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August 26, 2013

FYF Fest, Sunday Highlights

by  |  August 26, 2013

You can gauge the strength of a music festival by the number of painful scheduling conflicts it presents to audiences. And at FYF on Sunday, even the artists noted the tough decisions faced by fans.

Did you want to watch Mac DeMarco or The Orwells? The latter delivered one of the weekend’s most kinetic performances, but playfully chided the crowd for missing DeMarco, whose set ran concurrently. Solange turned LA’s State Historic Park into a grinding historic dance party, but lamented her inability to watch MGMT playing “Kids” to thousands of kids.

There was something undeniably thrilling about walking the 32 acres across the former cornfield and being able to disappear into four distinctly inviting worlds. Ultimately, it all depended on your inclination at any given moment. Did you want to bang your head to thrashing punk rock, or groove to bass-heavy dance music? Were you into the Syrian wedding songs or the anthemic pop sing-a-longs?

There were no wrong answers, but these were a few of Sunday’s most righteous moments:

No Age and The Orwells
No genre aside from hip-hop goes through more deaths and rebirths than punk rock. Every few years, a different pop-punk band surges to national attention, inevitably prompting naysayer lamentations about the genre’s glory days (which are usually said to have occurred whenever a particular critic was 13 years old).

No Age and The Orwells delivered two dynamic and wholly different sets on Sunday, but both reaffirmed that punk rock will always mutate and evolve. Punk isn’t a set of chords—it’s an ethos and energy. And as your high school science teacher once told you: energy never leaves the universe.

For those brave enough to withstand the brutal mid-day August heat, The Orwells turned in arguably the most compelling set of the weekend. It’s possible the band’s lead singer, Mario Cuomo, might have felt the broiling weather most of all, considering he took the stage wearing a Derrick Rose Chicago Bulls jersey, knee-length black and white socks, and a jockstrap. Nothing else.

Cuomo writhed and whipped his blond hair-metal mane while screaming “IT’S NOT FAIR, LET DOWN YOUR HAIR!!!” The teenage-skewing crowd moshed as if on cue. His backing band was mostly clean-cut, which served as a nice contrast to the lead singer’s manic antics. He roared with his jaw agape, did mincing Mick Jagger struts, and flashed bizarre looks at the audience. People started crowd surfing. There might not have been a more charismatic front man all weekend. Both Iggy Pop and George Orwell would’ve been proud. Not bad for a bunch of kids born way after 1984.

Later that afternoon, LA art-punk icons No Age graced the same stage. Running through a frenetic blend of two-minute burners--many taken from their excellent new album, An Object--the duo of Dean Spunt and Randy Randall proved that musical growth and maturation are compatible.

Since their breakout 2007 debut, Weirdo Rippers, No Age have consciously stretched the boundaries of what can be considered punk. They’ve incorporated shoegaze guitars, ambient noise, samples, and pop composition into their pummeling attack, on record. But the arena is where they prove why they should be included among the ranks of the all-time great punks. Spunt drums with the power of a Hun. Randall lets loose guitar licks that make your eardrums pop. It felt baptismal, as though you were bathing in a River Jordan of primal noise-pop.

Playing just two miles from The Smell, the DIY club that served as their earliest stage, No Age wowed the hometown crowd. They’ve inspired a lot of bands over the last half-decade, but when they played a new anthem like “No Ground,” it proved that they still haven’t ceded any territory.

Flume
It’s no secret that dance music has gradually made its way into the mainstream over the last two years. FYF was once mostly the province of indie rock and punk bands, but it’s become so dance-friendly that the organizers even added a tent with a disco ball chandelier.

“Samantha’s Tent” served as the setting for Flume’s late Sunday afternoon set—one that sparked the largest dance party of the weekend. Blending the heavy low end of dubstep with giddy techno and instrumental hip-hop, Flume attracted so many revelers that the tent could scarcely contain them. Hands never left the air. Girls danced on shoulders. Flashing visuals of fractal shapes and puckering lips played on widescreen projection. And when Flume dropped his hit, “Sleepless,” he extended the jam for seven minutes solid. The effect carried enough crowd euphoria to render any extra chemicals redundant.

My Bloody Valentine
If No Age offered an invitation to purify oneself with noise, My Bloody Valentine offered beautiful destruction. Before their closing set, signs flashed on-stage exhorting fans to pick-up earplugs at the information booth.

If you avoided the advice, your eyes are still ringing right now. Watching My Bloody Valentine is like watching the world’s most violent electrical storm. When the legendary Irish shoegaze band began playing “Only Shallow,” the cornfield turned into a force field. You made a note to keep tabs on that rumbling feeling in your guts. The guitars were so loud and the feedback so ferocious that it felt like the wind had vanished from your lungs. Running through material from MBV, Loveless, and Isn’t Anything, My Bloody Valentine proved why, for many, this was the only set they needed to see all weekend. If anyone still had a conflict, the squalls of noise made sure to drown it out.

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