FYF Fest, Day 1: Dispatches from the Main St. Stage

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[Photos and capsule reviews of selected sets from the Main Street Stage at Saturday’s FYF Fest:]

Refused, M83, Sleigh Bells, Warpaint, the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Cairlift, Two Gallants, Moonface, the Soft Pack, White Arrows

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More photos and reviews after the jump:

M83

You Should’ve Been Here Because: It was an all-out dance party. Thousands of strangers congregated on the field under the watchful gaze of the full moon to watch M83 work their magic. Shocks of neon light surrounded the stage as the band launched into their 2005 hit “Teen Angst.” The set rippled with twinkling synths, eerie vocals, and crashing walls of percussion the kind that sent shock waves through your feet. With the success of their latest album “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming,” which was written in Los Angeles, it is fitting that the city had turned out to celebrate its success in such great numbers, offering up their bodies as a sign of respect for the record that had blared from radios all over the city over the past year.

The Downside: To all of you who thought it was a good idea to sing along to the squeaky parts of “Midnight City:” It wasn’t.

Postscript: Whoever set off the fireworks in Chinatown right before the set started should be congratulated. They were the perfect opening act.
– Molly Bergen

SLEIGH BELLS

You Should’ve Been Here Because: Lead singer Alexis Krauss took no prisoners. Armed with only a microphone, a leather jacket, and sparkly hoop earrings the size of softballs, Krauss worked so hard you could hear her pant into the mic before riling up the crowd with another shout of “Dance with me, LA!” Flanked by guitarist Derek Miller, the set was an all out war on the senses. Monster guitar riffs were barely kept in line by an electronic drum machine and Krauss’ voice which leapt from sugary sweetness to a banshee yell without pausing for a breath. The stage was a wall of amps punctuated by strobe lights and mist allowing your eyes only glimpses of Krauss running up and down the stage as she sang. The set ended with an ill timed stage dive that left Krauss without a microphone for awhile, but loving cradled by the crowd. She had earned it.

The Downside: Sleigh Bells are great at fury and terrible at sensitivity, and the slow songs they tried were as awkward as a WWE wrestler who suddenly wants to talk about his feelings.

Postscript: There was a hot air balloon that seemed like it was having trouble taking off across the field. It was really distracting.
– Molly Bergen

WARPAINT

You Should’ve Been Here Because: You’ve never in your life seen so many gawker-bros at an art-rock show. “Stay away from the bassist,” a dude who barreled past on his way up front told his three trailing friends. “She’s all mine.” Well, it’s a nice thought (and, hey, tickets are still available for SS. Coachella cruise, guys). The L.A. women were their usual brooding but charming but musically inscrutable selves as they delivered a set perfect for a gorgeous sunset over L.A. State Historic Park. Dream on.

The Downside: If I hadn’t cut out of Warpaint’s set early in search of food, I probably would have missed the Chromatics’ cringe-worthy cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black).”

Postscript: Longest pizza lines ever.
– Kevin Bronson

CHAIRLIFT

You Should’ve Been Here Because: Lead singer Caroline Polachek sang “I Belong In Your Arms” in Japanese. Chairlift had just released a video with that song in Japanese, and Polachek was so excited about it that she decided to perform it. It was spectacular. Most people would agree that it was better than the original English version. Clad in black, white and grey the band looked very sharp despite the unrelenting heat. Shimmering synths, electronic drums and various slinky, unidentifiable sound effects gave the electro-pop band a cold, crisp feeling. “Have you seen the movie ”˜El Topo’?” Polachek smiled. “This reminds me of ”˜El Topo’ a lot with all the long shadows and the dust. This song could be ”˜El Topo’ R&B.” A Mexican western R&B album with synths? Stranger things have happened.

The Downside: Chairlift would have been spectacular at night with the lights of Los Angeles sparkling behind them. They are far too slinky and sexy for day time hours.

Postscript: At one point Polachek announced “I’m getting a lot of marriage proposals up here, just so you know.” She won the award for oddest humblebrag of the evening.
– Molly Bergen

TWO GALLANTS

You Should’ve Been Here Because: This was a welcome return to a big stage for the Bay Area duo whose first album in five years, “The Bloom and the Blight,” comes out on Tuesday. Singer-guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer-vocalist Tyson Vogel might have sold a few copies with their afternoon set too – powerful (and tough-to-categorize) stuff that exhibits the abiding qualities of folk, grunge and emo. Stephens was almost apologetic for “all the angst and emotion we spew out there,” he said. He was red-faced with both by the closer, an aching new song “Broken Eyes” with just guitar, harmonica and vocals.

The Downside: Two Gallants played directly opposite A.A. Bondy, making for a mid-afternoon existential crisis.

Postscript: Said a friend who was seeing Two Gallants for the first time: “This is like if Kurt Cobain were still around and had actually learned to play guitar.”
– Kevin Bronson

THE SOFT PACK

You Could Have Missed This Because: I have a soft spot for the Soft Pack, since the band and I share a hometown (San Diego) and a love for John Reis (the former frontman of Rocket from the Crypt, who signed the band to his Swami label when they were still called the Muslims). Their melodic ’60s-styled garage rock had a swampy yet sweet vibe; then morphed into a jangly, ’90s indie thing on their last album. But they’ve also chosen to get a little of that almost tropical sound, as the lazily fun “Mexico” conveyed during their 35-minute set. Despite the proclamation, “Isn’t this the ”˜Who gives a f*ck’ fest?’ Well, we’re gonna try to bring out that attitude!” the band lacked bite and came across as a bit sappy. The addition of a saxophone was just awkward and made them sound a bit more ’80s adult contemporary, which was hopefully not the intended affect. The latest single from their forthcoming album “Strapped” (due Sept. 25) is called “Tall Boy,” which strives to be a ’60s rave-up, but never quite gets it.

The Upside: When the sound the Soft Pack is going for gels, it’s going to be really cool”¦ because this time, they were almost there.
– Mo Herms

WHITE ARROWS

You Should’ve Been Here Because: “Thank you for smoking your first joint with us,” singer-guitarist Mickey Church told the earlybirds at the 12:30 set. There might have been some truth in that, but mostly the Los Angeles quintet brought some cool reverb for a scorching noon hour. White Arrows’ electro is for those who dance stoned, and the evolution of early songs like “Coming or Going” (now as woozy as its chorus) has distanced the band from its early Strokes-on-synths comparisons. Their catchiest single “Get Gone” will make your head bob – if you can find haven’t already lost it staring at their pretty print shirts.

The Downside: White Arrows have a perfectly good debut album “Dry Land Is Not a Myth,” but they still felt compelled to perform not one but two covers in a 35-minute set, Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and Fleetwood Mac’s “Save Me a Place.” It’s about time they extinguished one flame.

Postscript: The free sun block (available at the “Check ID” tents) arrived an hour later.
– Kevin Bronson