FYF Fest – A Preview From The Bottom Up

It’s FYF time again in Los Angeles, and dozens of acts will be competing for your ear space in a very short period of time. Rather than tell you things about the bands we already dig and are looking forward to like Wild Flag and Lightning Bolt, we figured we’d take the approach encouraged by the festival – let’s wander around, check out some bands that are new to us and maybe make a few discoveries.

So here’s our snap judgements on the bands in small print at the bottom of the flyer in the approximate order of their appearance, our attempt to make ourselves a schedule and separate the can’t-miss from the must-avoid. I don’t mind admitting that I’d barely heard of let alone acquired any familiarity with ANY of these bands, but parsing through the recommended tracks on FYF’s Artists page, I’ll try to make up my mind in a hurry.

For these purposes let’s make three lists. The “A” list artists are the real exciting finds, the destination sets, acts of great promise that I would consider skipping ANY other group on the lineup to catch. The “B” listers are the medium-interest ones where I’d make some effort to catch at least a few songs. And the “C” listers are going to be the ones I would walk away from deliberately. That may be a harsh judgment to confer on a band after hearing one or two possibly mis-representative songs on Youtube but have you seen how long this list of bands is? Life’s too short and not every kid gets a trophy. At a show with four stages and overlapping set times, someone has to get skipped. I promise to be hard, but fair.

Click here to see the the set times.

Kishi Bashi –  Dreamy, inventive pop with shimmering harmonies and bristling energy. The immaculate Todd Rundgren-style productions makes me very curious what this will play like on the concert stage. We’re off to a great start. A

Lovely Bad Things – Immediately suggestive of X with amped-up rockabilly riffs and male-female vocals. Crisp, appealing melodies and solid playing. B

White Arrows – A glitchy take on 80s synth soundscapes, some interesting ideas but not really for me. C

Papa – Keyboard-fueled radio-ready pop music with a good ear for arrangements and some nice harmony singing. B

Devin – The indie world’s answer to Tom Petty? Could be! Would sound just right cranked up on an auto-shop boombox. B

Daughn Gibson – Dark, moody stuff reminiscent of Laughing Len Cohen with a southern accent. His music is probably part of the show “True Blood”, or should be. C

DJ Coco (Primavera Sound) – Couldn’t find anything on this guy but he’s from Barcelona so, why not give him a B.

The Suicide of Western Culture – Laptop rock courtesy of two dudes from Barcelona making their Stateside debut with this tour. Fairly far outside my realm of expertise but the mind-fuck psychedelic audiovisuals up on Youtube have me pretty curious. B

Doldrums – Another electro act, this one with a proper vocalist and a chopped and screwed cough syrup sound that’s quite grown on me in the last two minutes. A

Sandro Perri – Densely produced singer-songwriter stuff with some very Sunflower-era Beach Boys touches. B

Fidlar – Solid Oi! choruses applied to a celebration of degenerate California lifestyles. I can easily imagine an entire field of people bro-hugging and hollering the chorus of “Wake! Bake! Skate!” in perfect unison. B

John Maus – This guy plays keyboards for Haunted Graffiti and Animal Collective, not really a surprise that dreamy synthesizer washes and mumbly low register lead vocals counterpointed by wide stereo harmonies are the order of the day. C

White Fence – Psychedelic and marked by abrupt changes in style. Not too often that a group that reminds me of the Plastic Ono Band, even for half a song, but I have to heartily approve. B

Joyce Manor – Cute and young and kind of charming but I’m afraid I’m not their type. C

Nite Jewel – Potential Howard Jones opening act. This kind of music used to play eight hours a day in the office where I worked, and I’ve never quite gotten over it. It is the sound of waiting for the day to end. C

Allah-Las – Potential Chocolate Watchband opening act if you built a time machine and sent them back forty-five years. If you told me this record was made in 1966 I’d probably believe you. The instruments are just a little too separated in the mix and their look a little too disheveled, but otherwise, despite its recent vintage, a worthwhile contribution to the Nuggets canon. B

The Soft Pack – Pop-punk with a jangle that gives way to an unexpected chainsaw attack. B

