My arrival at the Airbnb was short and sweet. It rested on the hills of Echo Park, allowing an eye-opening view of L.A. proper and it’s surrounding neighborhoods. I was just as eager to get here as I was with the festival. No faster than you could say “FYF” I was in an Uber heading to Exposition Park.
I made my way into the park, running as fast I could through the sidewalks and lawns to get to the Trees Stage before Alex G took over. It was only 2:15 PM in the afternoon, but my excitement made it feel like the day was going by much faster.
Alex started off with “Sara”, one of his unreleased deep cuts from his Bandcamp. Although the song is solely him and an acoustic guitar, the band was able to make a better live rendition of the single itself. The crowd immediately was lost and mouthing along:
“she loves me like a dog
and when we mess around
I’ll let her know the truth
I can’t rely on hope with fate”
Alex continued to play more B-Sides- “Snot”, “Kute”, and “Icehead”. The weather was sunny, breezy, and perfect. As we were basking in the cool wind and warm sun, he kept the crowd content and floating with newer tracks from Beach Music and surprisingly played all my favorites. “Kicker” and “Bug” stood out the most for me considering how extremely catchy they can be. You would have no problem easing someone into Alex G with these. The band ended their set with “Guilty”, another amazing single. The day had just started and it was, as the kids would say, “pretty fucking lit”.
Hop Along was one of the performers I was looking forward to seeing this weekend. Frances and the boys came out with no fucks to give. Frances gave the crowd the energy to keep moving. No one was standing still during their upbeat single,”The Knock” even as the weather started to get warmer. The band was heating things up as they continued to rock with “Tibetan Pop Stars”, “Waitress”, and “Powerful Man”. There has never been a dull moment any time I’ve seen Hop Along. Frances, you are a beacon of hope when it comes to live shows.
With the added life from my whiskey, I had no problem getting to the Main Stage to see the talented Vince Staples. As a native from Long Beach, CA, it was truly a sight to see one of my city’s own getting so much love at a festival catering mostly to fans of rock and electronic music. Vince accompanied the afternoon sunset with “Life Me Up” off of his impressive album Summer ’06. Everyone in the crowd had their hands up as Vince was spitting out:
“And we don’t get acknowledged, just thank me for the profit
A prophet just like Moses, if Moses look like Shaka
Zulu, my .44 loaded, I’m aimin’ at Nirvana”
The energy from the Long Beach rapper was steady and in no decline. The crowd didn’t let up either as Vince bounced around giving the people what they came to see. He went through tracks from his 2014 Hell Can Wait EP to Prima Donna, a new single and title of his new project released just days before FYF. The music cut out and Vince thanked the crowd for giving him the energy to keep bouncing.
His DJ then dropped “Norf Norf” and I immediately jumped up. I was in the VIP area of the Main Stage and even those in the small-enclosed area were all celebrating, including myself, in unison. Tiny pits of passion exploded along the guard rails as members of the audience were jumping and moshing. Vince stepped out to high-five and hug everyone- a true son of Long Beach making a glorious exit.
Through the paved streets and sidewalks, I made it to VIP beer garden. My friends were kind enough to buy me some pizza as we all soaked in some rest from the long day. We were going over who was the best so far, although in hindsight it’s hard to make a call like that with another day left. The air-conditioned bathrooms helped us cool off, as did the free vitamin water provided in the beer garden (shout out to Vita Coco). The sun was setting, and one-by-one my friends walked away to see the artists on their list. I ordered another beer and packed another bowl for myself. The night was young.
I found myself again at the Trees Stage- just a five to ten minute walk from the beer garden. My mind and body were rested, and my anticipation to see Kelela was growing. I had only heard her music just months prior to FYF, but she took to my top artists I needed to see despite playing the same time as Tame Impala. As she hit the first note, it was clear everyone at the festival should have been there. Sporting a white onesie outfit, her glowing presence on stage radiated from the black lights. I lost myself as she spared no time getting into “All The Way Down” a seductive, down-tempo tune from Hallucinogen. I moved in closer to get a better look at the stage. Everyone swayed as she played tracks from her previous mix tape Cut 4 me. As Kelela closed her set, she explained this night was her last night in Los Angeles and she was hopping on a plane to move to New York. Although I’m sure this wouldn’t be her last show in L.A., it was a fucking sweet goodbye party.
I ran as fast as I could to the Main Stage’s VIP area. It didn’t matter how out of shape I was. My favorite rapper was on, headlining the biggest music festival in Los Angeles. Compton native Kendrick Lamar took the stage as “Untitled 07” blasted through the speakers while crowd chanted:
“PIMP, PIMP, HOORAY!”
