Sept. 3, 2011
This year's Fuck Yeah Fest was much like previous ones. It was held in the dusty, weed-strewn urban splendor of Los Angeles State Historic Park, it was attended by tens of thousands of people who turned out for 34 top-shelf indie bands spread across multiple stages, and once again the sun tried (and failed) to annihilate the hipsters reveling below.
Preceded by online teasers promising it would be the best day of the summer, this year's show did its best to make good on its claim by featuring a few logistical improvements over last year. The most important ones were aimed at mitigating the harsh environment. Let's face it, spending 12 hours in a dusty lot in the intense heat challenges the survival abilities of a generation of youngsters weaned on couches, sodas and video games.
The added water vendors hawking affordable H2O as well as free spigots effectively vanquished the long lines from last year. It demonstrated that promoter Sean Carlson, unlike some impresarios, is actually concerned with the health and welfare of those attending his events. There was also a larger fleet of food trucks, and the dust so prevalent on the north end of the park was mitigated by wood chips.
As for the bands, it goes without saying that when this much musical entertainment is crammed into a short span there's going to be a few stinkers, but why complain? A full day of relatively inexpensive music played by lesser known, but incredibly talented acts leaves little to gripe about.
This event is a good thing, possibly the best day of the summer, unless this was the day you lost your virginity. Of course if you lost your virginity at the show, that's just swell. Here's hoping next year is as good, or better. There are already rumors that Carlson has plans for a two day event. Till then, here's a quick rundown of a few of Saturday's noteworthy acts--please bear in mind that it's impossible to see everything. It's just that expansive.
Best In Show--Broken Social Scene: Canada's indie ambassadors proved on Saturday that all they need to shine is a little editing. The last time I saw them was at the Glass House in Pomona back in February. That night, they played a tedious two and a half hour set and failed to leave on the high note they are capable of sounding.
FYF saw them playing an abridged, hour-long set and rocking their lush, melodic arrangements to great effect. I saw at least one girl blithely working two hula hoops during the band's set.
Among the many highlights was "7/4 Shoreline." The female part, originally sung by Leslie Feist, is now handled by Lisa Lobsinger who slowly floats across the stage hopping behind various instruments and rocks a gorgeous mop which spills across her face. The best part of the number came at the end when bassist and sax player Ohed Benchetrit lifted his horn above his head just before the wind section launched into the final hook. Chill inducing.
The band also did a cool cover of Modest Mouses' "The World at Large," with Lobsinger's cooing howl taking the place of the original tune's whistling synths.
Best Nostalgia Act--The Descendents: Don't get your panties in a twist because I'm dropping the "N" word. I have no intention of insulting this band who holds a special place in the annals of punkdom. But I can't help it if they go way back to the '70s, have served as the high school soundtrack for multiple generations, mine included, not to mention influenced a shit ton of punk bands.
Forget for a moment that the Descendent's have a small relatively catalogue comprised almost entirely of memorable songs including "Clean Sheets," "When I Get Old," "Silly Girl," "Pervert" and "Myage," all of which they played on Saturday, but the band, despite their advanced age bring precision-guided intensity to the stage.
Singer Milo Aukerman, who donned an LA Dodgers cap, would strike a wide stance with the mic forcefully placed near his mouth and sing lyrical gems in his trademark nerdy warble such as "You can only be a victim if you admit defeat." Perhaps the most poignant part of the whole festival came when he looked out across a sea of hipsters and announced "I'm not cool, but I'm not a loser."
Though the years haven't been kind to Aukerman's voicebox which has developed a gnarly rasp, it didn't detract from his performance, even when he missed a few notes toward the end of the set. Otherwise, the band sounds remarkably as they did on their original recordings thanks to melodic bass lines courtesy of Karl Alvarez and leads played note for note from guitarist Stephen Egerton.
Halfway through the set the band was joined onstage by several youngsters who recited the famous All-O-Gistics which included the edicts "Though shall not commit adulthood" and "Though shall not partake of decaf." It beat out Ryan Gosling's onstage kids' costume contest from last year.
Best Changeup--Japandroids. This emo duo from Canada played early in the day and up until the point they took the stage, the atmosphere had been inundated with the strains of vintage sounding garage acts. Singer/guitar player Brian King clad in a Metallica T-Shirt stomped, snapped and strummed with vigor, his sparsely melodic voice reminiscent of what one hears on Dischord records. The set highlight included the number "Rockers" with an improvised trilly guitar melody met with warm chords and angular rhythmic intensity.
Biggest Disappointment - The Cold War Kids: This is my fault. Not that the CWK's set wasn't pretty abysmal, but I happened to be watching former Propaghandi bassist John K. Samson's band The Weakerthans on another stage when I decided it was in the Weekly readership's best interest for me to go to the main stage and report on the prominent band who recorded their first EP in an apartment above downtown Fullerton watering hole Mulberry Street. Imagine my dismay when not only did I hear singer Nathan Willet identify the band as being from LA, but they struggled noticeably with their sound mix.
Starting with the first song "Louder than Ever," the guitar vacillated wildly between too loud and too soft. It was worst when the volume was too high because the song is centered on the bass and drums--suddenly the six stringed instrument, noticeably lacking distortion and reverb was overwhelming the tune threatening to sink the entire performance. At this point I ruminated that I was probably missing The Weakerthan's "Plea From A Cat Named Virtue" for this.
Coolest Sounds for a Hot Day- The Cults: Their xylophone accompanied pop conjured images of soft breezes and swaying wind chimes. Say what you will about the song "Go Outside" being too saccharine, but as I left the area after their set, I heard more than one person humming the melody.
Biggest fan to band disconnect - Pink Mountain Tops: I know more than one heroin aficionado who is fond of this duo, known for their Doors psychedelia met with Barbarella keyboard blips. They were clad in black, standing directly in the sun, and looked totally disaffected. A total snore.
The crowd: Guys in cut off skinny jeans and muscle shirts (none with muscles). I saw one dude dressed like Waldo with a red striped top, knit cap and black glasses. Girls bearing mid driffs, or wearing long flowing dresses. Some people were rocking the face paint. At least one girl was wearing some sort of Super Mario costume.
Last year people were carrying parasols but these were in shorter supply this year as Staff Pro wasn't allowing them in the park. Instead, there were lots of people wearing Asian "paddyy hats." Seeing folks wear these head accessories, combined with the sweltering heat, and Sheriff's helicopter hovering overhead, I suddenly felt like I had been transported into an Oliver Stone movie. Check out Web Editor Vickie Chang's take on this new trend
|Me so indie.|
Overheard: "I'm going to take an Adderal," one young man announced to his buddies before entering the park. In my day we took LSD or smoked weed. Maybe he was trying to gain a mental edge because his hipster friends were going to be proctoring a test on his knowledge of the bands at day's end.
Random Notebook Dump:
Often times day long festivals where booze is in great supply experience excessive violence and douchebaggery. This festival is pretty damn peaceful. I only saw LA Sheriff's escorting one handcuffed person off the premises and one significant fracas between security and an attendee. Follow OC Weekly's music blog, Heard Mentality, on Twitter @ocweeklymusic and like us on Facebook!