Of all the performers at FYF this year, Mac DeMarco stood out as the guy whom I would be most down to kick it with. You know, like grab some tacos and hit up the aquarium or something. He’s a Canadian that sings and plays surfy indie rock, has a fat gap between his two front teeth and doesn’t ever seem to be serious about anything. His set, which was one of the first on Sunday to draw a substantial crowd, received significantly more laughter than the generally rather dull stand-up performances that spanned the festival. It involved sincere (enough) renditions of his most popular songs, such as the slow yet catchy “Ode to Viceroy” and “Freaking Out the Neighborhood,” both from his second solo album 2. But it also included a handful of entertaining covers and silly banter — for example, a version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” that began sweet and ended in guitar-thrashing and a description of the exquisite ceviche and kabobs that his friend makes. To end his set, he crowd-surfed while singing “Still Together.” Needless to say, DeMarco left people in the crowd grinning and wishing they were his best friend. A lucky bunch actually managed to get a high five and a picture with him, as he proceeded to walk around the festival after his set. Although he has only recently become more well-known, there is no doubt that those pictures will be legendary within a few years. — Sarah Burke
Solange was by far my favorite set. Although she has a comparably smaller repertoire of recent work to select from, she was able to turn her set into one big poppin’ dance party that rivaled MGMT’s neighboring set.
Admitting right off the bat that she purposely wore her sneakers so she could dance that night, the girl absolutely cut a rug. In fact, she tore it up, bedazzled it like a disco ball and dished a piece out to everyone in the audience that night. Her energy was infectious as she bounded from one side of the stage to the other, encouraging participation and treating the show like a fun slumber party with hundreds of excited/intoxicated sunburned friends.
A performance of all the songs off her True EP, with single “Losing You” as a sparkling highlight, as well as her lovely soul-infused cover of the Dirty Projectors’ “Stillness is the Move,” and 2009’s “Sandcastle Disco” as the grand finale, proved that Solange has found her own sound, and she loves it. Her mix of ’80s pop, funk and silky, smooth soul is a promising complement to her spectacular voice.
Even more admirable were the artist’s down-to-earth charm onstage and her energetic approach, which make her all the more likeable. Hopefully, a full-length album is in the works, but for now, look out Queen B, little sis has got some moves of her own! — Ashley Chen
Dan Deacon’s set might have been the most fun 45 minutes of the entire festival. Yes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were phenomenal. Beach House was magical. MGMT was actually good for once. But Dan Deacon was really damn fun. The huggable, bearded, beanie-wearing New Yorker is famous for his live shows, in which he often performs on the same level as the audience, surrounded by his sweaty fans. At FYF, he stayed onstage, but he busted out other classic Deacon moves that pumped energy into the crowd as he blasted his popular experimental electronic mini-symphonies. Deacon’s secret is forcing the crowd to interact. He began his set by asking everyone to turn around and grab the head of the person in front of them and recite an empowering speech that involved screaming “The Lion King” references into the night sky. Later, he asked the audience to split into halves and appointed representatives of each to stand in the valley between them. He then asked the two leaders to create an interpretive dance to his next song and told each half to follow along, forming a massive dance-off. Eventually, the entire audience exploded into a bubbling sea of dance circles and smiles. As someone who has always cringed at that summer-camp style of forced crowd engagement, I didn’t expect to like Deacon’s antics, but they were irresistibly infectious when paired with his unique brand of complex, layered, hipster EDM. — Sarah Burke
Devendra Banhart was charming, as usual. With his current clean-cut look, the Venezuelan freak-folk icon was sweet, sincere and soft spoken during his set. With an extensive discography featuring an eclectic sound, most audience members probably realized that there was little hope that Banhart would play their one favorite song of his. He seemed to get that too and instead chose a set list of what I imagine were his own favorites. He crooned to long guitar jams and sang mostly in Spanish as the Los Angeles sun set behind him, veiling the stage in a soft layer of orange haze. His deep, soothing mutterings seemed to be lulling the sky to a dim. After every song, he issued a quick and quiet “Gracias,” sometimes translating into English and sometimes not.Although he mostly played songs from his most recent release, Mala, he did include some past favorites, such as “Baby” from 2009’s What Will We Be. He left his sillier side at home, though, choosing not to play any tracks like “Hey Mama Wolf” (2005) or “Little Yellow Spider” (2004) that would really expose his inner child. The Banhart at FYF was subdued and mature, offering up some exquisite musicianship, bare and beautiful. Still, fans of the wilder, more energetic Banhart of his early career might have been disappointed by the toned-down version of the long-haired folk Messiah in their acid dreams. — Sarah Burke
