FYF Fest 2010: Sleep Are Reawakened, Growlers Are Scary-Good, Titus Andronicus Prove Weak

There’s no shortage of gripes being voiced in the aftermath of yesterday’s FYF Fest 2010 at Los Angeles’ Historic State Park. From a poorly coordinated ticket system that found many attendees waiting in the wrong line(s) for way too much time to even more enraging queues for water and other human necessities to unmarked stages to rearranged set times, it’s inexcusable that such predictable problems still haven’t been resolved seven years into the life of the event.

But those who went owe it to founder Sean Carlson and his tubular team to see the forest for the trees – even if there aren’t many of them at said park. For an early-bird-ticket price of just $24.25 – all fees included – an intrepid music lover could catch full sets by at least a dozen worthy bands, or partial performances by even more. That included indie royalty like Panda Bear, the Rapture, Ariel Pink, Cold Cave, !!!, Ted Leo and Mountain Goats. Top it all off with a smattering of bargain-priced pre-shows and after-parties – including a scorching free set by Saviours at the nearby Mountain Bar – and it’s hard to justify all the moaning and groaning.

With that in mind, here’s a list of pithy notes, presented more or less in chronological order of when the bands in question performed:

While you were stuck in line: Memphis’ the Magic Kids opened the day on a loving note but would’ve gotten more love in return with a later time slot. They seem to represent where indie rock seems to be at these days: unabashedly cheery and unapologetically geeky.

Lazy Saturday: The “I’m so lazy” refrain sputtered out by Let’s Wrestle frontman Wesley Patrick Gonzalez summed up the Londoners’ half-assed, uninteresting approach to performing.

Where, oh where, has the buzz gone?: Abe Vigoda singer Juan Velazquez has a hell of a voice. They’re young. They have fans. And they were probably the most gracious band of the day. But tragically, their set was met with a whimper.

Most underrated band of the day: The Growlers. With one of the most devoted fanbases at the fest, the Costa Mesa sextet marveled the uninitiated. They were as entrancing as dancing skeletons on el Día de los Muertos – and they dressed like them too. They didn’t play a set; they conducted a séance.

Best L.A. lyric: Even if the day’s weather was the exact opposite, it was Brooks Neilson’s line, “I dreamed it rained and nobody complained.” The city should find somewhere to put that in cement – or suffer being on the wrong end of the Growlers singer’s ‘tude.

Wow, young sing: ‘Twas hard to overlook the fact that virtually every young hometown band – from the Growlers to Abe Vigoda to Warpaint to Best Coast – treats singing as a valuable commodity, whereas many of those from other places screamed or squawked.

Wait, you’re not a metal band?: You woulda thunk it from the looks of the three wiry long-haireds in the Cults. But instead, they’re going for more of a ’70s-soul thing – with frontwoman Madeline Follin as an aspiring Diana Ross.

You snooze, they lose: Vetiver’s drowsy folk won over just about no one, and they didn’t have the early set time to blame. The FYF Fest simply isn’t the right event for such an “adult” band – and the organizers probably should’ve known better, as Lucero got a similar reception last year.

Shredder of the day: No contest – Screaming Females’ Marissa Paternoster. The antisocial frontwoman was one of the day’s worst banterers, but no matter: When she let her guitar do the talking, everyone was gaping. Corin Tucker must be proud.

Most amusing sight of the day: Sprinting punks in black jeans. In the sweltering heat, they had to bolt from Davila 666’s mediocre set all the way across the field to catch the headache that was Ceremony. But justice was served when one young offender appeared to safely outrun two obese security guards.

Don’t call it “The Oh See.”: The onstage party/ruckus that was Thee Oh Sees reminded everyone that songs don’t have to be three-and-a-half minutes long, as they seemed to be throughout the day until the San Franciscans’ set.

Best time slot: Best Coast’s. There’s no better time or place to lap up Bethany Cosentino’s sincere strummings than at 4 p.m., amid the blinding desert sun.

Worst time slot: Warpaint’s. If only they could’ve swapped with Local Natives and cracked open their mystical melodies right around 7 p.m., maybe everyone would’ve been more into their performance. But instead of easing the crowd into the night, their sultry sounds were bled out by the heat.

