FYF Fest 2017 Day One with Bjork, Missy Elliott, Flying Lotus and More…

WORDS BY CJ GRONNER
PHOTOS BY PAUL GRONNER 
(unless otherwise noted)

My brother, Paul, and I got the nod to cover the FYF  Fest for Juice Magazine and we hopped the train to head down to Exposition Park in Los Angeles on Friday evening for Day One. We had done our due diligence and looked up all the bands we most wanted to check out and we had a plan. The train passed by three different skate parks on the ride down, which we took to be a good sign for the day. It was still hot and sunny when we got off at the FYF Fest site at Vermont Station, and music fans were swarming everywhere. Everyone seemed in high spirits (perhaps DUE to spirits!) and ready to rock.

Photo: Goldenvoice Media

There were people climbing all over a FYF sculpture, taking photos, and selfies were rampant all day. A guy was playing sax to entertain the long lines of folks eager to get inside, and heads were bowed over the maps as we all tried to figure out the best strategy to see the most music. Not an easy task, as the main stages we wanted to see bands at were on opposite sides of The Coliseum, so we got our steps in. Paul really wanted to get over to the Trees stage to see BADBADNOTGOOD, so off we sped. We caught a little of Beach Fossils on the way over, and generally liked what we heard.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

At the Trees stage, no one knew where Paul should go to shoot from the photo pit. Luckily, right then our Venice pal, Wiley, walked up and said, “I’ll escort you,” After some homie hugs, I followed along and watched BADBADNOTGOOD from the pit with all the photographers. That was great, because they were great – which you can really tell from that close.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

They’re a jazzy, riffy band, with the cat on the keys especially standing out. His solos were met with cheers, and the personable drummer yelled out, “You wanna keep the vibes going?!” Yes, we sure did.

We passed by the Woods and Outer Space stages on the way to the Media tent, and realized we probably wouldn’t be spending much time in those places. We pretty much say ‘Heck, no to techno’, but I was happy for all the club kids going off in their colorful festival outfits. The Club stage was next to the Media tent, so we heard a little Hundred Waters sounding not bad while we waited for our phones to charge a little and enjoy the complimentary Kombucha. There’s really no time to waste at festivals like this, because there is always that ‘fear of missing out’ factor. For me though, this night was all about Björk, and we wanted to jockey for position early. On the way to the Main Stage, we passed by the Lawn stage, and heard some ethereal sounds from Angel Olsen that set the tone for the genius we were about to behold.

Photo: Goldenvoice Media

We headed for the VIP area to get a good viewing spot and suddenly we found ourselves standing between the private backstage areas of Björk and Missy Elliott and the steps leading up to the actual stage. We found an excellent spot in front to watch the show and a guy near me said, “Dude, are we really this close to Björk right now?!” Well, we were about to be.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

An orchestra soon took the stage and began tuning … and tuning … until the same guy said, “They build suspense quite well.” That, they did. It was all very dramatic and, when the DJ came out, he got massive cheers. That was nothing, however, compared to the ovation that met Björk when she took the stage in a giant, puffy, fireball of a dress, with a bright, yellow mask covering her face. Visually stunning, as always. The orchestra began, and Björk opened with “Stonemilker” from her Vulnicura album, as Icelandic visuals filled the screen behind her. She danced around like a beach ball swan, and the entire crowd stood enraptured by one of the most eclectic and unique artists of all time.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Björk said nothing the entire set except “Thank you!” in a speaking voice so adorable it made the crowd laugh every time she said it. “Lionsong” was equally exceptional, and then I heard the opening chords to “Come To Me” from Debut, and immediately choked up. It is my all time favorite Björk song, one that I sing to myself all the time, and one that I never thought I would hear played live just a hundred feet or so in front of my face. I was in a totally private trance of beautiful joy for every note. TAKK, Björk! That made my entire festival, and it was only the first day.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

“Joga” had Björk pumping her fists, and we did too. “Unravel” was emotionally bare and, when her voice soars high above the mesmerized crowd, there’s just no comparison good enough. “Mouth’s Cradle”, “You’ve Been Flirting Again”, “Isobel”, “Bachelorette” … with each song sung, you once again realized how this woman has been doing exactly her own thing for four decades now. A girl next to me just laughed at Björk’s private seeming dancing, and said, “Bitch just does what she wants.” Truly something to strive for in life, and incredibly inspiring. You could tell that feeling was crowd-wide mutual, as fans stood there with their hands on both sides of their faces or clasped in front of them in complete awe and adoration at the spectacle before us. Fully deserved.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

“Wanderlust” is another favorite, and its visuals of Björk on a raft down a mountain river were among the best of the show. She’s tiny, but her sound is so powerful that she could BE that mountain. “Notget” and “Mouth Mantra” with its video shot from inside her mouth were both fantastic, and Björk treated herself to a glass of champagne, at this point, raising it to the crowd who loved it all.

