[September 14, 2015]
Contributors: Shay Mehr, Amanda Katz, Nkechi Ikem, Kenny Oravetz, Kimmy Tejasindhu, & Samantha Villalobos.
The live music experience is something that palpates, pulses, and sends pure joy through your synapses from your head to your toes. It’s something we at KCSB cannot live without. Recently most of the staff at KCSB trekked out to the city of angels to attend FYF Fest. Needless to say we left with some opinions. Read on to meet some of the staff and learn what they had to say about some of the sets at this year’s FYF Fest. – Shay Mehr [Promotions Director]
Taken by Adrian Discipulo
On a beautiful Saturday afternoon in August I entered the grounds of Fuck Yeah Festival Fest (I am just now realizing that the name in itself is redundant), in the heart of Los Angeles, California. The anticipation in the air was palpable as I approached the first set of the day at the Lawn stage: Kevin Morby. He is also known for his wonderful work in the bands Woods and the Babies. He came out in a cowboy hat and bolo tie, wearing both in a way that felt natural and correct. This is a reaction almost polar opposite of my standard response to cowboy hats. His set proceeded to impress me right from the start. Although the crowd was sparse at this early hour, Morby, and his backing band of a bassist and drummer, played on with such fervor and soul that everyone present was clearly enchanted. The highlight of the set was his long form rendition of “Harlem River”, off of his 2013 album of the same name. This song clocks in at almost ten minutes, and Morby made no effort to abridge it for the presumably short attention spans of the overstimulated millenials that populated the festival. The haunting and undeniably sexy repetition of the line “I don’t know just where I’m going” coupled with the steady rising intensity of the drums throughout the entire song led me to believe we had a major Velvet Underground fan on our hands, a realization that made me giddy. A more fast paced number was “The Ballad of Arlo Jones” which really got the crowd boppin’ around to some folk-ish up tempo rock n roll beats. At one point, he asked the crowd if we were feeling hot, and after a murmured yes in response, he then assured us that “sometimes its good to be hot”. This was a surefire way to titillate an eager crowd of youths, despite the fact that he was most likely referring to the reality that everyone was sweating uncontrollably. Whether referring to the hot guitar licks or the scorching temperature, Morby continued to flow from slow and sultry melodies to rocking our already dusty socks off. This was a welcome jolt to my system to begin a heart thumping weekend, and proved that Morby’s talent was undeniably strong enough to hold his own outside of his popular band Woods. – Amanda Katz [Assistant Program Director]
When I was told I was going to FYF I was also informed I was going to every show that would break my bones. Upon the beginning of METZ’s set I believed it. To call it loud would be an understatement. One of my friends even bailed on account of the volume. This music is something you let go to, particularly to the mosh. It’s abrasive and punchy. Frontman Alex Edkins looks so incredibly friendly and nice that I couldn’t help but think if I met him on the street I would be flabbergasted to learn he played in this band. But on he shreds with his glasses strapped to his head and sweat dripping down his face denying his nice boy charm. “Spit You Out”, “The Swimmer” and “Nervous System” grace our ears making me wish I had not forgotten my earplugs in Santa Barbara. This was a pretty good first dip in the rowdier scene I was about to become enveloped in for the weekend. – Shay Mehr
For the most part, I really dislike electronic music. I admit that I can’t entirely explain my contempt for the increasingly popular genre. But personally, it just seems to lack a certain human element. Seeing it live is ten times worse. Can’t say I enjoy watching someone stand in front a laptop. With that said, I think I did a good job of concealing my true feelings at the festival. For my friends’ sake, I tolerated Toro y Moi, Chet Faker, and about 10 minutes of Kaytranada. The only real exception to my dislike is Goldroom. Their songs are no doubt electronica. But it feels different. And at FYF, it looked different too.
