There’s a difference between “electronic music” and “dance music,” and the FYF Fest has long lived in the spaces between them.
Maybe FYF’s bookers don’t have a particular interest in more orthodox dance music styles, or perhaps the know they can’t compete with the likes of Hard in that arena. Maybe the audiences are too different to have much crossover. But for what it’s worth, FYF is one of the last local holdouts in the onslaught of DJ culture on outdoor music fests, and Saturday’s lineup proved that there were real fest-culture reasons for it.
There were a few acts booked that might have had some Hard crossover potential -- the excellent vintage roller rink-era Horse Meat Disco troupe and the bouncy, pop-savvy jams of Classixx would find receptive audiences there as well.
But most of the electronic acts in the delightfully named Samantha’s Tent (after the voracious “Sex and the City” character) and beyond were more interested in traditional indie virtues such as offbeat songwriting and noise experiments than strictly moving bodies.
The Spanish electronica combo Delorean has been an FYF favorite for a few years, with breezy, beachy productions that gibe perfectly with its upbeat pop tunes. It’s been three years since Delorean's last album, “Subiza,” an eternity in dance-land, but new material felt even more invigorated and fleshed out.
The Baltimore noise-punk turned ambitious-bandleader Dan Deacon fought through some early-set technical problems by exhorting fans to “look up at the gray abyss and scream the name of the person you miss the most in the whole wide world.” A few minutes later, he turned his dual-drummer-and-electronics live setup into a triumphal gale.
Back in the Samantha Tent, the treble-heavy, minimal sort of hip-hop beat that L.A. producer Nosaj Thing has plied for years has finally come in vogue. Nosaj was backlighted by a bright white light that made him look like he was about to get whacked by an oncoming train; his crackling, body-blow productions evoked the same feeling. Now that his onetime-collaborator Kendrick Lamar is a superstar, can someone throw some major-label rap production ducats at him?
But maybe no act summarized the strange electronic space at FYF better than Death Grips, the perpetually embattled (and occasionally no-show) duo that pairs violent noise with hip-hop, hard core and performance art in ways that turn each of those genres inside out. When Death Grips is on, it sounds like absolutely nothing else going, even if it’s inconceivable how a major label once thought to bank on the duo (and we all know how that turned out…).
God forbid you try and dance to it beyond a generalized flailing, but Death Grips' harshness and inventiveness does the real legwork of moving electronic music forward.
Is it sort of odd that a major L.A. music fest has to filter contemporary dance music through a weird hipster-approved filter? Sure. But if FYF can give space to some of the crazier outsider-art acts in electronica, then that’s good for them and good for the genre as a whole.
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