The 2016 FYF Awards

Peter Holslin examines the highlights of the 2016 FYF Festival held last weekend in LA's Exposition Park.
By    August 30, 2016
Kendrick Lamar
Photo by Peter Holslin

Peter Holslin still wants that lobster quesadilla. 

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but FYF was a full body experience for me this year. After two days in the trenches at Exposition Park, my body was aching and my ears were ringing. I almost fell asleep at the computer while trying to get work done today. And that’s how it should be, really, because while every two-bit promoter and his mother is putting on a music festival nowadays, none in L.A. were able to match FYF’s chill vibes and incomparable lineup. Here’s a breakdown of the best and worst of the event formerly known as “Fuck Yeah Fest.”

Dopest Use of Cowbell: LCD Soundsystem

LCD Soundsystem at Main Stage by Laura June Kirsch for FYF Fest
LCD Soundsystem at Main Stage by Laura June Kirsch for FYF Fest

Seeing LCD Soundsystem live is something every music lover should do in their lifetime. James Murphy is basically our generation’s David Byrne, and as the band threw down in their headlining set on Sunday night, a tsunami of melancholy and hope and sadness and sweetness and love washed over. On the edge of the crowd, I saw people spontaneously break out into fits of dancing. During the band’s performance of “Yeah,” hypnosis truly set in. The drums were driving. The bass synth came in and it reminded me of that satisfying feeling you get when you dig into fresh, mineral-rich soil. Then there was the cowbell. Drummer Pat Mahoney was riding that thing, working it, making love to it — tap-tap-tapping it, over and over and over, with an oh-so-delicate touch. We could all learn a thing or two from the way that man played his cowbell.

Most Snapchattable Post-Adolescents: Rae Sremmurd

Rae Sremmurd at Trees Stage by Jose Negrete for FYF Fest
Rae Sremmurd at Trees Stage by Jose Negrete for FYF Fest

“How loud can you scream for my motherfucking Snapchat???” Swae or Lee barked out at the Trees Stage on Sunday night, a paean to the values of turning up. Mike Will’s beats blasted cannon-like and the ATL duo ordered everybody to get their cameras out, and so we did. Videos were taken. Snapchat stories were updated. Weed was smoked. The duo performed “Do Yoga.” They performed “Black Beatles.” All was well in the world.

Most Common Food Item: Cheese

There were seriously about 100 ways to eat cheese throughout the weekend at FYF. Cheese pizza, mac ’n’ cheese, gourmet grilled cheese. I never did get that lobster quesadilla that I was dreaming about. (I first laid my eyes on it when it was being sold at a food truck at Camp Flog Gnaw last year.) But the roof of my mouth is still burned from a piping hot slice of “Spicy Pie,” so there’s that.

Best/Worst Example of Excessive Branding: Cafe Bustelo Tent

I always thought Cafe Bustelo was just another random supermarket coffee brand, but their promo tent was a full-on carnival bonanza aimed at the festivalgoer demographic. If you ponied up a little #CafeBustelo hashtag action on your Twitter, you got to play a version of plinko and pick a dumb prize. I waited a good 10 minutes in line to get a tiny styrofoam cup of coffee, which I specifically requested to be black with no ice so I could have more coffee, even though the coffee was lukewarm.

Performance Most Likely to End Up on VH1’s “I Love the 2010s”: Kendrick Lamar

FYF 2016

Saturday night, the main stage belonged to Kendrick. He was on his home turf, it was the biggest local music fest of the summer, and as far as I could tell he was given the longest set time of anyone. The big screen blinked with images of Ronald Reagan and footage of Barack Obama dancing with Jimmy Fallon. A circle of flames blasted up during “M.A.A.D. City.” The guitarist busted out a dramatic solo halfway through “Money Trees.” Kendrick tore through the spoken word of “For Free?” at 100 mph with his monitor earpiece hanging out of his ear. Epic.

Saddest boy: Corbin

Corbin at The Club by Anastasia Velicescu for FYF Fest
Corbin at The Club by Anastasia Velicescu for FYF Fest

A cross between Death Grips, witch house and PBR&B with an extra side of Quaaludes. His voice was like listening to the business end of a shovel being scraped across a sidewalk. And at the end everybody was chanting, “One more song! One more song!”

Littest Set from a Teutonic DJ: Gerd Janson

Gerd Janson at Woods Stage by Jesse Fulton for FYF Fest
Gerd Janson at Woods Stage by Jesse Fulton for FYF Fest

I’ve seen videos of Gerd Janson moderating Red Bull Music Academy lectures and he’s sitting there like some poker faced interrogator, nodding while quietly peppering his subjects with questions. But over at the Woods Stage on Saturday he was like dance music’s answer to Fabio — silhouetted in bright stage lights and billowing clouds of stage smoke, his hair hanging down like a lion’s mane. As he DJ’d, bodies writhed atop the plywood dancefloor. At one point he played a seemingly never-ending remix of “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record),” and if these vibes had gone on for another hour, I would’ve been totally cool with that.

Most Mourned Festival Stage: The Arena Stage

Last year we got to escape the cruel summer heat by dipping into the air-conditioned “Arena Stage,” ensconced within the L.A. Memorial Sports Arena. There was also great dance music going on inside there and in 2014, that’s where Darkside delivered one of the best FYF sets of all time. But the Memorial Arena is slated for demolition now, so no Arena Stage this year.

Best Future-Forward Invocation of ’90s R&B: Kelela

Kelela at Trees Stage by Jesse Fulton for FYF Fest
Kelela at Trees Stage by Jesse Fulton for FYF Fest

’90s nostalgia can be pretty corny but nobody channels the legacy of TLC and En Vogue like Kelela. First of all, the bass: I could feel it behind my ears. I could feel it vibrating in my chest. There was smoke. Deep red lights. Powerful strobes. Her braids glowed in the dark. Her voice was strong and sweet and soaring, aching and intense and flexible. She moved. We all moved. You couldn’t not.

Greatest Human: Grace Jones

Grace Jones at Main Stage by Elli Papanopoulos for FYF Fest
Grace Jones at Main Stage by Elli Papanopoulos for FYF Fest

James Murphy repeatedly told the audience during LCD’s set on Sunday night that if they’d missed Grace, they’d fucked up. Which was totally true. At 68 years old, Jones is probably at least 40 years older than most of the festival-goers that were at FYF. She’s spanned eras, collaborated with the greats, moved through disco and new-wave, modeling and James Bond. Onstage she showed more ineffable cool than all of us combined. Opening with her iconic reggae cover of Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s “Nightclubbing,” she slinked through a steamy, funky set whilst rocking Basquiat-style body paint and donning a dizzying range of costumes.

At various points she smashed cymbals, hula-hooped, prowled on all fours like a panther and strutted around in a glittery bowler hat. Her voice was intense and soulful. Her blazing charisma transcended genres and scenes. We’ve lost a lot of great icons this year, but Jones is still standing tall and reminding us that the world is ours for the taking. As she put it at one point: “We can set the stage on fire if we try.”