FYF Fest - L.A.’s Little Coachella - Grows Up: 3 September 2011

Melissa Bobbitt

Punk rock has always been multifaceted, and as FYF Fest grows in age and popularity, its reputation as a one-stop kaleidoscope of sounds grows, too.

FYF Fest

City: Los Angeles
Venue: Los Angeles State Historic Park
Date: 2011-09-03

"This is a punk rock festival!" proclaimed Guided by Voices front man Robert Pollard. "We’re going to play songs in the wrong key!"

The elder statesman of alternative wasn’t the only one at FYF Fest 2011 that proved his propensity for punk. For a DIY venture that’s since been scooped up by concert-promoting behemoth Goldenvoice, this mini-Coachella brought out the biggies of the genre’s past and future. Descendents and the Dead Milkmen reigned with furious, old-school sets, and nu-noize kings Death From Above 1979 pummeled ears with a bratty energy.

DFA’s performance was really the only thing that recalled last year’s more scattershot festival, in which long lines, inadequate commodes and a severe lack of food-truckage almost overshadowed riotous acts like the Rapture and Wavves. With DFA, the audience got a lot of bickering from singer/drummer Sebastien Grainger about his faulty monitors. But out in the field, under the cool glow of Downtown Los Angeles, the fans could hear their skronk-rawk just fine.

No Age liked it loud, too. Sun-drenched hipsters kicked up a dust storm as the local twosome fired away at the power-chord crunch of "Teen Creeps." Guitarist Randy Randall’s blond mane looked as chaotic as the mosh pit below.

No Age

Simian Mobile Disco elevated the energy of the FYFers in their own way. Manning what looked to be an overcomplicated telephone switchboard, James Ford and Jas Shaw put on an entrancing performance perhaps better suited for the Electric Daisy Carnival. Visually, these Brits could not be topped. Their hexagonal LED backdrop seized with ecstasy as the decidedly un-punk revelers (their set was up against Descendents’) stomped unabashedly.

The Olivia Tremor Control busted out some unorthodox artillery to bring their sound to life on the Raphael Stage. (Yep, the Ninja Turtle love was felt in full force at FYF.) Curating from a back catalog that stretches 15 years, the Elephant 6 alumni clanged on cowbells, electric violins, horns and other assorted trinkets.


Another group that could be accused of hording (albeit, this time of humans) was Broken Social Scene. Piling a small army of musicians onto Leonardo’s Stage, the Canadian indie rockers were a ramshackle delight to behold as the day melted into night. Still donning their sunglasses as the skies grew dark, they treated the crowd to a lovely rendition of Modest Mouse’s "The World at Large".


There was much to be applauded for the scene legends in the making, too. Smith Westerns nicely recovered from their harrowing experience at Belgium’s Pukkelpop Festival, at which right after their show, a stage collapse killed four. At FYF, it was all smiles as the fuzz-rock outfit jammed through "the moneymaking set", as one of the fellows told the audience. Their Pixies-slash-Lynyrd Skynyrd vibe sure was impressive. Their deafening hype? More than deserved.

The ladies flexed their musical muscles, too. The mid-afternoon cool-off provided by Cults went down like a glass of sweet lemonade. Button-cute vocalist Madeline Follin advised concertgoers to stay hydrated but also praised the great outdoors in their chiming summertime hit "Go Outside." But she didn’t shy away from a punk attitude, either. In one deceivingly timid tune, she growled, "I could never be myself, so fuck you." Kitty’s got claws.

True, the band Girls is actually fronted by a dude, but Christopher Owens got a huge aural boost from three gifted backup singers. Their microphones adorned with roses and their voices thick with lust, the gig felt like a middle school dance. A cover of Boys II Men wouldn’t have been out of place, but it was baby-making and Beach Boys-indebted flavors that permeated the set.

Arguably, the punkiest of them all had to be Explosions in the Sky. The Texan instrumentalists don’t take their genre laying down. No vocals? No problem. Their performance was nothing short of electrifying. After 12 hours of moshing and noshing, their languid yet forceful ambience was the perfect nightcap. Agile guitarists Michael James and Mark Smith thrust themselves into every jangling note. One could get whiplash just watching their unbridled determination.

Punk rock has always been multifaceted, and as FYF Fest grows in age and popularity, its reputation as a one-stop kaleidoscope of sounds grows, too. Punk’s supposed to be messy and dangerous, but we’re glad 2011’s version went off with only a slight hitch.

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