Wednesday, July 26, 2017

We Mob Deep

I was back in Venice taking my morning stroll today, when I came upon this old painting of a lighthouse attached to a sign in front of the Pacific Resident Theater. Someone had tagged over it and written "We Mob Deep", and then bothered to hang it on a parking sign. I kind of love it.

And I love how well "Mob Deep" accurately describes Venice and its denizens that care about it. When you love a place like the people I'm talking about do, you take it seriously. You have each others' backs, which I'm finding out now more than ever. You fight for what's right, and defend against what is wrong. And we run mob deep.

Love you, Venice. Thank you.

*And RIP Prodigy from Mobb Deep.

Monday, July 24, 2017

FYF Fest ! Day Three - ROCK!

 *Reprinted from story for Juice Magazine!

Day Three of the FYF Fest, and I think we all got the hang of it. There was a different feeling in the air ... more relaxed, less pressure to do it all (though it was still nagging in your mind that so many things were happening around that you were missing at any given moment), a slight, refreshing breeze, and the real, tangible need to just let go and ROCK.

I always feel a little bad for the day's first bands, because many people are still recovering from the previous day's activities well into the afternoon. That was definitely the case for myself and my brother, who had had two gigs AFTER FYF Day 2, and had been up all night. But still, there was epic rocking to do, so we got there as fast as we could. We missed Cherry Glazerr, but I heard they rocked it very hard. There were many, many NIN shirts in the line to get in, so it was easy to see what the day's big draw was. One such shirt wearer was saying he didn't get why they weren't playing IN the Coliseum ... good question.

We checked out some of the stuff we'd previously missed, like the Fingerprints Records pop-up, said hey to the Vans people again, had a quick bite, then hot-footed it over to the Lawn stage where Ty Segall was about to get underway. The festival girls were out in force, and it was fun just to look at all the creative, awesome fashion that was going on, and watch them dance without a care in the world. Not just like no one is watching - they WANT you to watch. Freedom - that's one of the best parts of festivals ... you forget everything else that's going on for a few days. You just focus on how much music you can possibly see and hear, and what new things you might discover. Calls and emails tend to go unanswered for those few days. It's a badly needed escape, and everyone is united in that vibe. It's pretty beautiful.

DJ Harvey was spinning in the Woods area, and it was clear that all the day-ravers were having a good old time in there when we walked by. It was like a big, gay dance club with ultra-decked out revelers not giving a whit that it was broad daylight ... if they even knew.

Ty Segall - Wow. This quintet ROCKED it, and was my new discovery of the day. Which is kind of lame, considering that I see he has like 9 albums out, but hey, better late than never. They were throwing it down, and people were picking it up like crazy. Dancing, moshing, head banging, INTO it. The guitars were shred-tastic, with all kinds of feedback antics, and Segall himself reminded me of a more punk rock legend of Venice, Paul Chesne.

Appropriately for the day, these guys played their "Freedom" with its line, "I'm not scared." Me neither, boys. The crowd grew and grew as people going by heard how great these guys were, and they deserved it. "Finger" got the audience so hyped that there was now daytime crowd surfing. Yes.

Thirst required another walk, and we caught a little of Joey Purp rap in the Club tent while quenching it. That was good for another few shouts of "Make some fucking noise!", which sent us packing off to see some of what Mac DeMarco had to offer.

The slacker rocker had a full audience by the time we got there, comprised mostly of young females screaming for the Canadian dude that flirted with them from the stage. DeMarco has an interesting way of leaning into his chords, and the girls dug it. He was probably the most verbose performer I saw all weekend, as happy to chat between songs as to play them, it seemed. He played mostly from his Salad Days EP, and looked like he was having a great time doing it. Melodic rock, but rock - in the order of the day. "The Stars Keep On Calling My Name" has the line, "I just wanna go" ... which me and another girl near me echoed. Off to the next!

Back at the Club tent, Moses Sumney was taking his sweet time getting set up, finally taking the stage saying, "Lord Jesus, there's a fire!"
Not under him, apparently, but that was fine as a slew of people were still streaming in to hear his heavily altered vocals, looped live to create an ethereal whole. It was interesting and absolutely good, but I had a date with Iggy Pop all the way across the venue.

