Fuck Yeah, Hardcore – FYF Fest 2012 Day 1 at LA State Historic Park (Review, Photos and More)

September 2nd, 2012
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Two years ago the then fledgling FYF Fest run by FYF Presents saw an explosive up tick in popularity. Headliners The Rapture, !!! and Panda Bear brought in an unprecedented 20,000 attendees to the L.A. State Historic Park. Understandably, at the time the festival’s infrastructure could not handle the turnout. Heat, lack of water and intolerably long lines dominated the event, and throngs of people left before the night’s headliners even began. Fast-forward two years, FYF Fest is now partnered with Goldenvoice, and expanded to four stages. The stages are a bit more spread out, and the lineup is even a step more impressive than previous years featuring everyone from the reunited Refused to Beirut. Would this year’s festival successfully navigate the woes of two years back? Thankfully, yes, and done so with an impressive array of wildly diverse bands.

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Recently reunited LA natives Redd Kross had an early slot in the hottest portion of the afternoon. As with their recent album Researching the Blues, the band sounds refocused and sharp. Blasting chords out with ferocity, yet fielding each song with a degree of accessibility, blending power pop with hardcore punk. Lead singer/guitarist Jeff McDonald brought out his daughter Astrid to sing with the band on one number, which was an impressive display from a 17-year-old. The group also tore through “Kill Someone You Hate,” “Crazy World” and the title track from their most recent album. Redd Kross was the first of many stellar post-hardcore bands playing this year’s festival.
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Later Ohio-based Cloud Nothings played a manic jam in spite of the oppressive heat. The group took a simple chord refrain and worked it out to a near-10-minute crescendo. Interestingly, the remainder of the band’s material was closer to conventional alt rock.
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Chairlift had the spotlight on the Main St. Stage as the day’s most anticipated indie pop act. The duo of singer Caroline Polachek and bassist Patrick Wimberly (here expanded to a four-piece) started off well enough. The crowd cheered wildly for Polachek, and she snaked and danced interpretatively in between melodies. However, the set seemed to end abruptly as the band stutter-stepped performing their recent Japanese-translated single, “I Belong In Your Arms.” Polachek halted the group on the first run-through and then looked visibly frustrated on the second attempt. It’s unclear what of the song wasn’t executed correctly, but with a moment the band was done and off stage.
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Over at the Hill St. Stage, Eugene Kelly and Frances McKee The Vaselines traded quips about Jesus, asking the crowd whether they loved Jesus or whether he was “kind of a dick.” Ultimately deciding he was “kind of a dick,” and then Kelly further joking, “You could buy Jesus’ dick on eBay,” the band played “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam.” Some of you may remember that Kurt Cobain was a fan of the band and famously covered this song for Unplugged in New York. At the opposite end of the festival grounds, Damian Abraham of Fucked Up was doing what he does best—standing right at the edge of the crowd screaming out each song, sharing the mic with elated fans. Fucked Up represented the modern take on hardcore, with slightly angelic backing vocals and a quasi-experimental take on the genre.
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The Pains of Being Pure at Heart played a set that did justice to the merit of indie rock, as opposed to the watered, cookie-cutter fair that genre has become bloated with in recent years. The group fronted by singer/guitarist Kip Berman and keyboardist Peggy Wang rocked with about three times the energy the music needed. It may sound silly, but the band was giving it all the heart they had on “Young Adult Friction,” and the extra effort really helped. For comparison’s sake, they sounded a little less noisy than when we first heard them at SXSW, but it was no detriment to their performance.
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Continuing the trend of excellent post-hardcore bands, Hot Snakes delivered the aggressive, intimidating, raw energy flavor on the day. The group’s twin axemen Rick Froberg and John Reis (both formerly of Drive Like Jehu) punched out chords like latter-day Johnny Ramones, never dialing down the energy even more a moment. Each progressive song punched like a wrecking ball through cheap sheetrock. Froberg shouted with a dirty garage rock wail and the crowd moshed with glee.
