As I shouted along to Kendrick Lamar lyrics in a sea of thousands of people at FYF Fest in Los Angeles, all I could think of was how I almost missed it to sit in my apartment and play video games.
I had my eye on attending FYF Fest this year ever since I saw the lineup. Kendrick Lamar? Grimes? Vince Staples? I’m there.
I told everyone I knew that I was definitely going, but the date got closer and closer and I still didn’t have a ticket.
Although the festival had plenty of my favorite artists, I couldn’t commit to buying a ticket because in the back of my mind I wondered if it would be worth it.
I had been to my fair share of concerts but never a festival, so I really wasn’t sure what to expect. What if it was too expensive? What if it was too crowded? What if I’m not a festival person and I just don’t know it?
I slowly started to accept that I was going to miss it until my brother texted me the day before and said he found a ticket for me in Anaheim. I had to make a quick decision about FYF Fest, and ultimately my overwhelming desire to see my favorite musicians live weighed out any uncertainties I had about festivals. I immediately packed a duffle bag and drove to Anaheim to purchase the ticket, then to my brother’s apartment in L.A. The three-hour journey did not deter me, as the promise of seeing Kendrick Lamar was far too enticing.
Unfortunately, I could only make it to Saturday’s festivities, so I missed out on Sunday’s performers like LCD Soundsystem, Blood Orange and Young Thug; all acts I would’ve loved to have seen. I thought I would have more FOMO about missing day two, but day one was more than I could have expected.
Everyone has preconceived judgments about festival culture, especially the concept of ‘fake fans’ – people who come to festivals to party, but aren’t actually familiar with the artists. While the concept of ‘fake fans’ doesn’t particularly bother me, it really wasn’t something I encountered at FYF Fest. In fact, I noticed quite the opposite.
I arrived early to the venue so I could catch one of the first sets of the day, Hop Along at 3 p.m. While they’re a band that I am a definite fan of, I didn’t really think they had a large following, so I wasn’t expecting much crowd-wise especially early in the day. And yet they still had a generous turnout, with the crowd moving to their songs and even singing along. If I had any notions about fake fans before, Hop Along’s set certainly rid me of them. The combination of the upbeat crowd and Hop Along’s stellar performance made it one of my favorite sets of the day.
Even with the wide array of genres and artists at FYF Fest, the crowd showed up with movement and enthusiasm to every set.
The main stage performances alone couldn’t have been more eclectic, yet the crowd still went from singing along to Vince Staples, to Grimes, to Tame Impala as the artists performed back to back to back. It seemed like the crowd’s energy would never stop.
Even when headliner Kendrick Lamar performed, the crowd still exceeded my, quite high, expectations. I knew he had dedicated fans like myself, but the crowd sang along to virtually every word to every song, and kept up the energy throughout the set even though it was at the end of an incredibly long day.
I had tried to plan out my schedule for the day beforehand, but I ended up just wandering from stage to stage, experiencing all that I possibly could in the all-too-short time that I had. I didn’t realize just how many performances I was going to be able to see.
Not only did I catch all of the artists I essentially came for, but I watched sets from musicians where I knew maybe one or two songs, as well as musicians I had never heard of in my life.
It was like a mix tape from a friend, a grab bag of genres, some artists I liked and some I didn’t, but by the end I had learned about tons of new music that I probably would have never heard of if I didn’t end up attending. The learning aspect of festivals was something I certainly didn’t expect, but as a genuine fan of music in general, it was one of the characteristics of the experience I appreciated the most.
While my first festival was spontaneous, the last minute hassle was absolutely worth it. Sure, festival tickets are expensive and the days are hot, tiring and almost never-ending. But at the end of it, I didn’t think about any of those cons, I just remembered the whirlwind of performances from my favorite musicians in just a 10-hour span.
I remembered shouting “We gon’ be all right!” with 10 thousand other people as Kendrick Lamar played songs from one of my favorite albums of all time.
I remembered the sense of community I felt being surrounded by people who loved music just as much as I do, and I would do it all again with no hesitation.