The Arena, 2:30 p.m.
Given the option of an air-conditioned, dark and spacious arena to enter on a hot afternoon — filled with the sounds of a recently Polaris-nominated Canadian electro chanteuse, no less — why wouldn’t you take that opportunity? With a simple setup comprising a sampler and a pair of keyboards, Lanza effortlessly eased through a set of jams from her 2013 album Pull My Hair Back, transitioning from sultry and ethereal R&B sounds to a more booming dance-pop sound. But the mood never lifted from cool and mysterious; there are worse ways to beat the heat. – JT
The Lawn, 3:30 p.m.
New Orleans (by way of Gainesville) singer/songwriter Benjamin Booker has been riding a crest of press attention since showing up on Aquarium Drunkard radio that eventually found him opening for Jack White and releasing a debut album on ATO Records — a hard rocking and soulful debut at that, which has enough meat and grit on it to make all the hype surrounding him seem worthwhile. And there’s nothing fancy or fussed-over about his live show — it’s rock ‘n’ roll music, played with guitars. Nothing more, but definitely nothing less. But Booker and his rhythm section didn’t really need much to make a whirlwind of sound, each punk-tinged rock rave-up burning white-hot into the next, and hitting its most blazing peak with the lightning opening riffs of “Violent Shiver.” Jack White co-sign or not, Booker is the real deal. – JT
Jets to Basil, Javabreaker, Fritter Seems Forever
Donut Friend booth, 4 p.m.
My hunger pangs were pronounced by the time I got into FYF on Sunday, and a massive infusion of fried dough and sugar probably wasn’t what I needed to start the day off right. But in this case, eating a donut wasn’t just about the donut—it was about the sacred and everlasting bond of friendship. On Saturday, I was talking all day with Treble’s husband-and-wife duo Jeff Terich and Candice Eley about stopping by the Donut Friend booth. Today, we vowed to meet here first thing, in order to break dough and solidify sweet fellowship. Perusing the selection at Donut Friend’s FYF booth, I chose the Fritter Seems Forever, a standard-issue apple fritter (the “speedball” of donuts). It was a fine donut indeed, but it was no match for Jeff’s Javabreaker (by the way, all of these donuts are named after indie rock bands), which packed an intense coffee flavor. And yet it was Candice’s Jets to Basil that won the “craziest donut of the day” game. Slathered inside with strawberry jam, goat cheese, and what was either almonds or bacon—we weren’t quite sure—this sandwich-like item was topped off with a single piece of fresh basil, making it a truly bizarre and rather amazing eating experience. — PH
The Trees, 4:55 p.m.
When Michigan post-hardcore outfit La Dispute hit the stage on Sunday afternoon, they expressed some doubts about whether or not they’d be able to muster up the energy to play their best after being up at ungodly hours, hauling all their gear to the airport and then rushing it over to the festival grounds from LAX. But they assured us that it was our positive energy that gave them the extra jolt they needed. And boy, what a jolt — their high-energy, At the Drive-In-like explosion of jittery art-punk saw the band at their most physical, with abrasive riffs clashing against tense, complex rhythms and hooks that emerged just when the band needed them to. Vocalist Jordan Dreyer’s face streamed with blood — whether fake or real, it’s hard to tell. But the message was clear — they’re not holding anything back. – JT
The Lawn, 5:50 p.m.
Bass maestro and frequent Flying Lotus collaborator doesn’t exactly play jazz; it’s more of a space-age funk/R&B fusion with elements of ’70s electric jazz a la George Duke or Stanley Turrentine. But once Mr. Cat (real name Stephen Bruner) hits the stage — in this case wearing a hood that looked like a coyote pelt — he takes the listening audience into some spacious and unexpected realms. His bass is a vehicle for both technical showmanship and a tour guide through some atmospheric and cool improvisational passages. Thundercat rarely plays it straight; if he has the opportunity to stretch out one of his songs, re-mold them, and give them new life onstage, he will — and he absolutely did here. Favorites like “Daylight” and “Tron Cat” kept the hooks and beauty of their studio versions, but Bruner and his band allowed them more leeway to go on new melodic journeys. The thing is, he makes it look so effortless. Bruner is a pretty mellow personality, and through his unique funk fusion, he rained good vibes all across the lawn. – JT
The Trees, 7:10 p.m.
The Bronx are from Los Angeles — which makes Joby Ford’s southern-preacher cadence between songs all the more confusing. But hell, I bought it, because The Bronx put on a hell of a punk rock show, no matter the accent. Like Fucked Up’s Sunset Strip cousin, or a more aggressive Hot Snakes, The Bronx’s mosh pit swirls its circle of dust under a big tent, be it with Warped Tour mallrats, gutter punks, or metalheads on a hardcore holiday. And they all have a hell of a time getting tossed around in there, because The Bronx doesn’t just play hardcore — they fortify it with hooks and set it ablaze with hard-rockin’ riffs. Ford is an effective bandleader, addressing his audience as “motherfuckers” and dedicating each song to someone or other, be it the girls on their boyfriends’ shoulders or the fans, or the coliseum (“1984 Olympiad motherfuckers!”). The music, however, was the best part, with a setlist that spanned from classics like 2003′s “Heart Attack American” on up to some highlights from their most recent, fourth self-titled album (all of their albums are self-titled, for those new to the band). In past years, FYF Fest was loaded with post-hardcore favorites like Quicksand, Refused and Hot Snakes, and it was a breath of fresh, if dusty air to have some of that muscle and grit back at the festival. – JT
The Arena, 8:15 p.m.