I was rushing away while others were rushing in, showing once again how varied the musical tastes are at FYF. This was all the more obvious when I passed the Main Stage above, and saw how many people were down there for Little Dragon, while I couldn't wait to get to the Lawn to see Iggy.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media
Iggy motherfucking Pop! The punk rock icon/legend/warhorse/miracle bounded onstage shirtless - of course - with both middle fingers blazing, and immediately lit into The Stooges' "I Wanna Be Your Dog", causing the punk faithful gathered to lose their ever-loving minds. It was non-stop jumping and moshing there in the Lawn stage pit, and you could see Pop feeding off the incredible energy. He was flailing about, jumping up and down, and was out in the crowd on the very first song. This 70 year old powerhouse was way more gnarly than most of the youngsters in the crowd, showing them first hand what it means to be punk rock.

Shaking his ass to the camera, Pop knew he had this crowd exactly where he wanted them, and "Gimme Danger" and "The Passenger" rocked so hard he just said, "Fucking thank you, FUCK!" afterwards. Exactly. Then Pop put his mic down the front of his jeans to free both of his hands to get the whole place clapping, and the band simply scorched their way through "Lust For Life" (my favorite), and the ensuing mayhem really showed the strength of that title. Everyone was feeling that, all the way. It was so good, even Pop yelled "WOOOOO!" after it was done.

"Skull Ring" led right into "I'm Sick Of You" and the reception was so big, Pop said, "Hey, fucking thanks for checking us out, fucking thanks, Fuck!" Just as you want your punk heroes to be. "Repo Man" cemented Pop's status as the Godfather of Punk, and "Search And Destroy" smashed that cement - and the mic stand Pop seemed to be mad at. The almost-ballady "Gardenia" was something special, but even that appeared to require moshing. "TV Eye" led right into the last song, "Mass Production" that was so hair-raisingly hardcore, it left Pop limping off the stage, beating his bare chest like the warrior he is, but not before thanking the people in the pit - who damn well deserved it. Phew!

The sun was now almost fully set, and the night was just starting, if you can believe it. There was really no time at all for us to slack. We barely stopped to eat, there was so much music to see, and we didn't probably see half of it. I don't know how the big drinkers and druggers do it ... I almost felt like I needed workout clothes on just to get places in time! So, we ate on the run and listened as we chewed.

The mad rush to the Main Stage to see Solange was now on, and the VIP area was already fully packed by the time I got there. Solange seems to have her own Bey Hive, as the screams were high and shrill from the very start. The set was lit all red, with geometric shapes giving it all a very 70's variety show vibe. When Solange and her backing band and dancers took the stage - all in extra-tight, red outfits - the crowd went into actual hysterics.

They began with "Rise" from her seriously good album from last year, A Seat At The Table. It was all very artistic, and modern dancey, showing that Solange, like Björk and Missy Elliot from Day One, will do whatever she wants in the name of her art. And good for her, because it's awesome.

Solange choreographed and wrote it all, and even the backing brass band, in their rash-guard tight tops, got down with the dance moves - while playing their instruments. Impressive. Solange introduced "Cranes In The Sky" by saying "I want you all to sing it away", and that kind of summed up the weekend for me. A massive group coming together to sing away all the troubles and hard times we've all been going through, to release it and find peace - together. It was pretty emotional for an already emotional gal like me, and I assure you, I was not alone. When Solange ventured into the crowd to sing "F.U.B.U.", a woman singing with her had tears streaming down her face. "This shit is for us!" And you felt it.

Each time Solange did a spazzy dance move with a totally straight face, the crowd went insane. When she turned around and performed some impressive twerking, they downright lost their shit. I'm fairly new to Solange's table, but have had mad respect for her ever since she kicked the shit out of Jay Z. This girl has your back, and she made that clear in every number she sang. "How many of you have got the tree leaf out there?", asked Solange. Um ... I think everyone. No one was feeling any pain, unless it was in your feet after three solid days of non-stop rocking. But who cares? This was all well worth it.

