FYF Fest: Vince Staples and Head Wound City keep the fest’s rep for harshness alive

Vince Staples on the first day of FYF Fest 2016.
(Michael Owen Baker / For The Times)

The consensus so far in the first hours of FYF 2016? The music is great, if you can find it.

The festival underwent yet another significant layout change this year, where the main thoroughfare around the Coliseum was augmented by spidery routes in-between and behind the stages. We understand the impulse to fix it — pedestrian traffic on that road can get clogged, and no one wants to schlep around the coliseum to get between stages.

But it also lent a confusing note to the early hours, where fans scuttled behind the Coliseum service roads to find some way to see Vince Staples on the Main Stage or Head Wound City in the Club (the heir to the late, lamented Sports Arena, whose seating and easy entry have never been more missed).

If you could figure it out, however, there were great acts to find.


Staples was the highlight of the awkwardly laid-out main stage in the early hours, playing searing cuts like “Birds & Bees” and “Surf” that evoked a Long Beach on edge that was a world far away from the FYF idyll. He was relatively reserved, but saved an absolutely savage deadpan for America’s police officers: ‘You’re doing a stellar job,” he said, before tearing into his anti-brutality single “Hands Up.”

FYF is billed as “The Best Weekend of Summer,” but Staples was a rare artist to remind the crowd how difficult it can be outside the gates.

Elsewhere, the hardcore supergroup Head Wound City tore into its early-day crowd with a barrage from its LP “A New Wave of Violence.” The group, which counts members of Yeah Yeah Yeahs,Blood Brothers and The Locust among its regulars, was a flashback to FYF’s scabrous beginnings, where avant-garde punk bands carved space for themselves on the major festival circuit without compromising their harshness. Blood Brothers put on an amazing reunion show at their last FYF appearance; Head Wound City proved that the act’s deconstructive legacy is still vital.

Dance acts were a connective tissue between everything — the experimental techno producer Floating Points dipped into Afro-Funk to enliven the early shift at the Woods stage; Classixx charged up the indie audiences with upbeat neo-disco.


Of course, the whole fest is on edge for Kendrick Lamar, but if you could find out where you were supposed to be, so far, FYF delivered on its most essential lineup yet.


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