Slow and cripple wins the race. A day before Fuck Yeah Fest … Fest the weekend of Aug. 23-24, my friend managed to sprain her ankle and acquire a pair of crutches that might as well have been diamond encrusted and leafed in gold. Why? Because getting to the front of the lines (I heard) took up to two hours at the entrance, something I was wondrously unconcerned with.
My friend got our group of four in both days within five minutes; no checks, no questions, letting us in through the gate to Vacant-ville Wonderland where you can flail your arms freely under the constellation twinkle with Angel Olsen and make lawn angels with Joanna Gruesome, free to enjoy for a sweet moment the un-peopled smells of your bathed self. Fuck yeah!
Everyone has been talking about what a logistical nightmare the festival was. We — all 40,000 of us — received a consolation email from Sean Carlson apologizing on behalf of the canteen thieves at the front lines, the flash-flooded Metro, the Arena incident on Saturday (I’ll get to that), and essentially admitting defeat by concluding with, “I know a few of you may not have plans to come back but hopefully in the future you will hear about how smooth things have become and will change your mind.”
But after the first day, I became savvy to the horseshoe monkey wrench that shaped the trek from the main stage to the entrance. The hard truth I had to swallow was that there would be no show hopping — too much ground to cover. It just wasn’t worth it (unless you’re the kind of shotgun DJ who changes the song every 30 seconds).
Where you walk is what you get. Or, if you’ve got game, you can beat the design, outrun the dazed mass-Mac crowd at the dead end Main Stage, pass them through the bottleneck forest, swim your way through the sea of swirly-twirly acid droppers and catch most of Thundercat at the front entrance.
Part of why I was floating around having a grand old time was because my line-up picks were not heavily located at the stage in the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Unhindered in guitar band-land, I freely moved above ground, where it was up to me to determine how fast or how close.
Though I happened to win at the logistical crapshoot, I feel the need to honor those who lost. The Arena incident is a touchy subject for a lot of recent FYF vets. Tatiana Gefter of UCSC said the line-up in the Arena on Saturday was the main reason she bought the tickets, a common story. Chet Faker, Todd Terje, Caribou, Four Tet and DJ Harvey. (Ahem, I missed what?)
Here’s what happened: on the electronic edge of the knife, an arena where the FYF booking agents were voraciously kicking-ass, there were a lot of unhappy campers. Clogged like arterial plaque, the Chet Faker hopefuls congregated in furious mobs around the single entrance to the entire Arena Stage: two escalators.
At 5:20p.m. I dipped out of the Arena, leaving a determined Gefter who was ready to cross crutches to get in there. Tip: don’t cry, just dance. I learned then and there, the Arena wasn’t going to jibe for me, so I cut my losses and went to Albert Hammond Jr. and rocked my socks off instead. Post-fest, the bitter bloggers sounded as if they had been robbed of their intrinsic right to Faker. Gefter was so discouraged that she didn’t attempt to go back for Caribou. But according to Speak Volumes Editor Jonny Lipshin, the entrance was reopened in time for Todd Terje.
Rumor has it that an incensed beer vendor told bystanders how it all went down. According to this vendor, FYF’s mythical father, Sean Carlson, was disputing a beer sales percentage previously agreed upon, so the good beer-people refused to sell beer, which one can imagine is a serious problem. The argument heated up near the bottom of the escalators, causing security (who were freaking out) to close the entrance completely. The gridlock lasted throughout Faker’s entire set, while security chased kids out of the stands and twitter exploded.
Lipshin estimated with the vendor that close to a hundred lucky ones populated the “basically empty” arena, one which maxes out for sports events at around 16,000 seated occupants. You do the math: thousands of scrawny scrappy hipsters squeezing to be under the air-conditioned disco ball fantasy — while inside is only a measly hundred? I’ll admit I was a little PTSD and avoided the Arena until Darkside the next day (which blew my mind with the trippy orb tunnel shooting straight out and Dave Harrington killing it on guitar).
