There’s always gonna be the guy to tell you that they remember FYF Fest’s humble beginnings, a single-day event at LA’s The Echo and Echoplex that featured a bunch of bands you’ve never heard of. Hell, I could even tell you about my first FYF, the first time it went outdoors at Los Angeles Historic State Park in 2009, when Black Lips, No Age, and Tim & Eric were the main attractions. Many could recall the huge fiascoes of those first few outdoor events where lines caused bands to play to near-empty fields and dust gave fans weird coughs for weeks afterward.
The point being that things change, and FYF is no different. FYF, though, hasn’t just changed; it’s grown and evolved. This will be the first three-day event in FYF’s history while it is also shifting back to July after many years of inhabiting the space of late August and early September. And it’s also changed the way its lineup looks and feels. Some longtime fans might gripe about the distance from its hardcore roots or the lack of a traditional indie rock headliner, but those are also the types that might still be bemoaning the line they stood in for two hours in 2011.
In 2017, FYF Fest reflects the best of music’s past, present, and future. They still know they draw a more sophisticated and discerning music fan, so nods to music’s rich history include the likes of Iggy Pop, Missy Elliott, Nine Inch Nails, Slowdive, Grandaddy, Blonde Redhead, and Bjork — all acts whose musical legacy is secure and bring prestige with them wherever they play. They also look to both the charts and the critics for the brightest in what’s happening right now, meaning you get artists like Run the Jewels, Frank Ocean, Solange, Anderson .Paak, and Angel Olsen. And the festival is looking ahead, which isn’t just displayed in the formidable undercard, but also in the way the lineup is composed in demographics. When festivals are increasingly reminded of the importance of diversity and representation, FYF puts out a lineup with two women on the top line, an abundance of people of color, and a wide range of sounds that reflects contemporary music fans’ increasingly omnivorous tastes.
Keep in mind that a new festival will be launching in a few weeks in Southern California called When We Were Young. In many ways, the booking resembles some of those early FYF events, with Morrissey, Descendents, Joyce Manor, and FIDLAR all having played FYF in the past. But it also notably received criticism for its lack of inclusion, with a bill that largely looks backward both musically and socially. FYF is happy to let someone else take that torch and move on to an ideal of what festivals can and should be. It’s not perfect by any means, as noted by a lack of Mexican-American artists in a city that’s nearly half Latino, but it does show that it’s possible to line up great performers with great songs that represent more than just white millennial males. That’s reason enough to say fuck yeah.
A Tribe Called Quest
FYF is so strong this year that they don’t even have A Tribe Called Quest billed at the top. No, they’ve put the Queens collective right on the second line, following juggernauts like Missy Elliott, Björk, Frank Ocean, and Nine Inch Nails. Now, before you get all t’d off and start tweeting at Sean Carlson for shorting Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and Jarobi White, know that this is a perfect place for Tribe. By being a sub-headliner, Tribe get to play the underdog who will inevitably steal the thunder from whoever follows. That’s always been a good look on them, and especially now as they ride high on one of the best albums of their career. Of course, it helps that they’re still only booked at a couple North American fests (see: Panorama, Pitchfork). –Michael Roffman
Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails were the centerpiece of FYF’s announcement, ably soundtracking their teaser trailer over the past weekend, so there’s reason to believe that they were likely high on Carlson’s must-have list. Good for him. Trent Reznor brings a live show that few rock acts today can rival, which says a lot given that his more recent output has been polarizing at best. But hey, he’ll be playing alongside co-conspirator Atticus Ross, and there’s nothing like seeing a bunch of glitzy LA sleazeballs singing “Closer” together under a beautiful California sunset. That alone’s worth the ticket. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Philip Cosores
Remember how awesome Frank Ocean’s headlining set was back in 2015? You know, the year he had to cancel and Yeezy swooped in for the assist? One can only imagine how much of a nightmare that must have been at the time for Carlson and co., but hey, it all worked out, and now they get to enjoy the R&B mastermind as he supports not one, but two albums — and a new single to boot! What’s more, it’s a long way to July, so who knows what Frankie will do between now and then. –Michael Roffman
That Goddamn Undercard
Photo by Kris Fuentes Cortes
Say what you will about those headliners — “They’re mahvelous!”; “Finally! Missy!”; “FRANK!!!!!” — but that goddamn undercard is just as impressive. Granted, none of us ever thought that FYF would fumble their undercard, as it’s kind of their forte, but the addition of a third day admittedly had us worried about the overall quality. Well, all that anxiety was for not; in fact, the additional day has only improved the quality of their picks. For starters, we’re getting our first slice of comedy at the festival since 2013 with Hannibal Buress leading the way. Blonde Redhead’s going to perform their most excellent fifth studio album, 2000’s A Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons. Both Helena Hauff and Nadia Rose will make their US debuts. Motor City Drum Ensemble will return to the US for the first time since 2010. And that’s all without mentioning other hot bookings like Grandaddy, S U R V I V E, Perfume Genius, Sleep, and Joey Purp. No one’s gonna be bored. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Philip Cosores