"I wanna see y'all jam! When this beat drops, I want to see you all breakdance!" "Locked In Closets" hit, and I'm not kidding when I say that front to back, side to side, we all DANCED. It must have looked so rad from above, because it wasn't just bouncing, there was full-on choreography going on in the crowd. People MEANT it. After their bow for that one, Solange laughed and said,"I had to make sure my wig was still on, I felt a shift!" Because she was going for it, dancing full-tilt so hard, she even threw in a little Morris Day funky bird move.

"You guys have been a part of my journey, thank you for letting me experiment and explore!" Massive cheers, because everyone WANTS her to explore ... look what you get! We got "T.O.N.Y.", "Junie", and "Losing You", and that was that ... until Solange was back, huge brass band and all for "Don't Touch My Hair" and an outro of "Rise" that found Solange freaking all the way out, on her back, flailing her legs, doing jumping jacks, going OFF ... only to get up and walk calmly off the stage, hands clasped behind her back as her superfans tried to pick themselves up off of the ground and pinch themselves. Wow. Solange is a true artist, and I can't wait to see what she gets up to next.

What we got up to next was Run The Jewels! We got back to the Lawn stage just in time to see Killer Mike and El-P take the stage beneath their giant pistol and fist logo to Queen's "We Are The Champions". The crowd was huge, and all of them were stoked, as the pit got going from the second they kicked it off with "Talk To Me". Everyone was jumping up and down, all the way back to the VIP area, a long, long way off. "Let me hear you say motherfucking YEAH!" said Killer Mike after that one, and we said it LOUD. Killer Mike is a good dancer, and I like him even more now than I did when he first came on my radar as an avid and erudite supporter of Bernie Sanders. His nickname is very apt - he IS Killer.

"Blockbuster Night Part 1" was awesome, and at its end, El-P said, "Holy shit! It's an amazing thing that you're spending time with us!" We thought exactly the same back. "Call Ticketron", "Oh, My Darling Don't Cry", and "Hey, Kids" ruled it, and Killer Mike also thanked the pit, saying, "The Pit is the shit!" And it was. Pure, raw energy and the power of hard rock, man. It was something to behold. "Stay Gold" and "Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)" killed it so hard, and then I had to head off to try to get close of Nine Inch Nails, but not before I heard RTJ's guest lady rapper, Gangsta Boo, yelling, "I say pussy, you say power!" Pussy! Power! Yep.

The crowd was already drone-worthy over at the Main Stage, but I was lucky that Paul had already gone over there to secure us a spot on the very front rail. The anticipation was building by the second, as was the audience. As was the photo pit. HUGE. As it should have been, for Nine Inch Nails' first show in three years!

The bright lights suddenly went on, the smoke machine blew like crazy, and there was Trent Reznor in his black leather and shades, busting right into "Branches/Bones" from their brand new Add Violence EP with the ferocity of these very times.

The instant they began playing, you realized how vital this music is to now, and how much they've been missed. The music is dark, it's ominous, it's hard, it's heavy, and it goes the fuck off! The power of this music is nothing to mess around with, and the pit in the center looked increasingly dangerous the further down the setlist we went. Yikes.

                                                                                                                    Photo: Josh Bagel Klassman

"Wish". "Less Than." "March Of The Pigs". All pure rock of the hardest kind. They slowed it down a minute or two for the gorgeous (but still dark) "Something I Can Never Have" from Pretty Hate Machine, but then it was right back to the superspeed. "The Frail". "The Wretched". Then it was a full on singalong for "Closer" and its "I want to fuck you like an animal" chorus. Nine Inch Nails fans mean business, and all of them were out of their minds. So were people seeing them for their very first time - they were that good. Guitarist, Robin Finck, tore through each song with blazing prowess, and reminded one of Halloween's Michael Myer's if he was sick at guitar.

Atticus Ross held it down on the bass, and you had to stop and think about how much he and Reznor have seen and done in their long careers together. They've created one of the most serious bands ever, and their music served as a majorly cathartic release for everyone gathered there in front of them.

This is the kind of rock that makes one let loose with total abandon and just FEEL it. They did a cover of David Bowie's "I Can't Give Everything Away" that was both heavy and touching, as Reznor said, "We've been away three years, watching as the world has gone crazy." Well, now they're here to help. Thank goodness.

