Too big, too pop, not DIY anymore–punker-than-thou purists are entitled to their harsh opinions about FYF, not to mention long lines, crummy food trucks, and overextended lineups. I happen to think this year’s Los Angeles music festival really is the best weekend of summer (not counting Comic-Con) and don’t have to point any further than the long-awaited appearance of FLAG. Ever since their friends-and-family debut at the Elk’s Lodge, the ex-members of Black Flag had yet to play Los Angeles until this show. I was all over that, and a bunch of other great bands, too, for the bargain price of 99 bucks and a convenient location just 15 minutes away…
Crystal Antlers was already cranking by the time we arrived on the first day of the fest. The no-bullshit psychedelic rock band from Long Beach has the dubious honor of having Touch & Go’s final new release but they plowed on in broad daylight. They filled the huge, empty, and slowly filling space with new songs that sounded righteous!.
Next up was METZ, one of the shredding-est live bands around. I saw the Sub Pop trio at the Troubadour somewhat recently, and they made a seamless transition from a small sweaty club to a huge sweaty stage in the sun. Heavy. Technical. Ripping. Too bad they were just getting warmed up as the 35-minute set concluded.
Caught a couple of songs by The 13 Floor Elevators’ Roky Erickson at Samantha’s Tent. (Did I mention that each stage was named after a character from Sex in the City?) Very cool to see the OG garage rock originator/survivor on the smaller stage dominated by electronic music.
And then there was Ty Segall, the current king of garage rock, who dialed it down for an acoustic set on the fest’s medium-sized stage. Did I mention that the GF1 finally bit the dust so I had to buy a new camera? Got another Micro 4/3 Lumix so I can keep using my favorite pancake lens, and I love it although the pros in the photo pit scoffed at me from behind their multiple DSLRS with bazooka-like attachments.
Charles Bradley is like a coelacanth of soul, a Florida-based ex-James Brown imitator who has found an audience playing original work. It was cool to see the 60-something frontman work the festival’s biggest stage in front of a massive crowd. The set was as timeless as it was sweaty. I was stoked to catch him mid-spin from the side of the stage.
From one classic to another. The Breeders played a 20th anniversary set of Last Splash, and I was stoked to hear “Cannonball” from up close. Yes, I chose Kelley’s side on purpose.
The Locust hadn’t played in L.A. for at least five years, and their sci-fi informed post hardcore with twitches of riffs, animalistic screeches, and the heaviest of drums came across like exfoliation for the audience’s collective brain. To match such raw energy with micro precision is a marvel, and then to pull it off onstage (in body suits) seems impossible. Yet they pull it off every time.
From one form of subterranean noise to another. My friend Nosaj Thing took the crowd-pleasing beats from the tent’s dance floor and turned them upside down and inside out. His sounds from The Twilight Zone are primal yet intellectual–at once heavy and heady. A real freakout every time, this time with some Kendrick Lamar thrown in just for fun.
TV on the Radio are another transcendent band, and easily filled the festival’s largest stage with effortless demeanor and atmospheric groove. So cool, so unique, and such crazy lighting that I put my camera down to rest my eyes and enjoy the show. Too bad Kyp Mallone wasn’t around one week earlier for the Jon Moritsugu film festival because he was great acting in Fame Whore, as well.
Before FLAG’s set, singer Keith Morris made the announcement that the band was not Black Flag. And then he said that what they were playing was all about what happened in the background (presumably a mile or two away at Hong Kong Gardens back in the day). The ex-members of Black Flag bolstered by an extra Descendent tore through a long but fast set of Black Flag songs and I wondered if the trees were going to survive. This lineup is not young but they are angry, intense, and masterful. Fists in the air, circle pits, and everyone knowing every word. FLAG are awesome.
After FLAG, I booked across the grounds to catch the Yeah Yeah Yeahs but it was way too crowded to reach the photo pit before the first three songs were over. (That’s when the photo passes work at FYF.) So I relaxed and enjoyed the art rockers’ triumphant set, thinking about the time I interviewed and shot the band for Giant Robot mag in the parking lot outside a dive bar in Costa Mesa when they were touring with Liars and JSBX. Damn. Look at how much they’ve evolved and how gigantic they’ve become since that great first EP. And look at how big FYF is now. Quite rad–and the fest was only half over.