Tuesday, May 8, 2018

FYF Cancellation | Lefsetz Letter

It’s about branding.

The F in FYF stood for a four letter word, the festival was anti, for those out of the mainstream, the overlooked who gather together to hear bands that speak to them, and possibly no one else. Whereas Janet Jackson is purely mainstream, she speaks primarily to people who don’t want to get into the asphalt and grime of L.A.’s Exposition Park, a site baking in the sun made for those who need to go.

Kinda like Bonnaroo. It was a jam band festival. And for a while there, it successfully stretched its limits, but then it went too far and cratered, it still may not be savable, how many people want to camp out in the heat of Tennessee in June?

Only a few festivals are bigger than the acts. In America, it’s Coachella in the desert and Lollapalooza in Chicago. The former succeeds because its the first major festival of the year, the site delivers its own satisfaction and no matter who they book as headliners, you can always go to the Sahara Tent and dance your ass off. As for Lollapalooza…you can stay in a hotel, walk to the site, it’s positively civilized in a nation that keeps going more upscale, that’s the conundrum, with income inequality rampant, people are still lining up to pay beaucoup bucks for shows.

Of course there are more than Coachella and Lollapalooza, the most obvious being JazzFest, but just like you’ve got the Sahara Tent at Coachella, at JazzFest you always get the local color, the church choirs, the New Orleans stars, the headliners are just the cherry on top.

But not at FYF Fest.

A festival must be a brand, it must stand for something, not just…we show up to overpay and be mistreated so we can say we were there. A festival is about the attendees, it’s about the culture, the lineup is not enough if you want to sustain.

But if there’s no culture, you’re lineup dependent.

Turns out few were at home saying they NEEDED to go to FYF Fest. The lineups had been expanded and mainstreamed so much that the core audience was abandoned. Turned out plenty of people wanted to see Frank Ocean and Missy Elliott, but these same people did not need to go to FYF itself.

There’s been a lot of talk about the FYF’s cancellation being a judgment on its female-centric lineup.

We already covered Ms. Jackson, does her audience really want to stand in the heat downtown to see her?

As for Florence + the Machine… She caters to intellectuals, thinkers, not the skate-punk people who put FYF on the map.

And St. Vincent has been everywhere and the Breeders reunion is a non-event, the kind of regrouping that plays to few on a side stage at Coachella, you can’t depend upon them to bring in attendees, they’re spice at best, and their fans are fifty, like the band, who’ve got no interest in going to FYF.

As for the undercard, acts like Lucy Dacus, who ever went to a festival for the undercard? Especially when you can see these acts up close and personal in a club.

So this is a misfire. Turns out Sean Carlson was the soul of FYF, and when he was removed, no one was tending the flame, no one was there from the beginning.

That’s the story of modern culture, we keep hearing about the power of corporations, but these corporations are run by people, and they make all the difference, can you say Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos?

So what we’ve learned is all the prognosticators were wrong. The business will survive the death of the classic rock acts. There are more stadium shows than there have been in decades, there is demand. But it’s not blind demand, people have favorites, and if you want to have a festival that sustains, play to people’s souls, who they are, who they want to hang out with. A festival is just not a show, a festival is an experience. And this experience is just not food and toilets, pleasantries. Rather it’s the vibe. Kinda like at Electric Forest, most people are not interested, but if you ARE!

New festivals must be nurtured, they must mean something, they must be curated. EDC is nothing without Pasquale Rotella. It’s lifers like him, progenitors of the scene who’ve got their fingers on the pulse, who are builders of these edifices. Just booking a bunch of acts and putting them in a park is not enough.

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