In Light of FYF…

Can you believe that there once was a time where good music and artists were on music festival lineups? No attention to gender disparity or quotas or pushes for equal representation, but BANDS. Music lovers and aficionados, regardless of where they’re from or how diverse their band’s lineup is. There was no forced agenda. If you were good, trailblazing, or nevertheless interesting, you still had a pretty good shot.

Which were the guidelines FYF followed up until this year, when founder Sean Carlson was accused of sexual harassment on multiple accounts. And ever since then, the inevitable decline of the festival was visible. However, like me, many people never lost hope, all praying for as good of a music festival experience like last year, or years previous.

So, then, what happened? What was once a local punk rock music festival that began in Echo Park slowly blossomed into Goldenvoice’s new twinkle in their eye for Southern California, to the mainstream music festival puller that it now is (see drastic lineup differences even between 2012 and 2013).

Well, we can blame it on a number of things, the most obvious being the ousting of Sean Carlson. Upon succumbing to the image he projected privately, when Carlson went, ALL of FYF went. Not only the staff, but their resources, their connections, and their credibility. And suddenly, the FYF name became radioactive. And that’s when Goldenvoice decided to buy out Carlson’s stake in the festival, and go ahead with plans for this year’s installment, when many of us thought FYF was already dead in the water.

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Another possible reason for the cancellation (which I’m sure is the main reason), is the high ticket price for this year’s fest. Last year offered three days of music for a comparable price of $299 as opposed to this year’s $255 price tag, albeit two days instead of three, and with no real “pull” of major headliners like years’ previous. Interestingly enough, 2013’s bill offered a similar lineup (also featuring My Bloody Valentine’s first US show in a decade), which I was able to get a single day ticket to for $40.

However, that was back then. And ever since it’s been an inflation of high profile music artists, a tendency to go bigger and expand your audience, because that’s what you don’t do at music festival – stand still. And maybe that’s what Goldenvoice was aiming for this year: a drastic change in the music festival landscape. With a growing festival, you don’t keep getting the same type of artists. You have to spread, you have to grow. You have to move, you can’t stand still.

When the mostly female lineup was announced, it was considered a game changer and a major let down. Not to say that the female artists were disappointing, it just lacked any “highlights.” (And this coming from a guy who bought a three day pass last year JUST to see Björk and Missy Elliot.) It was an applicable yet necessary move on Goldenvoice’s part, considering what happened to FYF’s original creator. But how will this be viewed in years moving forward? Will the mostly female lineups now appear radioactive? Will no one want to even step near that direction? Hopefully that won’t be the case, but if they remember who their true audience was (punk/alternative music lovers), I’m sure they’ll have no problem in trying to recapture what they once were. And who knows, by year’s end, maybe we’ll back on this year’s FYF and think that it could’ve been a major success.

FYF was my first ever music festival going back to 2013, and dare I say it, probably the best music festival on the west coast. Where else are you able to see such eclecticism among both up-and-coming and already established artists? Where else are you able to see an actual through-line in every year’s lineup that made the fest better year after year? But that’s what made FYF so special, it knew it wasn’t the best. It was never supposed to be the “best” thing, it was supposed to be its own thing. And in my mind, it still is the best.

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