We Sent a Canadian to FYF Fest By Themselves

On August 29, 2016

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We sent our intrepid Canadian correspondent, Jibril Yassin, to FYF Fest 2016 by himself. What happens when you go to a festival alone in a foreign country? He found out. 

I’m tired. My feet hurt because I’ve been walking around for 12 hours a day in awful sneakers and I let far too many people jump on them. I lost my voice and the bags under my eyes have deepened immensely. It’s hard to distinguish and separate my recent experience from how I feel at the moment: ragged and sick of everything.

I spent the weekend at FYF Fest in Los Angeles, almost entirely on my own. I flew in from Canada for the festival - a two day affair featuring the likes of Grace Jones, Kendrick Lamar, Explosions in the Sky, a reunited LCD Soundsystem, Rae Sremmurd and more. It was less a test of resolve and more resembling an awful case of timing, not to mention an inability for me to recognize that I should probably have tried to cancel my flights and refund my ticket somehow.

Let’s be real here - going to festivals alone can suck. Leaving festivals alone suck. Especially in a foreign land where donairs and poutine don’t exist and all the Coke machines stock Fanta instead of orange Crush, so comfort food in the face of potentially overwhelming anxiety is thrown out the window. Heading back on the subway, you don’t really feel that communal high people talk about in hushed tones when they discuss the magic of festivals years from now. And your feet hurt.

You do learn and grow quite a bit but that feeling of progress doesn’t make you feel infinite and complete. Instead, you leave feeling tired and vanquished, ready to go home and sleep off your injuries, hangovers and headaches. A ton of friends and the best drugs can’t stave off the feeling of emptiness forever, it just comes around quicker on your own.

Going alone can really show you just what you take for granted traveling in groups. You’re not beholden to the whims of the group - nobody is going to force you to see an awful band you have no interest in. It’s also great for people watching and having snatches of strange conversation float over you. Talking to people has never been easier - most people at a festival are generally friendly or fucked up and sometimes both and that’s great for making friends. On the other hand, say goodbye to getting fucked up or wasted if you don’t have a plug or a way of getting home. It’s really the festival experience itself that can vary, depending on your experiences. But you can meet new people and find yourself open to a myriad of new experiences that can be life changing in the best way.

Now this is not going to be a conventional festival report but here it goes *ahem* I saw sets from Shellac, DIIV, Vince Staples, Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, Hop Along, Air, Alex G, Wild Nothing, Charles Bradley, Anohni, Mac Demarco, Young Thug and LCD Soundsystem at FYF Fest. It goes without saying, they were all very good.

In just 12 years, FYF Fest has grown to be a formidable companion to mega festivals such as Coachella (who share the same production company as FYF, Goldenvoice) and Lollapalooza, offering the world’s best acts in a cozy, intimate environment. Intimate is a funny word to use when we’re dealing with 38,000 people who paid to visit Exposition Park over two days. If Coachella feels like a Michael Bay film, then FYF Fest is clearly a Spike Jonze production. Here’s a series of notes I took during the festival as I ventured by my lonesome.

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SATURDAY

8:15 A.M. - Woke up way too early and because of the time change, assumed it was actually closer to 9:30 and subsequently freak out.

10:52 A.M. - I freak out (again) and assume I’m going to be late for the festival and whatever endlessly stretching lines come my way. I waste ten minutes on figuring out an appropriate bus route before I opt for an Uber. It works out for the best: the driver is an enthusiastic type and we have a great drive bonding over classic Canadian films such as Goon and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Five stars.

12:00 P.M. - After a long walk where I get lost trying to find the box office, I get my wristband and get told the gates don’t open till 2, so I visit two fast food places in under an hour. I regret it almost immediately.

3:30 P.M. - When people try and sing along to Hop Along and more specifically, their vocalist Frances Quinlan, known for having a distinctive raspy wail, they try their best to copy her vocal mannerisms too - something that is actually pretty cool because Hop Along have a knack for crafting fantastic melodies worth singing along to. But it also means you’ve got a field of people putting on their best Tom Waits impressions. It’s weird.

