[Photos and capsule reviews of selected sets from the Main Street Stage at Sunday’s FYF Fest:]
Beirut, Yeasayer, Desaparecidos, Dinosaur Jr., Against Me!, King Khan, Givers, Nick Waterhouse, Allah-Las
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- ||| Photos by Laurie Scavo
You Should’ve Been Here Because: Who doesn’t want to end an evening with a little Balkan romance? Leading his band on stage with an almost aristocratic flair Zach Condon greeted the crowd with a warm “Good evening. Good evening,” which was strikingly different from the the more common greeting of “How the f*ck are you doing, LA?” After toasting us, Beirut launched into “Santa Fe” their first single off their latest album, a paean to Condon’s hometown. Accompanied by a richly talented horn section, a big shiny accordion and an irrepressibly smiling drummer, the set was an equal balance of new songs and old favorites. Before picking up the ukulele Condon removed his jacket, inciting wolf whistles from the crowd. He smiled, “To see the rest, you’ll have to stalk my hotel room ”¦ or keep giving me glasses of whiskey.” Whirling around in the moonlight, young dancers were inspired by the Balkan influenced brass and pulled out their best Old World dance moves, spinning their tipsy partners recklessly through the crowd.
The Downside: By the middle of the set the crowd had evaporated down to only the hardcore Beirut fans. All the rest had wandered off to dance or to find a dark corner to make out in.
Postscript: It’s always hilarious watching people try and take cell phone calls during a show. They just never give up the hope that someone can hear them on the other end.
– Molly Bergen
You Should’ve Been Here Because: Watching Yeasayer perform their hit “2080” alone would have been worth the trip. Performing in front of a glittering silver geometric structure, the group from New York put together a space-age dance party that delighted the glowstick-armed crowd to no end. But what sets Yeasayer apart from the rest are their lyrics that are usually laced with brutal honesty. “2080” packs more punch than most and while most of the crowd was dancing to its infectious beat, there were a number of us just staring at the glowing the Los Angeles skyline contemplating the words “It’s a new year, I’m glad to be here /”¨ It’s a fresh spring, so let’s sing / In 2080 I’ll surely be dead / So don’t look ahead, never look ahead.” Could there be a better song to end a festival with? Enjoy the moment, for tomorrow this dance floor will turn back into a field and all of this revelry will be but a memory.
The Downside: For some reason Yeasayer decided to switch it up and play their hit “O.N.E.” at a very slow tempo. It sounded almost like a remix of their own song, which was incredibly disappointing for those of us who wanted to dance. Singer Chris Keating proudly announced after it was over, “Feels good to change things up sometimes.” Says you”¨.
Postscript: Anyone on hallucinogens during the show was in for a really freaky ride. Screens were full of ever-changing giant faces with crystallized spikes bursting through their cheeks at disturbing angles.
– Molly Bergen
You Should Have Been Here Because: The reunited Desaparecidos (Conor Oberst’s “side project”) hit the stage with a fury and drive that ignited the passions of everyone in the crowd. This was obviously what the band was going for, because the politics that fuel the band were blazing through every note. Their intro was a recording of some political commentary played over the “A-Team” theme, after which they tore into “Greater Omaha,” setting the tone for the rest of the night. Shaggy hair and spit flying, Oberst preached to the crowd musically and verbally, dedicating a new song to Bradley Manning, claiming, “Mr. Obama, you should not only let that hero out of f*cking prison, you should throw him a parade in New York City.” Another new track called “MariKKKopa” calls out the “state-sanctioned racism” of Arizona while yet another song screams, “So if one must die to save the 99, then it’s justified the left is right.” The band of brothers that is Desaparecidos is creating today’s protest music: intelligent, angry and no-holds-barred. It seemed only right that in the middle of it, they slammed into a literal and appropriate cover of The Clash’s “Spanish Bombs.”
The Downside: All these new songs they played ”¦ but no word on a new album. Just a new 7-inch.
– Mo Herms
You Should Have Been Here Because: It was refreshing to see the young-leaning crowd at FYF Fest treat the Massachusetts-bred trio like the royalty they are. One of the forerunners in using noise as a framework for its musicality, Dinosaur Jr. hasn’t dialed anything down over the years – J Mascis still shreds in front of his Marshall stacks, with bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph making sure you feel it way down there. Old-timers grinned ear-to-ear when they played favorites like “Feel the Pain;” they covered the Cure; they dusted off a nugget from their old punk band Deep Wound; and they played “Watch the Corners” from their forthcoming 10th album “I Bet on Sky” (due Sept. 17). Barlow also had some fun with the festival’s name – it was originally called the F*ck Yeah Fest before becoming the more family-friendly but seemingly redundant FYF Festival. “We’re happy to be at the F*ck Yeah Festival Festival,” he said. “The F*ck Yeah Festival Festival. The F*ck Yeah Festival Festival. I can’t stop saying it.”
