5 Under-the-Radar Acts to Catch at FYF Fest

Like you need someone to tell you to see Kendrick.

In just a couple of weeks, the USC Trojans will take to the field at the LA Coliseum to take on Utah State in their home opener and the world will return to its usual rhythms. For now, though, we can pretend like none of that is going to happen, and FYF is here to help us. The thirteenth edition of the LA fest goes down Saturday and Sunday at Exposition Park, and in addition to a new plot—the demolition of the LA Sports Arena necessitated a rejiggering of the festival’s staging areas—the lineup is among the best in the festival’s history, with headlining slots from Kendrick Lamar, Tame Impala, LCD Soundsystem, and Grace Jones.

You already know all of that. If you’re heading to Expo Park this weekend, you’ve had your main card planned out for a while now. But this year’s lineup is strong from top to bottom—you have to work to find an uninteresting act on that poster—so we thought we’d help you make a few decisions about which lesser-known acts to catch on site.

Floating Points

Where to start with Sam Shepherd? Your man is a neuroscientist, first of all, with a PhD in epigenetics, which, if I understand correctly, has something to do with the way that cells are changed by their surroundings and tries to predict how a cell might transcribe DNA to RNA. Which is a complex way of saying that Shepherd, who as Floating Points subjects a series of complex electronic sounds to the very worldly rhythms and impulses of jazz, understands the ways that the minute components of an infinitely complex system have greater potential than you might immediately expect. Shepherd is the only artist playing FYF twice this weekend—once with a band and once as a DJ—so you can see how his compositional work is transformed by his own external stimuli. If that’s too heady: David Byrne put out last year’s excellent Elaenia on Luaka Bop, and that should be all you need to know. — Marty  Sartini Garner

Kamaiyah

Kamiayah has a radio hit, and it’s a hit you can only write once: “How Does It Feel” is the Oakland rapper’s wide-eyed wondering about what it must be like to have the kind of money that rapping can afford. It’s the kind of song only a fan can write. Good Night in the Ghetto, her debut mixtape, is built of similar stuff. From its cover to its production, which sounds like it’s been distilled from the mulched shards of old TLC CDs, Good Night is the long work of a musician who’s spent a life invested in answering the question of what it means to make music. Still, she’s hardly some starry-eyed new romantic, as “Fuck It Up,” her collab with fellow young-lifer YG, makes clear; “you niggas so broke you make the waiters bored,” she raps on “Out the Bottle.” She’s playing The Club stage at 6:30 on Saturday, and it’s hard to imagine she’ll ever play that early in the evening again. — MSG

Shellac

Steve Albini is known firstly as an engineer, and secondly as the mind behind Big Black—so it ends up being a bit down the line when the Shellac fans get factored in. Let it be known, though: those fans will be there in hordes for the band’s Saturday evening set, partially because a Shellac performance is rare, and partially because the post-punk outfit is responsible for some of Albini’s finest work to date. Anyone wearing a Nirvana shirt at the festival who isn’t there should be thrown out. — Nate Rogers

Sheer Mag

In a time when the world needs good guitar rock more than ever, it’s unfortunate for us that Sheer Mag doesn’t seem to need the world. Aside from a spot on Seth Meyers, they’ve been adamantly turning down all the amenities available to them (no publicist, no big label), and have stuck to their method of only releasing EPs, rather than the much more serviceable LP that everyone wants from them. Forget that, though. Those three EPs might as well be considered one amazing LP, and their insistence on being low-key will only benefit you at this year’s FYF. They’re on late—at 10 p.m.—and yes, it will be worth skipping out on Tame Impala a bit early to catch it. — NR

Julien Baker

Few are the stereotypes that Julien Baker has not tested and found wanting. She plays stridently confessional music about pain, suffering, and addiction that never comes across as morbid or maudlin or sensational. She’s an occasional punk from Memphis who has no desire to leave the South. She’s a queer woman and a churchgoer. And she’s all of twenty years old. While FYF’s identity has largely transitioned away from its DIY roots, Baker could’ve been booked at any point in the festival’s history; the bright bruise of her music speaks just as loudly as any screaming amp. — MSG

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