This marks the third year I’ve gone to Fuck Yeah Fest. I’ve learned a few things in those three years. First, learn to expect a really diverse mash up of bands, and, subsequently, the people attending. Any scene that has any sort of DIY element is likely to have representatives wandering the multiple venues around EchoPark. There were hipsters, hardcore kids, indie fans, punks of varied shapes and sizes, retro rockers, the merely curious, and one random old man in a white linen suit. The fest itself is so eclectic it’s almost a liability at times because sometimes the bands playing together are almost from different planets and it can be a little jarring making the transitions. Second, grab a schedule and plan ahead. Once you step out of one of the four venues it can be hell getting back in any time soon, especially if someone popular is about to play. On the other hand, sometimes there are big lulls where there isn’t a decent band to be found. This is a perfect time to go grab a burrito or find discount drinks at Walgreens. Third thing is that you should give at least a few unknown bands a chance to impress you while you’re there, because, hopefully, you’ll discover something new and amazing, but also don’t torture yourself listening to something shitty just because it happens to be onstage in front of you. Sometimes a cigar is really just a cigar, and a shitty band is really just a shitty band.
I arrived at the Echo just in time to see Underground Railroad To Candyland around 4:30. This is probably the fifth time I’ve seen them live, so I could see they were down a member (the beardy guy that plays bass). Chachi, who normally plays a drum, stepped up to play bass (which is what he does in Toys That Kill). This was also the first time I’ve seen the band where they weren’t wearing costumes. In essence, it was like watching Toys That Kill but slower and with a keyboard.
Off With Their Heads came on right after. I saw them a couple days earlier in Glendale, but they were infinitely better this time since they weren’t having technical issues after every other song. The band plays straight forward and raggedy pop punk like Dillinger Four or Lawrence Arms. There’s something about the right combination of melody, hoarse vocals, and being pissed off about work and heartbreak that’s very satisfying when it’s pulled off right. I was surprised to see a gaggle of kids of the record nerd variety singing along with most of the band’s stuff upfront during the set. I get the feeling these were the under twenty-one kids who couldn’t go to most of the other shows the band was playing in the area that weekend, since they all seemed to be happening in bars. I had my doubts about these guys after the first show I saw them at, but they quickly dispelled that this time around.
Paint It Black got ready to take the stage, and accordingly, a lot of gauged-ear hardcore kids began to trickle in. Hardcore fans tend to leave me on the fence. On the one hand, I like to think that they’re kindred spirits. I mean, I don’t drink or do drugs, I like aggressive music, and I’m all about changing the world for the better. On the other hand, a lot of the hardcore kids, at least here in SoCal seem to be really cliquey, fashion obsessed, and just plain dickish. Are they different in other places? Could someone please set me straight on this? Also, why do they all seem to work at Whole Foods? Paint It Black has always been a nice balance between hardcore and more straightforward punk to me. They get the whole aggression thing down, but without being all about mosh parts.
Seeing as it looked like the crowd was gonna explode for their set, I got myself in a spot where I could take pictures but hopefully avoid all the stage diving and slam dancing. About three songs in I got head butt in the arm, and proceed to start losing most of my sense of hearing and vision. Sensing I was going down, I wandered outside and did my best not to collapse in a heap. Those ended up being some of the longest minutes of my life as it felt that I had almost no control of my body. I got a bit panicked about what would happen to me if I passed out since I was at the show alone. I go to a lot of shows by myself, and getting hurt at one is always one of my biggest worries, which is why I hardly mess around with pits anymore. Once I was able to see and hear again, I wandered back in and caught the tail end of Paint It Black. It was a good set with all of Dan Yemin’s intense stage stances and whatnot, but at that point I was more excited about the fact that I was just standing.
Trash Talk came on next. I recognized the singer as the same dude who ran head first into my arm. I caught two songs of theirs, which ended up being some metallic hardcore, but not really being in the mood I decided to leave the Echo and go see the other venues… or so I thought. As soon as I stepped out the door, someone shouted “No, don’t!” and I turned around to see that there was a giant line all the way down the block to get back in. I lucked out by running into some people I knew (vaguely) from college who were near the front of the line. Once I got back in, I resigned myself to sticking in the venue until Fucked Up and Negative Approach played.
