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Monday, August 24, 2015

The Highs and Lows of L.A.’s FYF Fest

Posted By on Mon, Aug 24, 2015 at 11:56 AM

Last year, L.A.'s FYF Festival received a lot of attention for its massive failure in executing the basics of festival coordination. There were water accessibility issues, crowd control fails, and even crossfitters were driven halfway to tears about shin-splintering distances between stages (OK fine, maybe not the crossfitters — those people are nuts). But coming off the heels of the logistical nightmare, the Fuck Yea Committee needed to make 2015 a comeback year. So we went down to L.A.’s Expo Center to see how they did — and to experience the highs and lows of the fest.

Biggest Stampede of the Weekend: Run The Jewels
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
As the sun dropped behind the main stage Saturday evening, so did the bass. All eyes in the vicinity darted to the megatrons, which flashed the Run The Jewels signature logo. The sight of the logo urged the herd of festival attendees to shuffle as fast as they could toward the stage. Several lanky gentlemen passed me in full sprint, elevating the general sense of urgency to full stampede levels. “We’re about to fuck your shit up,” Killer Mike said, warning us all to batten the hatches for the storm RTJ were about to bring. “Put away your extended selfie-sticks, the expensive sunglasses your parents bought you. If you just got injured recently, nobody wants that colostomy bag exploding... I respect your injury but pee is pee.” The audience happily obliged.


Most Cameos in One Set: Flume
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
Aussie producer Flume may have set the record for the most cameos in one FYF set. He invited Andrew Wyatt, the frontman of Miike Snow, on stage to help set the tone for his 60 minutes. Wyatt cracked just one smile during the otherwise stone-faced performance of the new single, “Some Minds.” Wyatt took his leave as Flume’s visuals melted like drops of watercolor mixing on top of an overhead projector. All of the most anticipated tracks, like “Holdin’ On” and “This Song Is Not About A Girl,” ignited a dance party in the back of the main stage lot. Then fog engulfed the stage and Lorde’s voice lifted the party back into swing. Lorde herself skipped into the limelight to accompany Flume for a dance party of their own, awkwardly mouthing the words to her own song without a microphone. Later Flume completed the hat trick, bringing out fellow Australian, Marcus Whale of Collarbones to seal another stage collaboration and the third cameo in under an hour. For bringing a guest out every 20 minutes on average, we’re crowning Flume FYF’s cameo king of 2015.

Most Suggestive Fest Decor: An Inflatable Eggplant Emoji
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
While the Eggplant Emoji was still waiting to be inflated, one girl was overheard saying “Hashtag: My ex be like...” as she gestured at the flaccid veggie. When it was finally plugged in and took full form, no one could resist embracing the emoji-euphemism for the phallus. On one end young women struck overtly suggestive poses from their knees while guys passing by took turns flashing Patrick Bateman poses on the other end, as if only a vanity mirror met their gaze in every direction. Later in the evening, I returned to The Arena for a FlyLo DJ set, and the veggie-moji was on time-out, still inflated, but now fenced in. This thing was like the Nicki Minaj wax statue — the kids just could not handle the thirst.

Most Aggressive 50 Minutes at FYF: Death Grips
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
The Sacramento-based trio Death Grips, a rap/punk hybrid, created a wildly aggressive environment at The Trees Stage. With his beard up and torso out, MC Ride stood eerily silent on one of his monitors, back lit by a flood of blood-red light. An ear-shattering din exploded from the speakers, signaling the start of the hardest show at FYF ‘15.

The pressure in the pit was building but failed to ignite due to the lack of real estate per capita; with no room in the crowd, fans couldn’t properly exhaust their sudden angst. Those giving effort quickly lost their breath, energy, and patience. After only two songs, some of the toughest-looking punk patrons were hard charging to escape. A man the size of a grown moose trampled a young lady to the ground on his way out without stopping for an apology. A moment later, a much-smaller man down-shouldered the wrong girl and her boyfriend’s fists flew without question. Within seconds, a circle of camera phones formed around the two aggressors. The only effort to break up the fight instantly failed. After only 3 songs (and 3 rounds), our vibe was effectively killed. We were not about that life.

Best Photo Op Fail
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
As it turns out, people really love their emojis. They love their emojis so much that it is not enough to save them like speed dial to their keyboards; they need to pose with them in their camera roll too. The temptation from these giant inflatable festival decorations was real. This group gave their best shot at at an Instagram upload, but didn’t quite get the shot this time.

Latest Improvement in Festival Convenience: Setlist Tattoos
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
The most convenient concept seen at FYF was not made available to L.A. by festival organizers, but instead by Better Than One, an independent merchant who posted up outside of the main entrance selling setlist tattoos for $5. The clothing company combined the childhood fun of temporary tattoos with the provision of festival stage times to offer the most convenient product at FYF.

Longest Set: Horse Meat Disco
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
The undisputed winner of the longest set at FYF ‘15 is the DJ collective, Horse Meat Disco. For five and a half hours, HMD served as a disco oasis and centerpoint between The Main, Lawn, and Trees Stages. The Woods stage was dressed with vibrant streamers, illuminated orbs, and a non-stop dance party to kick the weekend off.

Most Adorable Punk Rock Couple: Stefan and Ayesha
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
The waltz was not something anyone expected to see on the outskirts of Joyce Manor’s moshpit. But Stefan and Ayesha, DGAF as they twirled through one of the few punk sets of the day. We approached the couple and learned that 3 years ago, Stefan took Ayesha to see The Growlers on their first date. At the show, Ayesha got sucked into the pit only to find her face forcefully met with another’s skull. She looked up to Stefan in shock, blood spilling from her face, and that’s when Stefan said he knew, “Dude, I fuckin’ love this girl!” Now that’s what we call romance.