The Downside: Dust, always the dust. The lack of an actual lawn at L.A. State Historic Park makes you miss the the manicured green of Coachella.
Postscript: “He looks like f*cking Gandalf,” one of the newbies said of Mascis. Correction: Gandalf looks like him.
– Kevin Bronson
You Should Have Been Here Because: Against Me! has been getting a lot of press since singer Tom Gabel came out as transgender last May, but now that Laura Jane Grace has been leading the band for a few months, the music was front and center. The excited crowd was calling for the band during their sound check, with impatient foot stomping and cries of “Start already!” The drummer poured a bottle of water on his head and start they did, tearing into a new song called “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – just tackling the elephant in the room head on. People raced for the huge mosh pit, which quickly erupted, causing a fog of dust to envelope the band. The mood immediately became joyous, as Against Me! and the audience turned “I Was A Teenage Anarchist” into a nostalgic anthem, while the Celtic punk overtones of “White Crosses” started ferocious hand clapping. Against Me! has been touring with the Cult, and the band was super tight, Grace’s vocals as shredding as ever. They introduced several new songs, including “True Trans Soul Rebel” where Grace sang, “You should have been living a different life.” This was a theme repeated with a fist-pumping crowd sing-a-long to “The Ocean” from 2007’s “New Wave”: “If I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman. My mother once told me she would have named me Laura. I would grow up to be strong and beautiful like her.”
The Downside: All that enthusiastic moshing led to everyone in the vicinity of that stage to be completely coated in dirt.
– Mo Herms
You Should’ve Been Here Because: King Khan’s outfit alone was worth showing up for. Announced by his band as “the man from the jungles of love” Khan strode on stage in nothing but a gold cape, a gold crown balanced precariously on his fluffy hair, and tiny black bike shorts with a gold diamond shape over his family jewels. The man was not messing around. Armed with a full horn section, a guitarist and bassist who liked to crowd surf throughout the set, a drummer who resembled a former member of ZZ Top and a yell that would make Little Richard proud, King Khan put together a raw, unhinged set of dirty soulful rock ’n’ roll. Mixing old favorites like “Land of the Freak” along with new hits “Bite My Tongue” Khan strode along the stage owning every inch of it.
The Downside: Some of the dancing got really pornographic.
Postscript: We overheard this in the crowd. “Dude, he looks like that guy from the Incredibles!”
– Molly Bergen
You Should’ve Been Here Because: The hometown purveyor of vintage soul, Nick Waterhouse really turned it out. Billed on the main stage with the sun at its highest and no hope for shade anywhere, Waterhouse had to earn his crowd. Starting with a respectably sized group at the beginning of the set, his rump-shaking rhythms in “Say I Wanna Know” soon brought the half naked masses running for the stage. Clad in respectable buttoned up shirts, Waterhouse and his band laid down seriously slinky soul, the most mischievous of all being the two saxophone players ,who got peoples hips to move in truly lascivious ways. During his closing number, the best I’m Gonna Boss You Around song to come out last year, “Is That Clear,” he snuck in a cover of Van Morrison’s “Gloria” paying homage to those who’ve inspired him.
The Downside: There was only one back up vocalist today instead of the usual three and although she did a magnificent job, it would have been nice to have more power in that set.
Postscript: It pays to get there early. Waterhouse went on five minutes early after urgent chanting from the crowd and the go-ahead from the sound guy.
– Molly Bergen
You Should Have Been Here Because: Allah-Las were the perfect way to start a summer day in Los Angeles. Born from the likes of the Ventures and Beachwood Sparks, their dreamy California sound was at once hypnotizing and fun. Solid and smooth retro-pop with a very heavy element of surf, each member seemed to sway with the breeze throughout the entire set. The audience followed suit, creating a mellow vibe only punctuated at times when the fuzzed out tones of lead guitarist Pedrum Siadatian hit a particularly tubular solo, reminding people that this band keeps their surfboards lovingly in their garage. “Tell Me (What’s On Your Mind)” from their EP of the same name was a crowd pleaser early on, “Long Journey” was a low key rave-up, and “Catamaran” was both familiar and new. Several tracks from their upcoming self-titled release won the already enthusiastic crowd over, and smiles were in abundance.
The Downside: Watching a band that so fully evokes the ocean breeze musically only reminds you that you’re actually in downtown LA, where, as singer-guitarist Miles Michaud put it, “It’s hot, and I don’t really wanna talk about my balls right now, but you know what I’m gonna say.”