Live Review: FYF Fest, August 24-25, 2013, Los Angeles

Les Savy Fav
Les Savy Fav by Hutton Marshall.

Those in the market for a bundle of indie giants got a good bargain by traffic-jamming to L.A. State Historic Park for 2013’s FYF Fest. The ticket price, and more importantly, the temperature — although palpably hot — were nothing compared to Coachella, but the lineup was enough to make any God-fearing, Wes Anderson-loving hipster foam at the mouth.

The two-day festival started later in the day than most, and took place in the concrete jungle surrounding L.A., so there might not have been the inebriated camaraderie that comes along with the more enveloping, hygienically challenged camping festivals. But for those in attendance, it was a chance to spend two days experiencing all the bands we’ve been vying to see for quite some time.

On Saturday, the audience got a badass-by-association feeling Metz just by attending Metz’s set. The band’s performance was airtight, with a straightforward sound drenched in distortion. Metz’s guitar-driven stoner rock blended with the overbearing August heat, essentially kicking off the festival by saying “You’re in L.A. — everything and everyone here is hotter than you so get used to it.”

Charles Bradley has a monopoly on hip movement. His soulful, mellow version of James Brown funk was surprisingly captivating, and Bradley appeared to have the emotions of fifty people crammed into one. Despite (or because of) the fact that he appeared to be openly weeping during the majority of his set, he lit the crowd on fire early on in the day.

Kurt Vile
Kurt Vile

A personal favorite, Deerhunter has a way of making psychedelia into easily digestible pop rock. Their songwriting has grown enormously over the years, but their live shows haven’t evolved quite as dynamically. Bradford Cox’s weird hoodie/floral dress was mildly entertaining, but otherwise Deerhunter didn’t reveal anything that couldn’t be gathered from their studio work.

It’s refreshing to see such a polished act that comes along with many years of touring remain so energetic and emotional, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ greatest-hits set resonated with the huge crowd amassed for Saturday’s final show. Karen O went ballistic with several wardrobe changes and her trademark shrill shrieking. She’s like an exotic, glittery punk-rock toucan. A really loud one.

Kurt Vile‘s set on Sunday didn’t disappoint. Indie’s most stolid songwriter — now a family man embracing solitude and child rearing — mostly performed his 2013 release Wakin on a Pretty Daze. Just as Vile did when he played at the Casbah earlier this year, he kicked off his set with that album’s upbeat title track and sold the crowd with his awkward yet compelling brand of lackadaisically distorted rock. The set ended at its peak when his backing band skedaddled so he could play the acoustic, nostalgic “Peeping Tomboy.”

Yo La Tengo had the most impressive set of the weekend. All three members of the band gave the impression that music was as easy as making a lazy metaphor. Seriously, all three of them were next-level good at multiple instruments, and they let everyone know it by rotating instruments frequently throughout the set. Someone really needs to get to work on inventing time travel so we can begin sending anyone who’s feeling down on life back to the moment at FYF where Yo La Tengo played “Autumn Sweater” at sunset. Seriously, it would work.

For an Andy Samburg look-alike, !!!‘s singer brought the funk to quite a commendable degree. As their name would imply, !!! are an eccentric, exclamatory band that embraces off-color energy and turns it into a brand of dance music impossible not to enjoy.

I won’t say that Beach House were well rehearsed, technically proficient, “giving it their all,” or anything like that. The band has a way of making you forget that what they’re doing is a performance. They have a talent for making the complex seem so understandable, and their latest album Bloom translated into a powerful live performance. Beach House’s entire synth-drenched sound evokes a strange feeling of nostalgia, and a sense of intimacy that makes everyone in the crowd feel like they’re right up front.

Yo La Tengo
Yo La Tengo

Clearly steering away from the stripped-down sound they tried out on their last studio release, Congratulations, MGMT played a dance-centric set filled with shiny animations and psychedelic electronica. (Oh, and the Fonz came on stage and played the cowbell.) They tried out a few songs off their upcoming self-titled album, and by the sound of them, MGMT have course-corrected back to the commercially explosive days of “Time to Pretend.” Congratulations may have been an important period of growing up for MGMT, but it’s probably wise that they get back to what they do best.

Not having permission to bring a camera into the festival didn’t matter until Les Savy Fav came on stage; then it was quite a bummer. Hopefully words will do.

Les Savy Fav (noun): Four normal-looking band members and one intimidatingly large, bald, bearded frontman (Tim Harrington). Performances typically consist of said frontman — who looks more like a scary dive-bar bouncer than an indie legend — appearing on stage in a silver, spandex unitard. The unitarded, bald, overbearing frontman then proceeds to strip off aforementioned unitard (while continuing to sing), stands proudly before the crowd in his underwear with arms wide open, then duct-tapes the lower half of the unitard back onto his body. He then takes a large cardboard box full of toiled paper and hocks it at the pit, probably clubbing some poor, unsuspecting music lover who ironically has to use the restroom.

And all that was just in the first couple songs. Other antics included Harrington going backstage to find a ladder, setting it up on stage, climbing it, falling off of it, then getting the crowd to carry him around on top of it like some weird, scantily clad royalty. By this time, the toilet paper he had thrown into the crowd was everywhere.

My Bloody Valentine introduced themselves with a simple “hi” and “hello” before tearing into their beloved shoegaze. No one seemed to move as they played. Instead, people just stared at the musicians on stage with the iconic “MBV” standing tall behind them. Everyone just soaked in the fact that these Brits were actually there in front of them. There’s nothing to say about the bottomless, abiding energy of My Bloody Valentine that seems fitting enough. The emotional pull of their layered, piling guitar work should remain wordless, except for their lyrics. Those are probably fine.

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