Over the last decade, the FYF Fest has grown from a scrappy punk-focused event to a sort of mini-version of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.
Yet even as the two-day FYF draws on Coachella-worthy headliners, books an increasing number of electronic acts and continues to increase ticket prices (weekend passes this year start at $99, up $10 from last year), FYF hasn't completely shed its underground roots.
Beyond solid headliners such as the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and My Bloody Valentine, this year's bill leaves plenty of room for discovery. Here, Pop & Hiss presents an hour-by-hour look at who to see on Saturday, the first of the festival's two days. Head here for a look at Sunday.
Lemuria: This Buffalo, N.Y., trio has gradually sweetened its rock edges to craft songs that balance churning alt-rock-era guitars and heart-on-sleeves sincerity. Yet Lemuria is still figuring out this whole maturity thing. “If I’m going to be anybody, I better be someone who collects art,” Sheena Ozzella sings on the act’s most recent album.
Waxahatchee: Katie Crutchfield’s songs emphasize brevity and torment -- they’re little snapshots of relationships that were over too soon, went on too long or fraught with just all around drama. The guitars are fuzzy, the drums sparse and the bass is damning, but the scorn is the star.
Metz: However much energy you may think you have, Metz has more. Guitars will be wrestled, vocal chords will probably bleed and drum sets will somehow withstand a torrent. When Metz is on, one doesn’t know whether to cheer for vocalist-guitarist Alex Edkins or fear for his life. The real shock? How tuneful the turbulence is.
Take a stroll: There isn’t a garage band on the FYF bill that doesn’t owe some debt to Roky Erickson. The acid-soaked guitars and hell-hound howls of the 13th Floor Elevators in the mid-'60s predated the punk movement, but the band certainly didn’t lack the genre’s ferocity. After decades of struggling with mental illness, Erickson, now in his mid-60s, more regularly performs, but the personal demons have taken their toll. Erickson is rightfully revered, but if he starts forgetting his lyrics, it’s fair to ask if he should be onstage.
Despite a two-day bill spread among four stages, genre diversity has never been FYF’s strong suit -- or goal, even. Opposite Erickson and giving the fest a dose of hip-hop is Brooklyn act the Underachievers. On record, the act’s sound can be compelling, a head-scratching array of down and dirty jazz and wayward pianos. But a preoccupation with weed and psychedelic drugs weighs down the musical ambitions.
Charles Bradley: It’s hard to advise against seeing the high-voltage feedback and overly distorted guitar sneers of Ty Segall, but one of garage rock’s greatest cheerleaders comes 'round these parts often. So instead take in Bradley, whose soul career almost went criminally unnoticed until he was in his 60s.
His two recent albums, including this year’s “Victim of Love,” tap a distinctly unique late-in-life crisis. They’re the vintage, hip-shaking sound of a world-weary soul belter caught between throwing a celebratory, long-overdue party yet unable to shed the lessons learned of a life on the outskirts.
Toro Y Moi. FYF in the pre-sunset hour turns its attention to the disco era. Horse Meat Disco digs into the genre’s record bins while Toro Y Moi, the musical project of one Chazwick Bundick, opts for a more funky, genre-hopping sound, albeit one that’s still best fit for poolside lounging. Or, in this case, a blanket covering the park’s many mice holes. But stay and listen, as there’s more to Toro Y Moi’s music than looking good (see the date-night wooer gone nutty in “So Many Details”).
Take a stroll. The Breeders have been celebrating the 20th anniversary of “Last Splash" of late, but as a live band tend to deliver nostalgia at its most sloppy. Casual fans should be warned. Locals Classixx have their keyboard tuned to '70s-era R&B, but may leave one wondering whether there are any synth-based acts FYF hasn’t booked this weekend. Elsewhere, the reliably sleepy folkie Devendra Banhart means it’s a good time to hit the food trucks and have a seat, but the Locust’s blast of noise and dementedly tuned instruments is FYF’s best bet for a midday palate cleanser. The long-standing band’s dedication to shredding at its most weird -- and often under 45 seconds -- remains admirable.
Dan Deacon: The composer has made a career of mixing arts both high and mid, and his electronic creations are built as if designed for an orchestra. His rhythms are fit for a drum line and the multitude of sci-fi effects are designed to overwhelm. Yet whether working with strings, acoustics or computers, Deacon’s high-tech mini-symphonies rarely fail to leave a rave-like euphoria.
TV on the Radio: Little bits of everything that have been heard throughout the day -- the guitar hissing, the electronic twinkling, the avant-leaning experimentation -- should be resurrected, slashed apart and then reassembled into anthems here. The act’s 2011 full-length “Nine Types of Light” found the quiet in the panic, and more recent single “Mercy” aims for more majestic heights. Assembled from scrap heaps of riffs and sudden shifts in BPMs, the song imagines a world where stadium rock is built for dance floors rather than box seats.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs: In its closing hour, the FYF Fest will present two different takes on rock 'n' roll performance art. The Death Grips give punk rock a hip-hop face-lift and don’t shy from tackling current events, but also can’t seem to decide whether they’re challenging their fans or antagonizing them (see the band’s no-show at Lollapalooza).
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs have a far better grasp on what it means to confront a crowd. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs will use anything they have at their disposable, and sometimes that means insane, homemade costumes, other times local choirs, and occasionally it just means that frontwoman Karen O will appear to nearly ingest the microphone. If it isn't in the service of heightening the tension in the songs, it's a dare to not look away.
But O lets Nick Zinner guitar atmospherics determine her moves, and if the band's sets at Coachella is any indication, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will jaunt from downright emotional ("Maps") to aggressively celebratory ("Heads Will Roll") to mixing up sin and redemption ("Sacrilege").
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