FYF Fest 2017 Day Two with A Tribe Called Quest, Frank Ocean, Erykah Badu and More…

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

It was another hot and sunny day for Day Two of the FYF Fest, and we got a bit of a slow start after the raging of the night before. Three-day festivals are not for the weak, that’s for certain. We remembered to start with food this time, so that was good, and then set out for Exposition Park. We drove this time because Paul was going to have to leave early for a long-planned double gig of his own in San Pedro, with BOTH of his bands playing.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Once at the site, we raced over to the Club stage to catch the tail end of the Princess Nokia set, which was going off. She has a lot of fans, and all of them were all the way into it.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

There was a very cool Vans pop-up happening in the Nightmarket area, where people got to pick up some Vans merch, and sit down in the tent to take a break from the heat and customize their Vans while they were at it.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Vans had a photo exhibition from Thrasher’s, Michael Burnett, on display, with awesome shots of skate history, as well as the latest skate videos playing from Girl, Plan B, Blind, World Industries, Toy Machine, and Vans’ first feature length skate movie, Propeller. It was a rad little break, made even radder by the Vans swag we got to take home. Thanks, Vans! We love you.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

We didn’t have the luxury of dawdling for very long, as every minute you’re not somewhere else at these things, you feel like you should be. We wanted to catch some MGMT, so took off in the direction of the Main Stage. We wanted to hit up some Thundercat on the way, but it was too packed to get close, so we listened as we walked – something you do a lot of with all this ground to cover.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

MGMT isn’t that much my thing, but it was THE thing for a lot of screaming girls. The singer came out in a sequined tank top, which felt a bit extra in the broad daylight, but then I looked down at my own sequins and zipped my mental lip.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

The synth heavy pysch-pop band got under way with their “Pieces Of What”, which was well-received, and I realized they do get down with guitars more than I thought. “Brian Eno” was next, and cartoons played along on the screen behind them. The crowd wasn’t moving much, which I attributed to the intense heat and very close quarters, until the Q-Bert sounding opening bit to their hit “Time To Pretend” and the crowd went predictably wild.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

Next we sped to the opposite side of the world to the Trees stage to catch the last bit from Noname, a tall, female rapper that was brand new to me, and seemingly brand new to the FYF Fest too, as she commented, “I didn’t expect this many people!” Noname ended with “Yesterday”, and that’s where I saw the talent in her lyrics. “When the sun is going down, when the dark is out to stay, I picture your smile, like it was yesterday.” I will explore this young lady’s work more at a later date. I enjoy the discoveries you make on days like this as much as (or almost as much as) the big deal headliners.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

We knew we liked Built To Spill already, we just didn’t know how much. They were also playing the Trees stage, and as they were next up, we decided to sit on the curb and wait for them versus traipsing across the Universe somewhere else, only to come right back. The sun was in its golden prime and Built To Spill was ready to throw down.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

These riff rockers also need to be better explored, as I don’t remember thinking of them as being as heavy as they are. Heads were banging – most anyway. One dude was flat on his back with his eyes closed right down front, not at all bothered by the rock exploding from the speakers a few yards away. I couldn’t blame him. It’s exhausting even if you’re stone cold sober, and this cat clearly was not.

Built To Spill was one of the rare guitar rock bands in this year’s FYF Fest lineup, and we loved it. They kicked off with “The Plan”, “Center Of The Universe”, “Carry The Zero”, and “Sidewalk”, all of which were fist pumped and head banged along with. These guys are from Idaho, and I’m happy they were included among all the Hip Hop and R&B acts this year, because sometimes you just need to rock.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

We had to keep on trucking, but still got to hear “Bad Light” and “Time Trap” and the sweet guitar solos within them as we were walking out. Then I ran into some friends I’d met at a Ganja Goddess Getaway (you’ve never been?), and we needed to have a quick badly needed sister session. Golden hour was in full effect and all was well at the FYF Fest in that moment.


Photo: Paul Gronner Photography

This helped everything, because now was the time that Paul had to split to the San Pedro spaceblanket/Shotshell Press gigs, so I was on my own now. Which if I’m honest, I kind of dug. I was forced to be much more of an observer in the crowd, and I saw a lot.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

I got to hear a snippet of King Krule on the way to the Main Stage, which was cool, as we were forced to go the long way to get to the Main Stage. A Tribe Called Quest was still to come, and people were scrambling in droves in my same direction, and it was like being in a super-packed airport, with people walking right into you. It was already jam packed by the time I got to the Main Stage VIP area, and I was just happy to be there for the Hip Hop legends about to take the stage for what we were to find out would be their final Los Angeles show ever. Whoa.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Excitement was HIGH, as was most of the crowd, it appeared. The sun had just set and the picture was perfect for the awesome show that was about to go down. The screens filled with a big photo of the late Phife Dawg, and the crowd reacted with loud love. When Q-Tip, Consequence, Jarobi, and DJ Ali came out, the ovation was thunderous, and I had full-on chills. They got started with “Space Program” from ‘We Got It From Here … Thank You 4 Your Service’, which was the best album of last year, in my opinion. The whole place was jumping, smoking, pumping fists, and generally thrilled. Tribe are the realest deal, and gave as much of themselves as anyone I’ve seen perform yet this weekend.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Stalking the lengths of the stage, going out into the crowd, dancing, and rapping without a break, other than to let recorded tracks from Phife Dawg have solos at times, had us all impressed. I was tired from just standing there and these legends were going full non-stop cardio. They played about 30 songs, thankfully, and Q-Tip’s distinctive voice carried the majority of the rapping, and he looked like he was having as much fun as we were. They played the new jams, the old school jams, pretty much all of the highlights of a decades long career, leaving no one dissatisfied.

