer, Elaine's style, or lack thereof, has sneakily gone West, young man. Her Los Angeles mutation more frequently manifests itself in dreaded rompers, of all varietals of flora and fauna and fugly, paired with lace detailing, classically masculine jackets, grandma-chic oversized leather bags, chunky combat boots, etc. But oh, she is there, from Santa Monica to Silver Lake, daring chicks to show less leg, to rock a slouchy sock, to smoke a cigar and exhale deeply with a knowing wink (“…Check this out, I simultaneously look like your grandma AND your husband, and people think I'm 'blurring boundaries.' But nah, I'm just hella comfy.”)
If I'm going to mock oversized bags, Ariel Pink deserves a mention. While I'd previously believed Girls's lead singer Chris Owens was Kurt Cobain's modern reincarnation, I think Mr. Pink's expertly dispassionate glares might secure him that title. Wearing what looked like rainbow scrubs, grey skinnies, and a giant orange messenger bag, Ariel sauntered around the stage fully creeping everyone out. On record, Beyond Today certainly feels a bit sleazy, though still warm and familiar – but in person, Ariel seems to become a caricature of the creature he created. Brilliant, if a tiny bit terrifying.
Biggest Bummer: Seeing Washed Out
A moment of silence for the sudden death of chillwave, courtesy of Washed Out's sleepy set. Maybe Ernest Greene's lo-fi disco noises require a small, dark space to get lost in, maybe he needs keyboard dancing lessons from Toro y Moi, or maybe (ideally?) he should figure out a backing band, but I just wasn't feelin' it all around (and I love his recorded music).
Super Obscure Band You Probably Missed: Fainting Azns
They were on this super secret side stage you never heard about, made to look like a sketchy but delish food truck. And/or two of my three Asians fainted – bad odds! Azn #1 passed out while in line for food, then tried to purchase water but found none available, a fact made more ridiculous when you remember the selling price of four bucks a pop. Meanwhile across the park, apologies for the delay at Man Man, where you might have seen the band offer Azn #2 some milk as EMT's tried to reach her.
Best Dance Party that wasn't The Rapture: Man Man, !!!
Aside from having to start late, Man Man was expectedly super-mustached and absurd, like a band of Tom Waits's face-painted little brothers using dirty Blues and brass as their weapons.
They create music with their whole bodies, and Honus Honus's glittering outfits and hoarse vocals are intense, a bit like Paul McCartney's screams in “Monkberry Moon Delight.” Wouldn't wanna see these dudes too up close.
Less intense and possibly more fun of the two, !!! knows how to throw a party, but don't try Googling their name. None of this lo-fi, glo-fi, or chillwave solitude, just bangin' funk with a full band, dueling vocalists, and tight bass. Frontman Nic Offer, in particularly short shorts, repeatedly jumped into the press pit, grinding on air and the photographers and some lucky audience members. Plus Shannon Funchess stole the mic right out of another band member's hand – sassy!
Best Magic/Best Animal/Best Everything: Panda Bear
The best description I've heard of Panda Bear is an accidental insight, courtesy of a smart friend: “Remember that time you handed me a Panda Bear CD, and I thought it was a scratched up devil Beach Boys album playing backwards?”
That's exactly how Noah Lennox creates music on record; he cuts and pastes genres with pop in his blood and Brian Wilson in his voice. But, live, he began by shedding sunny Pet Sounds harmonies and layering dissonant chants over even darker static dissonance (“Hey, bros, there will be no 'Bros' in this set.”) And he constructs complex patterns from basic sounds without moving a step, without flinching from the weight of going to 11 – and I mean literal ear pressure. That shit hurt.
He is perfectly still, even when new track “Slow Motion” floats towards a more danceable beat, inspiring strange, staccato moves from those brave enough to attempt. But the Eff Yeah! moment of FYF was easily the aural nostalgia of Person Pitch's “Ponytail.” Long after the sun had set, and with the downtown skyline shimmering at the horizon, a calm, content Noah sedated a sea of city kids with a wall of sound ethereal and abrasive in equal parts – a thousand adjectives describe the noises Noah Lennox sang and sampled and looped, but they all feel small.
Thanks, FYF. Dust storms and long lines and fainting Asian hipsters aside, I miss you already (nostalgia's got rapidfire turnaround these days).