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Best sets from FYF Fest 2012

By Mike Frash //

FYF Fest //
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
September 1st-2nd, 2012 //

The location for FYF Fest reinforces some of LA’s ugliest stereotypes. LA State Historic Park has a feeling somewhere between industrial and suburban LA, with billboards, freeways and metro trains ever present. You know you are in Los Angeles.

But the stages are close to each other so it’s easy to get back and forth, and there was plenty of variety to keep full blown 80’s nostalgia from taking over. Here are the five shows that left the strongest impression with me.

MUST-SEE SHOWS

Atlas Sound ~ Sunday 6:10 Hill St. Stage

Bradford Cox is a remarkable solo artist. The frontman from Deerhunter builds songs by looping & layering live sounds from his guitar and mouth with a variety of foot petals. The complexity and layered depth of his songs cannot be overstated – and it’s easy to drift off with Bradford as he extends every song to sonic peaks and back again. This show mirrored the format of the Atlas Sound & Deerhunter albums, variating between songs that feature a psychedelic wall-of-sound with a morose sense of sadness & death with seemingly upbeat low-fi pop that contrasts with clean acoustic guitar. ‘Mona Lisa’ was a stand-out song live, delivering an emotional buildup that peaked with ambient loops that eventually led back into the peaceful refrain. In stark contrast to the overall sad-yet-freeing tone of the music is Bradford himself – he took five minutes before the encore to apologize to his friend for spitting on him for saying something misogynist, declaring that he will always spit on misogynists, added ‘Fuck ya I’m gay’ and led the enthusiastic crowd in a “Thank You Mark” chant, for his friend Mark that picked up his gear from across town. Bradford could talk about the weather and it would be captivating.

Chromatics ~ Saturday 6:35 Spring Street Stage

The Saturday sunset show on the Spring St. stage showcased the first upbeat & authentic dance music (sorry John Maus). The sound of the group lead by Ruth Radelet translates well in a live setting, heavily leaning to the crisp and infectiously danceable side of the coin. Radelet has a stage presence that is as hypnotic as her voice, which blends nicely with grooves that invoke LCD Soundsystem or Hot Chip no matter how hard you try to resist making the comparison. One of the set’s many highlights was ‘Kill for Love,’ which had most in attendance moving in some way, which is quite an accomplishment at FYF Fest. Radelet nonchalantly followed the song by saying “that song was about love’ in a tone that would make April from ‘Parks & Recreation’ proud. Chromatics finished the set with Neil Young’s “Into The Black”, which suits them nicely. It felt like it was just taking off when it ended, and maybe they were up against the (tick of the) clock. They are an act that deserves a full set if possible.

Nicolas Jaar ~ Sunday 8:15 The Tent

Nicolas Jaar has a unique thing going on. Part of it is that he sets his own rules, keeping most of his beats under 100 beats per minute. It’s a weird show in a very good way. The first 8 minutes built ambient sounds coming from the guitarist and saxophonist in his band that ever so slowly built into a beat. Another part is he adds a healthy dose of real emotion that comes from his live vocals. This stands in stark contrast to the button pushing emotion coming from most hooks in today’s mainstream EDM sound. Jaar is mixing, adding vocal effects, matching beats and tweaking pitches all in real time. The improvisational aspects to the building of sounds helps make the moment feel special, like anything can happen. Jaar consistently innovates and surprises with the sounds he coordinates, dropping bass back in off tempo at non standard times. It all adds up to a mind-expanding experience that feels new and exciting.

Tanlines ~ Saturday 7:35 The Tent

Tanlines has quickly shown the professional ability to adapt to their audience and live music situations. Percussionist Jesse Johen & guitarist/vocalist Eric Emm abandoned a typical song-based format and proceeded to put on an upbeat dance show. They would begin a song with a new beat, break it down and back into one of their catchy songs from their debut LP ‘Brothers,’ essentially remixing their own songs. They’ve been touring since the beginning of the year, and as a touring act they clearly aren’t lazy. They’ve evolved their show while playing to their time slot and setting perfectly in this case. “We heard there was a comedy slash DJ tent, so we told them to put us there.” That classification actually fit them perfectly for this festival performance, as Jesse’s banter can be a constant source of chuckles.

The Faint ~ Sunday 10:55 Spring Street Stage

This was the dance show of the weekend and a great time. The light show, the bass turned to 11, & a synth-heavy setlist combined to keep asses shaking and hands up. This was my first time seeing them live, and I hope it won’t be the last because I did not get enough. The Faint proved to be an ideal way to finish FYF 2012.

SETS OF NOTE: SATURDAY

John Maus – The Tent: 2:40

This guy has a stage presence that reminds me of Charles Manson. I like his music to a certain degree, but his live show is weird in a bizarre sense. He started his show by hitting himself over the head in a fit of rage. He looked angry and possessed, a persona that surely works better in a dark setting with plenty of supportive lighting.