A Tribe Called Quest have always been some of the best social commentators, and you could get a very good sociological education from listening to the ATCQ catalog front to back. And everyone here seemed to know every single word, shouting along to even the little “Woo Hahs!” that came up. “Excursions” from 1991 found Q-Tip asking, “Can I talk to my generation?,” yet it sounded as fresh as if he’d just written it in the green room.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

The set varied from social consciousness tunes to get-down-with-the-ladies jams like “Bonita Applebum” that featured Q-Tip executing some impressive limbo type moves, and all of us doing the side-to-side dance together. “Phony Rappers” was rad, as was “Steve Biko (Stir It Up)” that had us doing the stir motion with our fingers. We were having a blast, the ladies yelling “AAAAH” and the guys yelling “OOOH” and everyone yelling, “Do that shit, do that shit, do it!” And then Q-Tip got real real…


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

“Is it a long day? Good day? (“WOOOOO!”) Smoke day? Drink day? Pill day? (I hope not, they’ll kill you.) Music day? GOOD DAY, LA!” Then … “Thank you for fucking with us for a long time. This performance is our last one in L.A. (What?! NO!”), Phife Dawg has been called to another mission, but we wanted to do one more show for you.” He took a pause, then said, “Losing someone comes in waves, this experience is cathartic and helps, thank you. Phife was my best friend, since I was four, and we’re gonna play a favorite of his.” They then gave up the stage to Phife Dawg as his recorded track for “Butter” played, and I felt for all of them.

Then they were all back, this time joined by a straw-hatted Raphael Saadiq playing a brightly painted stand up bass for “Buggin’ Out”. That was cool. The last three jams were a frenzy of action, with all the guys running all over, into the crowd, out on a runway, giving their all on “Electric Relaxation”, “Vivrant Thing”, and “Check The Rhime”. All of a sudden, it was all, “Thank you, we love you, L.A.! You know you’re our second home!” And they were gone, just like that. Bummer! I was still waiting for my favorite from the new album, “We The People” but they said they had to clear the stage. Everyone started streaming for the exits, then WHAT?! They were back! A near stampede happened in reverse, as everyone tried to get back and jockey for a now-better spot. ATCQ gave us “Can I Kick It?” (“Yes, you can!”), “Award Tour” and finally, “We The People”! We shouted back the chorus, “We the People! We are Equal!” – and that never felt more true. Thank you, ATCQ. You gave every bit of yourselves on stage, and over your career, and we love you.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Erykah Badu was up next and I’ve never seen her live, so I was excited, but I was also very far away. I saw her take the stage from the big video screen, and the massive crowd blew up in applause when they saw Badu appear in her giant Pharell-type hat and coat of many colors. She’s a stand alone in style, both fashion and musically, that’s not debatable. “Rimshot” was her intro, and she got right into it with “Hello”. “Out My Mind, Just In Time”, followed by “On and On”, and “…On” were eaten up by her superfans. Jazzy, sultry, powerful, clever, sexy … Badu has it all. People were dancing all the way in back, and singing along with every word. Impressive.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

“Where’s my 80’s people? My 90’s people? You know the Baduism language better than anyone. Who’s having their first Badu experience? (Me!) “I’m happy to accommodate you.” (Thank you!) She’s just so dang cool. “Love Of My Life (Ode To Hip Hop)”. “Apple Tree”. “No Love”. “Annie (Don’t Wear No Panties)”. All awesome. I got to hear “I Want You”, and then had to make my way back over to the Main Stage for Frank Ocean.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

By now, the Main Stage zone was beyond packed, and I knew that there was no point in trying to get close, so I settled in to content myself with the giant screens. People were beyond excited and ladies were panting. Once Frank Ocean took the stage, it was bedlam. Screams for days. He had an “Instant Karma” shirt on, and he set himself up at a little home studio type thing on the stage runway, letting everyone in on his way of creating when he’s by himself, only in front of a massive crowd. Like many of the acts in this year’s FYF, Ocean is a true artist, doing exactly his own thing.


Photo: Los Angeles Daily News

Frank Ocean certainly has that extra something and the ladies were singing their hearts out. I always get a kick out of watching people seeing their favorite music because it’s a rare joy that only comes from your own heart. That’s the good part about this festival. Los Angeles is SO diverse, and this FYF Fest captured it beautifully. The Main Stage area was overflowing while, at the same moment, there was a dance party of a lifetime going on across the Coliseum. Fans were equally excited about completely different things and there is truly something for everyone.

As I was spacing out thinking about all of the above, Frank Ocean was busy making people want to take off their clothes. That happened to me next when out of nowhere comes an unannounced Brad Pitt on stage to act out a phone call of Ocean singing a cover of The Carpenters’ “Close To You”! What?! I didn’t know how that could be topped, and I wanted to avoid the mega-crush getting on the train, so I split, hearing Ocean’s croon as my escort on the long walk to the exit. Tonight, he had made at least one new fan.


Photo: Goldenvoice Media

I reflected more on the ride home, and felt infinitely fortunate that I live in Los Angeles, where you can hear and see absolutely any kind of music you could ever want, and learn about other cultures through the music, which helps build the bridges to peace and understanding. That was a sweet dream to think about as I finally fell asleep, plotting my Day Three…

To be continued!

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