Let me preface this by stating that FYF Fest is one of my absolute favorite events year after year. This was my fifth time attending this gloriously diverse festival, and I felt compelled to write a bit about the most captivating performances. I narrowed this “non-ranked” list down to a rounded ten, five each from Saturday and Sunday. Please check out albums by all of these artists, because they are all amazing in their own right!
Since the release of their spectacular new album Escape From Evil, I’ve been highly anticipating a chance to witness the splendor of this band in a live environment. Jana Hunter’s stoic stage presence entranced the late afternoon crowd seeking refuge from the sun in the cool, dark Arena stage, as the group performed choice cuts from the new record. Highlights: “I Am The Earth,” “To Die In L.A.,” closing with “Brains.”
Here’s a group that stands alone when it comes to live improvisation. Within the Arena, this jazz-minded trio of drums, guitar and bass were joined by a brilliant saxophonist that infused a new level of energy into the band’s instrumentally expanded covers of legendary tracks by a variety of producers. These guys deal in “sessions,” so each song is stretched to it’s furthest artistic capabilities. Highlight: “Putty Boy Strut” by Flying Lotus.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
The Lawn stage holds a cherished place in the hearts of many FYF veterans; you can’t beat the wide-open grass field, bountiful shade, and easy access to two beer gardens with decent views and sound, so when Unknown Mortal Orchestra took the stage in the late afternoon haze just before the sun set, their timelessly funky charm knew no bounds. Highlights: “The World Is Crowded,” “So Good At Being In Trouble,” “Multi-Love.”
Back in the Arena, Jon Hopkins put on an otherworldly performance like I’ve never experienced. Hopkins is a sound design warlock that takes audiences on a subtly evolving journey through visceral, bass-heavy electronic dance music; this, combined with the Arena’s tendency to amplify those lower frequencies, resulted in some ethereally transcendant moments. Highlight: “Open Eye Signal.”
If I spoke about bands that I’ve been aching to see live, there’s a good chance that this group was somewhere near the top of the list. Battles is a trio of bombastic drums and two wonderfully imaginative multi-instrumentalists utilizing various guitars, loops, and synths to create interlocking rhythms that entranced the Trees crowd in a primal way. Watch for the release of their new album La Di Da Di in September. Highlight: “Atlas.”
Run The Jewels
What more can I say about Run The Jewels’ live performance that hasn’t already been exclaimed countless times across nearly every music outlet? It’s astounding that a group possesses this much energy, and they didn’t once let up even slightly during the course of their Main stage bombardment. Bottom line: you need to see these guys live every chance you get. Highlight: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” with Zack de la Rocha.
This is another one of those bands that I never thought I’d get the chance to experience live. Accurately encompassing HEALTH’s sound in a few words is nigh impossible, and they displayed their perplexing brand of eerily percussive, noise-filled pop-rock to an entirely captivated Trees stage audience. Watch for a “review” of their new album DEATH MAGIC on here soon! Highlights: “Die Slow,” “STONEFIST,” “Crimewave.”
FlyLo, FlyLo, FlyLo. Let it be a testament to the supreme talent of this artist that this was my seventh or eighth time witnessing his live performance, and he’s never once put on a show that was anything less than breathtaking. This year, he was called upon at the last minute to fill a nighttime DJ slot in the Arena, and the lack of preparation time did nothing to deter his supernatural ability. Highlights: “Camel,” “The Killing Joke.”
I haven’t seen Kanye live since ’06, so I had my doubts that were quelled soon after the start of his epic Main stage performance. He’s another artist that was called upon at the eleventh hour, but stepping in as a replacement for headliner Frank Ocean presents massive shoes to fill. I’m happy to report that he stole the show on Saturday. Highlights: “Black Skinhead,” “Jesus Walks,” “Gold Digger,” “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” etc. etc. etc.
D’Angelo & The Vanguard
Here it is, folks; the be-all and end-all, top live act of FYF 2015. D’Angelo has a charismatic live presence unlike any other artist, and some of the tightest musicians this side of anywhere accompany him in his new backing band The Vanguard. There’s a reason that a D’Angelo performance is so highly lauded, and that’s because he’s a goddamn spectacle. Highlights: “Brown Sugar,” “Spanish Joint,” “Really Love.”
I hope you enjoyed this list of my favorite live acts of FYF Fest 2015! It’s something a little different and I plan to return to daily album “reviews” tomorrow, but let me know if these lists are something that you’d like to see more of, and I urge you to attend 2016’s FYF Fest and to check out albums by all of these artists!
– stasi (@stasisphere)