The Men – Searing guitars, tooth-gritting energy, memorable tunes and an unhinged singer. My kind of band. A

Nick Waterhouse – Another stylistic lift from a bygone era, this one of a character something like Mel Torme without the remarkable pipes. Diversity is to be applauded but there is such a thing as over-reach. C

Wild Nothing – Rainy-day music for Anglophiles – Bernard Sumner fronting the Cure with strings in place of synthesizers. Immaculately produced and richly detailed on record, will be interesting to see how it plays on stage. B

Dam-Funk – More glitchy beats over Casio soundscapes, maybe worthwhile for the chill tent at the end of a long day. B

Tiger & Woods – This synthed out duo have the best Youtube comment of the day: “WHEN THEY DROPPED THIS SONG IN LONDON I DID JIZZ IN MY PANT”. Can’t say I would necessarily react the same. C

Father John Misty – OK this guy used to be in the Fleet Foxes. Eventually we had to run into someone I know! His music sounds nothing like Fleet Foxes though, it’s kind of Moby Grape-ish guitar pop. Well as soon as I wrote “sounds nothing like Fleet Foxes”, they broke into a fragile close-harmony part. So to be fair, it sounds a little like Fleet Foxes, but straighter and more rocking. And if you never heard Fleet Foxes, they sound like Crosby Stills and Nash, where this guy appears to have been the Stills of the bunch. A

Moonface Warm and hypnotic, with a melodic sense and voice that remind me of Gordon Lightfoot, in only the best ways. B

Ceremony – Real hardcore made by weirdos, like if Void never broke up.  B

AA Bondy – Good natured, sleepy heartland rock, like if Mellencamp had made his first record deal with Drag City. B

The Field – Stripped-down EDM, the appeal of which escapes my non-dancing ass. I like some of this stuff but it’s helpful to have some hooks, or some psychedelic atmosphere. This might be its most pure expression but I’m no purist. C

Redd Kross – Well finally an act that needs no introduction to me whatsoever. They’re back in action with their first new platter in over a dozen years, a pretty smashing effort that continues the quest to deliver the greatest Cheap Trick album that Cheap Trick never made. A

Two Gallants – Ass-kicking Americana, delivered with a throat-tearing intensity, probably a real hoot on stage. A

Cloud Nothings – I’ve avoided watching any of these videos, preferring to just listen, but this one caught my eye for the introduction of the fetish of “braid sucking”. Boy, you learn something new every day! As for the music – sunny girl-fronted indie pop, could be the perfect thing for a balmy LA afternoon. B

Black Dice – Is there actually a genre called Glitchfart or did I just make that up? Anyway these guys are kings of the scene. Probably fun to watch for a few minutes but doubt I would make it through a full set. B

Givers – Louisiana music for the indie scene, great musicians that bring an infectious joy to the proceedings. A

Elise is going to check out the next round, I need to ride the ferris wheel and clear my head before the Vaselines come on. So far I’m impressed! Not everything’s for me but there’s already plenty to say “fuck yeah” to.

Click here for Part Two. 

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4 Responses to FYF Fest – A Preview From The Bottom Up

  1. I’m glad my man Bondy earned a B. 🙂 These are really funny. Too bad I will be camping…

  2. P Benson says:

    Cloud Nothings isn’t girl fronted. Very 90’s sounding with Steve Albini produced rock & roll.

  3. Clare says:

    Regarding quote on the Lovely Bad Things…. “Rockabilly riffs” ???? With all do respect, you apparently have not listened, because there is not a rockabilly chord in anything they play. This band does murder it everytime I see them though, never disappoint and their riffs are crazy catchy, but rockabilly?? I think not!

  4. Bob Lee Bob Lee says:

    Re Lovely Bad Things, the song linked to was the one track of theirs I listened to in order to write this review. That very first riff reminded me of rockabilly. I did say these were snap judgements. Listening now it sounds more like amped up surf music but that’s not really that far off.

    Re Cloud Nothings, I have no idea what the fuck happened there. I thought the chick in the video was singing even though listening now it sounds obviously like a guy. The few songs I saw at the show were pretty different from what’s in that video.

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