It never let up and a breakneck pace led us through "The Lovers", "Reptile", "The Great Destroyer", "The Hand That Feeds", and a monster "Head Like A Hole", killing it all the while. It was honestly outrageously good, and that is unanimous. They returned for an encore that was "Hurt", which was probably good, because the slower pace most likely prevented speeding and reckless behavior on the way out ... a little cool-down was needed. The applause raged on, but that was the end of FYF Fest 2017, and it was something else.

As good as it all was, the fact that they had exactly ONE exit for the entire grounds was insane. The artistry of this festival is perhaps the best booking I've even heard of in a long while, with such cultural and musical diversity that it nearly boggles the mind that it's all on one bill. That creative mastery is dampened, however, by some really, truly mind-boggling logistics that make no sense at all, and really need to be sorted out if they hope to have the longevity and success of other, more seasoned festivals (that always have more than one exit, for God's sake). It took a long while to get out of there, and thus gave us time to reflect ...

Our consensus was that the best new live discoveries for us were Thee Oh Sees (by far), Built To Spill, and Ty Segall. The best, period, for us were Björk, Missy Elliot, A Tribe Called Quest, Iggy Pop, Run The Jewels, and Nine Inch Nails. All of whom absolutely KILLED. IT.

Thank you to FYF Fest 2017, and to Juice Magazine - for letting us share the rock!

Fuck Yeah.

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography (unless otherwise indicated)

Sunday, July 23, 2017

FYF Fest! Day Two - We The People!

 * Reprinted from story for Juice Magazine!

FYF Day Two!

It was another hot and sunny day for Day Two of the FYF Fest, and we got a bit of a slow start after the raging of the night before. Three day festivals are not for the weak, that's for certain. We remembered to start with food this time, so that was good, and then set out for Exposition Park. We drove this time because Paul was going to have to leave early for a long-planned double gig of his own in San Pedro. With BOTH of his bands playing. AFTER a long day of shooting bands and rocking. I was already praying for him.

We found a spot easily enough a couple blocks away. Once at the site, we discovered the Day One learning curve had not been straightened out, and once again received a slew of disinformation. We went through security three different times on the simple mission of trying to get inside to the Media Tent without waiting in the GA line. No one has a clue as to what they're talking about, including the Staff Manager. One would direct you to the entire other end of the grounds, while another would say you can go in "right there" and point somewhere, only to have their co-"worker" dispute it. It's really frustrating when you're missing a bunch of good music because event staff doesn't have their shit together. Like, I'm grateful to be there, but I've been to a lot of festivals and have never encountered such blasé, non-helpful staff. Ever. I wish we'd seen more. I wish the staff would have a meeting. Or walkie-talkies. Anyway. Once finally inside, we raced over to the Club stage to catch the tail end of the Princess Nokia set, which was going off. She has a lot of fans, and all of them were all the way into it.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media
There was a very cool Vans pop-up happening in the Nightmarket area, where people got to pick up some Vans merch, like a hat or bandana, and sit down in the tent to take a break from the heat and customize their Vans stuff with sequins and whatnot while they were at it.

Vans had a photo exhibition from Thrasher Magazine's Editor In Chief, Michael Burnett on display, that were all awesome shots of skate history, as well as the latest videos playing from skate brands like Girl, Plan B, Blind, World Industries, Toy Machine, and Vans' first feature length video, Propeller. It was a rad little break, made even radder by the Vans swag we got to take home. Thanks, Vans! We love you.

We didn't have the luxury of dawdling for very long, as every minute you're not somewhere else at these things, you feel like you should be. We wanted to catch some MGMT, so took off in the direction of the Main Stage. We wanted to hit up some Thundercat on the way, but it was too packed to get close, so we listened as we walked - something you do a lot of with all this ground to cover.

MGMT isn't that much my thing, but it was the thing of a lot of screaming girls. The singer came out in a sequined tank top, which felt a bit extra in the broad daylight, but then I looked down at my own sequins and zipped my mental lip.

The synth heavy pysch-pop band got under way with their "Pieces Of What", which was very well-received, and I realized they do get down with guitars more than I thought. "Brian Eno" was next, and cartoons played along on the screen behind them. Seems like you pretty much have to have a screen show as well now days. The crowd wasn't moving too much, which I attributed to the intense heat and very close quarters. The Q-Bert sounding opening bit to their hit "Time To Pretend", and the crowd went predictably wild.

