FYF 2016: Grace Jones plays a set for the ages

Grace Jones
Grace Jones at FYF.
(Christina House / For The Times)

James Murphy’s LCD Soundsystem was the headliner at FYF Fest on Sunday. But he knew his place in music history. 

“If you missed Grace Jones, you [screwed up],” the LCD Soundsystem frontman said, minutes into his band’s set at Exposition Park. “We used to get booked as the cleanup act, where the headliner would play, and then we would play for all the people who were too [messed] up to go home. That was kind of our specialty, and this feels like that again.”

“I don’t care if you finally connected with the person you love the most. If you missed Grace Jones, you still [screwed] up.”

Murphy’s self-deprecation was endearing (and not wrong — if you were at FYF and skipped the disco-dub legend Grace Jones on Sunday, you were indeed a world-class idiot). But the fact that a live band as good as LCD could feel upstaged during its own set showed just how grand FYF’s second night was. 


First, Jones. The 68-year-old Jamaican matriarch wasn’t just otherworldly onstage, painted head to toe in black and white hatch marks, topless beneath a series of ever-more-elaborate headdresses. She seemed to come from a better world entirely, one where the people are wholly fearless before crowds and can see the whole sweep of culture, past and future. In short, she made everyone else who took the stage this weekend look hung-up and nervous by comparison.

From the funk surge of “Williams Blood” to the downtown sashay of “Warm Leatherette,” she sounded amazing at every turn, even taking a quick interlude to perform, yep, a bit of “Amazing Grace” a capella. But the magnitude of vision on display here — summing up 40 years of deep Jamaican vibes, NYC glitz and bolts of genius from some other dimension entirely — was one for the books. It was arguably the best set in FYF history, and nothing else even comes close. 

LCD Soundsystem certainly tried, though. If the lauded modern dance band’s Coachella reunion set landed a little less than rapturously, the act has its live-set motor purring again.  The group sounded great — the synth bass knocked just right on “Dance Yrself Clean,” the guitars red-lined just right on “Movement.” The set list was more or less the same one the band has used during a string of festivals all summer, but Murphy pulled it off with a little more zest and humor, and there’s still no better way to send off a festival than “All My Friends.”


Elsewhere in the day, Anohni’s L.A. debut of “Hopelessness” lent a very human face to a concept album about ecological suicide and drone bombs and political futility. Anohni was a darkened phantom onstage, but synced video close-ups of a range of humans performing the lyrics brought the album’s bleak themes into visceral clarity.

From an opposite plane, Saves The Day hit all the teenage nostalgia buttons with its full set of 2001’s “Stay What You Are,” a lodestar of pop punk that had clearly burrowed into thirtysomething hearts at FYF. Father John Misty had the troll of the weekend, using fake software-update glitches and a banner for “Bonnaroo 2014” as backdrops for his own Main Stage set.

Whatever the grumbling about ticket prices and layout changes and culture shifts at FYF, there hasn’t been a better Sunday night benediction in the fest’s decade-plus history. You were amazing, Grace. 

For breaking music news, follow @augustbrown on Twitter.


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