Most overrated band of the day: Titus Andronicus. They were a top priority, with gobs of people streaming past A.A. Bondy to see them, but the turnstile was moving as swiftly in the other direction as their first three, melody-free songs landed with a thud. By the end of their raucous, Pogues-y set, TA had redeemed themselves somewhat – but by then too many people had already dispersed.

The tide turns: Last year’s performance by Wavves was one of the festival highlights – but in retrospect, drummer Zach Hill might’ve been largely to thank for that. This year, massive sound problems, unfunny banter and other procrastinations repulsed the bulk of the crowd. Meltdown-prone frontman Nathan Williams called it right when he admitted, “We’re wasting all these people’s fucking time.”

Evening chill: Ariel Pink – the most fashionable band of the day – ushered in the night with a groovy set pockmarked with bursts of guitar rock. And the masses didn’t miss it, with throngs giving the ever-evolving Los Angeles project its due respect.

Most divisive band: Dead Man’s Bones. The majority-female fans who were into them were really into them, screaming and swooning between songs – but one wonders if actor Ryan Gosling’s dreaminess was largely to thank for that. A choir of children dressed as Abe Lincoln, Santa Claus and other characters was front and center for the band’s set, perhaps a mask for what seemed to be disposable, pretentious songs.

Dressed for the occasion: At least three guys wore sailor’s hats, presumably in costume for the Man Man entertainment – and there was no shortage of animal outfits, either.

Crossover (un)appeal: While Sleep would later attract a cross-cut of metalheads, indie-rockers and – an even bigger shocker, women – the punk bands (7Seconds, Unbroken) and electronic acts (Washed Out, Cold Cave) drew almost only their respective genre devotees.

Worst technical fiasco: While Wavves’ bass-guitar problems rankled their set, Cold Cave’s malfunctioning visuals screen was a bigger detriment to what would otherwise have been a captivating show. Instead, the electro-lords played the first few songs in the dark, an irritant only outdone by Wesley Eisold’s deafening noise assault toward the end.

Best performance: Sleep – look no further than the fact that fans were actually moshing and crowd-surfing to one of the slowest heavy-metal bands ever created. Despite the Guinness-worthy amount of pot smoke in the air, it was their unforgettable performance and not lethargy that kept the audience planted for the entire set.

Craziest crowd: Oddly, it wasn’t at the FYF Fest itself – it was at the Mountain Bar, where the City of Devils/ Ovrcast-sponsored post-party featuring Saviours took place. With a crowd of only about 75 people packed into the upstairs space, one drunk-o got hauled out during double-opener Bastard’s set, while another guy smartly decided to clock three security guards at once toward the end.

Someone call Lemmy: He’d be proud upon seeing Bastard, a teenage speed-metal trio who drew thunderous applause from the metal cognoscenti and closed with a cover of “Ace of Spades.”

Sexiest singer: Huntress’ Tuesdae, who could give Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow a run for her money.

We coulda used ya: Saviours ruled the Mountain Bar but would’ve come in handy at the FYF Fest itself, where Sleep were the sole metal reps.

Best fashion trend: Geek chic. Irony aside, a sea of kids wearing colorful beach clothes is the best way to silence snipers who argue L.A. has no personality. Runner-up: the inspiring lack of mustaches. That trend might already be going away. Fingers crossed.

Worst fashion trend: The return of the rat-tail. There were at least two. Seeing the Mohawk again is refreshing. The Bobby Brown-style shaved lines can be passable. But enough is enough. Runner-up: the plethora of poorly designed – and poorly conceived – tattoos.

The verdict: The lineup, performances and overall experience weren’t as strong as last year’s, but the modest ticket prices and patient crowd made the FYF Fest worthwhile.

More concert reviews.

One Response to “FYF Fest 2010: Sleep Are Reawakened, Growlers Are Scary-Good, Titus Andronicus Prove Weak”

  1. Funny and entertaining review of the fest. It’s very refreshing to hear some critiques of bands that didn’t perform well. Most bloggers are so concerned with kissing butt that they fail to provide honest criticism, so koudos to your honesty.
    And I think we can all agree that the rat tail must die (again)! 😉

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