While I was overseas in August/ September of this year I had a few things on my bucket list to cross off and one was to go to a live gig. Unfortunately, it was slim pickings as I was missing some great artists by a week or two. I started to believe that this item would remain on the list for some time to come. That is until I stumbled upon a random tweet from @triplej talking about Aussie’s Chet Faker and Flume being on the FYF Fest line up. I looked into it and knew this was my one and only opportunity to have my wish come true.
Fuck Yeah Fest (FYF) was my first foray into the world of international music festivals and it is one that shall remain with me until Alzheimer’s or death are upon me.
As my flight from Australia flew into Los Angeles I coordinated my travel arrangements so I could stay there for a few days to attend the two-day festival. With a line up including the boys from Oz, Bloc Party, Purity Ring, Frank Ocean, Morrissey, Belle and Sebastian, Laura Marling and many more, I was going to get the biggest live music buzz I could have wished for.
Once my flights were booked I made it official and bought my FYF ticket. But hang on a minute, what’s this? They offered a payment plan! Even though the ticket cost for the full 2 days was on par with a single day Oz music festival (Groovin’ the Moo excluded as that is by far the cheapest and most reasonably priced festival in Australia), they offered a payment plan. Three simple installations over 3 months and you’re in. This dangerously looked like a promoter actually giving a shit about the punter. Being Australian, this is something I’m unfamiliar with. I tingled with glee as I hit the ‘purchase’ button.
Fast forward a few months and I’m in Los Angeles at Exposition Park. In 1984 when LA hosted the Olympics they were held here. I collected my ticket from a kind woman after being guided to the Free Will by a kind man. I then went through security and had my bag checked. Unlike Australia where security do not give a shit about you and your bag is lightly felt up, here I was subjected to the female only line where a female security guard patted me down and turned the contents of my bag inside out checking for contraband such as eye drops, pencils, guns and sealed bottles of water. I was even asked why I had cash on me. “To buy stuff” was thankfully an acceptable answer. As daunting as the experience was, and as cringe worthy as it was to have to go through it again the next day, I understood it to be for the punter’s safety because America and guns go together like moths and flames.
The first thing on the agenda was to get to the main stage to see Dinosaur Jr who had just started. It would give me a great opportunity to gather my bearings and establish where the stages were, in particular the Main Stage and the Lawn Stage as they were the two I’d be alternating between for the entire weekend. I walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and hit a car park where the main stage was set up. Oh. Dinosaur Jr rocked it like they know how and once they finished I headed over to the Lawn Stage. I walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and found the grass eventually, right near the entrance to the festival. Oh. Dear. My legs were already sore from the debacle that occurred that morning (see City of Angels?) and this 5 minute walk between stages didn’t help, and it indicated I’d be virtually running in-between stages since almost all the acts clashed slightly. Nevertheless, as the sun set I bathed in the beauty that was The Drums, a band I’d wanted to see live for a few years now. What I expected from them they didn’t actually deliver, but I was more than pleasantly surprised. Instead of the frantic surf pop sound that they’re known for, they delivered a cruisey and chilled set comprising of all their hits. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold.
I paused for a beverage break after The Drums finished and entered the over 21 beer garden to consume an utterly crap $12 glass of rose smaller than a golf ball. After sculling that hideous drink I headed back to the Lawn Stage to watch !!! for about 10 minutes from the very front of the stage which was delightful. Then I wandered around looking at the sights catching Shlohmo on the Trees Stage as I made my way back to the Main Stage for Chet Faker. Underestimating the popularity of the Melbourne producer, my plan of leaving his set early as I’d previously seen him play live in Sydney, was foiled by the fact at least 60% of the entire festival’s population were also there to see him. I became stuck in the crowd and couldn’t escape. This sucked. It meant I had to run back to the Lawn Stage to see the start of Bloc Party, the one band I was desperate to see this weekend (see It’s Ratchet). By some stroke of luck I actually made it.
