The second day of FYF Fest 2016 began with the post-punk stylings of the band Preoccupations (formerly Viet Cong) and ended with captivating sets from LCD Soundsystem, Grace Jones, Blood Orange and Banks & Steelz.
Preoccupations began their show at the Lawn stage and it was a set that had only a small crowd in attendance. Luckily, for those who were fortunate enough to be there, they experienced the excitement and frenetic behavior of this group, who played with the fervor of a punk band playing at their first house party.
Julia Holter performed at the Club stage and brought an energy to the festival that not many in the audience were used to. Her obvious talent as a musician and composer (she has a degree in composition) provided a nice reprieve from the usual formulaic bands at festivals. The music performed by her accompanying band, which consisted of a violin, cello and standup bass, hung over the crowd as they watched Holter in reverence.
The fourth time performing as a group and the first time performing at a festival was the collaborative duo of Banks and Steelz. RZA from Wu-Tang Clan and Paul Banks from Interpol have established personas within their own musical genres, so for most in attendance to see these two perform together was a guessing game as to what their music might sound like. Once they both casually walked out, they settled into their new roles and meshed wonderfully together. The intensity of RZA’s rapping wafted over the audience, and when Banks would chime in he would slowly bring it back down. From the moment the played the song “Concealed” to the final verses of their single “Giant,” both Banks and RZA captivated the attention of the audience.
The day that Blood Orange does not play an outstanding set is the day that the world gives up hope for all that is good in this world. Thankfully, that was not today. Dev Hynes’s ability to craft beautiful funk/pop songs and perform them with exotic dance moves that most people only wish they were able to do, is the highlight of every Blood Orange performance. Not to mention, the openness he possesses in believing he can hand the reins to talented women is another cause for celebration. With appearances by Sky Ferreira, Empress Of and Nelly Furtado, each song made audience members wonder who might join him next. With this and the added benefit of having a more gender-neutral approach to his lyrics, Hynes created a universe that bent gender stereotypes and forced the listener to confront hard questions about race and identity.
Immediately afterwords was Charles Bradley’s set. To see a living legend like Bradley is a luxury at a music festival and, fortunately, most people picked up on that gift. After all of his years of touring and recording, he still sounds as good as he would have in his twenties. He wails and dances just as well as the youngest artist here, all while keeping the audience riveted with his distinct and charming persona.
“Okay friends, let’s try to carry on,” Joshua Tillman, frontman of Father John Misty, quipped after an anti-climatic exchange with a fan about Snapchat. What began as a set met with minor technical difficulties — the screen behind the stage continually flashed the message to download the new iOS update — and a sparse crowd, slowly gave way to every quirky Father John Misty fan’s dream. He opened with the song “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” to loud applause. For the rest of his time on stage, he mostly played from the newer album I Love You, Honeybear, with a few songs from the first album Fear Fun peppered in. Despite his second album not quite living up to the first, he still managed to liven up the songs and keep fans of both records engaged.
If there is a formula to making a performance ethereal, Beach House have it figured out. When they sang “10 Mile Stereo,” strobe lights and glitter enveloped the stage. Paired with vocals by lead singer Victoria Legrand, one felt far removed from the streets of Los Angeles and was instead transported to the dreamy universe that Beach House inhabit.
Anohni, formerly from Antony and the Johnsons, gave a melancholic and bizarrely beautiful performance of Hopelessness that teetered delicately between heartbreaking and transcendental. The beauty of her performance rested in her reservation. The introversion, whether it was in the way she restrained herself while singing a certain lyric or the mere fact that like Sia, she did not show her face, elevated her performance. Her vulnerability and desire to shield herself forced the listener to pay attention to the music instead of theatrics.
One of the phrases that was overheard the most throughout the course of the festival was excitement to see Grace Jones perform live. Audience members were not disappointed. She is a legend for many reasons, and those reasons came across profoundly in her live performance. Between her entrance, costumes, body paint, hats and the sheer animalistic nature of her performances, she constructed a truly awesome experience. The way she slowly slinked across the stage, awakening the sensuality of both her and the audience, showed how raw, gloriously weird and gifted she is as an artist. While some acts at festivals rely on guest appearances and things meant to shock the audience, like pyrotechnics, Grace Jones rejects them all — because all you need is Grace Jones.
If there is one constant concerning LCD Soundsystem, it is that they always play a killer show. A lot of what drives that consistency is lead singer James Murphy. On songs like “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” he led the music with such charisma that the audience could not help but be completely entranced by his presence. Their greatness did not fall entirely on Murphy’s shoulders though. With such a large band, one might think it would be difficult to all be on the same page while performing, but LCD Soundsystem were immaculately in tune with one another. They formed one large, living organism. When playing “Get Innocuous,” the ability each member had to read and play off one another was unbelievable. Seeing this band was not just a show, but an experience that engaged and exhausted all of the senses. Whether it is the smell and taste of fog from the fog machines, the trippy light show, the rapidity at which the images changed on the monitor during “Losing My Edge,” Murphy’s voice or the sensation of dancing with complete strangers, LCD Soundsystem live is an experience one does not forget. The memory and sensations associated with their performance live on.
If one attends a music festival, it is to escape. FYF Fest, despite being in the bustling metropolis of LA, creates an atmosphere where those attending are granted a temporary relief from the monotony of everyday life. With brilliant performances by Grace Jones, Jagwar Ma, Blood Orange and LCD Soundsystem, it’s hard not to feel sad that the festival is over.
Grace Jones setlist:
- This Is
- Private Life
- My Jamaican Guy
- Warm Leatherette
- I’ve Seen That Face Before
- William’s Blood
- Amazing Grace
- Love is the Drug
- Pull Up to the Bumper
- Slave to the Rhythm
LCD Soundsystem setlist:
- Us v Them
- Daft Punk is Playing at My House
- I Can Change
- Get Innocuous
- You Wanted a Hit
- Someone Great
- Losing My Edge
- New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down
- Dance Yrself Clean
- All My Friends
File photo by Sharon Alagna