Festival Review: Missy Elliott has Beyoncé dancing, while Frank Ocean serenades Brad Pitt at LA’s FYF Fest this weekend

From its humble beginnings as a one-night showcase at LA club The Echo, FYF Fest has evolved both in venue and scope with a diverse lineup spanning 3 days at Downtown’s Exposition Park.

Day One’s Friday afternoon began with the punch of Sydney’s own Royal Headache, followed by the soothing touch of Canadian outfit BADBADNOTGOOD, whose cover of Drake‘s “Passionfruit” got early festival-goers grooving.

Royal Headache (Photo: Neil Husvar)

“You look even better than I remember LA, have you been working out?” called out Angel Olsen during her sunset set on The Lawn stage. Complemented by her five-piece band in bolo ties, Olsen’s lilting cry in “Unfucktheworld”, snarling “Shut Up Kiss Me”, and gut-punch harmonies with Heather McEntire on “Not Gonna Kill You” took audiences on an emotional rollercoaster and set up what would continue to be an evening dominated by superbly strong women.

It was only 10:10PM when Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals took to the stage but .Paak literally leapt into the set like they were the headliner. Oozing charisma and energy as he worked through “Lite Weight”, “Am I Wrong” and Prince-inspired Kaytranada track “Glowed Up”, the frontman settled behind the drums for “Carry Me” announcing “This song is about my mama, y’all…make some noise if you still love your mama.” Definitely a standout of the weekend.

A main stage double bill of Björk and Missy Elliott, two of the most respected and innovative artists in music brought out a calibre of fans unlike any other, with Janet Jackson, Katy Perry and Beyoncé in the audience.

Wearing what can be best described as a cross between a Turkey costume and a ruffled piñata, Iceland’s greatest export opened the main stage with “Stonemilker” as the dazzling 360 degree panoramic music video played out behind her. Backed by a full string ensemble, her otherworldly vocals soared throughout the grounds, as the audience pulsed with “Isobel” and those curious as to see what goes on in Björk’s head, or mouth at least, were treated to Jesse Kanda’s entrancing visuals for “Mouth Mantra.” Her “thank you” at the end of each song may have been short, but the effect of seeing Björk in full-flight was long-lasting.

Missy Elliott (Photo: Kayla Reefer)

Ladies’ night continued with the long-awaited and much-anticipated return of the legendary Missy Elliott, with a performance that was straight out of the box (literally), kicking off a dance-party for the ages, including “She’s A Bitch”, “One Minute Man”, “Get Your Freak On”, hip hop hoedown “Pass That Dutch” and “Work It.” Elliott hasn’t released an album in 12 years but according to her, “The music we created was so ahead, it couldn’t be dated.” Despite a number of technical issues throughout the set, “Real stars just keep it movin’”, and the Queen of Hip Hop showed no signs of slowing down, pausing momentarily to shout out to famous fangirl Beyoncé who was dancing in the wings; “Mama, I’ve made it!”

“Y’all look so cool in those glasses!” While a few concertgoers might have been uneasy that the 3D visuals for Flying Lotus‘ set were going to include scenes from his gross-out extravaganza “Kuso,” luckily for them the scenes were laser-filled skies and swirling Wonka tunnels. His remix of the Twin Peaks‘ iconic theme song provided a damn fine finish to Day One.

The grooves continued on Day Two with bassist extraordinaire Thundercat; people were hoping Kenny Loggins might make a surprise appearance on “Show You The Way” but his Footloose friend was a no-show, so the audience had to make do with an impressive afternoon of popping jazz-fusion that was continued by King Krule on the same stage an hour later.

Opening the main stage, MGMT, who still seem to be using Microsoft ’95 screensavers as backing visuals, joked about having “One hour down, two to go” and spent most of “Kids” crouched on the floor.

A Tribe Called Quest

Surviving members of A Tribe Called Quest, Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, hit the stage at FYF Fest today in Los Angeles – one of only a handful of times the pair have performed since the death of founding member Phife Dawg and the release of their sixth and final studio album We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service.

Performing a set filled with favourites from their catalogue, including “Award Tour”, “We The People”, “Oh My God”, “Bonita Applebum”, “Buggin Out” and “Mobius,” frontman Q-Tip brought the crowd still for a tribute to his friend, stating “Phife Dawg, our anchor, has been called to another mission…” before introducing Phife’s isolated verse from “Butter.”

Towards the end of the set, Q-Tip confirmed that it would be the final show in Los Angeles for the iconic hip-hop outfit, who also appeared earlier this month at the Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago.

Watch the announcement here:

A TRIBE CALLED QUEST FYF FEST SET LIST

The Space Program
Oh My God
Common Ground (Get It Goin’ on)
Busta’s Lament
Let’s Ride (QTip)
Dis Generation
Mobius
Excursions
Find a Way
Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check (Busta Rhymes track)
Whateva Will Be
Luck of Lucien (snippet)
Butter (Phife’s first verse a capella)
Spaceship (Kanye West track, Consequence solo)
Movin Backwards (Jarobi Solo)
Sucka Nigga
Phony Rappers
Black Spasmodic
Steve Biko (Stir It Up)
Buggin’ Out
Bonita Applebum
Electric Relaxation
Vivrant Thing (QTip track)
Check the Rhime

Encore:
Can I Kick It?
Award Tour
We the People….

Even though she kept a packed Lawn waiting, all was forgiven when Erykah Badu finally appeared, with hat height to rival Pharrell and greeting the audience with “Hello”. Classic Baduizm tracks “On & On” and “Appletree” featured early in the set but her late arrival left many punters conflicted as the clock neared 11pm ahead of Frank Ocean on the Main Stage.

After two years since dropping out of FYF Fest 2015, it would seem Ocean was ready.  Opening with “Solo” and taking two runs at “Good Guy” – “This is like my fourth or fifth show back in so many years…be patient with your boy” – Ocean’s album-perfect vocals had the audience enthralled, not least of all when he began a cover of The Carpenters’ “Close To You” and Brad Pitt, sitting backstage on the phone, appeared on screen. Pitt has said in interviews that Blonde had helped him since his highly publicised divorce last year.

This was also the first time in North America that Ocean had performed “Pink + White” and “Nikes”, which concluded a set that was both understated and completely riveting.

Day Three continues today (Sunday, LA time) with Australia’s own Julia Jacklin, UK’s Temples, tuxedo-clad LA locals Chicano BatmanMac DeMarcoTy SegallMURA MASALittle DragonIggy PopSolangeRun the Jewels and Nine Inch Nails.

Frank Ocean image by Roger Ho.