Danielle Haim of HAIM at FYF 2014

FYF Fest, HAIM, Blood Orange, Darkside, Mac DeMarco, The Strokes, Tanlines, Jessy Lanza, Benjamin Booker, FYF Fest 2014: Day 2

FYF Fest 2014 Day 2 at LA Sports Arena and Exposition Park, Los Angeles, CA, August 24th, 2014

Aug 26, 2014 Web Exclusive Photography by Laura Studarus Bookmark and Share


Kudos to the FYF organizers for mobilizing like a Rapid Response Unit. In response to the problems of Day One, they've instituted changes overnight. The entrance lines are shorter and attendees were reportedly given free water by way of apology for the long wait on Saturday. The price of water has been cut from $3 to $2. And the balconies inside the Los Angeles Sports Arena have been opened up to accommodate those unable to access the indoor shows for lack of room.

The Arena stage is a remarkable asset to the festival. Inside, it's almost coal mine black. Columns near the entrance are lit up with neon lights, creating a nightclub vibe. Overhead, planet-like mirrorballs constellate like a galaxy. Jessy Lanza plays the first set of the afternoon—not that you can tell it's midday outside. The young Canadian, who has a winning smile, triggers samples on her laptop and synthesizer. It's very, very, very loud. The electronic bass sound of "5785021" could fell small animals and children. Unfortunately, Lanza's breathy voice is mostly drowned out by her beats, which ricochet and echo throughout the arena. The subtleties of her music are lost. A pity, because her debut album, Pull My Hair Back, is worth checking out.

Back outside, Benjamin Booker's trio is creating a small weather system with the feedback of his Gibson guitar. The blues-punk boogie of "Violent Shiver" and "Have You Seen My Son?" from his just-released, self-titled debut gets the crowd moving. But the 25-year-old hasn't developed a distinctive voice yet. Indeed, his vocal sneers and stutters sound uncomfortably like Jack White.

En route to the Main Stage, I spot the day's best T-shirt: The Smiths band logo sits on top of a black-and-white family portrait of Will, Jada, Willow, and Jaden. Mac DeMarco returns to FYF a year later and charms the Main Stage audience with that gap-toothed grin and loose-limbed guitar jams from Salad Days. Next up: Tanlines. The duo has such a 1980s keyboard sound that it's a shock that percussionist Jesse Cohen and guitarist and singer Eric Emm don't sport shoulder pads under their shirts. It's all a bit been there, heard that.

Blood Orange occupies the sunset slot on the Main Stage. Until now, I've not paid any attention to Blood Orange nor listened to the Cupid Deluxe album. (The bizarre album cover, featuring a photo of woman in a bikini wearing a Lion mask, wasn't exactly inviting.) Fellow Under the Radar writer Laura Studarus informs me that Dev Hynes, the band leader and composer of Blood Orange, is the same guy as Lightspeed Champion. Wait, what? Hynes has ditched the coke bottle glasses of his previous persona, not to mention the ramshackle folk sound. In his new incarnation, the man formerly known as Lightspeed Champion has transformed himself into...Prince (or at least a convincing pretender to the Purple One's throne). Indeed, Blood Orange plays funk and neo-soul that would make the New Power Generation band gawp. Each of its musicians display the most virtuoso chops of the festival. That includes Hynes himself, who occasionally picks up his black Stratocaster to play thrilling guitar solos. The 28-year-old has clearly spent many hours woodshedding on his instrument (no doubt playing along to Funkadelic's "Maggot Brain"). Hynes, who has written hits for Solange, Britney Spears, and Sky Ferreira, displays nonchalant cool as he leads the band and occasionally sings.

Blood Orange's backing vocalists come to the fore for several songs. The spirited Samantha Urbani picks up the baton for "It is What it Is," which begins with a keyboard figure that sounds almost like African finger piano. At one point, the backing singers perform an intricately choreographed move that's like Swan Lake directed by Busby Berkeley. The girls lie on their backs, legs kicking into the air in synchronicity.

