Jonathan Richman at FYF Fest. (Emma McIntyre / Getty Images / FYF) Fans await the opportunity to buy Frank Ocean merchandise.
The House of Vans store was one of a handful of pop-up shops that brought exclusive goodies — and, more importantly, amid Saturday’s scorching temperatures, cool relief — to attendees to the FYF Fest at Exposition Park.
Tucked inside an air conditioned tent behind the Club stage on the far southern end of the festival grounds, the lounge was fostering both creativity and relaxation.
Guests curled up and napped on lush bean bag chairs and a large projector screen beamed skate films curated by Thrasher Magazine.
Nearby, a half dozen work stations staged DIY craft projects. People scrapbooked, made bracelets and painted fanny packs — one of three giveaway items fans lined up to score.
At the FYF outpost of Long Beach’s Fingerprints Music, fans awaited signing sessions with festival performers the Drums and Homeshake.
But the biggest draw was the Blonded tent, which boasted limited items from the night’s headliner, Frank Ocean.
There were hundreds of fans queued in a line that stretched far beyond the white tent.
Fans tried bartering with people ahead of them as everyone tried getting their hands on the custom-made T-shirts featuring the singer’s likeness being pressed inside.
Rachel Goswell of Slowdive at FYF Fest.
Not even two songs into Slowdive’s performance at FYF Fest on Friday, a distinctly “Californian scent,” shall we say, wafted over the crowd: smoke from both pot and palo santo.
“It smells quite green, if you know what I mean,” singer-guitarist Rachel Goswell noted.
Sweet and heady, it was a lot like the music emanating from the stage as white strobe lights swirled overhead.
After a 20-year hiatus in which admiration for the English shoegaze band only grew, Slowdive is touring behind a terrific new self-titled album. And FYF, which the band first played in 2014, proved that the five-piece, even after all these years, has neither a speck of age nor an ounce of fat on it.
“More reverb!” someone called out early on, perhaps a cheeky acknowledgment that the band was already drowning in gauzy effects.
“More reverb? Is there ever enough?” Goswell shot back.
Well, in this case, yes. Her ghostly vocals, along with those of powerhouse guitarist Neil Halstead, often evaporated before they ever made an impression. Mystique has always been part of the band’s allure, but at FYF, the sound mix should have been much sharper.
Otherwise, Slowdive was in peak form, interspersing new tracks (“Slomo,” “Star Roving”) with classics (“Catch the Breeze,” “When the Sun Hits”) that rippled over a swaying sea of fans with eyes shut and heads bobbing. They were on a different plane – pot and palo santo weren’t even needed.
MORE from FYF:
Missy Elliott is all smiles on the Main Stage at FYF Fest at Exposition Park.
Twenty-five minutes into her headlining set on Friday’s opening night of FYF Fest, Missy Elliott had a request to the packed audience — a demand, actually.
“Put your phone down. Put it down for one record,” Elliott ordered.
Already by this point Elliott had literally danced herself out of one of her shoes, and her in-ear monitors had forsaken her, but she came with a mission for her first full-length performance in the U.S. in about a decade: “To make sure everybody in the building jump[s].”
She was introducing “Get Ur Freak On,” one of the litany of era-defining entries in her lengthy catalog of wildly imaginative hits anchored in sticky hooks and exuberant beats. All of them always came paired with a quirky, left-of-center video (if you remember this particular clip, it was the one in which she dangled from a chandelier).
She wanted the crowd at Exposition Park completely lost in the music — the way we are in the car or the club or the gym. And she commanded her DJ to repeat the song’s famous opening line — "Head banga, hit me" — to make her point.
And that’s how she spent much of Friday’s set, relentlessly hitting an audience over the head with song after song. It helped that she had attracted a massive crowd that came ready to dance early into Saturday morning.
Elliott tore through a dizzying selection of her slickest work — cocky anthem “She’s A Bitch,” saucy romp “One Minute Man” and the frenetic “I’m Really Hot” — while making time for deep cuts, rarely performed entries and fan favorites in her hourlong set.
Dressed in ripped, white jeans and a white jacket adorned with seemingly thousands of crystals, Elliott wasn’t about festival frills — there were no special guests and no trippy production during her set.
Still, she did arrive and depart via a box outlined in pink neon — a magical time capsule, perhaps? Or maybe a teleportation device? Nevertheless, it only added to her mysterious and reclusive nature, especially when the show ended and an Elliott marionette was left in her absence.
Backed throughout by a cadre of dancers, Elliott tackled an impressive assortment of her 20-year deep catalog in the night’s most attended set. Beyoncé, Solange, Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Bjork and Tyler the Creator were some of Elliott’s famous fans spotted in the crowd.
Nearly a dozen years have passed since Elliott last released an album, but this wasn’t a nostalgia play. Music this otherworldly and imaginative doesn’t belong to any particular era.
"The music we created was so ahead, it couldn’t be dated," she waxed in a video interlude that traced her achievements.
Indeed, “Pass That Dutch” is as potent a dance anthem in 2017 as it was 14 years ago, “Hot Boyz” and “All in My Grill” pairs nicely with the bass rattling, trap R&B being spun now and the futuristic bounce of her breakout single, “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly),” still sticks — all of which the crowd chanted in unison without missing a beat.
And despite Elliott’s orders, many tried to balance cellphone snaps with feverish dancing.
MORE from FYF:
Angel Olsen appears on the Lawn Stage at FYF Fest.
Angel Olsen’s voice — with its bewitching sweep one minute and jagged edges the next — was tailor-made for a festival setting. It’s the kind of instrument that fills the air and lures in even those who have no idea who she is.
