I was even more wiped out for the second day of FYF than I had been for the first one—at least this time I finagled a vendor parking space, but it was on the opposite side of the park from the vendor tents, so by the time I was set up and ready to see the Allah-Las, I was basically high as a kite from sheer exhaustion and heatstroke. These guys, unlike some 60s-style bands, sound great at a festival. As I said in the review for their upcoming album, they have a “strain of garage that’s not about snarl so much as it is about mood, and that mood is a little down-tempo, lazy enough for summer but chill enough for the fall and winter to come.” It was so hot that I could barely even quote myself! And yet the denizens of the noontide who had woken up and braved the lines to get in this early (read: the underage crowd who didn’t have hangovers) were swarming the Main St. stage to get closer and feel the vibes. If garage rock was ska, it felt like these guys had just invented reggae. Seriously, I found myself dancing, a feat that would be impossible in this heat if, say, the Gravedigger 5 was playing.
I and my compatriot Daniel Clodfelter of Shark Toys watched the second half of the Allah-Lahs set from the beer tent ($9 for a crap beer selection—no wonder we were nearly alone) and then sauntered over to see White Fence, who started with a blistering 1967 guitar solo and then never let up. I had once decided that White Fence was better on record than live; “whelp, I was wrong!” I told Daniel as I gloried in one balls-to-the-wall live White Fence album cut after another. Nick Murray’s bombastic drumbeats on “Who Feels Right?” made the song more damning in its condemnation of trend-fucking than anything I think I’ve ever heard in a pop song; then on the very next song, bandleader Tim Presley’s slide guitar set a stark melody against the opposing hard harmonies of his rhythm guitarist, evoking the best of Quicksilver Messenger Service in a way not heard on the vinyl versions.
As much as I love Presley’s complete-control solo stuff on vinyl, which he records largely alone in a bedroom studio, maybe it’s time he puts out a live album with his band mates in tow, so people in the flyover states can experience the open-air White Fence? It would prove a lot of his theses. Some of his experiments on vinyl, such as his forays into 70s punk, seem to clash against the rest of the albums’ tunes—but live, they fit right in, just another piece of paisley shrapnel in the psilocybin bombast. Live, he dedicated a punky rave-up to Crazy Band. Live, his songs caused young people to slam-dance, even getting old folks like me to join in! And songs that DO work well on his albums, such as the Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd-esque number “Breathe Again” from his recent twin LPs, took on a new, muscular quality live.
Another musical act who I hadn’t seen live in a long time was Kate Micucci, one half of Garfunkel and Oates; I don’t believe I’ve ever seem them live as a duo. I was tickled pink (or was my skin just pink from sunburn?) that the schedules moved around to allow me to see them in the second half of Sunday’s comedy showcase; sure, the earlier comedy segment had famously included Eric Andre pulling the fucking Octomom onstage for a bizarre cameo, but overall, I think I got the better end of the deal by missing that for this. As I discussed with Tim Heidecker a few weeks back, funny songs are hard to pull off, yet Micucci and Riki Lindhome were funnier than most of the purely stand-up acts that followed, especially when they pioneered a brand new Garfunkel and Oates original about “deeply” Christian girls who maintain their virginities by only having butt sex: “I’ve emptied my bowels, and laid out the towels/ I’m ready for romance!”
Host Sean O’Connor and Brendon Walsh were pretty funny too, though I’m not sure why my fellow press gnats went quite so apeshit for Walsh’s fake corporate letters shtick—to me, that was the letdown portion of his set, a pale imitation of Ted L Nancy. If you’re gonna repeat something that’s been done really fucking well in the past, you have to at least equal if not surpass it (see Mr. Show’s take on Monty Python’s “Splunge” bit with their “You’re Fired” sketch).
And Mr. Show alum David Cross was actually there, fighting hard for laughs with both hands tied behind his back: first, his original bit involving a projection failed to work, and second, the band Ceremony started playing on the stage to our right just as Cross was getting started, which I believe to my soul might be the hardest, loudest band a comedian has ever had to go up against. Yet he came on strong, actually proving his own statement that he was “officially less full of shit than I used to be.” Gone were the senselessly mean-spirited, narcissistic anti-fan resentments he’d bombarded us with in essays and videos throught the 00’s. Instead, he made fun of himself and his agedness with a story about how confused he was by an LMFAO t-shirt: he was genuinely funny in his befuddlement, not bitterly funny. He was even able to make his on-point political humor about the stupidity of conservatives feel fresh, like he had in the days of Largo comedy when I first learned about him in the 90s.