The lights were flashing on stage and police helicopters encompassing the festival grounds only added to the ambience of his set. Kendrick went through old bangers like “Backseat Freestyle”, “Swimming Pools”, and “m.A.A.d. City”, showing love to Schoolboy Q by rapping his verse on the remixes of “ThAt Part” and “Collard Greens”. I have never seen a hip-hop performer play the hits while demanding his presence not be overlooked. The celebrities were plentiful in the VIP area-Nick Kroll, Jason Mantzoukas, Emma Roberts, and her beloved boyfriend Evan Peters were all in attendance to see Kendrick crush it in his hometown.
The hits continued as he went through his catalog – “These Walls”, “Complexion”, “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and he even got Jay Rock to come out and spit his verse during “Money Trees”. The party at the Main Stage was in full effect although the set was coming to a close. Throughout the whole performance I was in a trance. I thought he had gone through an array of amazing songs and the night had made its respectful end, but I was wrong. No less than a minute of leaving the stage, Kendrick came back for an encore, this time with “A.D.H.D”, a deep cut from Section 80 that launched the rapper’s career to “not to be fucked with” status. I lost my mind. The last I saw him perform was at Coachella in 2012 and Good Kid, m.A.A.d City hadn’t released then. I thought I would never hear this song again but lo and behold, Kendrick offered up to his city. He gave a nod to those who had been with him from the start.
I carried myself from the festival grounds to the less jammed area of traffic to grab my Uber back to my Airbnb. My brain, though tired and wanting rest, still carried on. The ringing in my ears was present, and I didn’t mind the lack of music playing from my driver’s car. I absorbed the bright lights of the downtown skyline with quiet reflection. My first night was done and I had one more day. I quickly went through my night routine and fell onto the welcoming bed.
I awoke from one of the best nights of sleep I’ve probably ever had. The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and my headache was magically gone from a day of drinking. I tried to soak up as much time I had with my Airbnb, for such a luxury is rarely enjoyed. After some coffee and breakfast, I ventured off to Exposition Park for another day of dancing, drifting, debauchery and Wild Nothing.
The afternoon just like yesterday’s was great. The weather was cool and the shade underneath the tree was a perfect place to relax as Wild Nothing kicked off their set. Heading straight into “To Know You” off of the newly released album Life of Pause, an energy building track to get anyone walking to stop and dance. Although Jack and the rest of the group were having trouble with tuning after each track due to the sun facing the stage, they were still very much on the nose of keeping it together and sounding great. The boys got into more tracks new and old like “Lady Blue”, “Only Heather”, “Disappear Always”, and “Nocturne”, most of which from the critically acclaimed album Nocturne. Although things started to heat up, the band was patient in dealing with the heat. The music made it much more relaxing to be in and still kept those watching, energized through it all.
As the band were giving their good-byes, they still had one song left to play and for some really fucking awesome reason, it was my favorite track by them. Zack got into full force when he struck the first chords of “Shadow”, the first track off of Nocturne. I was quick to sing along:
“I try to feel something for you
But that’s all that I can do
Give my shadow to you”
I say this about every artist I see, but it’s like they really knew what I wanted to hear. Well, in my dreams anyway. Sunday was starting to kick ass, but I still had eight more hours to go.
Let me start this by saying if you’re not watching Blood Orange at whatever festival you attend, you’re doing it all wrong. Dev Hynes never ceases at putting on amazing shows. With the release of his new album “Freetown Sound”, the guest appearances were abundant. Dev and the band wasted no time with “By Ourselves”. Everything – the drums, bass, keys- was fluid as my friends and I looked out from the beer garden. The party continued as they played on through with more new tracks “Augustine”, “Better Than Me” with appearances by Carly Rae Jepsen and Sky Ferreira with a cover of her “Everything is Embarrassing” and “You’re Not Good Enough” off of Hyne’s first release Cupid Deluxe.
The afternoon was setting up nicely as the band came out of left field with “Chamakay”, my all-time favorite track from Cupid Deluxe, which was not surprisingly well-executed live on stage. Everyone was singing along and swaying to the slow tempo of steel drums and bass. My friends and I continued to drink as we fell into a state of consciousness. Although Dev was on a good one, we would’ve loved to stay longer to finish the set but the boys and I had plans to relive our adolescence.
My friends and I ran to the Trees Stage. My inner fifteen-year-old was screaming because Saves The Day was here. They were gearing up and about to play one of my favorite albums of all time, Stay What You Are. We got as close as we could as others in the crowd were pushing their way to the front. I never thought in my own life I would be able to see Saves The Day, let alone hear one of their best albums being played track-for-track live. Sad boys tears were running down my face.
In a matter of seconds, they came out and grabbed their instruments. Chris Conley addressed the crowd and gave a huge thanks for those who came for the nostalgia. My heart began to stop as they counted off and in a fell swoop everyone sang:
“This song will become the anthem of your underground.