Goldroom completely changed things up by adding live instruments to their set. Technically, only one person is Goldroom and that is Josh Legg. But from what I could see, a keyboardist, a guitarist, a drummer, and a guy with a tambourine had been added. In total, six people were on stage, appearing more like an actual band than a one-man show. All of their tracks seamlessly converted to the new format. With my favorite song “Embrace”, Goldroom brought the experience of an exclusive Euro-dance club to a grassy venue in Los Angeles while still managing to be visually appealing. With all six of them grooving on stage, I and everyone around me danced our hearts out with them. In a way, it helped that they had to compete with Kaytranada due to being scheduled at the exact same time. Although Kay attracted a larger audience, the extra space at Goldroom’s allowed for freer dance moves and better vibes. It was truly golden experience. Feel free to hate that lame description but promise me you’ll give them a chance and see for yourself. Goldroom is organic electronic music that needs to be shared with the world. – Nkechi Ikem [News Director]
If you go to a show to see musicianship you better get yourself to a Savages show. This band, whose name was inspired by The Lord of the Flies, plays extremely tightly like they’re of one body. Clad in all black with a haunting mist of white light and fog surrounding her, Jehnny Beth delivered advice such as, “don’t let the fuckers get you down”. Her slicked back hair and intensity were the point of the arrow that is Savages. Even their manager backstage looked to me like the undertaker. The entire show was an immaculately sinister and eerie blend of formidable music. “I Am Here” and “Husbands” were two really hard hitting songs for me. Their newest album release is just that much more exciting having seen this show. If you missed this set look out for tour dates, you will not be disappointed. Savages is truly a force. – Shay Mehr
Run the Jewels
One of the two sets that were must sees for me at FYF was Run the Jewels. Killer Mike was serendipitously brought together with El-P through the Cartoon Network. His rap career was going relatively rough and Mike was content with his successful chain of barber shops in Atlanta. But bless saturday morning cartoons because this duo is taking the rap game by storm. Beyond that they are the kind of musicians that are good role models. Killer Mike especially has used his newly found fame to spread his enlightening ideaologies.Their show however was nothing like I had hoped. With so many fans I was sardined in and this only got worse when RTJ took the stage. I wasn’t really able to listen or enjoy the music I had spent so many days spinning on the airwaves at KCSB. A girl needs space to dance and move! I did my best and to say the crowd was not completely enthralled would be a big fat lie. As one giant mass we jumped and bounced to the crude and blunt lyrics that are RTJ. The hand and the gun were raised. I would’ve done it again the same way. And I in fact hope to see them again during New Noise festival. Maybe this time I will be more consumed by the lyrics than the atmosphere. – Shay Mehr
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
One of the first sets of Day Two was the Australian fuzz rockers known fondly as King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard. With a name like that, I had high hopes for their set and I was not to be disappointed. Don’t mistake these guys for just another lackluster garage band that hides behind reverb and long hair to get by on minimal originality. There are seven guys on stage, which means two drummers, a harmonica, and at times a flute, yet miraculously they still manage to avoid the typical pitfalls of mayhem that sometimes come with having such a large band. Blasting through electric charged beats, they had the crowd pleasantly moshing from beginning to end– and not the broken collar bone with a side of bloody nose type moshing, more of a high-octane dance pit with a generous helping of good natured shoving. An awesome rendition of “Cellophane” off of their album I’m in Your Mind Fuzz had everyone head banging joyously to high energy acid-dipped guitar riffs. “Hot Wax” also appeared to be a crowd favorite, and the controlled chaos of the song was infectious. These guys were like Tame Impala on some reckless yet magical combination of LSD and amphetamines, minus the bevy of break-up songs (no disrespect to Kevin Parker). Dust was flying in the air and everything felt wonderful. Shouts from the crowd included the well placed “I love vegemite!”, although whether this was meant sincerely is anybody’s guess. One thing I can say sincerely is that King Gizzard was a multi-colored sonic bender that left me breathless with a huge grin on my face. – Amanda Katz
When it began 12 years ago, FYF was, for all intents and purposes, a punk and hardcore festival. Times have changed, and as FYF has become a bastion for hip and alternative music, the punks and moshers have been confined to one stage, the smallest true stage, The Trees. Despite the reduction in size, the energy and furor remains, as evidenced by three excellent sets(Andrew Jackson Jihad, Death Grips and Thee Oh Sees) from day two of the festival, each held at The Trees. – Kenny Oravetz [General Manager]
Andrew Jackson Jihad
I would never claim to be a huge fan of Andrew Jackson Jihad’s recorded music. It’s abrasive, literate folk punk, the sort of music I’d listen to if I was really angry and in the middle of Seattle, maybe. Yet, there’s a uniqueness to their sound that cannot be denied, and live, they showed why they have amassed a large cult following.
