We’re approaching the tail end of festival season, folks, and it’s pretty much everything we expected. A living legend performed at Lollapalooza; Coachella continues to hold the world record for “Most Flower Crowns on the Heads of Festival Attendees Per Square Foot”; and Primavera Sound Barcelona came through with a lineup that made even the snobbiest of music heads salivate.
But for this ex punk-turned-music-nerd, none of these Woodstock-wannabes capture my interest the way Los Angeles’ FYF Fest does. In its early days, it was a dream festival. Its lineup was tastefully curated, there were just the right amount of vendors, and it had one focus: music. It was a music festival that marketed, took pride in, and delivered on a baseline of music—what a novel idea!
FYF Fest is Coachella’s younger, scrappier little brother, with less romanticism and more attitude. (Even its full name, Fuck Yeah Fest, thumbs its nose at Coachella’s hippie underpinnings.) The engagement matured with its founder—Torrance-born Sean Carlson—and year after year, it only seemed to grow. The names on the flier got bigger, as did the venues. During my pilgrimages, I feared the monster would grow too big for its own good. And in 2014, it did just that, when the festival moved from the Los Angeles State Historic Park to the L.A. Sports Arena and Exposition Park.
FYF 2014 was a logistical nightmare. Attendees were forced to wait two hours for entry, and food lines were long. Walking from stage to stage took upward of 20 minutes—precious time, considering the stellar lineup. Set conflicts were aplenty; I wasn’t able to catch one band and run to the next with minutes to spare. I missed Deafheaven; I missed Earl Sweatshirt. My festival experience was ruined, and I promised myself that I’d never suffer through that headache again.
That is, until the lineup for FYF 2015 was announced. My God, Morrissey as a headliner! His presence alone sold me, but he was joined on the bill by some bona fide legends (The Jesus and Mary Chain) and great up-and-coming acts (Cold Cave). I couldn’t miss out.
As I approached festival grounds, there wasn’t a line; hundreds made their way through the dozens of gates freely. This trend echoed throughout. Access to food, restrooms and merchandise was easy. The small villages of vendor tents typically found in festival blueprints were reduced to a strip of four main tents: one for merchandise, one for artist meet-and-greets, a general store and an Origami Records pop-up shop. Organizers even added a walkway, which trimmed the 20-minute trek from the main stage to the smaller stages to less than eight.
With logistics no longer an issue, the musical talent could shine once again. My itinerary was stacked from beginning to end. I was able to catch the driving post-punk of Savages right before Shlohmo’s brooding electronic soundscapes, and the rambunctious jazz of BADBADNOTGOOD just minutes apart from fuzz rock legends Dinosaur Jr.
I was enjoying the brisk walk from checking out R&B stalwarts D’Angelo and the Vanguard to see my main man Morrissey when it hit me: This is how to do a music festival. Sure, there were ancillary issues, but the focus was squarely on the acts—from the distorted pop melodies of JUNK to FKA Twigs’ flashy finale.
Until next year, FYF. I never thought I’d get to cross so many bands off my checklist. Thanks for exemplifying what a true music festival, and a great summer weekend, should be.