Summer festival season inches to its 2016 bow, but Los Angeles’ FYF Fest still has something to say. A relatively new addition to the higher levels of the music festival hierarchy, the once-named “F— Yeah Fest” began in the dingy club The Echo with primarily punk acts back in 2004. Now it attracts the likes of Kanye West, D’Angelo, and Phoenix. And at this year’s iteration, which took place Aug. 27-28 in Exposition Park, Kendrick Lamar came home, LCD Soundsystem raged on its comeback tour, and Grace Jones introduced herself to a new generation.
Here are the best things we saw at the two-day party.
Kendrick Lamar shows his hometown love
Two-hundred and 90 days. That’s the time since Kendrick Lamar’s last show in L.A. This weekend, he tasked himself with putting on one fans would remember when he took the stage late Saturday night. “L.A., this will be the livest f—ing show you’ll ever see!” he insisted early in his set. People then shouted lyrics and jumped for 85 minutes straight, proving him right. Lamar ran through a healthy chunk of last year’s To Pimp a Butterfly and 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city joints, as well as a couple from the untitled, unmastered project and his debut album, Section.80. Lamar played two ScHooyboy tracks that feature him — “Collard Greens” and the remix of “That Part.” While the bucket-hat-sporting labelmate didn’t show up, two others from Top Dawg Entertainment did: Isaiah Rashad for his single “Free Lunch,” and the vet Jay Rock for his and Lamar’s “Money Trees.” Before his encore break, Lamar jokingly called out a fan holding a sign seeming to boast their rap abilities. A blistering “For Free” recitation quieted that quest and cemented Lamar as King Kendrick.
Lady Gaga makes a guest appearance at Tame Impala
The Australian rockers already had the crowd hooked after the first notes of Currents opener “Let It Happen” rang out Saturday night. That wasn’t enough for frontman Kevin Parker. “Here’s where s— starts to get real Los Angeles,” he told the crowd mid-set. A roaring “Elephant” rendition awoke any remaining snoozing supporters — as did the drinks Parker sprayed on the audience. The hammering riff of “Eventually” followed and led into a tripped-out jam with the on-stage imagery to match. The group’s meticulously produced records translate wonderfully to giant festival speakers. Even more wonderful? A recent Parker collaborator — Lady Gaga herself — popped on stage as closer “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” fizzled to throw merch into the crowd.
Grace Jones crossed generational boundaries
It took approximately five seconds for the 68-year-old Jamaican pop icon to establish herself as a singular presence: how often does a demonic mask, projected on a big screen, ask folks to party? Jones dug into her well worn catalogue to fill her 75 minutes. With a gymnast pole-dancing, a dozen wardrobe changes that would make Lady Gaga step her game up, and an epic jaunt through the audience atop another performer, Jones won the audience and Sunday night. Take the word of LCD Soundsystem frontman James Murphy. “If you missed Grace Jones, you just f—ed up,” he said during the band’s set, before repeating himself at least two more times. “I don’t care if you finally connected with the person you love the most. You f—ed up.”
LCD Soundsystem’s comeback is still a great dance party
Catching Murphy and Co.’s return has been one of the leading festival storylines since their return at Coachella earlier this year. And though they’re coming to an end of a run that included stops at Lollapalooza, Panorama, and more, there were no signs of fatigue for the New York dance outfit. The epic longform “Yeah” felt every bit as frenetic and spirited as it could possibly be.
Father John Misty is music’s premier troll
Father John Misty has jokes. When the musician, a.k.a. Joshua Tillman, sauntered on stage, he greeted the crowd with a sheepish wave before launching into a series of possible pranks. “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings” was accompanied by an iPad error screen on the background, thought to be a bad glitch. It was later determined to be a joke when the Windows maze screensaver later appeared. “Was it intentional? Was it not intentional?” he posed. “Nobody knows with this guy!” Tillman asked the crowd to welcome Grace Jones to the stage before “learning” she would not pop out. Later, he entered the crowd, snatched someone’s phone, and filmed the end of a song. He had one request for the smartphone’s owner. “Okay, please put it to my [Snapchat] story and the dog filter on that.” To end his set, Tillman went with “The Ideal Husband,” also off last year’s I Love You HoneyBear, which electrified the crowd. The Bonnaroo ’14 graphic flashed onscreen elicited laughs.
Vince Staples’ tight set
Sometimes, the 23-year-old rapper from Long Beach, California — about 20 miles south of the park — can have a slightly antagonistic relationship with the crowd. Staples was locked in and focused Saturday, other than when he spouted a tongue-in-cheek memorial to police before playing the anti-police brutality anthem “Hands Up.” His acclaimed debut, Summertime ’06, was the primary fixture of his set, but tracks off his fresh EP Prima Donna sneaked in. “War Ready,” produced by James Black with an OutKast sample, was incisive and aptly combative.
Grimes beats the technology
Technical problems plagued the art-pop one-woman-act on Saturday evening, not that anyone in the crowd could notice. Grimes remained peppy and upbeat as some of her samples and effects “were f—ed,” as she put it. Playing her 2012 breakout single “Oblivion” would have been difficult, but Grimes just went for it: “I can do it blind,” she insisted. And she did. Grimes — aka Claire Boucher — was self-effacing on stage, couching a faithful “World Princess Pt. II” performance by saying the Art Angels track is a hard song to sing.
Blood Orange and special guest Sky Ferreira
Dev Hynes brought his powerful and soulful new album, Freetown Sound to FYF with a robust backing band and a slew of backup singers. The most surprising one was Sky Ferreira, the indie pop musician from L.A. She sang a few lines from her signature song, “Everything is Embarrassing,” and helped Hynes on “You’re Not Good Enough.”
Julien Baker’s soothing ballads
Baker was first up at The Club, FYF’s most intimate stage, on Sunday. Equipped with only her electric guitar — and no bandmembers — the amiable 20-year-old indie singer held down the faithful crowd with dreamy riffs and a powerful bellow. She knew her tender brand of music isn’t made for the dance club. “The good thing about starting here is your day can only go up,” she joked.