I was happy for them, it was enough for us, and off we sped to the entire opposite side of the world to the Trees stage to just barely catch the last bit from Noname, a tall, female rapper that was brand new to me, and seemingly brand new to this, as she commented, "I didn't expect this many people!" All of whom she repeatedly told to "Make some motherfucking noise!" Again, I think it might be time to retire that term ... it's SO played out. I noted that pretty much all anyone has to do is yell "L.A.!" (or wherever they are) to get the cheer they want, so that is also employed a lot. I get it. Hometown pride, and all that. Noname ended with "Yesterday", and that's where I saw the talent in her lyrics. "When the sun is going down, when the dark is out to stay, I picture your smile, like it was yesterday." I will explore this young lady's work more at a later date. I enjoy the discoveries you make on days like this as much as (or almost as much as) the big deal headliners. Learning is fun!

We knew we liked Built To Spill already, we just didn't know how much. They were also playing the Trees stage, and as they were next up, we decided to sit on the curb and wait for them versus traipsing across the Universe somewhere else, only to come right back. Saner heads (Paul's) prevailed. There was once again the confusion about where and when photographers could go for the photo pit (HAVE A MEETING!), but the sun was in its golden prime and Built To Spill was ready to throw down, so lameness was quickly forgotten.

These riff rockers also need to be better explored, as I don't remember thinking of them as being as heavy as they are. Heads were banging. Most anyway, one dude was flat on his back with his eyes closed right down front, not at all bothered by the rock exploding from the speakers a few yards away. I couldn't blame him. It's exhausting even if you're stone cold sober, and this cat clearly was not.

Built To Spill was one of the rare guitar rock bands in this year's FYF lineup, and we loved it. I wish I could get down with all the dance tent stuff going on, but it's just not my jam. Because I like actual jams. Like the ones Doug Martsch and his bandmates were laying down for us in this woodsy space. They kicked off with "The Plan", "Center Of The Universe", "Carry The Zero", and "Sidewalk", all of which were fist pumped and head banged along with. These guys are from Idaho, and I'm so happy they were included among all the Hip Hop and R & B acts this year, because sometimes you just need to rock.

We had to keep on trucking, but still got to hear "Bad Light" and "Time Trap" and the sweet guitar solos within them as we were walking out, because I ran into some friends I'd met at a Ganja Goddess Getaway (you've never been?), and we needed to have a quick badly needed sister session. Golden hour was in full effect and all was well at the FYF Fest in that moment.

This helped everything, because now was the time that Paul had to split off to the San Pedro spaceblanket/Shotshell Press gigs, so I was on my own now. Which if I'm honest, I kind of dug. I was forced to be much more of an observer in the crowd, and I saw a lot. There was no way I was going to leave and go with him, because A Tribe Called Quest was still to come, and I LOVE them. So, Bye Paul, have a good gig! I got to hear a snippet of King Krule on the way to the Main Stage, which was cool, but also because they force you to go the long way to get to the Main Stage. It's absurd how they have things set up at this thing, which we'll get into more after ATCQ.

                                                                                                    Photo: Goldenvoice Media
People were scrambling in droves in my same direction, and it was like being in a super-packed airport, with people just walking right into you. It was already jam packed by the time I got to the Main Stage VIP area, which to be honest, is not that VIP. It's just a section off to the left side that is closer to the front, but half blocked by the giant screens and amps. You're just as packed in as everyone else, with an semi-obstructed view that you pay extra for. These were the observations I was overhearing by everyone around me, I was personally just happy to be there for these Hip Hop legends that were about to take the stage for what we were to find out would be their final Los Angeles show ever. Whoa.

