City festivals are always a little tougher on the spirit (and the feet) than their grassy, lets-camp-by-the-lake cousins. FYF may not have Coachella’s lush grass or Bonnaroo’s rowdy camping, but the lineup is always strong, and this year was no exception. Event organizers added a third day this year, a fact I was reminded of often (by people who do not consider three days a cake walk). There were a few disappointments (I could write a dissertation on the length of time Missy Elliot was actually on stage during her set), but the standouts for this fest were mainly classic acts, with a few surprises from up-and-coming stars.
Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals sweat out the small stuff.
The last time I saw Björk, she was performing during the heat of the day at Bonnaroo and I was not digging it; I left the show to find greener grasses. This year, however, my cynicism was short-lived. Backed by an orchestra and dressed in colorful layers of fabric that mimicked the feathers of a male bird, Björk impressed at every turn, her performance visceral and commanding.
A final bow from A Tribe Called Quest.
“This is our final performance here in L.A. as Tribe, obviously because Phife Dawg, our anchor, has been called to another mission,” Q-Tip announced Saturday to the crowd. The remaining members of Tribe (Q-Tip, Jarobi White and Ali Shaheed Muhammad) are in mourning, but their performance was not a dirge – it was a tribute. It was a greatest hits kind of night, with the band rocketing through “Can I Kick It?” “Buggin’ Out” and “Check the Rime” before ending on “We The People.”
Iggy Pop left his shirt at home.
Iggy Pop doesn’t give a shit if you think he looks old. I heard quite a few rumblings about Iggy’s lack of shirt throughout the performance, but honestly, who cares? Iggy Pop obliterated his set. He cocked his hips, he licked his lips, he sidled up to the front of the stage and screamed into the roaring crowd. “Lust For Life” was an obvious highlight. I enjoyed seeing kids hopping up and down on their parents shoulders. A pregnant woman sipping an iced coffee weaved through the crowd, a sideways smile on her face as the music blared. Iggy paused for a moment, a rock legend showin’ his stuff.
Soul searching with Solange
Solange brought the pageantry, the style, and the soul to FYF. “I want y’all to sing it away,” she commanded the crowd, in that fluttery, soft voice of hers. Along with her 8-piece band and dancers, Solange dressed all in red. Choreographed micro-movements throughout the show acted as punctuation marks: a hand flick, a hurried body stopping suddenly, an arched head, gazing up at the sky. A Seat At The Table is an important album for Solange, it marks her maturity as an artist, as 2012’s True marked her maturity as a woman. By the end of the show, Solange brought a fleet of musicians onstage; the set glowed red as the final notes of “Losing You” played. A collective sigh of appreciation fell around me.
Nine Inch Nails confronts the world.
I’ve always been a little intimidated by Nine Inch Nails. When I saw they would be closing out FYF, I wasn’t sure what kind of feeling that would leave me with. After a weekend on the concrete, sipping beer, chilling out to Erykah Badu and Angel Olsen, would I want to check out feeling angry and morose? Trent Reznor said the band had been “hiding out and watching the world go crazy” since they last performed live three years ago. In a world gone mad, it did feel good hearing Trent Reznor scream. The crowd screamed back in unison and a feeling of unity washed over me. The performance was short, intense, ultimately cathartic for all involved.
Our Lyft driver played trance music on ride back to Venice. It was a nice, sleepy way to get home. My mind was full of dancing birds and the lyrics to “Get Ur Freak On.” Unlike Coachella or Bonnaroo, I didn’t leave feeling burnt out; I left FYF Fest feeling refreshed, feeling ready to fight another day.