Music

FYF Fest Somehow Makes Sprawling LA Feel Like Your Hometown

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My FYF weekend began on my sidewalk anxiously waiting for a Lyft to take me to Exposition Park. Typically, when I cover a festival I’m traveling for it, so I don’t have anything to really do but be at that festival or refresh my email in my hotel room. But as a new Los Angeles resident, this was my first hometown fest, Friday was a normal work day that I spent itching to get to the grounds so I could give our Instagram Story followers a first look.

But that was a manufactured anxiety; I climbed into the Lyft wishing I left earlier as it would now be too dark for a quintessential Frankie “festival tour.” We picked up my fellow passenger (don’t knock Lyft Line I’m a girl on a budget), a woman from San Francisco who was also headed to FYF. She had decided to make the trip last minute by herself, she couldn’t get any of her friends to join and her partner was doing something active and adventurous with all of his male relatives. I gave her my best tips for navigating a festival solo before we parted ways.

The first thing I noticed about FYF is how spacious the grounds felt and how slow time seemed to move. With four stages and two DJ zones paired with a tight lineup, I didn’t run into a lot of instances where I had to decide between two sets or take travel time into consideration the way you have to a festival like Coachella. I did a lap and strolled right up to Bjork’s set without having to elbow a single person to get to the front. I had low expectations for Bjork, thinking her music was too mellow for a festival crowd, but was surprised by how long I spent at her set, standing next to women with naturally gray hair (as opposed to a manic panic silver) completely entranced.

That first evening flowed pretty freely, I enjoyed navigating the maze that is the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and USC stadium. At least it felt like a maze to me, until Sunday night, when it would fully click that the entire thing was a loop and I’d been going out of my way to get to the main stage every. single. time. I’m a person who hates crowds, but each stage was dotted around 160 acres, leaving plenty of places in between to walk comfortably, grab a cocktail or food and check out vendors all among shut down USC game day snack stands. It kind of invoked the feeling that you’d snuck into your high school football stadium with the cool artsy kids at night in the middle of summer — except you could buy craft cocktails made with charcoal instead of taking swigs out of something you stole from your parent’s liquor cabinet. Plus, I found it novel to be around so many landmarks, as opposed to a pop up tent city that make up some festivals.

Cell service was better at FYF than most festivals but still not perfect, I held my iPhone in the sky more than once trying to get a text or Snapchat to go through. I arrived alone and didn’t even try texting people to try and meet up (a fool’s errand at a festival, tbh) but by some sort of FYF magic, I ran into every person I wanted to see throughout the weekend. I rolled up to Missy Elliot in a group after one of these chance encounters and danced when she told me to dance, jumped when she told me to jump and even put my phone away when she demanded the entire crowd do so.

(I took this video before the cell phones were banished)

Arriving before sunset on Saturday allowed me to get my bearings a little more. I swung by the Club Stage to check out Princess Nokia at the suggestion of Uproxx Music’s Brandon Caldwell and was enamored with her stage presence and how much talking to the crowd meant to her.

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Later that day, I gave myself time to wander around the night market as I emotionally prepared for Frank Ocean. To me, the mark of any good festival is space to hang out and activities to keep you occupied in between sets. Back by the Club stage, along a rainbow path, FYF offered exactly that with a mini book-store, branded activations and a ’90s-vibed pop up from House of Vans and Thrasher where you could DIY buttons and fanny packs while lounging on bean bags and watching skate films.

I planted myself at the main stage for the rest of the night, floating between VIP and the 21+ viewing area to jam out for MGMT. I enjoyed some hummus and falafel during A Tribe Called Quest. This is where a lot of the weekend’s most prime people watching went down, and where I found out from a bartender that over 140 hospitality people work the festival each day and they all have to split their tips evenly. That’s basically a crime.

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This is the part where I have to reveal to the internet that Frank Ocean made me cry. Once, just an anxious tear drop, directly before he went on in anticipation of what I was about to experience. I had refused to let myself get excited leading up to FYF knowing Frank had a history of cancelling his festival performances and all of the sudden it just felt very real. And then again, during “Self Control” as the screens behind Frank showed a close up his laptop where he typed messages to the crowd, and another showing footage from a drone flying overhead. It was like watching Frank Ocean in concert while also watching a feature film about a Frank Ocean concert playing directly behind him. Actually, that might be happening.

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I had started walking toward the back of the crowd when Frank began covering Stevie Wonder’s version of “Close To You.” I felt the energy of those around me shift and turned to see Brad Pitt, cell phone to ear sitting casually on stage with Frank Ocean. This, I would come to learn was a response to Pitt telling GQ earlier this year that Frank’s music got him through his divorce, and was one of those moments where I was just so happy to be where I was, happy to be part of it.

By far, my favorite way to battle the Sunday scaries is to roll up to the third day of a music festival, slightly sunburnt and sweating out Red Bull. I met up with a coworker to enjoy a shirtless Iggy Pop rocking out, realizing I knew more of his music than I thought it did (but even if I hadn’t, it wouldn’t have mattered, that guy can get a crowd going). I bounced around from Run The Jewels to Solange (where I secretly wished for a Beyonce sighting) to Kehlani, and ended my evening and my weekend with a new appreciation for Nine Inch Nails.

After an encore performance of “Hurt,” I shuffled with the crowd toward the Los Angeles Expo Line, smiling to myself and ready to do the weekend all over again. I swiped through pictures and videos on my phone as I headed back to the west side, picking my favorite to post to the Uproxx Music Instagram, and feeling lucky that I lived in Los Angeles and all weekend had the option to go home and fall asleep in my own bed after completing moisturizing routine and watching an episode of BoJack Horseman, or go meet my friends in West Hollywood still in my festival clothes. FYF made me feel more connected to Los Angeles, which is more than I could have ever expected. Until next year.

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