If the Grammy Awards were bold enough to grant Blood Orange a televised performance spot, he'd steal the entire show.

Over at the Arena stage, a large crowd is trying to get into one of Darkside's last ever shows. But the arena has maxed out its capacity once again. The police have cordoned off the area like a homicide scene. I ask one policeman about the craziest thing that's happened at the festival. He recounts an incident in which an attendee made so much fun of a 300-pound woman that she decked him and then pinned him down to widespread cheers. After the festival is over, a group of festival-goers who witnessed the assault laughingly describe the event, which has become FYF festival lore.

Is HAIM the female Hanson? Like that family of brothers, these three sisters parlay their impressive musical prowess into cheesy pop. Close your eyes and the three part harmonies of Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim could almost be that of Wilson Phillips. HAIM are way cooler than those other acts, however. Credit their ballsy attitude (they chalk up the highest number of expletives at the Fuck Yeah Fest) and infectious sense of fun. Eldest sister Este invites the crowd to imagine they've been invited to listen to the trio jam at a keg party inside their living room. HAIM then launches into an utterly fantastic cover version of Fleetwood Mac's "Oh Well." Most of the audience, no doubt, is unaware that the song is a cover version, let alone that Fleetwood Mac was a blues band before Stevie Nicks, Lindsay Buckingham, and Christine McVie came along. Alana comes close to rapping the verses, which give way to Danielle's full-blooded guitar solos.

To these ears, HAIM's blend of earthy blues-rock guitar and synthetic synths and drum beats sounds like an ungainly musical truce between competing styles. Songs such as "If I Could Change Your Mind" and "Don't Save Me" risk sounding very dated the very day that the musical wheel of fashion turns away from 1980s sounds. The crowd loves these songs, though, and the three sisters have undeniable star power. They end their set—and album-cycle tour—with "Let Me Go." Each sister gets her own snare drum at the front of the stage. They pummel away at their drums with glee, the perfect cap to their triumphant year.

The Strokes draw the largest crowd of the festival for their first show in Los Angeles in many years. The day before, Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. each played solo sets on the Main Stage. (Presumably, second guitarist Nick Valensi, bassist Nikolai Fraiture, and drummer Fabrizio Moretti spent the day lounging at a hotel pool.) One wonders whether the band's principal two members are only reuniting for the cash, plus the promise of prime spots to showcase their solo endeavors. The promise of merch sales alone must be enticing—a vast number of festival-goers proudly sport T-shirts with The Strokes' logo in Saturday Night Fever font.

There's a massive cheer when The Strokes emerge to play "Barely Legal." Casablancas looks a bit fuller in the face and his mullet makes him look a bit like Bob Geldof. Hammond wears a high-school jacket with the letter "A" sewn on it. His guitar is strapped as high as ever but his picking hand somehow manages to windmill the riff.

Strokes songs are like short, sharp shocks. They have yet to write a song that crosses the five-minute mark. Variations between these garage rock songs are minimal. "Welcome to Japan" has a funkier riff. "Machu Picchu"—the only selection from the band's most recent album, Angles—has a ska flavor. "Killing Lies" is almost a ballad. Almost.

The band's 2013 single "One Way Trigger" gets an airing, but the set mostly draws from the band's first two albums, Room on Fire and Is This It? Seventeen songs of similar tempo and chugging guitar dynamics soon become tedious. But "Last Nite" and "Someday" remain potent sing-a-longs.

It's a professional, competent set in which Hammond and Casablancas barely interact at all. Final song "New York City Cops" concludes with Hammond leaving his guitar on stage to produce rude guitar feedback. It's very cliché.

In all, FYF 2014 is a musical success even though the festival is not a logistical success. The layout and space is far too cramped for the estimated 40,000 attendees. But if the organizers can address these problems in time for next August, FYF promises to become a top-flight festival.




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Netan
August 31st 2014
3:32pm

Haim + A$AP Ferg = The best song ever. Check out Haim’s music video for “My Song 5”, and do it A$AP!!!!!!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eSlmgr15Yh0