“Our team of many women and men have worked tirelessly on this event for many years, but felt unable to present an experience on par with the expectations of our loyal fans and the Los Angeles music community this year.”
This news also follows the departure of disgraced festival founder Sean Carlson who was accused of sexual assault last November, causing Goldenvoice to cut all ties with him.
FYF Fest (FYF) certainly hit the ground limping this year. Despite impressive ticket sales in 2017 after an expansion to three days, FYF 2018 was reduced to two days. But even severe cost cuts weren’t enough to save the festival.
People didn’t want to go to FYF this year, and that isn’t just because of Carlson. His complications were simply the last straw.
In reality, what happened to FYF is an unavoidable example of how the standard festival formula is failing. Dozens of events have disappeared recently, and even giants like Goldenvoice are vulnerable considering multiple sources cited low ticket sales as a factor in the cancellation.
If a large event is going to survive it needs to stand out, and FYF 2018 certainly didn’t.
Consider the objective qualities of FYF 2018. First of all the venue. Exposition park isn’t the worst venue in Southern California, but it’s close.
Arriving before 5 p.m. always means waiting in an excessive line to enter the festival because the venue only allows for one entrance. On top of that, being forced to circumvent the enormous coliseum is simply a drag. Imagine putting a professional football stadium in the middle of Coachella. No good.
With these unavoidable hindrances, it’s hard to think of Exposition park as a venue that stands out. Unfortuantely, it’s the only venue in the city of Los Angeles permitted to house an outdoor event of that size. There simply isn’t another option, and FYF has been paying the price for years.
Also, funnily enough, the new George Lucas museum is being built right where FYF’s mainstage was built every year. So Exposition Park wasn’t going to be an option for long, which made it an objectively worse choice from a logistical standpoint.
The second quality of FYF 2018 that should be objectively scrutinized is the lineup.
In its early years FYF catered to a very different crowd than it does now. Back when the festival was officially titled “Fuck Yeah Fest” rather than “FYF Fest” it was based on punk, hardcore, and other genres known for their disdain of commercialization.
However, every year since Goldenvoice partnered with FYF the lineups have moved further and further away from that ethos. The trade-off was a more diverse roster, but if Goldenvoice is going to curate a lineup without considering the festival’s roots it had better be top notch.
Last year’s lineup was beautiful. Frank Ocean’s redemption. Flying Lotus’s first 3D show ever. A Tribe Called Quest. Erykah Badu. The list goes on.
This year was not top notch. It was merely acceptable; a shell based on artists making contracts with Goldenvoice or doing festival tours. Almost every act on FYF’s lineup can be found on either the 2017 or 2018 lineup for Coachella.
Annie Clark is an amazing performer, and I was blown away by her set at Coachella this year. But Goldenvoice has so much money. It would not be hard to find another equally amazing performer to fill at least one of those slots.
This doesn’t just apply to Goldenvoice either. Janet Jackson and Florence + The Machine, who were set to headline either day of FYF, are both headlining Outside Lands 2018 as well. Key artists on that lineup include Bon Iver, Future, ODESZA and DJ Snake; all of whom played Coachella either this year or last.
That’s why people are less than thrilled on festivals anymore. If they miss one, chances are they’ll be able to see the exact same artists at another. That is the opposite of standing out.
Pair this idea with rising ticket prices, and soon festivals that are even larger than FYF might start disappearing.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this year’s HARD Summer is the last HARD Summer. As a brand HARD has gone through hell these past few years, and similar to FYF they have dealt with a lot of drama surrounding their founder, Gary Richards.
Of course Richards did not leave HARD for anything so disgusting as sexual assault, but his departure definitely stoked doubt within the scene. Gary put a real face to his festivals. People knew an artist was throwing these events which gave them a unique vibe.
Now HARD Summer is just another corporate offering, and this year’s lineup doesn’t look very different from year’s past. It’s not a bad lineup, but it surely doesn’t stand out. Plus they’re returning to the Fontana Speedway which was a terrible venue.
Right now, two-day tickets come out to around $200. I doubt anyone is happy to pay that much.
Gary Richards seems to be avoiding this basic formula with his new event, All My Friends Festival, which will debut at The Row in Downtown LA this August. Although the six artists who have been announced look quite similar to the first line of a HARD event, Richards is clearly trying to upend the status quo by returning to DTLA.
HARD events with the LA skyline in the backdrop are the reason HARD grew into what it is today. Giving LA fans a fresh festival right in their backyard would certainly stand out, and the scene needs that right now. Desperately.
All photos provided by FYF