Local festivals Music Tastes Good and Desert Daze contemplate a landscape suddenly downsized without FYF Fest
Earlier this week the prominent Southern California promoter Goldenvoice pulled the plug on the long-running, taste-making FYF Festival, which was to occur at Exposition Park on July 22-23 with headliners Janet Jackson and Florence & the Machine.
The promoter nixed the once-independent event, reportedly because of lackluster ticket sales, according to Billboard, prompting questions on its viability as a brand going forward.
The move was a surprising development from the company that perfected the festival concept with Coachella and promotes other well-produced festivals including country music showcase Stagecoach and the rap-oriented Camp Flog Gnaw.
But in such a crowded festival market, FYF’s absence will hardly be felt. The coming months will see a glut of major multi-act events occurring within driving distance of Los Angeles. Among them are Outside Lands, Ohana, Hard Summer, Arroyo-Seco Weekend, Electric Daisy Carnival, Lightning in a Bottle, Desert Daze, Bottlerock, Life Is Beautiful, All My Friends, Kaaboo and Wanderlust.
On Thursday, the third Music Tastes Good music and food festival in Long Beach announced details of its fall event. Another Southern California music festival, Desert Daze, unveiled phase two of its 2018 rock-heavy lineup this week, and EDM superstar Zedd spread news of his outdoor event, this one at Los Angeles State Historic Park.
Asked whether there are too many music festivals in the region, Phil Pirrone, founder of Desert Daze, answers yes before he even hears the question’s end.
And the competition? “Oh, it’s ruthless,” he says when asked about building a roster in 2018.
In such an environment, every festival needs to tap underserved populations, says Music Tastes Good’s talent buyer, Jon Halperin. Calling Southern California “a very difficult market,” he says that despite the landscape, “you just give it a shot. There’s a million bands out there, and just because one doesn’t work out doesn’t mean the next one won’t.”
Whether FYF’s abrupt cancellation serves as a market barometer is less certain. The move came less than a year after several women came forward to accuse FYF co-founder Sean Carlson of sexual misconduct. Goldenvoice let Carlson go, but not before handing him a buyout check.
FYF’s absence can only benefit Music Tastes Good and Desert Daze, at least from an attendance perspective. “We’re in Southern California. It’s the most competitive festival market in the world — maybe outside of England,” Pirrone says.
Pirrone is cautious when asked whether FYF’s fate will prompt an influx of new Desert Daze travelers. “We’re not going to count our chickens before they hatch. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all unfolds.”
He adds, “In a landscape dominated by AEG-Goldenvoice and Live Nation, we can never be too sure that we’re made in the shade.”
Unlike those corporations’ promoted events, though, commerce at Desert Daze and Music Tastes Good occurs on a more modest level. Both stress a renegade spirit.
“We’re independent,” Music Tastes Good’s Halperin says. “We can put together a really fun festival. We’re not bound by the same parameters as other festivals are.”
Pirrone says: “A commercial enterprise is the last thing that Desert Daze is. For us, where it takes place and how it takes place and with who it takes place is all very intentional.”
This year Desert Daze, which drew an estimated 10,000 people in 2017, will relocate from Joshua Tree to Moreno Beach at Lake Perris. Unlike Coachella’s air of monied Palm Springs privilege, Desert Daze is known for a more laid-back, down-home vibe.
That’s typified by a roster that includes headliners Tame Impala, Warpaint and Mercury Rev; newly announced additions Death Grips, Jarvis Cocker and Earth; and dozens more guitar-focused acts including Beduoine, Jjuujjuu, Ty Segall, Chelsea Wolfe and Malcolm Mooney, former vocalist for Can.
For its part, Music Tastes Good which drew around 5,000 people in 2017, will occur at Marina Green Park along the downtown Long Beach shoreline. It boasts a roster that includes British electronic soul singer and producer James Blake, Canadian supergroup Broken Social Scene, Mancunian synth-pop renegades New Order, retro-futurist visionary Santigold and a few dozen others.
Launched in 2016 by the late Josh Fischel, who died shortly after the inaugural event, it has grown in each of its first two years. As in years past, food will be a priority alongside the music, and this installment will highlight tastes from port cities of the West Coast. According to festival creative director Chris Watson, the 16 chefs will represent restaurants “from Baja all the way up to Vancouver, British Columbia.”
Musically speaking, the roster is less focused. Unlike events that cater to specific subgenres — EDM, underground rock, punk or country — Music Tastes Good’s goal is to be “as appealing to as many people as possible. No knock to anybody, but Ohana has its thing and FYF had its thing,” Watson says. “Ours really keeps open arms for everybody.”
Haperin says: “We don’t go and make any big proclamations about being the best people in the universe at running festivals. But we try and do right by the people who are coming to our event.”
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