Sunday night provided the perfect backdrop to a Beach House show. The air was still, the sky was black and the lit-up stage was a sight and site of dazzling ecstasy. Those who have been lucky enough to see the band perform live before will know that they tailor the stage lights differently for each song. From “Myth” to “Lazuli” to an unexpected “Heart of Chambers,” the colors onstage transitioned from a rainbow to a hauntingly gorgeous blood-red and black, and then they switched over to a glistening wave of tiny white lights (think of the Bloom album cover in motion). The effect is just as you would expect — unforgettably engaging to all the senses and oh-so-dreamy. The band, after all, are still going strong after eight years, four highly acclaimed albums under their belt and a devoted and growing fan base. I’d prefer to think that their songs are best heard unhurried, and as always, Alex Scally and Victoria Legrand were in perfect sync. The duo knows just what it takes to invite you in and wrap you up in ethereal sounds. Echoes came naturally with the dynamics of the stage, and Legrand’s voice was radiant as it washed over a crowd absolutely mesmerized. Although we got a healthy dose of their work, I couldn’t help but leave the stage thinking, “What comes after this momentary bliss?” — Ashley Chen
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Karen O killed it. She literally murdered her mic, grabbing it by the cord and swinging it above her head then smashing it onto the stage over and over again. That is how she ended her headlining set, screaming and shaking her blonde bob ferociously as she stomped across the stage. The legendary lead singer of the pop-punk band the Yeah Yeah Yeahs was magnetic, glimmering in a silver suit emblazoned with the letters “KO.” Three massive “Y”s towered behind the band on the largest stage at the festival. They started off with the raw and heavy “Mosquito,” the titular track off of their energetic 2013 release. What followed was a perfect pop mix of the band’s best songs from every album. Twice, confetti cannons shot epic snow-like clouds above the crowd. There was a massive, blow-up eyeball that creepily bounced above the audience. There was that moment when Karen O deep-throated her mic so intensely that tears ran down her face; that moment when the entire crowd of thousands sang along to the ubiquitous high school relationship song “Maps;” and that moment when crowd members threw their hands in the air and jumped around to “Despair,” pretending they were with Karen O at the top of the Empire State Building in the video for her recent single. (Or was that just me?) With My Bloody Valentine’s set sadly getting cut short because of technical difficulties, there is no doubt that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs stole the festival. As Karen O put it herself, “Fuck Yeah Yeah Yeahs!” — Sarah Burke
How to Dress Well
A divine thing dressed in a loose white tank and canvas shorts, Tom Krell transformed Samantha’s Tent into a dreamscape ofhis own. Armed with two microphones and a falsetto that Justin Vernon would be envious of, the sweet genius behind R&B’s strongest game changer, How to Dress Well, gave us a versatile performance that featured three new songs (one titled “No More Death” that was previously heard during his Boiler Room set and two untitled). While the first microphone served its usual purpose, the second was used for its reverb function when Krell would switch over at climactic points in a track or layer sounds in an a cappella style. His vocal ability is something you have to hear in person to believe — moments ranged from thin whispers to lung-busting Mariah Carey-status belt-outs. The choice of tracks like Love Remain’s “Suicide Dream 1” and Total Loss’ “Set it Right” gave the set an air of intimacy and quiet tenderness even as his voice rang out across the crowd. In addition to his well-known cover of R. Kelly’s tear jerker track about BFFs, “I Wish,” the stand-out moment of the set was his jammin’ mash-up of the favorite track, “& It Was U,” with 2Pac’s classic, “Changes.” Overall, his performance proved once again that his vocal capacity is not to be underestimated, so get excited to hear what new material he will have for us in the near future. — Ashley Chen
Toro y Moi
Comfortably at the midpoint of a punk-filled Day 1, Toro y Moi came onstage just as the breeze began to pick up and lift away the dead Los Angeles heat. Playing a handful of older sounds and focusing mostly on tracks from the excellent Anything in Return, the band gave us a high-energy performance without losing any of the seamlessly low-key bedroom pop ambiance that we all know and love about them. “Rose Quartz” unraveled a lively rhythm that spread throughout the crowd and had audience members moving along with every tasty synth and beat. “Cake” and “So Many Details” delivered the same kind of captivating liveliness that the album showcased. Throwbacks to Underneath the Pine’s “Still Sound” and “Good Hold” emphasized just how much the band have developed over the years in terms of sound — expanding from swirly chillout beats to include lush R&B influences, vibrant funk and more pop. Lead Chaz Bundick was all smiles behind the soundboards as he moved with ease from track to track and fostered an atmosphere that was laid back and fun. His confidence comes in part from his impressive production skills and the boldness with which he is approaching his new material. Detailed intricacy and careful precision are no doubt staple characteristics of all the dance-y hits we adore, and the fact that nothing is lost in the transition from studio recording to live rendition is all the better. — Ashley Chen