FYF Fest 2014: Angel Olsen smolders while fans bake in lines

FYF Fest 2014: Angel Olsen smolders while fans bake in lines
Crowds had to endure long waits to get into the grounds at FYF Fest. (Jay Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

FYF Fest moved into spacious new digs this year at Exposition Park, with four stages spread around grounds that border the California Science Center and the L.A. Memorial Coliseum. With roots dating to 2004 in Echo Park clubs, the new home solidifies the FYF brand as one that long graduated from the underground and can now command a yearly a audience of more than 30,000 people. 

Yet early on Saturday the mood around Exposition Park was one of a festival that was still transitioning to the major leagues. Fans stood in lines for hours to get in, some complaining of waits of three hours, and a smaller stage located on the floor of the L.A. Sports Arena, a basketball stadium, reached its 6,000-person capacity as seating areas were roped off.

Additionally, by 6 p.m. Saturday FYF Fest had officially run out of maps and schedules, with those who had been passing them out offering a shrug when asked if more would be arriving. 

The festival took to social media in attempt to assuage fans that it was working through the kinks. "We know many of you are still in line trying to get in," FYF posted to its official Twitter account. "Rest assured, scanning and searches are moving as quickly as possible. Thank you."

The words didn't comfort those on the grounds. "We're aware that you're suffering," mocked Bobby Riddle, 28, of Los Angeles, when asked what he thought of the festival's response. Riddle and his two companions stood in line for three hours to get in the gates, with his wife, Tawnie, adding this was one of the worst experiences she's ever had getting into a venue.

Lines started moving more briskly around 4:30 p.m., and for every concertgoer who complained of a two-hour wait another was able to get in the gates within 15 minutes. While the line was moving at a snail's pace, those who walked straight to the front of the venue were able to skip the waits.

"I'm stupid. I stood in line," said Andrew Moraga, 20, of Whittier. Morga waited about two hours to reach the main fence
Once inside attendees found a festival that continues to brand itself as one dedicated to underground and independent music with an emphasis on rock. But if FYF was once lacerating music in clubs, today the event is one that's rooted more in artisan culture. Near the entrance is a hub for $10 wine tastings and $10 craft beer -- much of it pouring from breweries that sell pints for half that cost a few miles away.

The festival continued to give a space to craft makers. Participants who want a break from music can make a button, or a coaster or a bandana. The new locale also provides some creature comforts not found at most festivals, such as a plethora of bathrooms with actual plumbing.

Musically, the day got off to a gripping start with the not-quite-vintage scorched-earth love songs of Angel Olsen. The singer/songwriter's voice is a constantly-shifting instrument -- quivering to an ache one moment, snarling with Western bite the next and becoming higher, lower and even scarred without warning.

Backed by a three-piece, Olsen's songs view romance through the lens of someone learning how not to rely on others. They feel a bit like long lost Roy Orbison tunes, but Olsen keeps it off-kilter. "If only I had nothing more to say," she sang on "High & Wild," and then instantly backed away from the mic to let drummer Joshua Jaeger capture the sound of the blows to come. 

Elsewhere, New Zealand's Connan Mockasin kept it light and airy, bringing a bit of soft adult rock to orchestral pop. Longstanding indie rock act Man Man were carnival weirdness while New Jersey's Real Estate were lushly sublime. The lyrics may be bittersweet, but Real Estate's sound is pop at its most comforting, with arms-wide-open melodies and vocals that were all warmth.

Inside the L.A. Sports Arena, before it reached capacity for the electronic romanticism of Chet Faker, on-again, off-again indie rock band Slint composted songs that felt aggressive without ever seeming on offense. There's a churn to the guitars -- a wave of noise that at times gives the sensation of crumbling if just one note is out of place. 
Slint takes its time, patiently tuning and calibrating its instruments before each song. And when the band gets loud, it does so with precision, as David Pajo's guitar breaks the crush with spindly upper-register notes that sound like a nursery rhyme gone wrong. The menace is only enhanced by vocalist Brian McMahan, who kept it steady and distant on the end of relationship malice of "Washer." 

Twitter: @toddmartens