Twelve years ago, eighteen-year-old Sean Carlson held the first FYF Fest in Los Angeles. It was a DIY deal: one of the stage locations is amusingly listed on Wikipedia as “the alleyway behind Sea Level Records and Casa De Pablo.” Since then, FYF Fest has exploded into a two-day festival at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Exposition Park, playing host to some of the biggest and best (or just best) names in music.
As we Californians would say, here are 10 acts at FYF that you gotta see, dude:
In 2013, London post-punkers Savages released their debut album Silence Yourself, the most ferocious album of the year (and probably of the two years since); it’s a dark and brooding record, but Silence Yourself has a supercharged energy to it. Their recent live collaboration album with Japanese art-punk band Bo Ningen, titled Words to the Blind, is a good summary of what a Savages performance is like: weird, creepy, anarchic, and thrilling, but most of all, brilliant.
Back in 1997, Spiritualized released a record called Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating Through Space. That album alone is enough to land them a place on this list, yet Spiritualized hasn’t let up over the years. Frontman Jason Pierce and a rotating cast of band members have relentlessly continued making spacey, gorgeous rock songs -- from 2003’s The Complete Works, Vol. 1 to 2012’s Sweet Heart Sweet Light. With a formidable back catalogue and years of performing behind them, it’s hard to see how Spiritualized could deliver anything less than an excellent show. A woozy, hands-waving, lighters-in-the-air show, but an excellent show nonetheless.
If you’ve seen Bloc Party before, you probably don’t need to see Bloc Party again. Over the last seven years, Bloc Party have tried to change a lot and ended up changing very little, as if going backwards to go forwards. This isn’t the best of circumstances for the band, either. In 2015, drummer Pete Tong and bass guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Gordon Moakes parted ways with the band.
But if you haven’t seen Bloc Party before, you have to see them at least once. Bloc Party has always come on like artsier, more cerebral cousins of Arctic Monkeys (although it’s worth noting that Bloc Party came first, with their magnificent 2005 debut Silent Alarm). Frontman Kele Okereke is supremely articulate, and his lyrics range from barbed and icy to poignant and poetic. And if you’re worried that Bloc Party without Moakes and Tong isn’t Bloc Party at all, Okereke’s yelpy voice paired with guitarist Russell Lissack’s jagged fretwork will be enough to create the distinctive Bloc Party sound. I’d put money on it being an emotional performance, too: Bloc Party has always carried around a certain nostalgia, and Silent Alarm, which celebrated its 10th birthday earlier this year, is now old enough to be nostalgic about.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
If you couldn’t guess from the name, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are fucking weird. Hailing from Melbourne, the four-piece band mostly makes trippy-yet-catchy rock music, but every song is bizarrely unique. The sonic palette that makes up a single King Gizzard song is probably larger than what carries some bands through their entire discographies. King Gizzard is also probably the hardest working band on the FYF lineup: since 2011, they’ve released six albums and two EPs on their own label. And bless their Aussie hearts, they’ve even got a song called “Vegemite.”
Alvvays are the Peeps of indie rock - sugary sweet and impossible to stop consuming. On self-titled debut, frontwoman Molly Rankin sings wistful lyrics on top of satisfyingly melodic guitar lines; listening to Alvvays is like finally being able to scratch that itch you could never quite reach. Look forward to beautiful slices of indie pop “Archie, Marry Me” and “The Party Police,” and if we’re lucky, a cover of Kirsty MacColl’s “He’s On The Beach.” They’re the perfect band to sing along to on a Saturday afternoon.
“Metz [ripped, destroyed, shredded, were ferocious]” or some variant of the adjective “berserk” is the caption for nearly every Instagram photo of a Metz show. Metz, from Toronto, are like Bad Brains mixed with Danish punks Iceage - sometimes melodic but always loud as fuck. If you see them you’ll mosh long, and mosh hard.
This may seem like obvious advice, but it bears repeating: Never miss a chance to see Death Grips live. The experimental hip hop group from Sacramento are as fractious as they are brilliant; they’ve broken up and no-showed so many times that every gig might be their last. And they perform that way, too - nothing is left in the reserves. During the show, MC Ride is wild-eyed and oblivious to the outside world, and Zach Hill’s backing drums and synths are so loud that they’re more of an assault on the ears than music. Lackluster isn’t in Death Grips’ vocabulary, so if you’re looking for unchecked madness, Death Grips’ set will deliver.
FKA twigs has the push-genre-to-the-limit mentality of Death Grips, but less of the manic energy. FKA twigs was one of the biggest success stories of 2014 - a former back up dancer, she released the meticulously crafted debut album LP1 to widespread praise. LP1 is sort of trip hop, sort of R&B, and sort of electronic, but at the center of it is twigs’ incredible voice. She knows exactly when to hurl it, when to be breathy, when to pull back, and when to let loose. twigs is also a master show(wo)man - her live set isn’t hyper, but it’s bewitching.
A lot of bands try and go “back to basics,” usually on album four or five, but this can be (paradoxically) difficult to do. How do you strip music down to the minimum but retain maximal meaning? Girlpool, made up of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad, successfully walk the line between simple and profound on recent album Before the World Was Big. It is an album about childhood, and it could’ve been made by children; it is astounding in its musical simplicity. The only two instruments are guitar and bass, and Tucker and Tividad do most of the vocals in unison rather than harmony. Live, Girlpool are captivating - two adults who manage to capture all the emotions of childhood. Alternating between urgent and sweet, Girlpool should not be missed.
Frank Ocean is a huge catch for FYF. The former Odd Future member released one of the most critically and popularly acclaimed albums of the decade with Channel Orange, but live dates have been few and far between. FYF is Ocean’s first major U.S. festival slot since Lollapalooza in 2012, and his first performance since announcing a follow-up to Channel Orange, titled Boys Don’t Cry; this means FYF attendees may be the first audience in the world to hear whatever new music Ocean has in the vaults. A fantastic way to close out the festival.
FYF Fest will be held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena and Exposition Park on August 22nd and 23rd. Single-day tickets are sold out, but two-day general admission and VIP tickets can be found here. Click here for more information about FYF Fest.