Alternating between manically fast, punky tracks and slighter slower, more ballad oriented sounds, AJJ whipped the crowd into a frenzy and then brought them to an attentive standstill. The pit was in constant effect, daytime dust rising under stomping feet even when things went somber. The sing-a-longs came hard and fast, played tightly and sung perfectly by the clearly practiced band. The lo-fi and off-kilter notes of their recorded material was replaced by clear yet angry tones, assisted by the band’s normal sound mixer being in attendance. While recorded the vocals sound abrasive and off key, live, the vocals felt like a perfect fit, culling the audience into yelling along to biting lyrics like “I’m afraid the ones that I love won’t have enough / It’s harder to be yourself than it is to be anybody else” and “In fucking fact Mrs. Robinson / The world won’t care whether you live or die.” The bitter cynicism was celebrated with angsty fists and hollers, an almost joyous acknowledgement of the harsh realities AJJ was putting out into the world, and of the raw excellence of their set. – Kenny Oravetz
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
I was introduced to Unknown Mortal Orchestra through a fellow DJ. I immediately loved their album Mutli-love. Almost every track was dancey, catchy and just fun. Rubean Nielson has a unique raspy electronic sound going on that really stands out. Seeing them on the line up had me excited until I watched a video of them playing live on air that did not seem to go so hot. So I was standing anxiously on the grass when UMO came out, but once they began playing all my fears were vaporized. They sounded exactly as they should and got the crowd bouncing to the groovy pop. Their best song was the last, “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone”, which is pretty relatable in our generation. It had the most bounce and they added a flair to it not seen on the recorded track. It was a really enjoyable set. – Shay Mehr
Tobias Jesso Jr.
Kicking off FYF Day 2 with Tobias Jesso Jr. was the best choice—that is if you enjoy starting off your day with a smile. When eyes caught sight of that iconic bouncing head of perfectly disheveled brown curls, mouths erupted into cheers rivaling those heard for any average boy band. TJJ flashed his charming smile, introduced his wonderful band, took a seat at the keyboard, and looked out into the audience with an expression of unmistakable gratitude.
All throughout the set, he alternated playful band banter with swooning music: egging on his drummer to remove his shirt for the crowd one minute and then launching into a passionate performance of “Crocodile Tears” the next. Basking in the early afternoon sun, the entire crowd sang along and swayed together to well-played favorites like “Without You” and “How Could You Babe.” It was all so picturesque and golden; every song added more to the overall serenity of the atmosphere. If there was ever a moment to look over and lock eyes with your soul mate, it would be at a Tobias Jesso Jr. show. For the grand finale, the spotlight was fully on the band as they delivered a spectacular solo performance that truly exceeded their potential (the brass section, though).
The very next day, Tobias Jesso Jr. would go on to largely grace silver screens nationwide on Jimmy Kimmel Live, but no one will ever be able to forget that amazing intimate 30 minute set beneath the sun rays at FYF 2015. – Kimmy Tejasindhu [Business Coordinator]
Later in the day, the sun set, and death rose. Death Grips took the stage in front of a packed audience, one that pressed forward twice before they began and roared for their grim heroes to take the stage. Three men stood above the raging masses, each a black silhouette against the smoke and dust, backlit with blood-red light that seeped over the audience. As soon as they began playing, with a clash of drums, throbbing and choppy bass, and guttural raps spit at incredibly loud volume, the crowd responded with primal energy. There was not a mosh pit, but rather the entire crowd was a mosh, whipped into a frenzy. Some jumped up and down, some thrashed outward with foot and fist, some shoved, some howled into the sky, and some were crushed under the rolling tide of Death Grips fans, there for both the music and the carnage that came with it. This was not a show for the weak, whose eardrums would be doubly destroyed by elbows and high volumes. I barely comprehended what songs were being played, instead focusing on not dying, on letting out bursts of violent energy when the bass dropped, on chanting war cries as the rapper on stage jumped and growled and the drummer literally destroyed his drumset. A constant cloud of dust, smoke, and sweat hung over the writhing masses as many fled from the stage, but many more remained. Staying with friends was impossible, but then, everyone was a friend of sorts, but also a foe, united in the primal desire to let out warlike energy to manic, industrialized sounds. Those sounds were well performed, to be sure, with tight and quick rapping, on-beat and hard drumming, and unnerving gesticulations and frequencies coming from the man behind the electronics. But seeing Death Grips this time was less about what songs were played as you stood in the back, bobbing your head, and more about getting whipped into a mania in the red-soaked pit, violently celebrating your existence just out of the grip of death. – Kenny Oravetz
Thee Oh Sees
Shortly after Death Grips brought their thrashing set to a ferociously abrupt end, my pit partner and I slithered to the front of The Trees stage as the crowd disbanded so that we would be at the very top of the madness that was to come.