                                                                                                                      Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Excitement was HIGH, as was most of the crowd, it appeared and smelled like. The sun had just set and the picture was perfect for the awesome show that was about to go down. The screens filled with a big photo of the late Phife Dawg, and the crowd reacted with loud love. When Q-Tip, Consequence, Jarobi, and DJ Ali came out, the ovation was thunderous, and I had full-on chills. They got started with "Space Program" from We Got It From Here ... Thank You F Your Service, which was the best album of last year, in my opinion. The whole place was jumping, smoking, pumping fists, and generally thrilled. As we should have been. These guys are the realest deal, and gave as much of themselves as anyone I've seen perform yet this weekend.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media

Stalking the lengths of the stage, going out into the crowd, dancing, and rapping without ever a break other than to let recorded tracks from Phife Dawg have solos at times had us all impressed. I was tired from just standing there, and these legends were going full non-stop cardio. And they played about 30 songs! Thankfully. All of the band mates were decked out in ATCQ gear, which I think is funny sometimes, but with them I wanted them to wear even more of it. Q-Tip's distinctive voice carried the majority of the rapping, and he looked like he was having as much fun as we were. They played the new jams, the old school jams, pretty much all of the highlights of a decades long career, leaving no one dissatisfied.

Some of the best social commentators from the very beginning, you could get a very good sociological education just from listening to the ATCQ catalog front to back. And everyone here seemed to know every single word, shouting along to even the little "Woo Hahs!" that came up. "Excursions" from 1991 found Q-Tip asking, "Can I talk to my generation?," yet it sounded as fresh as if he'd just written it in the green room. I was scribbling in my notebook then (I too am old school), and a lady walked by and said, "Whatever you're writing down must be really important." I replied, "It is." Because it IS.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media

The set varied from social consciousness tunes to get down with the ladies jams like "Bonita Applebum" that featured Q-Tip executing some impressive limbo type moves, and all of us doing the side to side dance together. "Phony Rappers" was rad, as was "Steve Biko (Stir It Up)" that had us all doing the stir motion with our fingers. We were all having a blast, the ladies yelling "AAAAH" and the guys yelling "OOOH" and all of us yelling, "Do that shit, do that shit, do it!" And then Q-Tip got real real ...

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media

"Is it a long day? Good day? ("WOOOOO!") Smoke day? Drink day? Pill day? (I hope not, they'll kill you.) Music day? GOOD DAY, LA!" Then ... "Thank you for fucking with us for a long time. This performance is our last one in L.A. (What?! NO!"), Phife Dawg has been called to another mission, but we wanted to do one more show for you." He took a pause, then said, "Losing someone comes in waves, this experience is cathartic and helps, thank you. Phife was my best friend I had, since I was four, and we're gonna play a favorite of his." They then gave up the stage to Phife Dawg alone as his recorded track for "Butter" played, and the guys probably got a sip of water. It was touching, and I felt for all of them.

They were all back, this time joined by a straw-hatted Raphael Saadiq playing a brightly painted stand up bass for "Buggin' Out". That was real cool. The last three jams were a frenzy of action, with all the guys running all over, into the crowd, out on a runway, giving their all on "Electric Relaxation", "Vivrant Thing", and "Check The Rhime". Then all of a sudden it was all "Thank you, we love you, L.A.! You know you're our second home!" And they were gone, just like that. Bummer! I was still waiting for my favorite from the new album, "We The People"! - but they said they had to clear the stage. Everyone started streaming for the super-slow exits, then WHAT?! They were back! A near stampede happened in reverse, as everyone tried to get back and jockey for a now-better spot. ATCQ gave us "Can I Kick It?" ("Yes, you can!"), "Award Tour", and finally, "We The People"! We shouted back the chorus, "We the People! We are Equal!" - and that never felt more true. Thank you, ATCQ. You gave every bit of yourselves up there, and over your career, and we love you.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media

That everyone is equal was all the more apparent when the cattle herding from the Main Stage to the "VIP" area near the Lawn stage began. It was a nightmare. Ask anyone who tried to get into VIP after ATCQ what that was like. Every soul will tell you it was a completely dangerous, ridiculous, shit-show of an ordeal that took forever, and as a guy next to me (like NEXT to me, nearly cheek to cheek) said, "I'm so glad I paid extra for this." The VIP area features nothing special, nothing included (Oh, hang on. Complimentary coat check. Who in God's name was wearing a coat in this weather?), and is as far away from the stage where Erykah Badu was about to perform as you could possibly get. Absolutely not worth it, AND they make you queue up to get scanned OUT of there as well. Why? If the music line-up wasn't so excellent and diverse, you would never bother. I'm happy to help you iron out some logistics for next time ... but we'll see how Day Three goes ...

