FYF Festival: Concert Review

Tod Seelie
Photo by Tod Seelie
A hometown crowd does punk and indie rock right.

The FYF Music Festival (formerly known as the F--k Yeah Fest) seems to have overcome its growing pains and become a sort of Coachella-lite for West Coast music lovers. For Saturday’s one-day gathering, a mixture of some 20,000 hipster and skater-types strolled into Los Angeles State Historic Park to see 35 established and buzzing indie bands, from relative newcomers Death From Above 1979 and Explosions In The Sky to veterans Descendents, Dead Milkmen and Broken Social Scene, on four stages. The fest, now in its eighth year, also hosted a comedy tent featuring the likes of Marc Maron, Steve Agee and the Sklar Brothers.

In contrast to the previous year, where temperatures were a blistering 100-plus degrees and the fest was plagued with complaints of hours-long lines (for everything from water to entry) and disorganization, there was little to no wait for those basic necessities or snacks from food trucks like Fry Smith and the Green Truck. That left more time for fans to check out music (and for artists to get free tattoos backstage, courtesy of Grant Cobb from Spotlight Tattoo and the Sailor Jerry airstream trailer). 

Boasting many of FYF’s bigger names -- among them: Cults, Cold War Kids and indie icons Guided By Voices -- Leonardo’s Stage was at the center of the action throughout the day and well into the night. Said Cults singer Brian Oblivion (pictured backstage), one-half of the duo which had just returned from a string of shows in the U.K.: “Europe sucks compared to this.”

Indeed, Cults looked and sounded completely at ease on stage, with the real-life couple’s yin-yang dynamic evident in their banter as well as their set. Opening with “Abducted,” the band encouraged the audience to dance to “Bumpers,” one of the few tracks where Oblivion and Madeline Follin split lead vocal duties.

Cults Airstream FYF

But it wasn’t until the opening chords of “Go Outside,” the band’s latest single, when audience members who had been sitting on the grass, stood up, joined hands, and spun around bouncing in merry-go-round circles. Making the performance extra special, Follin’s brother, Richie Follin, guitarist and frontman for psych-rockers Willowz, joined the duo on drums for the last few songs of their set.

Other highlights included Explosions In The Sky, whose rarely played number “The Moon Is Down” left the audience enraptured, young rockers the Smith Westerns, who closed their set with their upbeat single “Weekend” much to the delight of the Labor Day weekend crowd, and Cold War Kids, who after inspiring a sing-along to favorite “Hang Me Up To Dry,” couldn’t help but express their own excitement for the Descendents set. From the stage, lead singer Nathan Willett admitted to being such a big fan of the band, that he’d called into KROQ's sex advice show Loveline to talk to them back in the 90s. Judging by the crowd’s response, he wasn’t the first to try the Dr. Drew backdoor, and probably wouldn’t be the last.

To that end, the Descendents, who took the the stage just after sunset, did not disappoint. It was the band’s second show in the Los Angeles area this year, since opening for Rise Against in Long Beach this past April. Prior to that show, they hadn’t played locally since 1997.

As an audience member waved a California flag in the air, the punk legends from nearby Hermosa Beach jammed on songs like “Silly Girl,” “Rotting Out,” and “I’m The One,” while fans crowd-surfed and moshed throughout the 60-minute set. From the size of the pit to the audience’s enthusiastic singalong, it was clear that L.A. music fans had missed their local heroes and that at FYF, hometown pride was still alive and well.