I made my way through Downtown LA’ s Chinatown and into what appeared to be my own personal, dusty, hipster hell– only to be delighted by a gentle and bemustachioed crowd, Goldenvoice’s usual top notch accommodations, and surprisingly chest-ratting bass. I ate well, drank well, caught M83, James Blake and Simian Mobile Disco and made it home happy.
FYF Fest 2012 began where every festival begins for me– the cocktail tent in the beer garden. I’m a tequila fiend in all weather and a margarita man when it’s hot, so naturally I went straight to the Milagro margaritas. I discovered these were on tap– normally a huge no-no– but found it surprisingly palatable compared to the overly saccharine mess of triple sec that most premixed marggies are. Drink these. I then tried Sailor Jerry’s (an old stand by for GDD) twist on Lemonade, which I naively imagined to be a potent, pirate’s blend of fresh lemonade and high proof spiced rum. It was a malted wine cooler. Do not drink these.
Properly locked down, I stopped passing out GDD™ Stickers to creatively dressed LA drinkolites and made my way over to James Blake.
James Blake is always amazing live. He has the voice of a distorted british angel, the nimble fingers of Joni Mitchell (he played his “Case of You” cover) and one of the best drummers I’ve ever seen in my life. Go see James Blake, no matter where you are, no matter what. That being said– I couldn’t help but wish they’d cranked out some new material to perform apart from the latest EP, as they’re pretty much pulling from the same pool of material they’ve been touring for over a year. I can’t wait for them to get back in the studio. As beautiful as “I Never Learnt To Share,” is to witness looped live, the magic of seeing this performed when it came out just isn’t quite there anymore. ”CMYK” is still mindblowing in it’s frenzied, complex and sampled crescendo; the soul-rattling bass on “Limit To Your Love” came through wonderfully on the system they were on. The first time we saw James Blake was a transcendent experience and one of the top performances I’d seen, ever, but maybe that’s just hard to match a second time. I gotta give it up to FYF for bringing this through. Truly neat. Time to wander over to M83.
As a youth, M83‘s synth-laden virtuosity was all time for me, and as we’ve grown older together, I’ve of course developed a strict disdain for the band in recent years. Their set was at times unbearably pretty, with a pop sheen bordering on plastic, but they were nevertheless relentlessly on point the entire time. I was quickly won over by a giant wolf’s head shooting lasers, creative LED bouquets, and even tolerated the too-long, self indulgent live rendition of the sax solo in “Midnight City.” The crowd ate it up, and I begrudgingly got super into it, but not without a pang of nostalgia for even the more recent lush atmosphere of songs like “We Own The Sky.” Am I the only one who thinks that “Before The Dawn Heals Us” is the finest work M83 has put out? In any event, he– and the entire band– just absolutely nail it live and I’ll again give it up to FYF for knocking out that booking. The festival feels like it’s hit its stride this year and the venue isn’t too bad either. If you take the Red Line Metro down to LA Historic Park, you can even almost pretend that LA has a usable public transit system.
Now, I don’t always dance. But when I do, it’s time for food afterwards. This is really what FYF, Goldenvoice and pretty much any festival ever worth its salt have always been about for me– the treats. I promptly discovered one of the finest food trucks in the world, my beloved Green Truck and devoured a vegan burger with bright pink beet sauce. Upon finishing this– and remembering that I’m not vegan– I consumed Spicy Pie with no hesitation. If you’re ever at Coachella or near a Spicy Pie, wait in the massive line for it. Heaping cheese, fresh tangy sauce and just-picked jalapenos on pizza. Truly dank grub. The perfect coating for the tonal onslaught of Simian Mobile Disco I was about to experience.
I’ve seen Simian Mobile Disco plenty of times, but this time I was truly perplexed and blown away but just exactly what they were doing on their control station of synth knobs and plugged cables. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, full of awe inspiring production and lasers you couldn’t help but reach up for. The entire night came together with this performance, a seamless voyage through their library and years of our favorite productions. It was surreal to realize that these guys have kind of been doing this for a bit now and now easily draw an all out, truly sinister, jacking techno party. What are they doing up there with all that hardware? It’s hard not to get caught up in the magic of their show, the fleeting moment when the arpeggiated tones seem to emerge as living sounds from the centers of these synths themselves, with the duo at the controls merely technicians encouraging it. Maybe I haven’t listened to their new material enough, but it delivered, in the most droning, hypnotic and best way possible. I don’t know how these guys do it, track after track, so consistently and perfectly. This performance left me inspired and excited to see where they go.
And I’m excited to attend this festival for years to come. It’s a different approach and fabulous curation of people, music, and of course food… right in my own backyard. Goldenvoice, bravo as always; FYF, you’ve blossomed into a beautiful young thing. Oh, also apparently there’s amazing comedy and bands there too. Next year remind me not to be such a total techno glutton and check these out too.
Steven N. Ewald
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