If your answer to what you did this weekend in Los Angeles was not “I went to FYF,” you’re probably getting some looks. With a full twenty four hours after the two day, four stage music event, concertgoers have had their Labor Day to exorcise all Ghosts of Indulgences Past and are now ready to exchange tales or simply gloat about their FYF experience. Was it an event for the history books? Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. Was it fun? Sure, it was. Was it hot? Yes. It was also loud and some people were dressed like lunatics.
The event started Saturday morning around noon-ish. Our goal was to arrive to the Los Angeles State Historic Park by 2PM as I really, really wanted to see John Maus’ comedy intermission set. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it that early, us arriving shortly after 3PM after a little pre-festival brunch at The Standard Downtown. We had no expectations of FYF, either: we knew it was a music festival for Angelenos by Angelenos and that has historically been held at the end of Summer. That’s all we knew. We looked at a map and the lineup but didn’t really sink our teeth into what FYF is. Thus, when we approached the park and wandered in the most Westerly entrance near the Hill Street Stage, we were surprised to see so much going on–and the expanse of the festival. It’s a bit overwhelming.
Setting sensory overload aside, there were a ton of festival goers for 3PM on a Saturday. There were people crowding performers performing, camped under the shade of trees, grazing from retail vendor to retail vendor, and even playing around the many FYF built oddities like a craft stand and giant Chilli Beans sunglasses. Some were peculiarly dressed in costume pieces (this is not an exaggeration) while others were causing heat flashes to others by wearing pants and other unnecessary not-Summer clothes. There was a surprising amount of teenagers, many of whom were wearing the wackiest outfits that all resembled what the cast of The Craft wore. “What has our hipster referential obsessed culture done to our future?!?”: this. There were lots of bros in tribal tanktops, girls in croptops and chunk wedge heels, packs of young adults waving fluorescent bowls around as they casually smoked marijuana, white guys in flip flops and “Conical Asian Hats,” and moms and dads in dress pants and Hawaiian shirts. The people watching was excellent and abundant.
This was all observed as we slow walked the one hundred feet from Hill Stage to the end of the Vendor Village. As for these vendors, there were a lot of great ones: Huf had a little stand, Honest Tea was giving out compliments, L.A. Record had handy maps and festival guides, Tumblr had a photobooth, Amoeba was screen printing things, and there were almost too many t-shirt makers and vintage businesses with shops set up. There didn’t seem to be an overabundance of people frequenting these but there were there, tented and in eyeshot of whoever was hitting Hill.
We kept our Easterly wander to find the very helpful water stand (which many people didn’t notice and opted to stand in long lines for a school water fountain) and the Main Street Stage. There was another set of giant Chilli Beans glasses for people to draw on, too. This brings us to another point: Chilli Beans was everywhere in the most subtly overt way possible. The Brazilian brand was the main sponsor of the festival and were actually the reason why we attended the event, too: they invited us out. This easily is why we were very brand aware but it was almost impossible to ignore their very cool marketing tactics: aside from the giant sunglasses for people to draw on and pose with, there were Chilli Beans misters, Chilli Beans girls in hot pants and “cool air” guns, and a “Chilli Beans Flogos” machine that would periodically produce giant bubble masses in the shape of their logos and the letters “F” and “Y.” They even launched a hot air balloon to close out night one! Their headquarters was a big shiny red trailer positioned as a mobile sunglasses shop. We stopped in and checked it out, saying hello to Chilli Beans folks and perusing their wears. We picked up some of their official FYF sunglasses (more on this later) and noticed many, many people were stopping into the space for eye protection. It was good to see that they so seamlessly embedded themselves in the festival climate so easily.
Just over an hour of wandering and two water bottles down, we realized we should watch some music and try to make a few rendezvous with friends. Still being there somewhat early, there wasn’t really that much to do especially if you weren’t a big fan of the musical acts on stage. So, we got 21+ wristbands and decided to have a few drinks. The 21+ wristband stands were basically TSA pop-up shops because they accumulated huge, unbearable lines and the ID checkers were as kind as suspicious gestapos. You were wise to get a wristband during their lulls or else you would be stuck for upwards of twenty minutes trying to prove you are over 21.
The booze tents were conveniently placed in between venues: there was one in between the Main and Hill stages and one in between the tented Broadway stage and far away Spring stage. If you had a VIP wristband, you got to try their booze in between the Hill and Broadway stage. We hung out at the VIP area for some time, sitting on the hill watching the–duh–Hill stage. Chairlift played a great and surprising set as we hadn’t heard of them before but were super pleased with what we caught them. We definitely took that as a musical takeaway from Day One. We also noticed how pronounced the Metro Gold Line was as it passed behind every stage: it was the nicest, most subtle sponsor of FYF. As we sat, a few familiar faces past by and we wandered in and out of conversations: how very music festival! After a few drinks and ample hydration, we decided to explore the dusty trails of the festival and catch Nite Jewel, DJ Harvey, Chromatics, and James Blake’s sets.
Each of these musicians were great to see live but also very uncomfortable to see live. Sardined in between conical hat bros, Craft girls, and general wasted people to watch James Blake’s 7:50PM to 8:40PM set, I realized why I hate music festivals: you are seeing musicians you like (or at least are peripherally interested in) in a context that completely devalues your relationship with a musician. Listening to music is a very personal experience especially in the age of personal earbuds and iPods. We are now able to keep ourselves constantly surrounded by music and can explore music artists’ careers with a few keystrokes into Google. When this intimate experience is brought out of my small apartment or car and is shared with ten thousand people, most of which are intoxicated in some way, its a bit of a buzzkill. Granted, I am a seventy year old man trapped in a twenty six year old’s body and recognize that festivals are great for meeting like minded, cool people over music. The only thing I found were blisters on my toes from standing for too long without socks.
Weighing out options–Tycho? M83? Purity Ring? Simian Mobile Disco? Dam Funk? Refused?–we opted to just call it quits since we were hungry, sweaty, covered in dust, and had been FYFing for over six hours: it was time to go. We returned Sunday by 1PM, two of maybe three hundred people present on the festival grounds that early in the day. Day Two of the festival was markedly more hot and low key. Then again, us grandpas were at the festival super, super early. We did catch a great set by locals Allah-Las and wandered over to Daughn Gibson’s set after hearing some interesting music floating out from the Broadway tent. We also perused Nick Waterhouse and his huge band’s set, who were doing their retro-cool thing as we passed from a vendor to a vendor. At this point we saw two people dressed in polar bear costumes for a brand and had tiny heat strokes in their honor. They stood outside of the TRASHed “recycling store” undoubtedly soaking their fur in sweat.
We were planning to stay until 5PM or 6PM but, because we were mildly depressed to have to miss the evening’s acts, we decided to catch Wild Nothing’s 2:45PM set and head out. From what we got of Day Two, it was a bit more mellow but featured the same assortment of oddball fashions, people casually indulging in drugs in front of cops, TSA 21+ agents, Chilli Beans cameos, semi-frequented vendors, and those people carrying trays of Dasani and pre-poured Lemonades. As WN performed a near closing set version of “This Chain Won’t Break,” we slipped out of FYF as droves of people darted toward the entrance after being released from a Gold Line train. We made our way home and shared stories from going to FYF for our first time, curious how things will be next year. We both agreed that it will stay just as endearingly sweaty and LA as it has been since its 2004 inception.