TVD Live: FYF Fest at L.A. State Historic Park, 9/1 – 9/2

Since 2004, FYF (we’ll drop the redundant second “Fest” now) has steadily grown from a Sunset Blvd. traffic jam to a legitimate outdoor festival that rivals Coachella in terms of fun, sun, and indie cred. It may not be large enough to draw headliners like Prince and Radiohead, but the smaller size and downtown location at L.A. State Historic Park means less hassle getting in and out, so the audience can spend more time having fun and enjoying the show.

Memorial Day weekend saw FYF stretch out into a two-day festival for the first time since moving downtown in 2009. Headliners included reformed Swedish post-hardcore heroes Refused, U.K. DJs Simian Mobile Disco and Gold Panda, nu-wave popsters The Faint, and Norwegian macho men Turbonegro.

In addition to the beer gardens and food courts, festival-goers wanting to rest their ears could check out the organizations and merchants hawking their wares at the Vendor Village. Several local record stores were on hand, including Origami Vinyl, who packed up their entire shop and brought it to the festival.

Relief from the stifling heat on Saturday came in the form of misting stations set up throughout the park. There were also girls in short-shorts spraying people with mist guns (although it’s possible that the heat made us imagine that).

New York’s The Men offered a blistering performance, their distorted guitars wreaking havoc over a relentless Neu-inspired beat as the Gold Line train whizzed past behind the Hill Street stage. Many solid hooks poked through the fuzz, delighting those of us who prefer a bit of melody with our noise.

Saturday afternoon also featured sets by two underrated but heavily influential bands: Redd Kross and The Vaselines. Red Kross displayed the punk energy and hard rock charisma (and hair) that made them an integral part of the L.A. scene back in the 80s and 90s. Their audience was comprised as much of fellow musicians as fans – Dennis Lyxzen of Refused was seen in the crowd at one point, beaming from ear to ear.

Scotland’s cult pop heroes The Vaselines were less suited to the festival setting, but made up for it with crackling renditions of classics like “Son of a Gun” and “Dying For It.” They also regaled the audience with some filthy between-song banter about sex, religion, and…more sex.

The setting sun welcomed L.A.’s Warpaint to the Main Street stage, as their pulsing rhythms and ghostly vocals ushered in a cool evening. Sleigh Bells shifted the tone and whipped the crowd up into a lather with their bombastic mixture of hip-hop beats and hair metal guitars. It was tough deciding between alt-metal pioneers Quicksand and psychedelic warlords Black Mountain, but eventually we chose neither and stayed put for the synth-pop sounds of M83.

M83 play a style of music that could be called “rave-gaze.” Their music wafted through the air, often threatening to break into either full-on techno trance or churning shoegaze rock, without quite managing either. The whole performance seemed to be building up to a climax that never arrived. It was not bad per se, but wasn’t as good as it could’ve been (and they didn’t play “Kim & Jessie”!).

Headliners on Saturday included local favorites The Growlers and the laser-enhanced Simian Mobile Disco. The return of legendary 90s screamo act Refused was too tempting to pass up, so we once again found ourselves front and center at the Main Street stage. Charismatic frontman Dennis Lyxzen leaped about in fury, resembling a dapper psychopath. He took time out to dedicate their set to the incarcerated Russian punk band Pussy Riot in an impassioned speech. Then it was back to more screaming and pummeling riffs.

After a Sunday morning ingesting Ibuprofen and coffee at home, we headed downtown for another day of noise, dust, Sailor Jerry, and greasy food. Against Me! serenaded the crowd with their melodic punk anthems as a strong breeze helped to alleviate the heat. The sun slowly set behind a wall of Marshall stacks, heralding the imminent approach of Dinosaur Jr.

Dinosaur has been kicking serious ass since their original lineup reformed in 2005. Their signature power trio sound seemed to come to life in the outdoor venue, expanding to arena rock proportions. Smoke clouds erupted from the audience during the opening chords of “Thumb,” and were soon replaced by dust clouds as the crowd began moshing to “Feel the Pain.” J. Mascis and Lou Barlow dug far back into their catalog to play a song by Deep Wound, the hardcore band they formed while teenagers in Amherst, Massachusetts. The moshing reached its peak during the Cure cover “Just Like Heaven” as band mascot Henry Rollins sang along from the side of the stage.

A bearded Conor Oberst led his band Desaparecidos through a set of ragged protest songs as we headed across the park to the Spring Street stage. HEALTH were in the midst of performing some kind of sonic ritual with guitars, drums, and noise generators of various shapes and sizes. An energetic performance and hypnotic light show brought their esoteric music to life. Heads spinning, we joined a now teeming crowd to await Twin Shadow.

Unfortunately, Twin Shadow suffered the same pitfalls as M83 had the night before. Their attempt to bring chilly, introspective synth-pop to the masses never quite took off. While their fans stayed behind in rapt attention, many casual listeners began to filter out in search of more excitement.

In the nearby Broadway Street tent, Black Dice were huddled over their consoles in what appeared to be a war between man and machine. It was a war that only the most diehard glitch fanatics could hope to win, as the formless noise barrage played to a dwindling crowd.

Finally, it was time for the headlining acts to close out the weekend. Having been burned so far by the synth-pop, we passed on The Faint and headed back to the Hill Street stage to watch Norwegian degenerates Turbonegro pummel the audience with their sleazy punk/metal blend. It was a rousing performance, but after surveying row after row of demolished outhouses, we knew it was time to leave. With the guttural sounds of vocalist Tony Sylvester ringing in our ears, we staggered out onto the streets of Chinatown and left FYF (and the summer) behind.

Photos by Cecilia Cortez and Ryan Orvis

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