The ragtag LA DIY festival that could, FYF, has grown from Sean Carlson’s annual parking lot jamboree to a full-on three-day Goldenvoice-owned monster of great taste and unforgettable performances. This year represented with incredible gets of long-dormant or elusive performers who turned up and turned it out. Thanks again to Sean and all involved with putting on the Fest, as always. Without further ado, here were my favorite sets from the weekend.
FRANK OCEAN’S STAGGERING, UNFORGETTABLE PERFECTIONISM
This is one set everyone in attendance will never forget. It wasn’t just Brad Pitt, or the literally show-stopping perfectionism, or the Spike Jonze-infused real-time video aesthetic. It was all of those things, but it was also a rare glimpse into the psyche of one of our most important performers. Read the full review here.
FLYING LOTUS IN 3-D HAS ALTERED MY EYEBALLS
Electronic music leading light Flying Lotus has been knocking down barriers in so many musical directions for enough years that I guess it was time for him to take on the long-standing gimmick of 3-D visuals. I mean, I saw Avatar, I liked it, 3-D has a place in movies, maybe. But in concerts? I didn’t know it could be like this. FlyLo’s post-midnight homecoming set at FYF was a completely revolutionary visual experience on par with his longtime sonic sorcery. The set included his track with Thundercat (which he predicted will win a Grammy) along with material from across his catalogue, as he stood and bopped from a red-lit cloud-like podium. Meanwhile, the 3-D screens threw laser beams into our faces while Tetris cubes punched out through the air, tentacles swept overhead, embryonic faces paired up to stare at each other and then us, always reflecting some emotional tenor of FlyLo’s polyglot aural stew, always incredibly in sync with the beats he was crafting and manipulating in real time. The most overheard word during this set was “Whoooaaaaaa.” 3-D has been sort of a joke for years, but this was no gimmick. What Flying Lotus achieved on Saturday night was the truth, which is fitting, because the truth is what he is.
ARCA IS THE FUTURE, AVAILABLE FOR VIEWING NOW
There was a time when the Venezuelan born artist known as Arca was referred to merely as a producer. And reductive a title as that is, it’s understandable given the radical scope of Arca’s soundscapes, which fuse experimental electronics with classical and operatic modalities. It’s also a handy tag for his work because he produced half of Björk’s last album. But simply calling Arca a “producer” is now officially inadequate. Arca is an arresting, full-blown performer, whose sexual fluidity in fashion and finesse reflects the amorphous and thrillingly expansive experimentalism of his sounds. During his set he toyed with rap, singing, carnival barking, darkwave, trap, and industrial, while parading around stage as an empowered instigator and barrier-breaking liberator. Arca is the future, available now. Thank G.
BJORK’S TIMELESS GENIUS ON RETROSPECTIVE DISPLAY
FYF’s Main Stage on Friday night was “Queen night”: Later it would be Missy Elliott’s future-sounds explosion, but first it was Björk, joined onstage by Arca on electronics and a full string section all in service of recreating her iconic hits from the past three decades. Beyond the music, the set doubled as a celebration of Björk’s pioneering videos, which displayed overhead while the Icelandic legend owned the stage decked in an ensemble that was like a tri-colored Neapolitan ice-cream slab turned into a airy and ruffled body-wrapping. Arca and Björk shared a champagne toast at the set’s end, which felt fitting — especially since her classic “Hyperballad” closed things down, with fireworks and all the feels. This promotional cycle has been an intense run for Björk since ending her relationship with longtime partner Matthew Barney and releasing an album about plumbing the breakup’s emotional depths, but she’s out here, feeling vibrant, showing us yet another perspective on what fierce femininity can look like.
A TRIBE CALLED QUEST PLAY LAST CALIFORNIA SHOW
The legendary ATCQ have been on an award tour in support of their vital comeback record We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service. The shows have been a celebration of Tribe’s ever-resonant message of empowerment and getting together, and they’ve also operated as tribute to the late, great Phife Dawg, who passed away suddenly in March of 2016. This FYF set was all of those things, and also something more conclusive: Q-Tip announced this would be Tribe’s last California performance, citing Phife’s passing. With his image larger than life above the group throughout the set, and with all mics being dropped onstage when Phife’s verses would go up, the legendary MC is never forgotten — and now his revolutionary group will lay down their mics forever in his honor. Heavy. Thank you, Phife, thank you Tribe.
MISSY ELLIOTT IS SUPA DUPA EVERYTHING
In terms of sheer kinetic energy, playful exuberance and legendary material, nothing beat those first few minutes of Missy Elliott’s set — her first headlining performance on American soil in over a decade! Missy’s set was a sort of coronation of her status in the pantheon of living queens by virtue of the royalty that was in attendance for her grace: Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Solange, and Katy Perry were in attendance and caught on camera thoroughly enjoying themselves. For more, read the full review here.
NINE INCH NAILS ARE BACK, WE ARE BLESSED AND HIGHLY FAVORED
Yes, Trent Reznor’s iconic genre defying project Nine Inch Nails is back, leather-jacketed and perfect on David Lynch’s reboot of Twin Peaks, announcing a trilogy of EPs, unleashing new songs which have spanned from good to revelatory. (I love “She’s Gone” sooooo much.) But this was NIN’s first major show since 2014, and it felt like the work of a road-tested juggernaut. This is because Trent doesn’t know how to execute on any level lower than the most high, but still, let us not take this excellence for granted. NIN’s lineup included Trent’s wife, former West Indian Girl member Mariqueen Mandig, and the outfit’s set included four new songs. They covered Bowie, a dear friend to Trent, they spaced out generational hits “Closer” and “Head Like A Hole,” and they closed with the song that has guaranteed them a seat at the round table of our finest songwriters: “Hurt,” masterfully covered by Johnny Cash, rendered here as a breathtaking goodbye to an incredible festival.