Best Last-Minute Performance of the Weekend: Kanye West
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
A massive 15x24-can light board, suspended by industrial cables, set the backdrop to the last-minute performance by Yeezus. Replacing Frank Ocean after he cancelled on Thursday, Kanye was the Hail Mary of the weekend. Smoke machines went to work at max output and the light rig popped to life, tilting forward, leaving just 15 feet of clearance off the stage. The other-worldly set design created the illusion of a starship landing. “No Church In the Wild” hit hard as Kanye West emerged on stage, in and out of visibility due to the fog. The megatrons on either side of the Main Stage displayed only a black screen, effectively focusing all the attention on Mr. West. Kanye’s face was veiled in shadow for nearly the whole set as he performed 75 minutes of his best jams including “Jesus Walks,” “New Slaves,” and “Ni**as in Paris.” Perhaps an even better surprise than finding out that Yeezus would be filling the headlining spot was when Travis $cott and Rihanna both made cameo appearances during the set.

Most Unfortunate Set Blunder: Solange's Technical Difficulties 
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
Looking forward to getting our soul fix, we headed over to Solange’s slot on the Lawn stage Sunday eve. Arriving at least 20 minutes late, there was no audio coming from the speakers as we approached. But within minutes, the band appeared and Solange emerged in a dramatic red draped gown getting the crowd heated in no time. It was apparent within the first few minutes that something was off — but it wasn’t Solange herself. The sound just didn’t carry and her vocals were barely audible, lacking that sonic punch the crowd was hungry for. A few minutes in, she paused her show for a good minute or two to switch out her sound pack with a technician onstage. It was clear that technical difficulties were going to plague the set. The plus side to our short time with the new-Motown diva in red was a two-time cameo appearance by Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes, who jammed with Solange as she closed out with “Losing You.” Despite the sound issues, Solange knows her crowd and how to work her audience. We just wish her set wasn’t stunted by the poorly mixed and lackluster audio.

Most Refreshing Mid-Day Beverages: Moon Juice
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski
Afternoon temperatures, amplified by a mostly concrete or asphalt ground, combined with the inescapable dry heat of Los Angeles, called for a restorative treat. In the VIP section of the fest, we stumbled upon Moon Juice, a vendor from Venice selling cold-pressed juices and curious tonics. We opted for their immunity-boosting Gingered Lemon juice and the curiously energizing Sex Tonic, a mineralized brew of Maca, Chinese herbs, cacao, and more. Paired with the savory turmeric, coconut and lime pepitas mix, this mid-day snack succeeded in revitalizing that heat-induced slump.


Most Theatrical Performance: Fka Twigs
click image fka_twigs_3.jpg
Fka Twigs closed out the festival on the Lawn stage this year, with one of the more avant-garde performances at FYF. Her deliberate movements, mixed with dramatic lighting and thick smoke transported us into another dimension. The audience was quickly hypnotized by the visceral performance complete with seductive contortions, utter stillness, and then sudden, yet calculated gestures. Her ability to move not only her body, but also her crowd with her expressive, rhythmic, and agile style of dance had us mesmerized from start to finish.


Festival Lowlights
click image KRISTINA BAKREVSKI
  • Kristina Bakrevski

Logistics: Crowd flow in and out of festival was better than last year but some kinks still need to be ironed out. Namely the entrance right after getting off the metro. The infamous bottleneck entry from hell featured in last year’s episode didn’t create as big of a hurdle as it did in 2014, but they can certainly do better next year by utilizing more sidewalk and opening more gates to the main entrance. The new walkway between the Lawn and Main stage was a huge improvement and we’re relieved to see such a solid adjustment. But getting to the floor of The Arena meant trekking almost halfway around the colossal building and in some instances they closed off floor access due to “capacity.” When we made our way to the mezzanine to catch a glimpse, half the floor seemed virtually empty. WTFYF?

The extreme “anti-rave” rules & prohibited items:

No totems: What is usually a creative and spirited way to easily find your friends wasn’t allowed inside the park at this fest.

No LED gloves or glowsticks: A seemingly innocuous object that beautifully lights up the crowd at night was not allowed either.

No dustmasks: With plenty of dusty lawns to post up on, we’re actually very curious as to why they prohibited a way of effectively protecting our sinuses.

No metal containers: What’s curious about this one is that they were for sale inside the festival, only to prohibit patrons from bringing them back in the next day.

Concrete / Asphalt Grounds: Call us old fashioned, but we really like taking our shoes off and dancing in the grass at a music fest. Something about soaking in the earth like that while vibing to your favorite artists can really invigorate the spirit. And something about the majority of Exposition Park being hard surface made for extra sore feet and muscles all weekend.

No recycling bins: While there is a possibility the trash may get sorted at the facility, at least make people be somewhat responsible to the environment by suggesting they participate in the simple task of throwing cans and bottles in a separate bin. This may very well be the San Francisco in us speaking, but there’s no excuse for sending tens of thousands cups and empty water bottles to a landfill.


With the weekend at a close, it seemed that there were some efforts to alleviate the festival’s growing pains but not enough. The festival organizers have a long hard road ahead of them, kind of like the “new improved” walkway. And some of the bigger issues, listed above, seemed too expensive or damn near impossible to properly fix. The saving grace for the festival in 2015 was the number of unexpected artists that appeared in support of the acts already booked. Such cameos acted as bandaid to the systemic malfunctions at FYF’s roots, but it’s not something to rely on. Whether they can turn it around or not, remains to be seen, and will continue to be the organizer’s struggle moving forward.


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Ryan Mannix

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