You’re two floors down getting high in the back room.
If I flooded out your house, do you think you’d make it out,
or would you burn up before the water filled your lungs?
And at your funeral I will sing the requiem.”
We all started to put our arms around each other like we were on our last night of summer camp. The whole crowd became an outdoor karaoke and Chris at a couple of points during the set was almost inaudible. I’ve attended a lot of shows and festivals but never have seen a crowd show up with their heart out. It was one of the most beautiful moments in my life, and I was glad all my dear friends were with me.
Completely depleted of energy, I had to grab dinner and enjoy my last sunset of the weekend. I had two more artists to see.
The orange hues from the sun hit the clouds and the night had begun to fall on the park. My two slices of amazing vegan garlic-marinara sauce pizza topped with tomatoes, spinach, and sautéed onions were fulfilling as were my one or three cocktails. The night started to creep in as Mac DeMarco was about to start. My mood was looking up as I reunited with some of my friends. We rolled up a joint or two for the set, and the lights dimmed.
Mac grabbed the microphone and gave his hellos and the boys strutted out . By my surprise, I couldn’t believe Nathan Fielder from “Nathan For You” was playing with the band. Up to this point I had no idea of his musicianship but knowing it was Nathan I figured this would be on the new season of the show.
They started off with “The Way You’d Love Her” off his newest album Another One. The crowd was dancing, smoke was everywhere, and well, it was just a damn good time. Mac is one of those performers who can engage with his audience while still elevating the song’s original passion. It’s always a pleasure being given an opportunity to see him live.
The set continued on with an oldie-but-goodie “Salad Days” off the same titled album, along with an older “Stars Keep On Calling My Name” from Mac DeMarco 2 and “Another One”. By this time, the crowd was in a haze, and one of my friends had told me he’s been doing a Steely Dan cover of “Reelin’ In The Years”. Without any warning, he fucking did the damn thing. It was honestly the best I’ve seen a person troll a crowd with numerous, metal guitar solos. You, sir, definitely have a special place in my heart.
As the set came almost to a close, Mac and the boys got back to business with an old favorite “Ode to Viceroy” and some new ones “Let Her Go” and “Without Me”, both of which are my favorites on his newest album. As a farewell though, he brought out his girlfriend Kiera. He gave a little a speech about her, and they started to slow dance as the band played the first chords of “Still Together”. This man has brought me on a roller-coaster of emotions I never thought you could experience, but there I was. I love you and hate you, Mac DeMarco, for making me feel things.
Here I was, again. After an hour, I made it back to the same stage. With the impending doom of my early class schedule, this would be the last band I would see this weekend and I wanted to be sure I got all of it. Beach House have set the landscape of what an indie pop-rock album should be- emotion, sound, and lyricism. In what seemed like a brief moment, Alex and Victoria paced to the front of the stage. The chords rang out and crash cymbals started to build as they played out “Wild” from their 2012 album Bloom. I felt taken back in age and my youth was starting to show in my skin. The crowd remained in their places with their attention only facing the stage. Everyone seemed to be caught in a tunnel vision, mouthing or singing along as they got into newer tracks like “PPP”, “Space Song” from Depression Cherry.
They picked up and got into some older tracks “Silver Soul”** and “10 Mile Stereo” from 2010’s
Teen Dream. My inner fan-boy was jumping but my body remained collected. “Wishes” and “Elegy” played as I sparked my joint, the last I had rolled for my stay-cation. What I heard next was completely off-guard, and I almost dropped everything in my hand. A crescendo of notes and chords , my favorite song “Myth” was starting to blare through the stage speakers:
“Drifting in and out
You see the road you’re on
It came rolling down your cheek
You say just what you mean
And in between it’s never as it seems”
I felt high. I soaked in these last minutes of my freedom. My eyes were wide open and my ears were at full capacity as the reverberating effect from the drums echoed through me. The music subsided and Victoria gave her farewell while the lights blacked out.
I followed the trail of lights. My body was half-depleted but determined to go home. I wanted to stay to watch LCD Soundsystem but my bed and a full night of sleep seemed much more appealing. I passed by the vendors still cooking alongside the stages with artists playing their sets. Concert-goers were running to see those playing next. It was chaotic and natural at the same time.
I walked a few blocks down to my car parked on USC’s campus. In hindsight, I knew I could have taken the freeway closest to the grounds but I drove through the lights of downtown once more. I reflected on the unconditional love of its diverse community, food, and music. I wasn’t anywhere near my house to feel like I was home.
L.A., I love you and I always will.
**Fun fact: Beach House’s ‘Silver Soul’ was sampled for Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Money Trees’.