At sundown Friday, FYF Fest’s opening day, the North Carolina-based singer-songwriter was holding court with an intense set that answered the never-asked question, “What would happen if Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris had brought PJ Harvey instead of Linda Ronstadt into that fabled trio?”
Since surfacing with 2012’s “Half Way Home,” Olsen has evolved into an arresting live performer, slippery with her notes and occasionally aloof in her banter but blunt in how she relays the emotion of her songs.
At FYF, her five-piece band, sharp in their matching charcoal suits and Western ties, built a wall of clanging sounds behind her. In particular, Heather McEntire on harmonies and keys (and on loan from the band Mount Moriah) locked into a trance with Olsen, the wailing Phil to Olsen’s Don Everly.
And yet Olsen cut right through the cacophony, commanding her bandmates as they transitioned from the onslaught of “Not Gonna Kill You” (from last year’s acclaimed “My Woman”) into the slow burn of “Acrobat.” They stripped that early fan favorite of its … well, its vocal acrobatics, instead turning it into an incantation.
Olsen capped her hourlong performance with “Woman,” another new song, sending the audience into the night with a final challenge: “I dare you to understand / What makes me a woman.”
MORE from FYF:
Flying Lotus performs at FYF Fest.
It would be hard for Flying Lotus to make anything as terrifyingly visceral on a stage as he did in his movie "Kuso." That film almost defies description in its litany of body horrors. But he did his best to reach out and mangle audience’s minds during his night-closing set at FYF Fest on Friday.
When FYF-goers opened their ticket packages, a pair of FlyLo-branded 3-D goggles suggested that the Los Angeles-based producer had something big in store. For an artist whose musical work is always inseparable from his visual identity, this was a natural next step.
But the show was a testament to his increasing ambitions as an all-around artist — and the ambitions of FYF Fest to push its talent to create bigger, bolder sets.
With the glasses on, the audience saw laser fans sweeping out overhead like a false ceiling. Sleek digital objects popped out of nowhere to tower over his gear rig. Fields of stars blossomed behind him, making it look like Lotus was performing before infinite depths.
The music was dancier and clubbier than usual, as if he knew that the retina-bending setup required some kick-drum grounding. But L.A. is lucky to have an artist who never ceases to push his talents into strange new realms like this.
Meanwhile, a little earlier, Anderson .Paak gave FYF fans whiplash, as anyone who walked by his set had no choice but to watch, gape-jawed, as his played Sheila E.-worthy drums while rapping, singing, bandleading and utterly commanding his stage. His is a once-in-a-generation talent, and after years of struggle he’s finally playing the kinds of stages where he belongs.
Lotus’ pal Hannibal Buress played the night’s lone big-stage comedy set, and it was just as giddily unnerving. He talked through a Bon Iver-style vocal harmonizer, lamented that he didn’t have a trademark terminal disease of his own ("Alzheimer’s, Hodgkins’, Buress’ disease.") and imagined the gory details of his own funeral. Maybe contemporary American politics has led our artists and comedians to go ahead and assume the worst is inevitable. At least they’re trying to wring some life out of it all.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
Nature met technology in Bjork’s performance Friday night at FYF Fest, which had the Icelandic singer flexing her remarkable voice — a one-of-a-kind marvel no algorithm could devise — against a backing of live strings and clattering machine beats.
Wearing a lime-green face mask and a dress that made her look like a living party streamer, Bjork sang material from throughout her expansive catalog — including hits like "Joga" and "Bachelorette" as well as material from her 2015 album "Vulnicura" — while behind her, a giant video screen showed images of birds dancing and a moth laying eggs.
Occasionally, Arca, the Venezuelan producer with whom Bjork made "Vulnicura," would unload a fusillade of harsh digital noise. But then the singer would reach for a high note and remind you of the flesh and blood onstage and in her songs.
Fans at the entrance of the three-day FYF Fest on Friday afternoon.
"Thank you, FYF, for letting us play your open mic night," Beach Fossils frontman Dustin Payseur joked late into his band’s set at FYF Fest on Friday afternoon.
It was a lighthearted acknowledgment of the challenge that awaits acts facing the tough task of opening a multiday festival.
And in the case of the Brooklyn indie rockers, it meant playing to a crowded, but mostly idle, audience.
When gates for the Goldenvoice-produced event opened — this year marks the first time FYF Fest has expanded to three days — early birds had it relatively easy. Whether it was the heat or the rush-hour start time, this was the smoothest entry we’ve ever had in getting into an FYF Fest, which is spread over six stages. Gone, for instance, were the multi-hour waits to reach the Exposition Park grounds.
What’s more, the sounds of a saxophone player sheepishly moving through a cover of Drake’s "Passionfruit" set the tone for a relatively chill first few hours at FYF.
Inside, many sought refuge as the sun stung most of the festival’s acreage — for many that meant lounging under trees or taking selfies in front of art installations such as a giant replica of a boombox.
At the Lawn Stage, Beach Fossils delivered a peppy set, and elsewhere, the freewheeling hip-hop-inflected jazz of BadBadNotGood enraptured what was the largest crowd we noticed early into the day.
People danced under trees and stretched out on blankets as the tail end of magic hour brought a much-needed breeze.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)
I’m fully aware of where I started, and that is Disney Channel. They’re what gave me everything, in a way. And I love my fans. They mean the absolute world to me. So whenever I make my music or go with my clothing line or pick roles, it’s all about making sure that they can go see it.