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FYF Fest gets off to a smooth start, despite last-minute hurdles

FYF Fest gets off to a smooth start, despite last-minute hurdles
The crowds to enter FYF Fest grounds at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and Exposition Park were much more congested last year. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Early Saturday afternoon on the first day of FYF Fest, there were few of the logistical hurdles that often greet the opening hours of a festival.

Lines to get into the gates of the festival were incredibly light, with most of the security checkpoints no more than 10 people deep.

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It was much different from last year, when the first day of the festival's new digs at the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena and Exposition Park was marred by hour-plus waits to get in and where the overcrowded Arena stage reached its capacity early in the day.

The heat probably kept people at bay. With temperatures reaching the low 80s, it was a punishing arrival to the festival for those looking to be among the first entrants to the grounds that can hold up to 40,000.

Inside the festival, attendees were met with a layout that's difficult to navigate -- especially for those unfamiliar with the grounds or first-timers.

In earlier years FYF earned a reputation as a well-crafted festival that always suffered from navigational challenges. Last year when the festival moved to Exposition Park, it was saddled with crucial logistical issues. Long lines for entrance and food and drink. And at the arena, capacity concerns slowed entry.

The grounds -- which has stages laid out like a wishbone -- required lengthy walks, making set-hopping a struggle. Being forced to walk along the perimeter of the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena made the trek from the festival entrance to the main stage more than a mile long. The fest even sent out an apology email to fans last year.

Organizers worked to eliminate those issues ahead of this year's festival.

A "new improved shortcut" between the Coliseum lawn and the main stage sliced the walking time down significantly. But the walk from the main entrance to the main stage is still a drag and switching between stages is difficult -- especially once the arena starts to get crowded and hundreds of festival-goers are lined up outside.

Logistics aside, organizers had a bigger hurdle to overcome for Day 1: launching a festival with an entirely new headliner.

Days before the 2015 installment of the festival was due to kick off, representatives for the festival announced that Frank Ocean dropped off the bill "on his own terms."

"We're really sorry that due to a scheduling conflict beyond our control, Frank Ocean is not going to be able to appear at FYF Festival as planned," reps for the R&B crooner later said. "Frank had really been looking forward to the performance and to seeing all of his fans, so it is with great regret that we announce this cancellation."

With Ocean's headlining performance being one of the more-anticipated sets for the festival, the cancellation only fanned the flames surrounding his anticipated comeback.

For the last month, fans have wondered, loudly, when he would release new music after dropping hints that a date was imminent.

Marcos Chappell and his girlfriend built their summer vacation around Ocean's scheduled appearance, he said, and he was disappointed by the eleventh hour change after spending $2,000 on tickets, travel and lodging for himself and his girlfriend.

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"Frank is our favorite. We've seen Kanye West several times," said the 29-year-old Richmond, Va., native in reference to the polarizing rapper who quickly stepped in to replace Ocean. "We've never been to L.A. but we would have picked a different city."

Chappell believed most people would consider West an upgrade, he added. But Ocean fan Rebecca Leon said she would have expected the last-minute cancelation from someone else on the bill.

"Having Morrissey and Frank Ocean on the same bill is rare -- but I would have thought it would have been Morrissey that canceled and not Frank," the 25-year-old said.

Brittany Taylor, a 24-year-old digital content manager for Vidaptiv, said that she was impressed with how organizers handled the cancellation and that she was pleased with the addition of trippy, experimental DJ and producer Flying Lotus.

"Not that I'm not excited to see Kanye, but I've seen him four times," she said. "We know Frank doesn't have an album out but he could have done the old stuff and we would have been happy."

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