This Ain’t No Picnic was an eclectic mix of punk, electronic, rap, indie and bangers to satisfy former FYF Fest fans alike.
The other beloved NYC darling headliner this weekend was the UNREAL LCD Soundsystem. This my first time ever catching them and boy did they live up to their massive expectations. For the past twenty some odd years, LCD Soundsystem has gotten the reputation as one of the modern era’s best live bands. And this was evident to see live. Their brand of minimal turn monolithic dance tracks sounded exactly, and I mean EXACTLY how they do on record. It was a blast to hear frontman James Murphy replicate the exact lyrics to Losing my Edge that was synced up to the T with the light show. Of course they finished with All My Friends and of course it was amazing and epic and cathartic.
Australian artists have been on another plane of existence these past ten years or so. And some of the best sounds made by an Aussie this past decade have been the sounds made by Courtney Barnett. The Sydney to Melbourne songwriter brought her usual clever, laid-back tunes to Saturday’s MainStage. Dressed in all white, Barnett drew all the attention in the mid day heat, rocking through classic hits like Avant Gardener and Nameless, Faceless.
It’s been a decade since Mac DeMarco’s breakout album 2 hit the shelves, and the Canadian slack rock icon has hardly missed a beat. Mac isn’t playing quite as many jangly guitar riffs these days but it didn’t take long to see that he was still his same goofy, charismatic self. Mac pretty much played a “best of the the decade set” as he flew through all his biggest hits off of Salad Days (2014), This Old Dog (2017), and Here Comes the Cowboy (2019).
Unsure if there was a set the entire weekend as sleek and stylish as Jungle’s Saturday night set on the Back Nine stage. I forgot to count members so I’ll estimate; the 47 members of British dance powerhouse Jungle made for a set so entertaining they could make even the grumpiest of Gus’s bust a move. I guess it never clicked with me until seeing with my own eyeballs that Jungle songs are just so… smooth. Effortlessly smooth. The stage visuals and setup were definitely the sickest of the entire weekend.
The Bristol group brought their fiery, politically-charged post-punk songs to the Fairway Stage as the sun was setting, and I’m sure there’s a metaphor in there that an English major could make. And boy, it sure didn’t take long for singer Joe Talbot to completely sweat through his shirt from all his hopping, twirling, and feral barking, not that he cared to ever even untuck it. Their set favored last year’s Crawler and their breakout album, Joy as an Act of Resistance, and from my safe vantage point it seemed like the crowd was more than happy to rage to songs like “Never Fight a Man With a Perm” and “The Wheel.” Everyone in the band had boundless energy, running and flailing around the stage while ripping through their punk songs. I particularly loved watching the guitarist clad in all white whipping his hair back and forth like Willow Smith taught us.
It may have taken two years but Phoebe Bridgers has finally moved on from the skeleton outfit, rocking instead a black dress that sparkled against the stage lights in the night. As ambivalent as I am towards her music I can’t deny that she’s good at her craft: anyone who saw her hit that last note in “Motion Sickness” could tell you that. But it’s not like anyone in attendance would ever say anything bad about her, all it took for the audience to let out a Beatlemania-esque shriek was for Phoebe to say “what’s up.” Later on she ran into the crowd and handed people the mic to sing along and I could tell that made several people’s year. It’s amazing how she can whip people into a frenzy simply by existing and playing these soft, sad songs.
The Baltimore dream pop trio played with only their silhouettes visible, lit either by the projection screen or stage lights pointing up at their backs. It was quite a fitting setup for their hazy sound, and being able to see less of what the band members are doing forced me to pay more attention to what I’m actually hearing, which is lilting vocals backed by simple and sweet melodies. Several of the songs were accompanied by a cheap-sounding drum machine and that made me piece together that Beach House is what happens when you make a bedroom pop band ready for the stadium. On paper it seems like that’s an oxymoron, that music like this shouldn’t be grandiose, but Beach House has figured out a way to make it work.
As soon as Turnstile took to the Back Nine stage I witnessed the mad rush of people running to the front to mosh and sing along to “Mystery,” which was the first time I saw anyone crowd surfing that day. Their set mostly consisted of songs from last year’s Glow On, the album that pushed them from “well respected band in the hardcore scene” to “late night TV famous.” One thing about bands that come from hardcore is that they usually know how to work a crowd, and between singer Brendan Yates’s fist pumping and bassist Franz Lyons’s mean mugging into the camera, Turnstile is certainly no exception; the circle pit that erupted during “Don’t Play” was a thing of beauty.