Brent Weinbach was the act that impressed me the most, probably because I’d just reviewed his new comedy album, and so he was competing in my own mind with himself as a recording artist. It’s unfair how comedians are unable to repeat themselves in the same way that musicians are—as Chris Rock pointed out on the Daily Show a few weeks back, Sting is still singing “Roxanne” 30 years later, whereas Rock and Jon Stewart and so many comedians have written hundreds of Roxannes over the years, near-perfect bits of comedy genius that fame forces them to tuck back into their pockets and retire even when those bits go on the brink of becoming well-known. It’s to Weinbach’s credit that he could make me laugh at the same sketches I’d heard on repeat dozens of times in my car in preparation for L.A. RECORD issue 108, and it’s all because he’s able to do characters so well—his Filipino uncle alone could easily surpass Margaret Cho’s mom in my heart for well-done characters, even if he wanted to recycle him for a hundred comedy shows. The only off-putting part was when a heckler, or actually just a drunk well-wisher, responded to one Weinbach’s comments about a strong Scottish accent with an audible “How strong was it?” The Weinbach of Mostly Live would have incorporated that comment into an even funnier bit, whereas the Weinbach of the hot FYF comedy tent skipped a beat and then just moved on, maybe even a tad bit shaken.
But who could blame him? I was even more shaken, and I wasn’t even on a stage—the hot day was throwing me, and as I drank more beers to cool myself down, I found myself less and less inclined to actually attend any of the performances for which I had basically volunteered my time in order to see. I skipped King Khan and the Shrines and Father John Misty and Tiger & Woods and a slew of others, only finally getting my energy back in time to check out Lightning Bolt.
Lightning Bolt played with twilight behind them, which in this part of town isn’t pretty. All the light reflects off the chrome and cement and dust—and have I mentioned enough times yet that there was a lot of dust, causing the sun’s rays to look like particle beams that choked us all as the dust got stomped back up into the air by the twirling bodies who had infiltrated the Lightning Bolt pit. This was Road Warrior lighting, and singer/drummer Brian Chippendale certainly looked the part of an evil post-apocalyptic marauder in his creepy mask.
The screamy echo in Chippendale’s voice evoked Nic Endo of Atari Teenage Riot, though his on-stage banter was more like the Hanson brothers from Slapshot after a rogue set of keys whacked him on stage: “Here are some keys! We got at least two people involved… the guy who lost his keys and the guy who threw the keys and hit me in the face!”
Over on the Main St. stage, Dinosaur Jr. were a bit more aligned with the audience, evoking the same retardedly obvious joke that 14 year olds have been saying for years about the redundancy of the festival’s name: “It’s our pleasure to play the Fuck Yeah Festival Festival” J. Mascis told us, before jumping into a white hot version of “Kracked.”
Well, maybe “white hot” is hyperbole, especially considering the honest-to-god heat we were all really experiencing—but it was definitely a bit more energetic than the show I saw last year at the former Henry Fonda Theater, where Henry Rollins had introduced the band prior to their playing the entirety of Bug. Ol’ Rollins was here again today, off to the side of the stage. But perhaps freed of the shackles of having to follow a set list of play songs they didn’t want to, the band’s energy was more pumped than it had been then. They did crank out hit after hit: “Feel the Pain,” “Freak Scene,” “Just Like Heaven,” and even a song from J.’s hardcore band with Lou Barlow, Deep Wound. There was lots of very bare, very raw wah going on, especially during “Collapse the Lung,” which they played right as the sun set.
But there was something strange going on in the audience, and it kind of distracted me; was it you? You, the person reading this? Are you the girl from Booker T Washington High School in Tulsa that I had Freshman P.E. with? The girl I haven’t seen maybe in decades, with green eyes and a red tint to your hair? We were 24 hours from Tulsa, and yet there you were, the real you, there in the crowd. Now your hair was longer, feathered, and you’d figured out a way to deal with your bad skin. You looked sensational.
But by the time I thought it would be appropriate to say “hello,” you were gone. I was torn between feeling sad and experiencing a strange, much stronger elation in the fact that the lyrics of Dinosaur Jr. were completely perfect for me, at the very time I was hearing them live: “I’m waiting. Please come back. I’ve got the guts now to meet your eye. Got to connect with you girl, before I forget how. Please won’t you hang around?” God, this is what music is for.
The butterfly flitters of a brief long-lost-love-lost-again was almost like being high, and after a brief nap in the dirty grass, I swooned my way back to the L.A. RECORD tent. The rest of the night was a hardcore blur… I heard snippets of Converge, and American Nightmare (whose sound has, shockingly, evolved).
And who could miss Turbonegro? I scanned the audience to see if Happy Tom was correct when I interviewed him that “we’re just an awesome band if you’re 35 and overweight.” And though I am not size-ist, I did see a remarkable number of older, broader men in the audience, almost as if they’d been trucked in just for this set and had skipped the entire rest of the festival.
It was a great weekend, and though there were dozens of bands I did not see, I didn’t feel gypped. I cruised out of the vendor parking lot like a man inflated with helium, my limbs floating, buoyed by my car’s cool air-conditioning, and my brain levitating on thoughts of old crushes and Tim Presley’s slide guitar.
-D. M. Collins