There’s a lot going on with Nicholas Jaar and Dave Harrington’s moody electronic Darkside project. The duo’s scorching bluesy guitar licks come straight out of a seedy ’80s action flick, while their steady 4/4 thumps and cavernous bass-lines sit alongside the immersive dub-techno of Andy Stott. Their name offers a nod to Dark Side of the Moon, and their stunning visuals—billowing fumes, rotating prisms, stark lighting sequences that render the two musicians in mysterious silhouette—rival any light show put on by Pink Floyd. Journeying through the sonic twilight, Darkside unleashed huge bass-lines only to pull back with loose, restrained dance beats. The mood repeatedly seesawed between calm and intensity, and occasionally the lights would flare up and blind the audience, or smolder in fiery red. The vibe was all passion and mystique, and the duo had every detail worked out. Harrington even pulled off the classic rock-star move at the end of the show, using his guitar to smash a giant mirror that had played a key role in the band’s visual setup. It’s a shame these guys are going on indefinite hiatus soon, but at least I’ll have the memories. — PH
The Blood Brothers
9:30 p.m., The Trees
There’s nothing quite like a massive mosh pit to take your mind off of the usual burdens. I have a headache, I’m broke, I just moved to a new city and I need to pay my rent on time—none of that mattered as I gleefully navigated my way through the human bumper-car ride that was the audience for this beloved Seattle screamo outfit. Recently reunited after a 7-year absence, the Blood Brothers tore through classic songs likee “Birth Skin/Death Leather,” “…Burn, Piano Island, Burn” and “Set Fire to the Face on Fire,” delivering whiplash riffs and shrieking pop hooks with panache.
These guys will always make me think of high school: That’s when I first listened to them, and that’s when my brain and body were most susceptible to their bursts of spazztastic rock ’n’ roll. Onstage, co-lead singer Johnny Whitney looked a tad pudgier than I remember him from a decade ago. And the band wasn’t 100 percent razor-sharp with their intricate guitar licks, at least compared to the recordings. That’s just nitpicking, though. As far as the whole reunited-rock-band trend goes, a seven-year break really isn’t that long. And with the recent “emo revival,” the Brothers came back at just the right time. Here’s hoping the “screamo revival” comes next. —PH
The Lawn, 10 p.m.
As an L.A. beat scene luminary who’s rewired the circuits of instrumental hip-hop and jazz-fusion, Flying Lotus has earned the right to take his audience in whatever nutty direction he pleases—and that’s exactly what he did on Sunday night. Perched at a laptop behind a giant video screen streaked with delightfully trippy visuals, the beatmaker born Steven Ellison went into some of his trademark tunes but also gave a shout-out to the late DJ Rashad, remixed the fresh rap hit “No Flex Zone” and picked up the mic to fire rhymes as his comic-book alter-ego, Captain Murphy. FlyLo has an appreciation for what’s hot, but he’ll bend anything to fit his own desires. A trap beat went askew with rippling snares. His own songs gave way to calming sampled murmurs and jazzy drum detours. This wasn’t the most challenging or mind-blowing show he’s ever played, but it was a lot of fun. — PH
The Trees, 11 p.m.
Based on the number of people wearing The Strokes t-shirts at FYF on Sunday, you got the feeling that most in attendance were there for one reason — and possibly one reason only. The Strokes fandom flew in the face of the conventional wisdom that their back catalog is mostly riddled with disappointments, even if it’s absolutely true. But those people also missed a much better, more visceral act playing at the same time — Bay Area black metal group Deafheaven. Having seen them a couple times already, I knew what to expect, and what one should expect is a searing mixture of beauty and raw intensity. Much of that has to do with frontman George Clarke, whose vocals seemed unusually loud and throaty, and whose mannerisms are somewhere between conductor and dictator — with some surprisingly elegant dance moves. Coming off of more than a year touring behind their dynamite 2013 album Sunbather, the band stuck primarily to those epic and ferocious tracks, like the stunning “Dreamhouse” and the heroic title track. But they also incorporated new track “From the Kettle Onto the Coil,” tapping into the raw, harsher black metal sound that influenced them, if not necessarily one that shows up so strongly in their recent material. And while the nuances of their sound doesn’t necessarily translate so perfectly in a festival setting, it’s hard to find fault in a band that broadcasts such powerful expressions directly to their audience. – JT