I spent most of the rest of the night downstairs in the Echoplex, which is the large stage area. When I got downstairs, Mika Miko was playing. I’ve seen this band about half a dozen times by now, but never really dug them too much. They’ve always seemed too screechy and borderline pretentious for me, although they have one of the most energetic fanbases I’ve ever seen. Tonight it seemed like they were playing stuff that was a little more up my alley. The music actually seemed fun to bop along to, rather than just being grating. They had a dude drummer this time, which was a change from all the other times I saw them. I have renewed interest in giving them another shot.
It seems like each time I’ve been to Fuck Yeah Fest, I’ve discovered at least one band to get excited about that I somehow never had heard before. The first time I went in 2005, I discovered Tiltwheel. When I went last summer, I heard American Steel for the first time. This year’s surprise treat for me was Japanther. I had reservations at first when I saw that the band was two scruffy guys, one on drums and one on bass, with some electronics. There were images floating in my head of bad hipster approximations of over-earnest shoe gaze. Instead, the band ended up being chaotic, danceable, and catchy all at the same time. In short, they were a shitload of fun. They were like new wave dance music that’s been filtered through Pavement, FYP, and the Rezillos. I’m a fan now for sure. Japanther and Negative Approach, in my mind, are tied for best sets of the evening.
Fucked Up came on next. They played a lot of stuff of I recognized from Epics in Minutes such as “Baiting the Public,” “Generations,” and “Police.” There were a couple of longer ones from Hidden World, also like “David Comes to Life,” and “Crusades.” I’m glad I finally got to see them, but I can’t help but feel a little underwhelmed. Every review I’ve read about the band makes them out to be the second coming. For instance, I like Hidden World, but it doesn’t really sound like anything that unusual to me. I feel like they’re a good, solid punk band that plays ‘80s-influenced hardcore, but never really got the whole savior of punk rock thing that a lot people seem to want to hoist on them, as it seems there are a lot of other bands that do what they do. I feel, perhaps, the band, more than anything, are really clever marketers with all their purposely vague background information, numerous hard-to-obtain releases, and playing up of everything they do on record. I get the feeling that they’re the punk band that obsessive records collectors and people who stopped listening to punk rock feel like they can champion and still keep their credibility. Like I said, they’re good, but it’s hard to appreciate them when I feel like everything they do is supposed to be changing my life. Fun set nonetheless. The third guitar seemed a little extraneous to me. If they’re going to have a triple ax attack, I feel they should be mandated to play a Lynrd Skynrd song during their set. I should mention that the singer has some copious man boobs and he ain’t ashamed one bit. Amen to that.
I caught Negative Approach next. I have the Touch and Go comp of their stuff, but never really listened to it much. I also had low expectations for the band since I knew the whole controversy of this being half of the original Negative Approach. Instead of sucking, the band proceeded to come on stage and annihilate. They were fucking amazing. The only front man I’ve ever seen on the same level of pure pissed-off rage as John Brannon is Keith Morris. Brannon looked like he was ready to burst into a ball of fire and take everyone down with him. Most of the songs felt like short machine gun burst. They were under a minute long, but that was more than enough to get the idea across. I didn’t understand the mystique behind Negative Approach for a long time, but after seeing them that night, now I do. It was like watching a force of nature.
At this point, I was tempted to leave since the bands that came on next, High Places and Glass Candy, were just atrociously boring ambient, electronica stuff with weak beats. I was determined to finally see what all the fuss about No Age was about though, so I ditched out for a particularly bad al pastor burrito from Tacos Arriza down the street. I also ran into some different people from back in college who convinced me to stick around and see Matt and Kim. I had to stand way back in the room where I could barely see them, but I’m glad I did. First off, Kim is gorgeous and I would like to marry her. Second off, the music they make is so happy it’s hard to dislike it. They play really fun, bouncy, keyboard stuff with drums, that I would call cartoon-core. That’s a good thing to me since I probably watch Sponge Bob more than any TV show at the moment. I would go see them again and probably make sure to get jacked on caffeine and sugar beforehand just for good measure. Honorable mention during this set goes to the guy that comes up to the people I was hanging out with, and, apropos of nothing, proceeds to tell us about being bros with LCD Soundsystem. Needless to say, none of us proceeded to go home with the dude that night.
Finally, No Age came on to close out the night. I saw two songs. The conversation in my head at that point went something like this: “Huh, yeah these guys seem alright. Man, ice cream sounds good…or a shake! Dude, I am so gonna go find ice cream. Right now!” And I left to go find ice cream.
(I welcome comments: [email protected])