Photo: Rich Fury (Getty Images)
In a past week dominated by OJ Simpson, Jimmy Carter and Linkin Park, it’s only fitting that this weekend’s FYF Fest 2017 was anchored deep in nostalgia.
Nostalgia offers people comfort in times of uncertainty. When the world goes to shit, it’s nice to wipe away your fears with familiar traditions, memories, and music that take us back to happier times or at least the ones we choose to remember.
We may not know what President Trump will Tweet next, but at this year’s FYF Fest we knew we could count on Trent Reznor’s intense rage, Missy Elliot to “Work It”, and Iggy Pop to run around stage shirtless.
Of course, when you turn to the past, sometimes those people are no longer there. Life moves on even if our memories last forever.
Death is often not a major theme that runs through a music festival, unless one is referring to the porta-potties, but I couldn’t help feeling like the Grim Reaper was hanging backstage (perhaps next to Brad Pitt talking on his cellphone during Frank Ocean’s heartfelt set) for a couple of the now three-day festival’s most invigorating performances.
A Tribe Called Quest was hands down the biggest surprise of FYF Fest 2017. As a lifelong fan, I had seen the iconic, New York hip-hop act a handful of times, mostly during reunion shows where the group was still holding grudges with each other as documented on the excellent Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest movie.
Those ATQC shows lacked the spark and joy of their music and you could feel it. I really didn’t know what to expect now, even after the group’s acclaimed comeback album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, considering that they had lost the heart of the group in co-founder Phife Dawg.
What we got on Saturday night was an amazing “greatest hits” show that paid tribute to both Phife Dawg and Tribe fans. Phife was there not only in spirit, but literally as DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad masterfully slipped in the “Five Foot Assassin’s” recorded verses without missing a beat.
Q-Tip was at the top of his game, leading his fired up tribesman on-stage and in the sing-along happy (read: blazed) crowd, blowing through the group’s incredible catalogue (“Buggin’ Out”, “Can I Kick It” “Check the Rime”), which they buttoned with their modern classic “We The People”.
Sadly, the set had a bittersweet flavor to it as Q-Tip later confirmed that this would be Tribe’s last L.A. show.
If so, speaking for Tribe fans everywhere — Thank you for your service.
Nine Inch Nails closed out FYF Fest 2017 in spectacular fashion with a powerful performance that was like a head slap to the weary crowd which he thanked for “sticking around.”
Trent Reznor’s band will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2018, yet their unparalleled industrial-electro-punk assault on the senses is as relevant as ever.
Nine Inch Nails has been co-opted by aggro meatheads much like their spiritual peers Rage Against the Machine, but at its core Reznor makes thinking man’s music, Kafka-electronica (I’m patenting that) if you will, as he made the quintessential ’90s “outsider” album in the misunderstood and enduring The Downward Spiral.
Reznor is now a middle-aged, Academy Award winner on the comeback, who looks more like a cross-fit trainer than a moody anti-hero, but he can still bring it: snarling, screaming and singing as if he never left, even though he admitted that this was NIN’s first “real show in three years.”
Although NIN closed out their set with the appropriate “Hurt” (my feet were killing me), the one moment that will stick with me is when they played a cover of David Bowie’s “I Can’t Give Everything Away”.
As Reznor explained, “Since we’ve been gone, I’ve lost a few people that meant a lot to me personally. One of which meant a lot to you: my friend David Bowie.”
Reznor went on to say that he had asked the Bowie family permission to rework one of the tracks off the late great artist’s final album, Blackstar. “It helped us heal,” Reznor revealed. “I’d like to take the opportunity to play that for you.”
Death often rattles one to the core and more often than not we respond in two ways. Some get lost in grief, turning inward and going to a dark place that they may never come back from, while others find solace by realizing ones own mortality.
Both Q-Tip and Reznor, whom are known as much for their talent as egos, seemed like better versions of themselves — humble, re-energized, and grateful. It was a beautiful thing to see and hear.
Truly, “what a time to be alive” as the internet likes to say.
I think Iggy Pop eats those words for breakfast… lunch and dinner. The seventy year old rock god has tan lines older than many FYF attendees, yet he had them in the palm of his wrinkled hands, belting out classics like “The Passenger”, “Lust for Life” and “Search and Destroy” while stomping around the stage looking like a walking dead from the Cadaver museum exhibits.
While most dudes his age are telling kids to get off their lawn, Iggy would be pissing on theirs.
Okay, enough about the old. I’m showing my age. The flip side of death is birth so it’s only fitting that some stars were born at FYF Fest 2017.
Starting with my new girl crush — Cherry Glazerr. The LA-band is led by the barely legal Clementine Creevy who has the name, talent and swagger to be rock’s “next big thing” aka “savior.”
Speaking of, that label has already been slapped on Temples, a well-coiffed, psych-rock quartet who have been christened to lead the next wave of Brit-Pop.
Both Cherry Glazerr and Temples lived up to their billing, showcasing sounds that aren’t entirely new, but executed with an endearing spirit that comes with fresh-faced youth.
Perhaps the most hyped “breakout star” in all of music right now is Mura Masa. The 21-year-old wunderkind proved at FYF that he’s the real deal, a one-man band, but cool — switching back and forth from drums, a guitar and the mic with equal skill.
Mura Masa’s genre-less, global-influenced sound is very much the voice of the burgeoning multi-cultural world of today. That was reflective of the young crowd he drew, who stormed towards the stage like he was giving away free fidget spinners when he brought out 20-year-old trap rapper Desiigner for their “All Around the World” hit.
Looking around at the energetic, rainbow-colored crowd dancing as one, I could see the future and it looked bright.
We can only hope that these younger acts will endure and evolve much like their headline stage performing predecessors to one day leave an indelible mark on a new generation looking for a guiding light in these dark times.
And if not, there’s always the timeless Iggy Pop to be our shirtless North Star.
What a time to be alive, indeed.