Erykah Badu! I've never seen her live, and was very excited, but also very, very far away. I saw her take the stage from the big video screen, and the massive crowd blew up in applause when they saw Badu appear in her giant Pharell-type hat and coat of many colors. She's a stand alone in style, both fashion and musically, that's not debatable. "Rimshot" was her intro, and she got right into it with "Hello". "Out My Mind, Just In Time", followed by "On and On", and "...On" were eaten up by her superfans. Jazzy, sultry, powerful, clever, sexy ... Badu has it all. People were dancing all the way in back, and straight-seeming white boys were singing along with every word. Impressive.

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media
"Where's my 80's people? My 90's people? You know the Baduism language better than anyone. Who's having their first Badu experience? (Me!) "I'm happy to accommodate you." (Thank you!) She's just so dang cool. "Love Of My Life (Ode To Hip Hop)". "Apple Tree". "No Love". "Annie (Don't Wear No Panties)". All awesome. I got to hear "I Want You", and then had to make my way back over to the Main Stage for Frank Ocean, as some people had been lining up in front since the last note from A Tribe Called Quest. I heard one lady said, "Frank Ocean is the only reason I'm here." I could not say the same, but was eager to see what all the fuss was about.

                                                                                                                   Photo: Goldenvoice Media
By now, the Main Stage zone was beyond packed, and I knew that there was no point in trying to get close, so I settled in to content myself with the giant screens. People were beyond excited. I just felt like an outside observer. Ladies were panting.

Ocean took the stage and it was bedlam. Screams for days. He had an "Instant Karma" shirt on, and went and set himself up at a little home studio type thing on the stage runway. He basically let everyone in on his way of creating when he's by himself, only in front of a massive crowd. Like many of the acts in this year's FYF, Ocean is a true artist, doing exactly his own thing.

                                                                                                           Photo: Los Angeles Daily News
I don't really know the Ocean songs yet, so titles mostly escape me (because he wasn't doing any direct talking to us either), but I do know his album was called Blonde, so I can get on board with that. There had been a booth in the Night Market area earlier hawking "Blonded" things that I didn't realize were Ocean related. This blonde blew it. And the more I listened, the more I got it. When I heard a lady saw he's like a modern Michael Jackson, I didn't know if I'd go that far (dancing?), but Ocean certainly has that extra something.

Ladies were singing their hearts out, and I felt like a bit of a loser for not knowing a single word, but I always get a kick out of watching people seeing their favorite music. It's a rare joy that only comes from your own heart. That's the good part about this festival. Los Angeles is SO diverse, and this FYF Fest captured that beautifully. People would be walking in speedy droves in opposite directions (creating walking havoc, but still), because THEIR favorite band was the other way. Fans equally excited about completely different things. The Main Stage area might be overflowing with mainstream-ish listeners, but at that same moment, there's a dance party of a lifetime going on across the Coliseum. There is truly something for everyone, and it all works in harmony - musically. Logistics still need some real thought and implementation. But back to Frank Ocean ...

As I was spacing out thinking about all of the above, Ocean was busy making people want to take off their clothes. That happened to me next when out of nowhere comes an unannounced or acknowledged Brad Pitt on stage to act out a phone call of Ocean singing a cover of The Carpenters' "Close To You"! What?! Well, now I like Ocean even more, because clearly he's kind of weird. I didn't know how that could be topped, and wanted to avoid the mega-crush getting on the train, so I split, hearing Ocean's croon as my escort on the long, long walk to the exit. He made at least one new fan.

I reflected more on the ride home, and felt infinitely fortunate that I live in Los Angeles, where you can hear absolutely any kind of music you could ever want to live, you learn about other cultures through the music, and that's how you can help build the bridges to peace and understanding. That was a sweet dream to think about as I finally fell asleep, plotting my Day Three ...

                                                                                                                       Photo: Goldenvoice Media
To be continued!

*Photos by Paul Gronner Photography (unless otherwise indicated)

**No photo pit allowed for Frank Ocean