Cloud Nothings – Spring St. Stage: 4:15

Founder & lead singer songwriter Dylan Baldi and the rest of the group that comprises Cloud Nothings deliver a live sound that is true to their albums and they do it well. It seems like you shouldn’t expect many surprises at their shows, but the sound was cleaner than I expected.

Chairlift – Main Stage: 4:35

Chairlift put on a great show until the last song of their set, when their best song “I Belong in Your Arms” turned into a bit of a train wreck. Caroline Polachek stopped the band after a minute, saying they wanted to do it right for us. After a long pause, the song started again, but someone clearly missed their mark again as a long, seemingly unintended instrumental interluded happened between verses. You could almost tell Caroline wanted to stop it again but she couldn’t as this is a festival. She left the stage quickly before the last notes without saying a thing, then her creative partner Patrick Wimberly awkwardly said goodbye.

James Blake – Spring St. Stage 7:50

James Blake’s post-dubstep subtleties were overshadowed by Tanlines’ driving bass next door in the tent, but Mr. Blake is a legitimate artist that deserves serious attention. Right at a quiet moment during the minimalist auto-tune dominated “Lindisfarne I,” one concert goer loudly inquired “T-Pane???” to many people’s amusement.

Purity Ring – Hill St. Stage: 8:25

The take-away from a live Purity Ring show is that the music is pretty unique in it’s form and glitchy live vocals, and that they have a fitting, custom made light show that is controlled by beat & A/V genius Corin Roddick’s live percussion elements. Megan James’ presence blends into cocoon-light show aesthetic, and her confident, angelic voice is liberally sampled by Roddick’s MIDI pad. See this show before Purity Ring is playing bigger venues.

M83 – Main Stage: 9:25

Anthony Gonzalez played composer for most the night, allowing Morgan Kibby and his younger brother Yann Gonzalez to get most of the spotlight. The M83 show has clearly evolved since it started touring to support “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” in 2011. Gonzalez did not rely heavily on the new album, extending ‘We Own the Sky,’ ‘Coleurs’ & many other early tracks. While the volume level was lacking toward the back of the audience, the setlist was great and it’s obvious they are experimenting with transitions and song extensions to a positive effect.

SETS OF NOTE: SUNDAY

Wild Nothing – Hill St. Stage: 2:45
They sounded real nice from the other side of the fence, where I was waiting patiently in the security line. The VIP option suddenly seemed worth while. Probably was a very nice show.

Givers – Main Stage: 3:05

These kids are so full of positive energy you feel like they’re Aussies or something. This was a fun way to get Sunday kicked off.

Father John Misty – Hill St. Stage: 2:45

This man was destined to be a frontman. It’s hard to believe he was the drummer for Fleet Foxes’s first two album. Joshua Tillman knows how to let his freak flag fly, showing off moves that would impress the lizard king himself.

Tiger & Woods – The Tent: 4:20

The duo’s disco grooves got the Tent popin’ early. The dj duo, who won’t reveal their identities to the general public, wear matching outfits onstage and smoke cigarettes at the same time. How cute. The bottom line is they craft super catchy beats that could host an array of samples and overlays, but they keep it simple with house and techno elements.

Glass Candy – The Tent: 7PM

This no wave threesome fronted by Ida No put on a fun, upbeat set. I’d like to see them again.

Yeasayer – Main Stage: 9:10

The new stage set-up was visually pleasing, and many of the songs from the new album worked well live. The problem with the new prisms, lasers and light show is it now seems too digitized when they play song from their first album that is more rooted in folk inspired world music. That said, I appreciated the risk they took when they completely rebooted their hit ‘O.N.E.’ and made it sound like a slowed down karaoke version of itself. I get the feeling they are changing so drastically from album to album that they don’t exactly know where they stand now for live shows. When in doubt, make a great light show. Works for me.

Twin Shadow – Spring St. Stage: 9:35

George Lewis Jr.’s band exhibit a looser sound live than in their albums, where the songs seem directly taken from 1987. Live they sound more like a rock show than an 80s nostalgia new wave outfit. I got to this show after Yeasayer and basically wished I’d spent more time at Twin Shadow.

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Comments

  1. My FYF top 10:
    Future Islands
    Refused
    James Blake
    Cloud Nothings
    Father John Misty
    Yeasayer
    HEALTH
    The Faint
    Quicksand
    Tycho

  2. My Top 10 from FYF Fest:

    Nicolas Jaar
    Dinosaur Jr.
    The Faint
    Refused
    M83
    Purity Ring
    Yeasayer
    Chromatics
    Father John Misty
    Chairlift

    Honorable Mention:
    Dam Funk

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