FYF Fest: The Millennials’ Playground

MAGNET’s Maureen Coulter reports from the 2012 FYF Fest in Los Angeles.

“I hate your generation!” comedian David Cross vented to the crowd of Millennials during his routine at the FYF Fest in Los Angeles this weekend. He was met with wild applause. Despite the teeth-gnashing by Boomers and Gen X’ers over the laziness, entitlement and bad grammar of the current crop of 16-to-30-year olds, no one can accuse them of not being able to have a good time. The FYF Fest was this summer’s grand finale, and not even a cranky comedian was going to kill their buzz.

“I hope this is the line to have sex with Olivia Munn,” the dude next to me quipped as a swarm of festival-goers walked up to the Disneyland-during-school-vacation-long human motorcade in front of the box office. I looked up to the sky and said a silent prayer of thanks as I slinked over to the much shorter press check-in, then headed into the FYF Festival as hundreds of hipsters in tank-tops, tight cut-offs and face glitter sweltered in the SoCal sun.

The Serengeti-dry ground, combined with a couple thousand combat boots and Converse sneakers, kicked up a discernible haze. While I understand the need to protect your lungs, I saw more than a few kids with their bandanas tied around their faces, bandit-style—probably more to look hard like a Banksy stencil than to ward off an impending asthma attack.

As an FYF rookie, I wandered the venue and checked the lineup to lay out my plan of attack. Four stages were lined up and down the field, each one featuring a variety of simultaneous acts—bad if you came to see two artists scheduled at the same time, good if your mood (or preferred substance) dictates who you want to see at any given time: You could sway to dreamboat English singer/songwriter James Blake, mosh with Swedish hardcore punk rockers Refuse or wriggle your glow sticks to NYC electronic duo Tanlines.

The large canopy of The Tent stage, coupled with the dry heat, felt a bit like a USO tour in Iraq, except most of the audience looked like they could barely twist the cap off a Heineken, much less survive a 12-month stint in the desert getting shot at by insurgents.

I was hesitant to head into the The Tent for Nite Jewel because the band’s name sounded like a one-hit-wonder from the 1980s that does occasional gigs for bar mitzvahs and high-school reunions. Instead, the group exhibited the best parts of that decade: mature, Pat Benetar vocals and disco beats that rattled the flimsy canvas and plywood walls like a 7.5 on the Richter Scale.

All-girl rock group Warpaint took the main stage just when the lights began twinkling both in the adjacent city and in the festival itself, giving its music a dreamy feel as its haunting harmonies melted into the dusk. When Warpaint finished its set, I walked past The Tent on my way to James Blake and stopped dead in my tracks as I saw flashing lights and heard the irresistible thumping of a drum machine. Like a five-year old staring down a ball pit at McDonald’s, I had to jump in. Once inside, I asked a random girl, “Who is this?” Turns out, it was Tanlines. It seemed that others were also in the mood for a rave as concert-goers poured in. The dance party had commenced.

Later that evening, against a backdrop of the L.A. skyline, experimental electro-rock duo Sleigh Bells bounced and gyrated onstage as silhouetted apparitions, flashing tattoos and fishnets amid the heavy strobe lights and guttural screams of lead singer/valkyrie Alexis Krauss. The performance was a Large Hadron Collider of lights, noise and hair. They were a perfect mix of the punk, EDM and rock that personified the festival.

Day two of FYF featured acts like Van Morrison incarnation King Khan And The Shrines on the main stage, whose lead singer ran around in a cape and underwear, and old-school hip-hop artist Aesop Rock, who pumped out an energetic lyrical tango that was refreshing in our modern era of button-pushing rappers and DJs. 

During the final hours of the fest, art rocker Paul Banks, of Interpol, donned his signature all-black ensemble during his second-ever set with his eponymous band. During the first few songs, the crowd was a bit thin because no one knew who Paul Banks was. More gathered as people figured out it was the Interpol guy. His distinctive, David Bowie-esque voice reverberated through the venue, his yearning lyrics flowing over melodic guitar and solid bass lines. His songs are like films that follow the tried and true dramatic story arc—simple but epic, providing a warm sense of satisfaction when they end.

The FYF Festival, like the summer, had to draw to a close. While it kept reality at bay for one last weekend, now those Millennial concert-goers must head back to their parents’ house and troll Craigslist and Monster.com looking for their next job—but not until after they post all of their FYF photos on Facebook.