Thee Oh Sees. The Bay area garage-punk rulers were about to rock this festival and we knew it. We impatiently counted down the minutes as we prepared ourselves for the crowd-surfing, mosh-pitting lunacy that was going to be occurring right behind us. Sooner rather than later, we were caught in a cyclone of barricade-grabbing, dust-puffing, utter chaos.
Everything from the droning guitars, double drumming, and multihued stage lighting, these were all mere ingredients for the over all good feelings the crowd and band exchanged under the LA moonlight, dimmed by a veil of punk rocker induced dust fog.
One fifty-minute sandstorm later, ears ringing and arms aching, my accomplice and I victoriously limped towards the medic tent to get some ice for the extra kneecap I had growing on the side of my leg, and while we were at it we stopped by the restroom to wash off some of the layers of dirt we had so lovely attained at the front of John Dwyer and his distortion-filled absurdity that we so happily banged our heads along to. Destructive and sweaty, it was a beautiful embodiment of psychedelic rock music and there was no dull moment for Thee Oh Sees on August 23rd. – Samantha Villalobos [Music Director]
Mac Demarco is everywhere. He plays tons of festivals and was even hosted in UCSB’s very own Hub. So the fact that I had not seen him until that fateful set was a bit unnerving. I had heard a lot about these shows. They involved moshing. And while I hadn’t been to a live show I had heard his record and purchased Salad Days on vinyl even. His music is easy-going and fun. It’s light. I did not understand the moshing. Moshing is fun, but somewhat violent. How did his music lead to that? I was about to find out. It was another one of those sardine crowds, the problem with too many fans. But much like Mac these fans have a mischievous twinkle in their eye. So moshing began and it was a relatively friendly and joyful affair. The end of the show brought a ton of crowd surfing as was apparently customary. Mac himself however did not indulge. I would like to see him again and see what he gets up to at a lower profile show, so until next time Mac. – Shay Mehr
Here are two negative comments about Solange’s performance at FYF: Her set started twenty minutes late. And there were a few problems with the mics in the beginning.
Here’s another comment: It didn’t detract a damn thing from the overall experience because her set was that good.
Twenty extra minutes spent waiting became worth it when the lights finally dimmed and Solange stepped out singing the words to “Don’t Let Me Down.” It helps that Solange just happened to open with my favorite song from her True album. Despite mic issues, Solange captured the eyes and ears of her audience. Not only did she look beautiful in a red jumpsuit with her signature afro hair, but she also hit every note flawlessly. Song after song, from “Losing You” to “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work”, I fell more and more in love with her. Hopefully, she saw me singing every word of every song. In between songs, she interacted with the crowd in a way that made her seem a little more human. What a sight it was to watch Solange reach under her tunic to pull off her bra and throw it backstage. “Free the nipple!” She proclaimed. Was it a formal call to action? Should I have done the same? Perhaps. The crowd also cheered in agreement when Solange announced at the end of her set that she was going to smoke the biggest joint ever. Magical. Not everything was as fun and playful throughout her set however. Solange’s cover of Nina Simone’s “To Be Young, Gifted, and Black” was a well done ode to the black struggle. The cover contrasted with Solange’s mostly funky-pop tunes but even that didn’t stop her from doing the song justice. All and all, Solange is a testament to all the baby siblings that have been overshadowed by their older sisters. I’m the oldest child so I actually wouldn’t know how it feels. But what I am saying is that Solange proves that she is a creative, talented artist with great range that can stand out on her own. If you have any doubts about Solange has a performer, you haven’t seen her live. And you need to. – Nkechi Ikem
Keep it tuned to KCSB FM and logged on to kcsb.org for the latest reviews and music news