I am prone to heatstroke. I lack meaningless tattoos. I don't consider "live music" to be a genre, nor have I ever "lost myself" in said music. I'm like Andy Rooney on hormone replacement therapy. That, combined with my overwhelming hatred of Youth Culture™, makes me one of the worst people you could send to write about a music festival...which is, I assume, why Noisey sent me to write about FYF Fest; my mean-spirited, irrationally righteously indignant musings are high quality Troll Bait™. Think I'm an old, bitter hag who should shut the fuck up and stop judging you? Let me know in the comments below!
Qualm #1: Not Enough Marketing
Culture and commerce, regardless of whatever that sycophantic, overrated buttlick Andy Warhol said, do not make good bedfellows. You can't be anti-establishment and corporate at the same time; you can't have your vegan cake and slap a Sarah Lee sticker on it, too. That hasn't stopped countless festivals, however, from trying to force this unholy alliance. Lollapalooza and Coachella exist solely as excuses to sell 400 dollar tickets, six dollar waters, publicly display the corpse that is the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and pour promotional energy drinks down the throats of dehydrated 20-somethings. I assumed FYF Fest would be similar in this regard. I was wrong.
As an American, and a damn good one at that, my first order of business upon entering the festival grounds was to fill my bag with as many branded t-shirts, tschotskes, and bottles of water as I could find. All the sponsors were capable of providing me, however, was "art" made in the name of promotion for sunglass and beverage companies I had never heard of. Now, I love art as much as the next white person, but I love free shit more. Where was the free shit? The gluten-free potato chip samples? The bored, objectified shot girls? Sure, I eventually picked up a free bottle branded with a liquor company's logo, but was said bottle filled with liquor? Fuck to the no. You people call THIS marketing? If the organizers of Woodstock '99 saw what I saw, they'd roll over in their richly deserved graves.
Qualm #2: What is This, Nazi Germany?
You couldn't bring opened cigarette packets into the festival, because the "General Store" sold 10 dollar packs of American Spirits. You couldn't bring food in, because the vegan BBQ and Mediterranean fusion trucks sold whatever the fuck vegan BBQ and Mediterranean fusion are. You couldn't bring a chain wallet in, because FYF's organizers are clearly fascists. I thought this shit was supposed to be punk rock, for fuck's sake. No chain wallets? Are you kidding me? I NEED my chain wallet. It represents my hardcore ethos!
Qualm #3: Privilege Disguised as Partying
Want to watch the luxury of youth, loaded to the gills on Christ knows what, stumble perfectly hand-in-hand with the luxury of privilege? Attend a music festival. Free and easy youngsters revel in the privilege to have "good" taste in music—not that Top 40 shit poor people are forced to listen to on terrestrial radio. The privilege to spend nine dollars on a locally-sourced, thoroughly-ethical "Kale Box" sold out of a food—not taco—truck. The privilege to buy overpriced vinyl and leave it to warp in the locker they rented for no goddamned reason. The privilege to choose to wander around a filthy field in the relentless sun, instead of being persecuted into doing so. They may feel as though their parents persecute them for their lifestyle choices, but in the end, their parents were the ones that paid for the education they squandered by choosing to be "cool."
No one looked poor, because no one was poor. With VIP passes running 200 dollars, and plebe passes 100 dollars, genuine poverty was a genuine impossibility. Granted, that didn't stop people from attempting to replicate aesthetic desperation, but their true colors shone through like garish neon in the dirt. The same dirt they laid down in, looking exhausted and miserable, covering their mouths with scarves in order to brave the "harsh" environmental conditions. This was their war, but the only way in which they could enlist was to afford it; to use a credit card instead of a draft card. At no point in the future will they tell their kids they "used to be so poor, [they] could hardly afford to put Yeah Yeah Yeahs shirts on the table." Their tattoos were investments in more ways than one.
Qualm #4: The Vacuous Crowd
On the Saturday afternoon train ride there, I watched a trio of fresh-faced, inoffensive young white males share in their collective excitement. The group's ringleader, who sported a tie-dye shirt and one of those floppy, unflattering brown hats popularized by former actor Johnny Depp, told his bros, "The day before orientation, we just…partied." His rapt audience laughed knowingly. A blonde, seemingly life-experience-deficient girl across the way, carrying a hardcover picture book entitled The Films of Woody Allen, blankly watched her equally vacant friend scroll through Instagram.
Late Saturday night, I gazed upon a statuesque blonde beauty as she confusedly stumbled out from backstage into the VIP area. "Is this a concert?" she asked her equally statuesque Depp-hat-wearing buddy in a leather jacket. The friend shrugged.
On Sunday afternoon, an egregiously intoxicated bro told me my totebag was "tight." His bro chimed in: "Yeah. It's hella tight." The fact that they wouldn't receive Social Security benefits in their old age delighted me.
Qualm #6: I Saw One of the Most Depressing, Confusing Fucking Things I Have Ever Seen
On the way into the grounds, I overheard a kid tell his friends, "Beer, pot, coffee, ecstasy…as long as I keep doing stuff, I don't have to think about how shitty I feel." His remarkable amount of self-awareness depressed the shit out of me. What's the fun in being a fuck up if you know you're a fuck up? This, however, was not the most depressing thing I witnessed that weekend.
Saturday night, near the city jail, about four blocks away from the festival itself, a nondescript looking hipster approached a friend and I on the sidewalk. "Hey. Did you guys just go to FYF?" he asked. We responded in the affirmative. "Did you see Deerhunter?" We had not. "Did they already play?" They had. His face fell upon hearing this news. "I really wanted to see them," he mumbled. It was at this point I noticed he was still wearing his jail-issue wristband.
Qualm #7: "Professional" Photographers
I was given a photo pass, in spite of the fact I lacked a professional "rig." This gave me the ability to photograph bands from the photo pit, which I used solely as an excuse to add more photos of Breeders bassist Josephine Wiggs to my spank bank. In doing so, I got the ol' hairy eyeball from real photographers carrying egregiously large lenses. Lens size amongst photographers, apparently, is their equivalent of a pissing contest; the goal is to big dick your competition. But what constitutes a good photographer? Large lenses? The ability to control a complicated series of knobs and dials? A sense of entitlement and artistic worth? And anyway, does planet Earth really need any more high-res photos of Yo La Tengo's Ira Kaplan "shredding" on the guitar?
Final Tally of Joy Division Shirts Seen by This Reporter: 9 (1 worn by an honest-to-God child, 1 tie-dyed, 1 in tank top form, 1 non-Unknown Pleasures variation)
Megan Koester needs a drink and a nap. Follow her on Twitter - @bornferal