I was quite tired and somewhat stoned from a contact high from the weed being smoked everywhere that I sat down to calmly enjoy Kele and his new band, I mean Bloc Party. That is until they dropped Hunting for Witches. I instantly jumped to my feet and pushed my way into the crowd and danced myself stupid for the hour-long set. They were by far the best performers of the night so far.
At this stage I was on such a high that I rushed back to the main stage to see not Frank Ocean who had pulled out less than 48 hours earlier, but Kanye West who replaced him. If I thought Chet Faker could draw a crowd I was sorely mistaken compared to the thousands that had amassed in the car park. It was absolutely crazy made more so crazy due to the fact Kanye had no stage show arranged due to the short notice of his inclusion to the line up. It was just him and his ego strutting their stuff on the stage, and the people of LA were lapping it up like you wouldn’t believe. I’m glad I was finally able to see him, but I had no regrets in leaving early to go check out Purity Ring on the Lawn Stage. And I’m glad I did because they were brilliant.
As I was dependent upon catching the Metro home and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going beyond get off at stop 7, catch the purple train and get off 3 stops later, I felt for my own sanity and anxiety levels that I had to bail before the end of Purity Ring’s set. Disappointing, but being lost in LA at 1am with no way to get home wasn’t an option I could consider. In the end a strange thing happened, LAPD and FYF Fest had worked together to make the trip home easier than boiling an egg. That whole considering the punter thing came into play again. There were signs, people guiding you in the right direction making sure you got on the correct train and ensuring you had a ticket. It was bliss. And I instantly wanted to go back to the festival to catch the end of Purity Ring and dance the morning away to Simian Mobile Disco, but I didn’t.
The next day I felt much better about everything and tackled getting into the Festival with total flair. I also knew that I could not be fucked traipsing in between the stages like yesterday as my legs were on fire from all the walking I had been doing. So off to the Lawn Stage I went to start the day with the divine Laura Marling. I sat down and just enjoyed her.
When Laura finished I headed to the Main Stage to catch a funky little set from Toro Y Moi before checking out Battles at the aesthetically gorgeous Trees Stage. Flume was due to come on the Main Stage before Battles finished so I headed back to the car park and did something I hadn’t anticipated on doing. I stayed there and didn’t leave for hours. I made my way to the centre of the car park and positioned myself next to the middle barricade so all I had to do was lean to the right and I could see the stage. It was the perfect spot to watch Flume for the first time. Harley was absolutely brilliant and with guests such as Andrew Wyatt and Lorde joining him the set was one of my favourites from Sunday.
The majority of the crowd dispersed once Flume finished and I took the opportunity to move forward, still staying alongside that barrier. I pushed forward approximately 20 metres and in the process started talking to the guy who was behind me slip streaming once he figured out what I was doing. He commented on what a great idea it was and that’s how I met Oscar who turned into my FYF Fest buddy for the remainder of the festival.
Together we watched Belle and Sebastian who floored me with their energetic performance which had audience members on stage as their dancers, and chatted as we waited for headliner Morrissey to start. I learnt a lot about LA, the festival and music scene. It was great to have someone to talk to.
By the time Morrissey came on stage we had moved up perhaps another 10 meters and had a great view of the stage. In terms of his performance he wasn’t as bad as I expected. I’m glad I was able to experience Morrissey live in my life, but he won’t go down as a key memory from FYF Fest.
On my way out of Exposition Park I heard FKA Twigs but had no desire to stay for her set. I was exhausted and I had to leave for the airport at 8:30am.
Despite not seeing many bands on Sunday I had no regrets. I saw who I wanted, that was all that mattered. And when I’m old and decrepit and telling my grandchildren about my solo adventures to North America FYF Fest will be remembered and talked about with so much love and joy. Even now, almost 3 months later, I am amazed and proud of myself for having the courage to go to it. It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far.