6:10 P.M. - We’re nearing the end of Vince Staples’ set. I’ve been witness to “Blue Suede” wreaking havoc on a Main Stage crowd. Ever wondered what a banger would sound like in a post-apocalyptic society? Meanwhile there’s clips of American Beauty playing on the video screen. We don’t deserve Vince Staples.
9:50 P.M. - I make friends with some dudes from Indiana who travelled out for the festival. This is not the first time they’ve seen Tame Impala and they came prepared, stocked to the ears with all the joints, body paint and acid you need to survive a Kevin Parker explosion. One of the dudes is stoked to hear I’m from Canada and gives me a pair of kaleidoscope glasses. I have to give them back after one song.

9:55 P.M. - “What’s the coolest thing about Canada?” I got from the dude. “Probably Drake, I guess.” I say back, not knowing how serious he was expecting of a response. I don’t know if I should feel bad or not.

11:25 P.M. - Sometime during Kendrick Lamar’s set, a fan had the guts to apparently claim his rapping wasn’t up to snuff so Kendrick performed all of “For Free” while staring directly at them.

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SUNDAY

1:18 P.M. - The Uber driver today is a quiet one. He prefers to speak with his actions. So we drive in silence listening to the Westlife discography. Five stars.

5:24 - I locked eyes with someone at the back of a Blood Orange set, specifically when he brought out Sky Ferreria and we both exchanged non-verbal “holy shit” looks. Everyone understandably went nuts for the Carly Rae Jepsen guest appearance (and Nelly Furtado...and Empress Of...etc) but you’re lying if you didn’t get down to “Everything is Embarrassing” back in the day. It is an essential part of the Dope Songs Blood Orange Had A Hand in Writing canon and ought to be recognized as such.

8:45 - This drunk dude yells “Here are some more SMOOOOTH tunes on the way” in his best radio announcer voice during Mac Demarco’s set. It’s his second time uttering the phrase in less than five minutes. Then he turned and looked at me right in the eye and yelled “EDMONTON STAND UP” while offering a fist bump.

9:20 - Instead of seeing Grace Jones, I am somewhere in a field waiting for the pain in my feet to subside before walking any further. I know I fucked up. I know I fucked up when I decided to stop, I knew I fucked up when Young Thug waited over ten minutes to start his set. I know I fucked up when James Murphy later told the entire crowd during LCD Soundsystem’s crowning headlining set that we all fucked up for missing out. Grace Jones is a legend. Please see Grace Jones if you can.

10:10  - Hearing Jeffrey f.k.a Young Thug perform “F Cancer,” which is probably at the moment my favourite Thugga song, is one thing crossed off my bucket list. But I’ll never get to hear him call himself Rey Mysterio in the second verse because he gave up after the first chorus. Appearing on stage ten minutes after his start time plus his frustrations at a crowd that wasn’t turnt up for his tastes seemed to bleed into his performance, abrupt and all over the place. But he still played enough bangers for an overeager Lawn Stage crowd and his DJ played two Future songs beforehand, so I can’t really say it sucked. Meanwhile a dude was on stage clutching an iPad and following Jeffrey’s every movements, filming the entire set.

12:30 A.M. - I love LCD Soundsystem but I didn’t have the energy to sit through an entire encore. My feet fucked, I gingerly walk to the train station to the echoing strains of “All My Friends.” I’m sorta mad James Murphy decided to play that song last over “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down,” even if it makes sense to end things on an audible high note.

I feel awful but also happy and incredibly content for a brief moment. It’s a weird mix.

“Dude, I feel you.” I hear from a dude next to me. He’s wearing a L.A. Kings cap and nods in my general direction before walking onward. Everyone shuffles onto the trains and heads home without saying much.

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