Photo: Todd Seelie for FYF Fest
By: Fiona Hannigan
This year’s FYF fest had a lineup to write home about, and Saturday was no exception–from Hot Chip to Vince Staples, from Classixx to Tame Impala. Not to mention one of the most insane arrays of food we’ve seen at a music festival. There were a lot of highlights, but here are a few of our favorite sets that we saw on Saturday.
Peter Bjorn & John
Peter, Bjorn & John greeted the Trees stage by kicking off their set with “A Long Goodbye” off their new album Breaking Point. The air sparkled with their sunny 70s pop, and their ABBA influence rang clear. The whole band was moving vivaciously, but Peter Morén, on guitar and vocals, jumped up and down, and his contagious energy kept going the whole show. In case anyone was confused, the band members wore name buttons on their “yackets” Björn Yttling on bass and John Eriksson on drums—all harmoniously on vocals. Joined by Klaus and Freya, touring band members on percussion and keys, their endearing Swedish charisma charmed the crowd. The band moved quickly through their set list, joking, “Efficiency! Next song!” Peter floated across the stage with ease, his energy echoing through the crowd and elevating their pop-heavy new material. During the fun synth of “It Don’t Move Me,” he disappeared into the crowd effortlessly, only to return invigorated.
After a few more deliciously danceable songs, mostly from their new album, the moment much of the crowd had been waiting for arrived. A song “ten years old, not yet a teenager” Peter laughed. “We’re going to sing together” he said, as they launched into their 2006 whistle-laden hit “Young Folks.” The crowd erupted and danced like they were the ones turning 10, not the song. Freya’s velvet vocals got a hearty applause, and their whistling is just as impressive after all these years. How to follow up the song that lifted them up and has haunted them ever since? By playing the appropriate, and perhaps just as great “Second Chance,” about being stuck in the past. The funky song was the perfect sequel. PB&J (“a terrible sandwich” as Peter said earlier) rounded out the set with another return to 2006’s Writer’s Block, “Objects Of My Affection.” The steady drum march crescendoed into a phenomenal drum solo by John, matched by Peter giving his all in a fluid dance onstage. After a pretty tight show, the band let loose and rocked out, in the perfect finale—proving they’ve still got what it takes.
Photo: Everett Fitzpatrick for FYF Fest
The Oakland based rapper lit up the vine wrapped Club tent in what was one of the most fun sets of the weekend. She was preceded by hype man DJ Vision, spinning party hits in a hip hop singalong. While he got the crowd going, Kamaiyah and her backup blew him out of the water. Connecting with the audience, “Lil Ya Ya” (as she’s called) commanded the stage. Despite some sound difficulties, she navigated the festival setting like a pro. Every single song sounded like a hit. With her signature thumping, bouncing back beat keeping time, the audience couldn’t stop dancing. We were under her spell, when she called–we responded, “Go ya ya, go.” And she went for it. “Is they ready?” “I dunno” they wondered onstage, before Kamaiyah theatrically declared “I’ve been broke all my life. Now I wonder…” before launching into the anthem “How Does It Feel” [to be rich?]. While the irony of a group able to afford music festival entry singing along was not lost, the party did not stop–even when some people left early to make it to Grimes.
Photo: Elli Papayanopolous for FYF Fest
Grimes, the stage name of Claire Boucher, was also not immune to the typical technical hurdles of festival performance. Despite that, Grimes was still one of the other best performances of the weekend. She played a variety of songs, with plenty of her stellar new material. She effortlessly mixed dance pop with grungier electronic beats. She was able to lift her voice for saccharine sweet melodies, but in turn could give a deep, rough scream. The light work in the set was similarly well-executed. The dancers on the stage, two amazing women decked out in black, added a dynamic element to the performance. Grimes always brings amazing performers on stage, and Taiwanese rapper Aristophanes joined for their song, “Scream.” She is definitely someone a force to be reckoned with.
Grimes herself moved her body enthusiastically while performing, contorting her hands during “Flesh Without Blood” and driving her knees to the floor during “Go”. The fun she has is infectious. Before playing “Venus Fly,” a song from Art Angels with Janelle Monàe, she remarked “This is one of my favorite songs to play, if you’re going to dance, now’s the time, but I know it can be hard in the day time.” Daytime certainly didn’t stop the crowd from moving.
One of her other talents is her technical skill, and any difficulties simply showed that it took a lot of moving parts for her performance to come to life. In the beginning, she untangled a microphone from her top in what she called “The most ridiculous wardrobe malfunction ever.” Close to the end of the set, she had to keep checking in about the sound. Despite it being off for some parts, she forged ahead, knowing the songs and the technology so well she sounded flawless and skillful. These many layers and her raw energy are what make seeing Grimes live so visceral.
Photo: Anastasia Velicescu for FYF Fest
While Lady Gaga was walking across the stage during Tame Impala’s set, Kelela was blanketing the Trees stage with her enchanting and intoxicating sound. One audience member described it as “angular and sensual.” The velvet sound of her Hallucinogen EP was brought to life and took flight in a transcendent music experience. Her performance felt intimate and grand at the same time.
Bigger than life on the Mains stage, Kendrick Lamar played his first hometown performance since November 2015. This absence only increased the electric connection between him and the audience. He really brought his all for LA. He didn’t hold back and performed a variety of songs, new and old, radio hits and deeper tracks. He compelled the audience to dance like their lives depended on it, and at times to sway and nod, filled deeply with his sound. He opened to literal bursts of fire with the thundering “untitled 07” from 2016’s “untitled unmastered” as the crowd became a thriving single organism, moving to the beat. Accompanied by an amazing full band and a screen backdrop where political imagery flashed (both pointed and even fun at times), Kendrick’s performance was full and majestic as he rhymed with swagger and skill. There were amazing appearances–Isaiah Rashad came out for “Free Lunch” and Jay Rock reprised his verse on “Money Trees”–but the show was really about Kendrick and his city. After giving a rare festival encore, pairing the jamming hit ”Alright” with ” A.D.H.D.” from his first album, he shouted his love for L.A. and closed out Saturday (except for the night owls swaying to Explosions in the Sky or dancing to the Hot Chip or Moby DJ sets).