FYF Fest 2014: The Weekend that Almost Wasn’t

After a bunch of fiascos on the first day, the festival rebounds with a great second day

FYF Fest 2014 played out last weekend in its new location, the sprawling Exposition Park. With four stages situated throughout the grounds that border the Coliseum and California Science Center and a lineup that included marquee acts like Phoenix, Haim, and a reunited Strokes, this was FYF’s most ambitious festival yet. Despite all that, the 2014 festival may be remembered more for its troubles than triumphs.

From the moment the doors opened on Saturday, festival-goers were met with extraordinarily long lines for entry; some people waited for more than three hours to get in. With little assistance from festival personnel and inadequate signage directing the masses, hundreds of people were forced to wait in the hot sun while others were allowed to cut through the chaos. The situation got to a point where organizers took to social media to signal their awareness of the issue, though it did little to alleviate the frustration of music fans who had to endure brutal lines for concessions and amenities once inside.

With approximately 30,000 attendees this year, logistics proved to be a major issue plaguing the event—as they’ve been in years past. The grounds of the Expo provided a beautiful and expansive landscape of paved walkways and decorated shade trees, but with approximately a mile between the entrance and the main stage, get from one end of the venue to the other to catch your favorite acts was a huge hassle. Most crippling was the early closure of the Arena, the indoor venue that housed many of the electronic bands. The Arena, which also served as a pass-through from the lawn area to the main stage, was shut down due to capacity issues; its inaccessibility meant that thousands of people couldn’t watch the performers they had come to see or even walk through the Arena to get to other areas.

But for all of Saturday’s miscalculations, there was redemption in the music. Albert Hammond Jr. kept the spirit of rock and roll alive on the main stage with his side project, playing solo cuts as well as a cover of the Misfits classic, “Last Caress.” When a police unit flashing its lights cut through the crowd, he satirically quipped “F*** cops! That will come back to bite me later!” Elsewhere Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks flexed their progressive rock muscles over brooding helter skelter melodies on the Trees stage, and Future Islands made their third FYF appearance, their strongest on the main stage. By the time the band launched into their current hit “Seasons” many had forgotten their afternoon woes. Those who made it into the Arena before it closed got their electronic fix with international acts Todd Terje and Four Tet under the giant mirror ball hanging in the center of the arena.

Closing out Saturday, French hit makers Phoenix took over the main stage with their omnipresent tunes, Canadian art-rock chanteuse Grimes played the lawn, and Ty Segall brought his brand of loud garage rock to a packed Trees stage. After the fiasco of Day 1, organizers pulled an all-nighter to strategize about Sunday.

Their hard work paid off, and the mood around the festival grounds Sunday was noticeably more content. Lines moved efficiently and the Arena stayed open for the duration. By the time Mac DeMarco took the main stage with his breezy, indie rock, the festival seemed to finally hit its stride. Presidents of the United States of America electrified the audience with muscular rock jams and self-deprecating humor (they referred to themselves as the best PUSA cover band around) wrapped in an air of nostalgia that didn’t wear out its welcome.

One of the most anticipated events was the reunion of the Seattle hardcore group the Blood Brothers. Their frenetic blend of metal, jazz, hardcore and prog rock easily made them the loudest and most incendiary band on the FYF bill.

Closing out the festival was the reunion of the Strokes. Taking to the main stage a fashionable 15 minutes late and to roaring applause, the New York quintet powered through a career spanning 16-song set that included “Someday,” “Last Nite,” “Reptilia,” and “Under Control” ending a weekend that almost didn’t happen on a note of triumph.

All photographs by Karan R. Kadam.