With a handle like F*ck Yeah Fest I expected a full fledged circus full of hysterical nudity, body art experimentation, dangerously sharp fashion accessories & a general recklessness bordering on public disaster. What I got was a veggie whopper of a good time without the long hours collecting cancer in the sun or the storms of security guards looking at me like I wore a bull's eye on my forehead.
The Geography of the F*ck Yeah Festival is almost as influential to the overall experience as the bands on its stages. Tucked away in the hilly hood of Echo Park/Silverlake, the area isn't exactly what you'd put on a postcard. Far removed from the pushy billboards, big breasts and lavish nightspots of the Sunset strip, this bohemian hideaway is a haven for those who like their jeans tight, hair accessories eccentric and music authentic. This year's festival -curated by Keith Morris of Black Flag and partner Sean Carlson-attracted a wildly eclectic set of the best in beyond cutting edge indie for music lovers of tastes and shapes.
My Festival experience began suddenly and without warning, with the Best Fwends. Two kids maybe younger than me (I'm 23) donning matching white t-shirts with animated alien faces on their belly's sat down on grade school chairs in front of a hand sketched banner with no instruments in sight. I know...I wasn't ready for that either. The shorter, freckle faced kid grabbed his microphone, winked at his partner, and said, "We're Best Fwends from Ft. Worth Texas, and THIS is a loogie."
Some spit hit the floor, most of it still dangling from his chin when his partner -half pissed off-protested, "Dude you loogied on the Ipod!"
Turns out Best Fwends are a band in a box, or an Ipod shuffle to be exact. After wiping the saliva off, the pair jumped into the most hilariously badass set of punk rock I've ever seen. These kids were INSANE! Their eyes bulged and neck veins surfaced as they thrashed and harmonized their way through an indelible set of pop punk mess. These dudes were like those little battery operated toys that sway and "dance" to music only way more dangerous and adorable. Switch them on and they go completely bonkers, with gears spinning and middle fingers flying. When the music stops they snap right out of it, sitting back down in their study hall chairs, calmly discussing what to play next as if nothing ever happened. I've never seen anything like it.
best fwends: "interview" (MP3, 4:11)
Next on the agenda was Great Northern, downstairs at the EchoPlex. The Silverlake natives played their homecoming show like returning World Series winners, beaming with accomplishment and smiles wide as the stage. Bathed in red romantic floods and microphone stands wrapped in the gentle twinkle of pearl colored Christmas lights, Great Northern proved themselves to be a mesmerizing visual and aural experience. The band's lead vocalist Rachel, stood at center stage behind her keyboard, tickling the ivory and my interest with every sultry stroke.
There is something inexplicably dreamy about Great Northern's sound. For example, during the runaway hit song, Home, I found myself slipping into a state of contented relaxation I'd never known; like watching a music box ballerina twirl as you sink deeper into the folds of an easy chair. I swayed obediently to the thick layers of melody and harmony as perfect pop parallelograms bounced around the room, dissolving into ears like bubbles in a bathtub.
I spoke with lead singer Rachel behind the echoplex about the band, the scene and her adorable bassist, below.
great northern: "interview" (MP3, 5:17)
I dashed upstairs to the Sunset Strip, greeting the eastern evening air on my way to the Rec Center to see Foreign Born. The space was sardine stuffed from tiny stage to red vintage brick with uniformed hipsters. Boys and girls, 15-30, v-necks deeper than the sea, jeans tapered so tightly one worries about circulation to the toes, a menu of multi-styled hats from fedoras to fisherman's to newsboy fitted caps, moustaches worn proudly without irony, matted hair of every hue, and indoor sunglasses so inconspicuous that I'd suggest spies wear them for surveillance missions.
Just as I was tiring of people watching, a motley crew of travellin' troubadours took the stage. This meandering lot of magic makers took the form of Foreign Born, a band that bears a strong resemblance (in a good way) to indie heroes, the Arcade Fire. Sonically, they share a skill for penning deeply dramatic anthems that soar with harmony and sweep through the bumpy emotional territory of a singer who lives what he writes night after night. Also like the Arcade Fire, seeing them live is like front row seats for a family circus. The singer shakes a stack of cymbals resembling a spice rack, guitar pickers jump from mike to mike and everyone's having so much genuine fun that they forget the pack of strangers standing there.
foreign born: "union hall" (MP3, 3:37)
Now that's how Rock & roll should be played! Side by side with people you love, sweat stuck to the pick,hair in the air, blissfully unaware of the frozen audience slowly thawing from the blackberrys burning in their palms.
All photos by KananKids
for more F*ck Yeah photos check out the full flickr gallery here