FYF Fest, Day 2: Dream Pop Takes Over
If day one of L.A. punk festival FYF Fest was for loud rock bands, Sunday’s day two gave the dream poppers some time under the hazy, swirling spotlight at Chinatown’s State Historic Park.
Led by headlining shoegaze pioneers My Bloody Valentine—who literally busted the P.A. system with the guitar onslaught of “Only Shallow,” causing a five-minute delay—and filtering all the way down to the openers, Brighton, England quartet Fear of Men, it was a day packed with the surreal, drifting sounds that have defined the past few years of indie rock.
Here’s our top five from Sunday’s sets:
Fear of Men
Under the unforgiving 3:15 p.m. sun, UK newcomers Fear of Men gave a splendid set of their bittersweet chiming guitar pop. The young band bears a happy resemblance to the Cranberries—both in their airy grooves and in frontwoman Jessica Weiss’s rich voice—with nods to the Smiths and Prefab Sprout in the guitars and lyrics. Their set was heavy on tracks from their outstanding singles compilation “Early Fragments” (Kanine Records), with immaculately crafted New Romantic gems like “Seer” and “Mosaic” shining bright. This was the quartet’s first trip to L.A.—here’s hoping the next one comes soon.
Philadelphia singer-songwriter Kurt Vile is having yet another career year. Following on his stellar 2011 album “Smoke Ring for My Halo,” this year’s stellar follow-up “Wakin on a Pretty Daze” (Matador Records) comprised much of Vile’s great FYF set. Vile’s woozy grooves came across like Real Estate covering a Neil Young album (or maybe the other way around), with long, winding guitar solos that were more marijuana than cocaine. (Some of the guitar action came courtesy of L.A. mainstay Farmer Dave Scher on lap steel.) But the true highlight of Vile’s set was when he was alone with his acoustic guitar for “Peeping Tomboy”: “I don't want to change but I don't want to stay the same / I don't want to go but I'm running / I don't want to work but I don't want to sit around all day frowning.” The performance crystallized his reputation as one of the finest songwriters around today.
Every No Age FYF Fest set feels like the homecoming game. The festival was built around the L.A. noise-punk scene that No Age helped create, and like other years, the duo’s set was a major highlight. On the coattails of their great new album “An Object” (Sub Pop), the band mixed old favorites with new ones, whipping up a wild mosh pit. Drummer Dean Spunt even took up an electric bass for a few songs—his bass had large stickers spelling out “PMA,” for “positive mental attitude.” If nothing else, PMA is No Age’s defining trait and the north star for the legions of L.A. kids the band has inspired with their vital post-punk squalls. “With passion it’s true,” the band proclaims in their essential track “Sleeper Hold.” Indeed.
Les Savy Fav
In their mid-00s heyday, Brooklyn post-punks Les Savy Fav were seen as one of the best live indie bands on the planet, and although they’re less active on the live circuit now, singer Tim Harrington—who sounds like Jello Biafra and looks like Socrates in the hemlock painting—made a pretty good argument that they should still have that reputation. To wit: Did Harrington perform in a reflective silver spandex suit? Yes. Did he eat lint out of his own belly button? Yes. Did he sing a song hanging upside down from a tree? Yes. Did he crowd surf on top of a ladder? Yes. Did he empty a box of toilet paper into the audience, sending 50 or so toilet roll comets soaring across the night sky? Yes. Did he glue toilet paper to his head using PBR as adhesive? Yes. And did the band play megaclassic “The Sweat Descends” with the precision of Swiss watch engineers? You bet.
One of the breakout stars of underground rock this year has been singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco. A true original, the Canadian’s songs are a little psych pop, a little Leonard Cohen, a little Al Green, a little Elvis Costello, and a lot of heart. His live quartet was easily the best group of players on any stage at FYF Fest, moving easily through DeMarco’s dreamy pop jams. Between his laid-back charisma and the band’s sonic perfection, DeMarco’s instant classic “Still Together,” from his lauded album “2” (Captured Tracks), was one of the festival’s best moments. Plus, he wrapped with a hilarious and irreverent covers medley that touched on Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care of Business,” Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy,” the Beatles’ “Blackbird” and Limp Bizkit’s “Break Stuff.”
My Bloody Valentine split their set between “Loveless” classics and new tunes from “mbv,” sounding excellent except when the P.A. failed … The Orwells’ singer Mario Cuomo (not that one) appeared onstage wearing only a Chicago Bulls jersey and a jockstrap, later throwing the jockstrap into the crowd … Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan took home the award for FYF’s best guitarist, using little besides feedback to conjure emotions we didn’t know we had … Beach House got the warmest audience reception of the day and reciprocated with surprisingly earnest thanks … the Mandoline Grill truck makes a very tasty tofu banh mi … !!! have lived through two disco revivals now and still do it better than the bandwagoners … Washed Out’s new material sounds surprisingly like U2 live, although a girl sitting next to us described it as “super drug music,” so what do we know … Solange, who according to the Internet may be related to Beyonce Knowles, turned in a faithful cover of Dirty Projectors’ classic “Stillness Is the Move” … and we spent way more money than necessary in the Origami Vinyl tent, where we would have spent even more if Toro y Moi’s new album “Anything in Return” wasn’t already sold out.
See you next year!
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