Regrets: not dancing to Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks’ Little Fang, not singing louder at Mac Demarco (much to the chagrin of my neighbors just enduring the Main Stage until The Strokes), not lying in the grass during Slowdive, and relinquishing my hold on Ty Segall’s pectorals in order to plunge into the writhen snake-pit to pull my friend off the ground. (Speaking of Mac, was anyone else confused when his talkative bassist, Pierce McGarry, turned to Mac and in a spacey tone asked him if he remembered driving their tour bus off a cliff one time. Mac replied, “Oh yeah, I remember that,” to which McGarry replies, “Yeah… there’s like no way we should have survived that.”)
Successes: spending my last dollars and getting liquored up on a haystack in the beer garden under the swaying blue lights, then infiltrating the gathering Strokes crowd on the left. We slid in among people of our kind. A girl tucked her curls behind her ear to reveal a 12:51 tattoo, and my friend and I had waited a decade to see the band of my formidable youth.
That dog Julian Casablancas kept us waiting for 15 minutes before he rolled in looking haggard and well-lived in. His voice was the same as ever, opening with “Barely Legal”. I felt I could finally seal off my teenage years, complete when they played “Under Control”. They stuck to Room on Fire a lot, and only played one off the new, less beloved album.
When it was all over, I remained where I was, denying the lights and the droning country music to ward us all off. We cut to the side, and from against the fence watched the last entrails of a pleasured crowd head off to battle the Metro. Shuffling my feet, taking in the last images, I overheard story swapping, favorites and frustrations. We sang under our breath, “the end has no end, the end has no end”.
That brings me to my next point: follow your own feet. My friend got us in all good and well, but one fundamental difference in our festival fitness is that I have the agility of a coked-out cheetah comparatively to this poor girl on crutches. I left her and the rest of my group in a nicotine fog and ventured out to seek the many fortunes these two days promised me.
I learned at Outside Lands (yes, me so lucky!) that you’re there for the music, so don’t go to artists you couldn’t give two shits about, trailing after a group of friends just for the company. If you bought the tickets to see your bands, by all that is good and true, go to them! If you don’t, you have secured your heartstrings in a torture rack to be pulled in opposite directions for two days straight.
But few people had to endure these circumstances anyway, because the line up was ridiculous. You really couldn’t go wrong. I read an article pre-fest supposedly pairing down the “top” recommendations. Maybe the writers of that review, who included nearly every artist, were on the same page as whoever decided to tack on the second “Fest” after “Fuck Yeah Fest”, or the La Brea (translation: tar pit) Tar Pits, thinking the more the merrier? There were too many great artists and not enough jet-packs. Also in abundant supply all weekend were the perennial “Fuck yeah” jokes and comments from the performers. But all we could do was echo back our unanimous “fuck yeah’s” because it’s true — everyone was feeling fucking great.
It was the attitude that made everything just fine. Lipshin noted that back in 2012 at L.A. Historic Park they put down mats to keep down the punk-dust. Everyone at the shows I went to was (with the exception of one, Mr. Demarco) down for dirty nostrils because moshing to Against Me! and Ty Segall is more important than breathing.
After all is discussed, errors and grievances are aired, Lipshin, fondly recounting his consecutive years of Fest Fests concluded, “The line-ups blow my shorts off every time.” And ain’t that the truth.
Folks, if you can’t handle a little grit, a fight to get to your musical mecca, than stick to your vinyl. If you allow some wiggle room, ride the wave and are willing to make some compromises, this festival has a lot of potential and already does so much right. Passing by those vendors placed next to the giant inflatable piece-of-poop emoji, those thrifty prints calling out to me, and Frank O’Hara references at the used book swap, brought the funky boulevard backdrop of our DIY pastime. Last tip: BYOB. Racking up an alcohol bill to match the cost of your two-day pass is shameful. (I’m not admitting to anything here.) Until 2015 FYF! Hope you get it right-er next year.
This story appeared on page 10 of Thursday, September 25, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.