This weekend, we are going to see a musical invasion of epic proportions in the Los Angeles State Historic Park downtown. For the fourth year running, the landmark will be playing host to the FYF Fest, but when festival promoters describe this one as their biggest yet, they aren’t kidding. For starters, the music will be spread over two days of Labor Day weekend for the first time (noon to midnight on both Saturday, September 1st, and Sunday, September 2nd). And secondly, there’s that incredible line-up.
It’s a wow-inducing and admirably eclectic mix of the quiet and the loud, the old and the new, the best of what the US has to offer and some treats from distant lands. Oh, and there’s also a ton of food trucks to keep you fuelled. And there’s comedy, headlined by none other than David Cross of Arrested Development fame. Is that enough for you? If not, there’s something wrong with you.
Tickets for the festival are still available for both days, and seriously there is so much to see that you’d be a fool to miss it. For those of you who already have tickets, I’ve picked out five acts on each day that should be well worth seeing.
4:15 – 5:00 @ Spring St. Stage
The Cleveland indie rockers are having a big year off the back of new album Attack On Memory, which has been released to widespread acclaim. The band, formerly a solo interest of lead singer Dylan Baldi, is now a fully functioning, hard-edged beast, and the dark, driving material off the new album should blow any rustiness out of those limbs for the weekend.
7:15 – 8:00 @ Hill St. Stage
It’s only right that the festival should be represented by some genuine SoCal legends, and they don’t come much more legendary than John Reis. The San Diego rocker has reunited one of his old groups with fellow founder Rick Froberg, and since then, tickets to see these guys have been pretty hard to come by. Now that Rocket From The Crypt has split (to my ears, the best rock and roll band ever to come from these parts), Hot Snakes is a very, very sweet substitute.
8:25 – 9:10 @ Hill St. Stage
A buzz band, yes, but one with real substance. Shrines is one of the year’s more seductive debuts, and Megan James’s vocals should translate nicely into a live setting. The album was mostly recorded with the two members several hundred miles apart, so if nothing else, it will at least be an opportunity to get them in the same place. “Fineshrine” is as gorgeous a song as you are likely to hear all weekend.
9:25 – 10:25 @ Main St. Stage
Let’s face it — the last 12 months have been huge for the French popsters. After a string of very well-received albums, the release of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming has brought M83 unprecedented commercial success (breaking the Billboard Top 20) and a bona fide hit in “Midnight City,” which is a festival anthem if ever there was one. Anthony Gonzalez and his crew come with a stellar live reputation and are exactly the kind of band that big open fields were made for.
10:55 @ Main St. Stage
So like a lot of people, The Shape Of Punk To Come is a major album in my life. And like a lot of people, I only discovered Refused’s progressive punk genius after the band had split. Their reunion earlier this year for Coachella had the internet buzzing, and now they have a fitting headline slot in downtown LA. In fact, my first reaction on seeing the line-up for the FYF Fest was “Fucking Refused!” They haven’t been here a long time, and may not be here again, so these guys are not to be missed, if only for the explosive majesty of “New Noise” blasting out across downtown and waking the neighbors. They probably just edge out Quicksand as most exciting reunion of the day.
5:00 – 5:45 @ Hill St. Stage
Back in LA so soon after a stellar set at the El Rey Theater recently, Aesop Rock has returned after five years away with a new album, Skelethon, which is as good as anything the underground rapper has released in his long career. Expect a genuine old-school set with new school sounds, as Aesop Rock will be well backed by Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz. Again, this stuff is perfect for a summer festival.
6:10 – 6:55 @ Hill St. Stage
As a performer, Bradford Cox has proven to be both enigmatic and somewhat unpredictable. What isn’t in question is that he is also prolific and a gifted songwriter. The songs of 2011’s Parallax are more likely to bring out the good side of Bradford in the context of the State Historic Park. His work with this band and Deerhunter have made him nothing short of indie royalty, so he has to be one of the weekend’s most obvious highlights.
8:30 – 9:15 @ Hill St. Stage
There is a fair share of the loud stuff this weekend, with various heavy acts (and Lightning Bolt shouldn’t really be missed either), but there will be nothing quite as terrifying or face shredding as Converge. Twenty years into their career, the Salem, Massachusetts hardcore band shows no signs of fading, and their classic 2001 album Jane Doe remains as brutal a work of art as I’ve ever heard. Best get the earplugs out for these genre legends, for your own safety.
9:10 – 10:00 @ Main St. Stage
The only LA date currently planned in support of their new release, Fragrant World, is this festival slot, so it’s best to catch the Brooklyn prog-dance-indie-whatever band this Sunday. While they are a little erratic on record, they can be jaw-droppingly good at their best, and they really do come to life on stage. Expect new songs to be played alongside older favorites like the glorious “Ambling Alp” and “O.N.E.”
10:30 @ Main St. Stage
It seems like only yesterday that a barely-20-years-old Zach Condon burst onto the scene with his band’s Elephant Gun EP and debut album Gulag Orkestar, which combined an indie sensibility and a carnivalesque affinity for Balkan music. These days, the band is fully established — having released the critically acclaimed album, The Rip Tide, in 2012 — and, if anything, they are more focused than their early sprawling work suggested. There are quite a few Beirut fans here at the LA Music Blog, and I’m sure they would agree that this talented group of musicians is perfectly fitting as festival closers.
So those are my picks. There are, of course, plenty of other bands I could have chosen, so let me know in the comments what you’re most looking forward to this weekend.
For more info, visit the FYF Fest website.