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Sleigh Bells take the prize of best new band at day 1. For drama, enthusiasm and sonic distinction, there’s little else happening right now in music that feels and looks quite like this. The band is a head-first dive into the guilty pleasure greatness of metal, pop R&B, stadium rock, electro and industrial dance, all combined in a Molotov cocktail devoid of cheesiness. Set against a backdrop of massive Marshall stack amps, singer Alexis Krauss, guitarist and Derek Miller and touring guitarist Jason Boyer take their music and attack the crowd with it. The pummeling “Demons,” the riff-laden “True Shred Guitar” and heartbreak ballad “End of the Line” take a place amidst a fury of seizure inducing lighting and the band all thrashing to each progressive high spot. “Born to Lose” and “Infinity Guitars” slow the pace down a bit for Krauss to show off her stage presence, inciting the crowd to excitement, taking a hype woman role to its natural home of confident ringmaster. “A/B Machines” brought it all home, displaying the triumphant energy and sonic alchemy that they’ve mastered, all coupled with the rock-and-roll sex appeal that connects their musical approach with their image.
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The real surprise of the day was another reunited post-hardcore act, Quickand. Known for two excellent yet criminally under appreciated albums in the mid-nineties (Slip and Manic Compression) the band only recently reformed and tour dates have been sporadically popping up. Quicksand’s take on hardcore involves a similar majesty of composition and arrangement as Refused employs, only using far less time changes and without all the chaotic energy. Even when a song is a fast-paced rocker, lead singer/guitarist Walter Schreifels is completely audible. Singing each line, veering to shouting only when the emotion and meaning of a song dictate it’s necessary. Schreifels, guitarist Tom Capone, bassist Sergio Vega and drummer Alan Cage each are a vital part of the mix. The basslines guide the pulse, the drums control the tempo, the guitars provide the drama and the voice provides the narration. There is no window dressing in this band. “Omission,” “Head to Wall” and “Divorce” all exhibited this impressive knack for hardcore. “Delusional” and “Landmine Spring” at the set’s conclusion took the performance to even greater heights, finding the joy, sorrow and revelation that the band’s music is capable of. This is one reunion not to miss.
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And not to be outdone, seminal Swedish post-hardcore band Refused finished off the night. This is a victory lap of sorts for the band, seeing meteoric growth in popularity on the strength of their final album The Shape of Punk to Come. Previously playing small clubs and basements, now performing in prominent spots at festivals worldwide, the band’s enigmatic punk sound has finally found its audience. Taking the best pieces of late sixties rock swagger, psychotic metal time changes and uncompromising punk spirit, the band perform like they might be the last band on Earth. They play with a caustic awareness, and driven energy, almost as if their performance might slay a monster threatening to devour the planet. It’s enough to wish every band played with this much conviction. But even greater still, is that the five-piece somehow magically appear as if they’ve perfected their chemistry even though they’ve been apart for 15 years. Like Quicksand, each and every instrument fully matters. Opener “Worms of the Senses/Faculties of the Skull” was a sonic nuclear bomb, darting and halting through each phrase, while frontman Dennis Lyxzen screamed, “Let’s take the first bus out of here.” “Liberation Frequency” made a point that all counter-culture should champion, “We want the airwaves back.” Lyxzen dedicated “Rather Be Dead” to the imprisoned member of the Russion punk band Pussy Riot. He humorously stated that if he were put in prison every time he spoke out against a government he’d have, “400,000 years of prison. We’d be an instrumental band.” “Refused Are Fucking Dead” and “The Shape of Punk to Come” continued the total onslaught of energy, fire and impressive technique. “New Noise” offered another nugget of profound wisdom, simply stating “We dance to all the wrong songs.” Lyxzen—who on stage is like the punk rock Mick Jagger, dancing and flipping like the stage was his personal gymnasium—at one point stated wisely, “Don’t let anyone tell you how to live your fucking life.” Explaining that a chosen path In life should be explored to its fullest, “If you want to play, play until your fingers bleed.” There’s not a shred of doubt that for the members of the Refused, being the best and most vital punk band on Earth was exactly their chosen path.
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By Raymond Flotat Posted in Reviews, Show Reviews , , , , , , , ,


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