Having started as a free one-day show at a small venue in Echo Park in 2004, FYF Fest (a.k.a. Fuck Yeah Fest) has blossomed into Los Angeles’ most beloved and anticipated music festival. With over 70 artists lined up for the three-day festival, FYF’s mass appeal brings music heads from every different walk of life together for an unforgettable bonanza of movement, drama, love, and the unexpected.
Taking place at Exposition Park, the festival is beautifully—and conveniently—laid out in a circular pattern around The Memorial Coliseum, leaving no room for one to become disoriented. The on-site staff was lax and friendly and the fluidity between the festival’s five different stages is truly unrivaled. Spacious and manageable with no overlap of sound between stages and a wide-net of acts which welcomes the most musically indifferent top 40 lovers and die hard techno snobs together into the fold. However, when it comes to the latter, the smorgasbord of electronic music offered at FYF this year has to be the most jaw dropping since the festival's inception. The upward trajectory of Los Angeles’ house and techno scene over the past few years has been staggering and the widespread demand for high caliber acts made for a standout festival weekend here in the City of Angels.
We started off our three-day run with a stunning performance from Bjork on the Main Stage. Sporting a vibrant 3-D outfit, she belted out her set list while footage of beautiful insects and birds of paradise played on the screen behind her. An absolute highlight of the performance was her rendition of "Joga" from her 1997 album, Homogenic. Each song left the crowd motionless and agog, followed by laughter and smiles after she let out a high pitched “thank you” after each track. It was not till later that we realized Alejandro Ghersi (a.k.a. Arca) was on stage with Bjork performing as her DJ/keyboard player.
Next, we made our way to the Outer Space stage to see the throbbing and kinetic UK duo Paranoid London. Playing to an intimate crowd at the festival’s smallest venue, the stripped-back live set was heavy, motivating, and hyper. While one-half of the duo would masterfully contort the sounds of his TR-808 ever so slightly, the other half would yell his off the cuff vocal turns into the microphone. While reiterating the vocals for tracks such as “Eating Glue,” he would further ignite the crowd by shouting out phrases like “fuck fascists,” “fight the power,” and “Los Angeles, without you there is nothing," which was answered by the roaring sound of approval from everyone in attendance.
John Talabot held things down at The Woods stage, offering up an onslaught of worldly minimal grooves until it was time to venture off to see Flying Lotus’ performance. No stranger to pushing boundaries, Flying Lotus accumulated a great deal of buzz and peaked people’s curiosity by making his show a “3-D experience.” Directly after Missy Elliot’s performance, swarms of people donned their 3D glasses and pushed their way towards The Lawn stage. The entire experience was extremely underwhelming, and despite Flying Lotus’ considerable talent as a showman and producer, the 3-D shtick detracted from the audience’s overall energy. This made for a somewhat stale performance that felt more like a promotion for the artist's directorial debut, Kuso, rather than a true Flying Lotus musical performance.
Disappointed, we sprinted over to the Outer Space stage in order to catch the last bit of Helena Hauff. A true mistress of dark techno, Hauff exceeded all expectations with an absolutely evil selection of tracks, my favorite being “Evacuation Order” by Bytecon. While my enjoyment of this set was cut short due to the festival ending, the SF and LA-based party series Lights Down Low came to our rescue with a stellar after-hours featuring both DJ Stingray and Helena Hauff. As night turned into day, we ventured home for a few hours of sleep, eager to jump head first into day two.
Arriving at the festival around 5 p.m. on day two, the first order of business was to rush over to The Woods stage to witness Fatima Yamaha enamor us with his nifty keyboard work. The Dutch producer's whimsical and chipper music set the pace for the rest of the day: armed with his contagious smile, the artist brilliantly jammed out to the futuristic neo-funk track “Love Invaders,” mesmerized the audience with his breakthrough single “What’s a Girl to Do,” and ended with an explosive rendition of “Ayra” from his latest EP on Dekmantel.
Next to the stage was Motor City Drum Ensemble. It probably doesn't come as a surprise, but we unanimously decided that his two-and-a-half hours on stage was hands down the most enjoyable act of the festival. The master selector flawlessly transitioned from pockets of disco into intense moments of acid and back into an incursion of unrestrained funk. It is hard to find a more versatile DJ who delivers his sets with such flawless precision. Some crowd favorites were tracks such as “Dancing Into the Stars” by Logg, “Reason for the Reason” by Samuel Jonathan Johnson, and “Closing Shot” by Lindstrom.
