My Bloody Valentine, MGMT and the Breeders Help FYF Fest Come Into Its Own (Concert Review)
There was a time in the music business when only a handful of major music festivals could draw crowds in the tens of thousands. Today, the success of such gatherings as Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza has spawned numerous regional gatherings with bills that could rival the big boys. Among them: Chicago's Pitchfork Festival and Riot Fest, the latter which hit Toronto this part weekend with the long-awaited Replacements reunion, and Los Angeles' sold-out FYF Fest, held at the city's National Historic State Park on Aug. 24 and 25.
Indeed, the two-day event was a rich tapestry of indie, alternative and dance music acts, led by My Bloody Valentine, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, TV On The Radio, Holy Ghost, !!!, Beach House, Yo La Tengo and dozens more.
Without question the most anticipated set of the weekend was a rare appearance by My Bloody Valentine, who could easily claim to be forefathers for most of the bands on the FYF bill. But where the UK-bred noise rockers had their offspring beat was in decibals, so much so that a message flashed on the video screen prior to their performance. It read: “Protect your ears! Pickup FREE earplugs at the information booth near the main entrance.”
Those looking forward to having their faces melted and eardrums shattered were not to be disappointed by MBV’s wall of sound set, but unfortunately, it did suffer some technical glitches that had the sound cutting in and out. When it was on, frontman Kevin Shields' pining guitar drones bled into neighboring Downtown L.A.
Saturday headliners the Yeah Yeah Yeahs had no such issues during their 13-song, 75-minute set. Early in the year, the band kicked off their 2013 live cycle with a stunning performance in Pomona, and after several months of touring they’ve only gotten stronger and more enthusiastic. Opening with “Mosquito,” the group offered several highlights, including “Maps” and “Gold Lion.”
As is typical at music fests, simultaneous sets presented many dilemmas on which band to see. Opposite Yeah Yeah Yeahs were the explosive Death Grips, who made news recently when they failed to show for a scheduled Lollapalooza after show and fans became unruly (riot is too strong a word). But there was some definite consensus on must-see acts, if only based on crowd size.
Among those drawing buzz on day one were the Breeders, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of their seminal album Last Splash by playing it in its entirety. Making sure the set list wasn't all predictable, the band, fronted by former Pixies bassist Kim Deal, managed to pull off a surprise, opening with a cover of Guided By Voices’ “Shocker In Gloomtown.” Other crowd favorites on day one included Toro Y Moi, who also generated a lot of positive buzz on social media following their set, and folkie Devendra Banhart.
Though not quite with the same buzz as some of their fellow indie hero acts witn no new album to promote, the always remarkable TV On The Radio delivered one of the best sets of the weekend, even previewing some new material.
Day one's memorable performances meant day two had a lot to live up to, and some broke through. Syrian singer Omar Souleyman and soul singer Charles Bradley elicited social media love, Washed Out’s electronic sounds proved crowd favorites and veteran singer-songwriters Jonathan Richman and Kurt Vile showed some of the youngsters how it's done.
Where TV On The Radio nearly upstaged fellow Carrie stage performers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on Saturday, another highly anticipated appearance by MGMT did the same on Sunday. A breakthrough set found the band pulling out all the stops, including the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, on cowbell. How’s that for hipster ironic? Infectious songs as “Electric Feel” and “Kids” guaranteed a sea of smart phones, but the new material also sounded phenomenal. Then again how could they not with Winkler keeping the beat on “Your Life Is A Lie”?