Even though Missy Elliott was the real winner of Super Bowl XLIX, nobody ever booked her to headline their festival — well, save for Pemberton. Maybe they were too worried about her appeal? We call bullshit. Since then, she’s released a couple of singles (“Pep Rally”, “I’m Better”) and collaborated with former protégée Tweet; producer Timbaland; singers Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monáe, and Zendaya; and yes, First Lady Michelle Obama. So it’s not like she’s been quiet, which is why it’s strange that she’s never really been on our radar. Nevertheless, she’s on the lineup, and it’s her only scheduled date for 2017. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Santiago Felipe
There’s no telling what kind of show Björk will bring to FYF. From May 19th to June 4th, she’ll bring her exhilarating virtual reality exhibit, Björk Digital, to Los Angeles, which will feature a full orchestral performance on May 30th at the Walt Disney Concert Hall with conductor Bjarni Frímann Bjarnason. Given that FYF is a little more than a month later, one might make the educated guess that festivalgoers will be treated to a similar spectacle, especially since she’s double-billed with Missy Elliott. But, it’s stupid to guestimate what Björk has in store because the only thing that’s a constant with her is mystery. –Michael Roffman
Photo by Thaib A. Wahab
“IGGY POP! AMEN!” –Michael Roffman
Where have all the reunions gone? They are largely absent from festivals this year, which is what makes the inclusion of emo legends Cap’n’ Jazz such an unexpected treat. The Chicago group haven’t performed since 2010 (and before that reunion, you have to go back to the mid-’90s). The Kinsella brothers have taken pleasure in reviving their old projects of late, with the return of both Owls and American Football. Maybe Joan of Arc is next? –Philip Cosores
Photo by David Brendan Hall
When Aphex Twin came out of hiding and materialized in Houston, Texas, last December at Day for Night Festival, it was the presumed beginning of a revival for his live persona. Turns out that isn’t the case, though the electronic pioneer has scheduled a few dates at fests in Europe and Asia over the summer. If he was going to play in the US, the smart money was on FYF (or Coachella or Panorama, something Goldenvoice, basically), whose affinity for prestige IDM has long been present (and still is, thanks to FlyLo, Nico Jaar, and others). If FYF didn’t get him, it’s safe to say no one has, but still it’s a bummer for those that didn’t travel to Houston last year and hoped that they’d have more chances to see Aphex Twin in the future. –Philip Cosores
Photo by Nina Corcoran
Odds are we’re going to have a new album by our favorite NOLA rockers Arcade Fire around the time FYF rolls around. For the past few years, Win Butler and co. have been cooped up in a number of bungalows in and around the Big Easy, where they’ve arduously worked on following up their 2013 epic, Reflektor. So, it raises the question, “Did Carlson ever reach out?” Maybe, maybe not, maybe we should go fuck ourselves. Look, there’s no reason to complain about this year’s headliners, but … since we’re on the topic … could you imagine if Arcade Fire were swapped in for Nine Inch Nails? Christ almighty. –Michael Roffman
Want to feel like an old bastard? It’s been seven years since Gorillaz last released an album. Can you believe that? That means whoever was born around the time Plastic Beach hit shelves is probably learning Math and English in first grade. Well, now that you feel like shit, here’s more reason to stay in the dumps: Like Arcade Fire, Gorillaz also have a new album on the way, and no, they’ve never played FYF, and yes, they’re probably looking to do something this summer. Again, we’re in no way, shape, or form complaining about the quality, caliber, or magnitude of FYF’s headliners … but … could you imagine how batshit crazy this lineup would have looked with Missy Elliott, Björk, Frank Ocean, and Gorillaz at the top? Jesus take the wheel! –Michael Roffman
Photo by Philip Cosores
Photo by Philip Cosores
Look, we get how cool Erykah Badu looks for out-of-towners glimpsing the FYF lineup. She’s a legend and isn’t utilized enough on music festival lineups. That is, except for in Southern California. Last fall, she was one of the headliners at Camp Flog Gnaw, which occupies the same space as FYF. Then she headlined Soulquarius in nearby Santa Ana in February. With FYF being her third local music festival in the same calendar year, the booking just doesn’t excite the way it expects to. With so many competing festivals in the same region, it’s important to differentiate from each other. Badu is becoming something like the house band around here. –Philip Cosores
Indie rock is less fashionable in 2017 than it has been at any other point this century, and that’s extending to festival lineups. It’s not that it doesn’t have fans; look at Fleet Foxes and Spoon, who will both be performing at the Hollywood Bowl this summer. And it’s not like FYF has totally turned its back on that fanbase. Angel Olsen, Mitski, and Whitney are just a few of the exciting indie rockers in the middle of the bill. But the most notable of the bookings is … MGMT. Now maybe MGMT is due for a comeback 10 years after they released their best (and only relevant) album. Mayyyyybe. But as the crown jewel for a whole contingent of music that saw the likes of LCD Soundsystem, Tame Impala, Beach House, and Father John Misty last year, MGMT is prettttttty, prettttttty lame. –Philip Cosores
Photo by Colin McLaughlin
Ty Segall probably performs in the neighborhood of 75 local concerts in Los Angeles a year. Hell, you can’t go out for a drink in Highland Park without running into the dude. And FYF, you’d think he came as part of the lease agreement with Exposition Park. We joke and we get why Ty Segall has earned his position as a gimme on the lineup. But we’re also shocked when people chose to take in his set over, well, any other act that they haven’t seen before. –Philip Cosores
Beach Fossils/The Drums
Listen, FYF has a really strong lineup filled with really great bands and artists. But a few of the bookings just don’t pass the eye test. We’re looking at The Drums and Beach Fossils, both bands that released their best albums in 2010 and have gradually been declining in relevance. But for some reason, Southern California fests like FYF and Beach Goth keep lining them up for their fests. Too unsuccessful to be prestigious, too past their prime to be inspired, too unfashionable to be niche. Nothing screams “filler” like these two. –Philip Cosores