Paul split to begin the hike back over to the Trees to shoot Slowdive, but I couldn’t tear myself away. That meant I got to hear “Quicksand”, “Mutual Core”, and the wonderful “Hyperballad” as her last song. This one was special. Björk directed us all like a choir, compelling the stars above to “Save us!” Fireballs and fireworks went off, and even Björk said, “Wow!” It was all just WOW.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

On my way to meet up with Paul at Trees, I passed by the big crowd super into the danceable funk of Anderson .Paak, and got a couple shimmies in before I raced to see Slowdive. Paul loves them, and his own band, spaceblanket, kind of reminds me of them – dreamy shoegaze, no lyrics, trancey rock that soothes the spirit. Others thought the same, as I had to step over many sprawled out bodies on the grass, taking a breather to some chill tunes. I caught their gorgeous “Alison”, and wished we had the luxury of taking a load off to hear the rest, but we had to get back over to the Main Stage to get a decent spot to see Missy Elliott.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

The VIP area was much more packed for this show, and we made our way into the mix and joined the group contact high that was going down. Elliott’s hype man came out and we screamed and yelled while a career recap video introduced The Queen of Hip Hop, and dancers moved around a lit-up magic trick box, that ultimately opened to reveal Miss Elliott, to a deafening roar. Clad in all bedazzled white, with long extensions and a “Queen” bedazzled hat, Missy Elliott was BACK!

Photo: Goldenvoice Media

“She’s A Bitch” was up first, which led right into “One Minute Man”, I’m Really Hot”, and “We Run This”. In fact, most songs led right into the next, as it was really more of a big, long medley, with about thirty-second snippets of most of her hits – because there are a LOT – and most in the crowd knew every damn word.

“It’s been ten years since I performed in the States,” said Elliott, and was warmly welcomed back by all the thousands who had missed her. When she asked, “Can I party wit y’all?!” The answer was definitely yes. “Where’s my Day 1 fans?!” They were all there, and in the throes of ecstasy when Elliott gave them “The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)”. A fast run-through of “All N My Grill” “Sock It 2 Me”, “Hot Boyz”, and “Pussycat” left everyone fired up and exhausted at the same time. Breakdancers threw down, and gave Elliott the chance to rest when they were going off, because this gig was HIGH energy. And also, pretty much everyone WAS high, long before “Pass That Dutch” was played.

Another costume change, and Elliott and the dancers came on with bedazzled camo outfits, to urge everyone to jump up and down for “Get Ur Freak On”! The shouts and jumps were not to Elliott’s satisfaction on the first try, so she said, “Put your phones down, that’s part of the problem! Put them down for one record!” Bless her. For that one song, we were all in it – and present – together, and it was awesome. As was “Work It” with her clever flip it and reverse it lyrics. There is no doubt that Elliott is a real star, and Beyonce, Tyler the Creator, Katy Perry, Solange, Björk, Janet Jackson, were all side-stage to cheer her on.

Photo: Nikki Jahanforouz

More Dutch was passed, then a speed medley of songs and dances to “Shut It Down”, “Ching-A-Ling”, “Shake Your Pompom”, “The Things You Do”, “Let It Go” and “One In A Million” kept it extra-entertaining with twerkers, roller skaters, and you name it! Elliott, now in a blinged out  “Save The Humans” jacket, expressed that she needed to be closer to the people, so off she went into the crowd to the over-the-top joy of her Day Ones in the mix. You could hear their blissed out screams through her mic, and the video screens captured the wowed faces. Their happiness was reflected by Elliott, whose smile was so big that it didn’t need bedazzling. It had been ten years! The Queen was all the way back!

Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Elliott closed out her headlining spot with “1, 2 Step” and “Lose Control” and then asked the crowd to light up their phones or lighters, to remember our lost loved ones. Dancers brought out big posters of Biggie and Tupac and Elliott sang “Rock The Boat” to end her energetic set. The dancers put Elliott back in the magic box, spun it around, and opened it again to reveal Elliott had turned into a little puppet doll, and the real one was probably already passing the dutch backstage. The consensus for the first day of FYF was that the Ladies First night BROUGHT IT. Everyone streamed out happily spent, and will for sure be buzzing about it for days.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

There was almost a rugby scrum going on to get into the VIP area over by the Lawn stage where Flying Lotus was now playing. We’d all been given 3D glasses upon entry for their gig, and their trippy brand of atmospheric jams was back-lit with swirling shapes that I imagine were meant to be all immersive and cool, but it looked pretty much the same without the 3D specs. Paul had tapped out of Missy Elliott around the second costume change to get over to see Thee Oh Sees, so I trekked back over to the Club stage.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

I now wish I’d gone directly to the Club stage, because Thee Oh Sees were by far the discovery of the day. Holy moly! Pure rock energy! The moshing was as hard and fast as I’ve seen, and deservedly so. These guys KILL. IT.

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Two drummers keep the same beat, side by side, and never relent. The front man, John Dwyer, is a frenetic madman of sound, facing the speakers to amp up the feedback and scream in our sweaty faces. It was awesome, and I found myself wishing they’d been on at like 9pm instead of 1am, so we could have better rocked it, instead of limped it!

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

We had to skedaddle to catch the train before it stopped running, so we reluctantly took off as the last chords were still feedbacking. On the very long walk back to the train stop, we ran into two friends from Venice who happened to drive, so we happily caught a ride back West, with our ears still ringing from a spectacular opening day of rock n’ roll at the FYF Festival!

Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Time to crash and do it all again for Day Two!

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