FYF Fest 2015: Morrisey, Kanye anchor loaded line-up
FYF Fest is set in the sprawling Exposition Park section of Los Angeles, in the shadow of the Coliseum (a place where professional football once thrived in L.A.) and attendees likely wore much tread off their Chucks after traveling between the widely separated five stages. It was physically demanding, but well worth it.
This festival is put on by Goldenvoice, the same folks that bring us Coachella, so the lineup is always eclectic and filled with quality acts. For the nostalgic alternative rock fans in attendance, Dinosaur Jr. hit the main stage right as the sun was setting. Guitar hero/leader J Mascis is so gray now, he’s begun to look like the third Winter brother, the younger sibling of Johnny and Edgar. Yet his grungy guitar lines and mush-mouthed vocals went over well. When The Jesus & Mary Chain closed out the appropriately named (and lined) The Trees stage, lighting was so muted you could hardly see the band at all. Perhaps this was to hide their advanced ages. Nevertheless, age could not spoil feedback-soaked pop songs such as “Just like Honey.”
The Lawn stage featured much of the best dance music (and best acts overall, for that matter), including !!!‘s irresistible grooves. The Drums preceded !!! with a far more sophisticated dance approach. Bloc Party made a comeback of sorts when it appeared just before 10 p.m., but sounded like they’d never left at all. For those looking for a comfortable seat to sit in, as opposed to the blacktop or hard ground, the Sports Arena hosted performances by up-and-coming bands and popular DJs, like Flying Lotus.
There were fortunately few disappointments during day one, although one personal letdown was Savages since — unless you’re too young to remember Siouxsie & The Banshees — they didn’t really bring anything truly new to the table.
As for the headliner, Kanye West has (once again) generated headlines with what he has to say rather than his music. Whether upstaging another celebrity or announcing a Presidential bid, West is certainly a lightning rod for attention and controversy. So when West was announced as the last minute replacement for Frank Ocean at this year’s FYF Fest, it was easy to wonder whether West might use the platform for some new controvery. Fortunately that wasn’t the case on day one of FYF as West stuck to a powerful, tight set — opening with “No Church in the Wild” and proceeding to run through multiple hits, including “Power” and even a medley near the end of “Jesus Walks” and “Gold Digger” among others. Furthermore, West sounded truly apologetic that he couldn’t perform longer. West’s set garnered the most media attention, however, for bringing up Rihanna from the crowd (and not from backstage) to sing “FourFiveSeconds” and “All the Lights” with him. The man has his haters, but this performance gave detractors little reason for their attitude.
Much like the Saturday headliner, Sunday’s top-of-the-bill Morrissey is many times more famous for what he says rather than what he actually sings. Yet just as West kept to the music, Morrissey mostly kept his tongue in check and made for one of Morrissey’s best local shows in recent memory.
Morrissey opened with “The Queen Is Dead,” the title track to The Smiths’ best album, which included a backdrop of the current queen flipping the bird with both hands. It was a fantastic choice to open the show, just as it was the perfect way to kick off that classic ’80s album. The only lull in the show came when Morrissey complained about the abundance of security guards packed at the foot of the stage: Morrissey likes to be as close to his fans as possible, you see.
Morrissey filled his set with songs most Los Angeles residents knew well, including the radio hits of “Suedehead” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” In addition to the troubling images of animals being slaughtered during “Meat Is Murder” (another Smiths title track inclusion, by the way), Morrissey also accompanied “Ganglord” with videos of police officers kicking the crap out of citizens. Morrissey has never been one to lazily just show his music videos during concerts; he uses these visuals to make a point. In this case, it was to protest of police brutality.
This former Smiths leader was the perfect choice to headline FYF’s day two because he will always be a little left of center and a true alternative rock star.
Belle & Sebastian, which is oftentimes the next best thing to a reunited Smiths, nicely mixed sensitive song lyrics with white person dance music, came on just before Morrissey. Flume drew a large cheer from the crowd when Lorde joined him not to sing, but dance wildly to his music. D’Angelo & The Vanguard was foolishly placed close to Morrissey’s start time. His set of James Brown grooves and choreographed dance moves went over well. Solange also soldiered on, even with sound problems, to give the crowd some fine R&B.
The Arena, while a haven for DJs, also featured a few great psychedelic-leaning bands. The one-two punch of Lower Dens and Spiritualized certainly got day two off on the right foot. The Lawn stage featured two respected singer/songwriters early in the day. And while Laura Marling was respectable, she was just a little too refined for so early in the day. Mac DeMarco‘s looser, funner folk sounds just seemed to be a much better match for this sunny day.
For those that arrived early, Andrew Jackson Jihad, with its smart guy pop-punk, put together a winning string of songs, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra came about as closer to jazz than any other act on this two-day festival bill.
By the time all was said and done, feet were tired, backs were sore and attendees were just plain beat. But from the headliners on down, the line-up and music at FYF Fest was so great that it was well worth the effort.