FYF day 1 review (Angel Olsen, Slowdive, Oh Sees, Bjork, more)
Attending the first day of a festival that you've never been to is usually an imperfect process, and this past weekend's FYF Fest in Los Angeles was no exception. I experienced various levels of difficulty in gaining access to the part of Los Angeles that was hosting the festival, gaining access to the festival grounds, and getting acquainted with the festival grounds. The festival grounds in question are vast, and the whole thing is centered around the Coliseum, meaning that there is no way to cut through the center of the grounds to get to a stage that's on the opposite side of the stadium -- you have to go around in a circle. Compounding this is the fact that alcohol can only be consumed in designated areas (and NOT in the areas for viewing the shows). Logistically, it was not the cleanest first day I've ever had, but despite a few inefficiencies of movement, I'd have to call my first day at FYF a success -- I saw basically everyone I set out to see, had a relative blast, and left with enough gas in the tank to at least contemplate the possibility of the rest of the weekend without experiencing abject terror.
Aforementioned obstacles led to me missing all but the last couple songs of Royal Headache's set at the Club stage, but they were energetic and enjoyable and everyone seemed to be having a good time. I made my way over to the lawn stage, one of the fest's two largest stages, to catch Angel Olsen for my first proper set of the festival. She and her band were extremely impressive as they played a set that meandered through its hour in the best possible way. Angel's voice needs no introduction, and seeing it wielded in person was a real treat. Her band is extremely solid, and they're able to provide the perfect background for Angel to digress as much as she sees fit. It was a winding, beautiful show that left room for jamming in between the prolific hooks that they can unleash. A great start.
At this point it was time for co-headliner Bjork, who absolutely delivered the goods on the main stage. Dressed in a puffy outfit with bright green cat mask that was suitably Bjork-ian, she ripped through a set full of highlights from her enviable career. Flanked by a full string section and a DJ, she conjures a huge, clear sound that works as a perfect counterpoint to her huge, clear voice -- she has the confidence and skill to such arguably difficult material to a huge crowd, and of course the visuals on the massive screens were up to the standards one would expect from the art-pop icon. It was a great set that felt unique to this kind of huge festival environment -- a huge spectacle that feels authentic to the artistic output of an uncompromising artist -- while also providing a nice counterpoint to co-headliner Missy Elliott's good-times set.
Before Missy, I hoofed it to the other side of the coliseum to check out one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend. Slowdive's re-emergence has been such a welcome surprise this past year or so, and they delivered a masterful performance on Friday night. The new material holds up beautifully with the classics, and the band delivered everything with a laid-back precision that only comes from time. They were able to conjure light, airy loveliness and controlled, noisy fury with the same ease, and it was just a real pleasure to catch them on this renaissance.
After that it was time for Missy Elliott. While I felt that the set fell victim to a not-great mix and over-reliance on hype men and backing tracks, it was an undeniable good time. Missy's such a compelling figure with stage presence to burn, and her catalogue is filled with so many bangers. The crowd was hyped from the start as she ran through a dizzying list of hits, and her backup dancers were on-point in keeping the energy up for the whole set. If you came here for a good time, this was a great place to start.
And speaking of good times, I closed things out with
Thee Oh Sees, who, while hardly a typical festival act, are one of the best live bands on the planet, a skill that can travel pretty much anywhere. I had (to my great shame) never seen them live before, and they did not disappoint. Armed with two drummers, they ripped everyone's faces off at the club stage until we were all kicked out. John Dwyer and company just have so much punk energy to go along with their jammy showmanship and fuzzed out garage songs -- it's music that's basically precision-engineered to kick your ass live. They know how to rein it in for brief periods in order to make the face-punches that much more effective, and they had the crowd in relative hysterics for the whole night (finally, some moshing, I thought to myself). And I'm a sucker for the two-drummer thing -- it's just sick, and I have nothing else to say about it really. A perfect, club-sized closer to a relatively giant evening.