Our next stop was The Club to see Arca perform with visual artist Jesse Kanda. While I’ve always found Arca’s music to be both jarring and gratifying, his live performance left something to be desired. The music portion of the show was operatic, scattered, and perhaps overly esoteric. On top of this, there was a portion of the visual set that was so vulgar and grotesque that it left a bad taste in my mouth—this may have been the point, however. Footage of a cow birth, massive leeches, malnourished dogs, and frostbite was greeted by audible “ewww’s” and “noooo’s” from the crowd. It was hard to watch and something I won't be able to unsee.
DJ Harvey, Horsemeat Disco, and Young Marco held things down at the Outer Space stage for the entirety of day two. A consistently reliable source of music, DJ Harvey and his rock star aura quickly wiped away the twisted images seared into my brain after Arca. For most of the festival, Outer Space was a reliable safety net that you could retreat to if you felt like spreading out and moving your feet—and it was greatly appreciated by all.
Nicolas Jaar’s live set was next. Playing on the grassy and spacious Lawn stage, the maestro appeared on stage shrouded in smoke as he started melodically muttering into the mic “What’s free with this world in a cage.” Starting in his usual mellow and ethereal fashion, you could sense the crowd's pungent anticipation—they wanted to dance, and everyone there knew the man is more than capable of making that happen. After a crawling yet also alluring 20-minute jaunt, the first kick of the performance is heard and the motionless crowd quickly turned into a tempest of moving bodies. The highlight of his performance was a massive rendition of his single “Fight,” released last year on R&S Records.
As the festival concluded on day two, we tried to find the energy for the next party but our exhaustion managed to get the better of us. With things going the way they were going, we were positive that day three would be just as high-octane as the previous two and some well-deserved rest was in order.
Day three kicked off with a very pleasant surprise. We show up around 4 p.m. to a notification on the nifty FYF festival app that Avalon Emerson was playing a surprise b2b with respected LA locals Jen Ferrer and Cooper Saver. Having missed her performance the day before, we were overjoyed by this news and quickly rushed over. The set was seamless and relaxed with no clear agenda in sight. The tunes were familiar and fun, playing out songs like Underworld’s “Born Slippy” (a track we heard multiple times over the three days at the festival), and it was clear everyone was pleased with how things played out.
Next stop was Little Dragon. The Swedish Group’s electronic tunes are effortlessly enjoyable and bound to draw in large crowds. Draped in red, lead singer Yukimi Nagano’s silky voice left a sizable impression during "Ritual Union," but we, unfortunately, could not stick around for too long due to the approachment of Omar S’ set over at The Woods.
Wearing a pink polo and his signature bucket hat, the Detroit stalwart dove in head first with a soulful and retro selection of tracks. Serving up a feast of 90’s New York house, the crowd happily embraced the blitz of frantic piano riffs and repetitive grooves. The tasteful assortment was only further amplified when playing out his own tracks, such as “S.E.X (feat. LaRenee)” and “Hit it Bubba (I Want My Dadda’s Rekids).”
In addition to the surprise set from Avalon Emerson, The Black Madonna and Tiga decided to shock us all with yet another surprise b2b before Tiga took the stage at The Woods for his regular slot. Similar to Emerson, Ferrer, and Saver, the setting was spacious, relaxed, and familiar, getting massive crowd reactions from tracks like “Poison Lips” by Vitalic.
When it was time for Tiga to take the stage for his regular slot, his vibe changed drastically. The track selection turned heavy and nefarious as the crowd exchanged wide-eyed glances with one-another, feeling each transition from their gut to their toes. His performance was an overall stunning exercise in mixing and deserves some major kudos.
The last show of the night came from Talabomen. At the start of their set, Axel Boman and John Talabot took their time, crafting a mysterious and waning tribal outpour of tunes. As the last hour of FYF fizzled out and people migrated from all corners of the park to catch them play out the last few minutes of the festival, the set grew larger and dancier with odes to Michael Jackson and more Underworld remixes. Knee deep in the dance floor with everyone around us giving it their all, the show ended in what seemed like an abrupt manner and it was time to go home.
FYF 2017 was hands down one of the friendliest and least taxing festivals I’ve ever attended. This on top of the wicked selection of music that presented itself to us during our three-day adventure makes it an undeniable 9/10 experience. This may very well be one of the best lineups to ever come to Los Angeles and we can’t wait to see what next year has in store.