Day 1 of FYF Fest 2012 showcased the best that post-hardcore had to offer. Day 2 was divided between a litany of noise rock acts and a smattering of some of the brightest rising stars in indie rock. Noise rock is tough to execute in a live setting, and the second day’s acts didn’t all succeed with the flying colors of the previous day’s reunited hardcore bands. On the other hand, the top-notch indie talent present–normally an overly bloated blast of hype—proved with flying colors the acclaim is all well deserved.
Cult hip-hop hero Aesop Rock expectedly did well in the late afternoon. A killer combination of lightning fast lyrical delivery and an impossible to imitate, unique vocal timbre make this MC a thrilling and engaging spectacle. The nimble wordplay on “Leisureforce” and “Homemade Mummy” were more than enough to enrapture the crowd on hand.
Against Me! performed next on the Main St. Stage. For many in the LA area, this was the first opportunity to see the band live since frontman Tommy Gabel formally announced that he was transgender and would be now known as Laura Jane Grace. In all truth, the only difference here was that the artist now known as Laura is dressed in feminine rocker chick attire. Otherwise, this band still rips and sounds as fantastic as ever. The roar of “I’m losing touch” from her voice is still razor sharp and introspective on “Don’t Lose Touch” as it was before.
Lightning Bolt encountered a massive loss of time on their set, finagling with a broken effect pedal and switching microphone placements last second. Upon fixing their technical problems, drummer and vocalist (he screams into a microphone tucked inside a lucha libre mask) let loose a chaotic barrage. Bassist Brian Gibson plays an augmented patchwork bass as if it was an electric guitar, layering on numerous effects. The net total is an impressive show of force, but expectedly with that much alteration to the sound, and with little time to perfect a mix, it’s a bit hard to follow.
Dinosaur Jr. took to the Main St. Stage and nonchalantly performed with skilled precision. The classic lineup of the band–J. Mascis on vocals/guitars, Lou Barlow on bass/vocals and Murph on drums–through their years of nonstop recording and touring through myriad other projects, have grown a seemingly innate skill for doing alternative rock the way it should be done. Barlow’s bass bounds with intoxicating pulse, Murph builds tension with Bonham-style fury and Mascis alternates between noisy effects, ripping solos and meditative vocals. Henry Rollins could visibly be seen stage right, watching, singing every word and furiously taking notes.
Delving deeper into noise rock territory, the one-two punch of Liars and HEALTH followed Dinosaur Jr. The three-piece Liars, while on album continually impress with their adventurous and expansive sound, didn’t quite connect in the live experience. All the credit due to the three-piece, they’re really triggering and executing live, a plethora of effects, sounds and samples (not to mention playing live instruments as well), but something kept this from being the revelatory experience their recorded material suggests is possible.
HEALTH managed to play through such a limitation, through sheer force of will. The four members of HEALTH look positively possessed on stage. It’s hard to tell where one song stops, and another begins, but the band plays like they know down to the millisecond. At some points calmly building tension and atmosphere, at others all jumping up and down screaming at the same time, HEALTH treats noise rock like their personal sonic call to action. Unless noisy music fully turns you off, they’re not to be missed.
Another reunited (and vaguely post-hardcore) band, Desaparecidos did well on the Main St. Stage. It’s hard to know how familiar much of the crowd was for this band. This was one of many of Conor Oberst’s project done during his rise to fame with his main outing Bright Eyes. The group captures some of the raw energy and power that hardcore is known for, but still resides closer to the troubadour/singer songwriter style Oberst is most commonly associated with. Tellingly, early in their set, a Mickey Mouse parodying voice came through the speakers, word-for-word restating Dave Mustaine’s controversial comments about Obama and the recent shootings in the USA. An appropriate rebuff of Mustaine’s stance, but a joke most likely few caught.
Yeasayer demonstrated their knack for funked-out fusion, and a snazzy new stage setup/light array. The first of three indie acts on this day delivering on mountains of hype (Twin Shadow and Beirut being the other two) the band is a polished and danceable journey through what nerdy musical research can really do. While most bands borrow, bite and steal from the greats of unheralded genres, Yeasayer exhibit the lessons learned from that research. What’s more, like Damon Albarn’s Gorillaz, they take the pop genre and make it exciting. Taking away the overtly saccharine in favor of the infectious and exciting.
Twin Shadow excelled with driving, simple, catchy songs. Like any catchy song, these take you by surprise. A melody, a beat and a vocal, and the swell of excitement washes over the crowd, threatening to take you with it. Presented as a full five-piece band, though on record the moniker for singer/songwriter George Lewis Jr., the crowd engages with Lewis directly. Many call out his name and cheer, “I love you” in between each number. It may just be one of those rare cases of true charisma, or just the right talent for crafting fun tunes.
Beirut, the festival’s other headliner along with Refused, might be the most deliberately non-rock “band” that manages to be good in recent times. All the buzz these last few years might be associated to old tyme regressives Mumford and Sons, but Beirut have accomplished the same uncanny mastery of jazz, folk and world music styles long forgotten amidst homogenized common formats of music normally released. Heavily leaning on brass instruments, lacking anything in the realm of a distorted guitar, Zach Condon’s Beirut is a sterling exemplum of folk music viewed through a modern lens.
Lastly, and appropriately, came another hardcore veteran, Turbonegro. Consisting of largely Norwegian members, and now fronted by a Brit, Turbonegro champions what they call the “deathpunk” sound, a genre all their own. Turbonegro have a look all their own, sporting liberal amounts of make-up, naval hats and punk-confirming patched up denim. The band plays with the confident nerve most commonly associated with acts like The Hives. They play into their subject matter, and don’t shy away from the oddities of their message or their style. Their fans adore them for it too. And in that, is the lesson learned from this 2012 weekend of FYF Fest: the right combination of polished skill and confident verve can truly make for a great band and concert experience.
All photos by Raymond Flotat