LA music festival strikes a forceful note

Erik Weiner/Staff

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Whether through exceptional skill or dumb-ass luck, some extra spark is surely needed to pull off a festival called Fuck Yeah Fest, or FYF. Last weekend marked the 11th annual FYF, among the biggest and most eclectically themed music festivals north of Indio, California. FYF 2014 showcased the music of artists from the past couple decades or so, representing a variety of genres and levels of notoriety. Check out some of the highlights here.

Phoenix

There was a foolish moment of doubt before the start of the first night’s headlining set: Has Phoenix really paid its dues to this extent? The show didn’t start for another five minutes, but the constant stream of people made it difficult to get to the stage for the previous hour or so and practically impossible to go any other way. Are Thomas Mars’ vocals really strong enough? Are his band’s melodies infectious enough to justify an epidemic fan base like this? And what about in a live setting? Surely this band doesn’t deserve quite this much recognition? Then Phoenix emerged and started with “Entertainment,” from their newest record, Bankrupt!, and the answer was clear: Yes, it actually does. The simplest way to describe the band’s stage presence is “comfortable.” After years and more years of playing around the world collaborating with artists like Daft Punk, all the band members’ experience has been put toward the flawless live execution of their heinously pop-minded alternative tunes.

Haim

The sisters of Haim have entered a prime of sorts, but this prime consists largely of hamming it up (or “Haiming it up,” if you will, which you really needn’t). Physical movements during reputedly improvised jams seemed all too choreographed. Tales of high school parties of yore seemed too tailored to the band’s borrowed blend of chug-riffed, echo-snared, 1980s nostalgia. Nearly the only totally believable aspect of the show’s appearance was the face of the perpetually grimace-straining bassist Este. Regardless of insincerity or maybe just a retrofitted sense of authenticity, one hell of a show was definitely put on. Lead Haim sister Danielle adopted her front-woman role with as much conviction as ever, strumming away on her Gibson SG (among the most cliched instruments of RAWK music) while somehow twisting her naturally breathless mutter into a decently powerful yelp. The girls of Haim were indeed able to avoid a fumble when it came down to the wire.

Run the Jewels

At some point in the show, it became abundantly clear that Run the Jewels wasn’t there to promote its latest record, nor was it really there to bolster its image, industry presence or any other such superficial noise. The group members’ image has always reflected a witty, albeit stoned, braggadocio both as solo artists and in collaboration, and this performance was no exception. Run The Jewels seemed to be getting actual enjoyment out of merely putting on a show, interacting with the crowd and basking in how its fans reacted to everything. El-P and Killer Mike, the two dynamic forces behind the rap duo, shot the shit in between songs with admirably enthusiastic apathy. Conflicting disses and shout-outs alike were issued to everyone from Kanye West to Limp Bizkit, but, by the end of the day, antics were excused (“No disrespect, I’m just high!”), while verses were delivered with crushing precision.

Mac DeMarco

Mac practically embodies low-key. He basically personifies lacking a front. He absolutely may have been the least pretentious performer from the entire FYF line-up. Granted, based on some of the acts in attendance, this might not seem so impressive. But even his fans were unsure of whether he was a sound checker or the real deal when he first lumbered out onto the mid-day main stage to serve both purposes, where he rocked a Simpsons T-shirt and a gap-toothed grin, strumming and wildly calling out to “Billy!” as much for the benefit of the sound guys as his actual audience. Even if he began his show with his one of his best-known songs, “Salad Days,” this obligation seemed front-loaded, as if to get it done with rather than to please the crowd. Instead, DeMarco was up there having an immaturely grand ol’ time, and his jangly pop rock made an ideal backdrop for his transmission of overall goofy energy.

Flying Lotus

Those familiar with the mixings of Flying Lotus are well aware of his music’s propensity toward tripping its listener out. Blending hip-hop, classical, jazz, funk, psychedelia and countless other taxonomical niches of music, FlyLo, whose given name is Steven Ellison, has pretty consistently put out a clusterfuckery of experimentation. Nevertheless, the music just wasn’t enough for Ellison, who decided somewhere along the way that his live shows also lacked an element of visual trippiness. Taking this into account, his set was reinforced with not one but two semi-transparent projection screens (one behind his table and one in front), in order to create a 3-D visual show that put the likes of Laser Floyd to seppuku-deserving shame. In terms of FlyLo’s actual DJ set, the transitions between live original mixes, previously well-bumped material and new samples from his upcoming LP “You’re Dead!” fit together seamlessly, helping him secure his spot as the best headlining DJ of the festival.

 

Contact Erik Weiner at [email protected].