F Yeah Fest (8/30 - 8/31/2008)
When Allen Ginsberg referenced “angel headed hipsters” in his lovely and infamous poem “Howl,” I swear he was magically looking into the future and describing attendees of the fifth annual F Yeah Fest. As a native Angeleno I grew up listening to punk rock and going to shows, but as an adult I’m finding it increasingly hard to brave the hordes of fashionably dressed, snarky music fans that attend the kinds of events I am unfortunately drawn to. Oh to be uncool and unhip in Los Angeles, it’s more painful than you think.
I showed up late; paid my twenty bucks; and braved the heat, the crowds, the chaotic setup and the exhausting lineup just to watch Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death play a fast little set in a teeny tiny little space being called the F Yeah Fest’s “Annex,” which was next to the festival's main stage inside my favorite rock venue: The Echo. It was, of course, thrilling, but I would expect nothing less of band leader Spencer Moody, formerly of Murder City Devils fame. Please forgive me dear readers, I left shortly after. Just as it chugged along before my arrival with sets by Mika Miko, The Mae Shi, and Best Fwends, the fest also continued on well after my departure and late into the night with sets by Preacher & the Knife, Rumpspringa, Matt & Kim, and Ladyhawk, among countless others.
F Yeah Fest is planned, put-together, and obsessed over by friends Sean Carlson, a twenty-three-year-old rock promoter who refuses to call himself a rock promoter, and punk rock legend Keith Morris, former leader of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. The old show biz adage “the show must go on” had never rung more true than in the months leading up to the last two days of the fest. “When we first started the festival five years ago we wanted it to be a tour, but it wasn’t until this year that we put the original plan into action,” Carlson said.
The Fest was seemingly plagued from the get-go as the main financial backer pulled out at the last minute leaving Carlson with a tour to fund on his own, eventually putting him in over $50,000 debt. The show went on and it proved to be quite a circus; twenty-eight gigs in twenty-seven days across the country in an old school bus fueled by stinky, used vegetable oil that had to be searched for by Carlson and other members of the tour in the middle of the night after each show had wrapped up. “The tour was such a labor of love. I didn’t make any money of off it and financially speaking, it was barely worth it for many of the comedians and bands that performed. It was our first time on the road and it was definitely a trial and error process. I think it’s fair to say it left all of us physically and emotionally exhausted,” Carlson said.
The problems ensued for Carlson when he returned to Los Angeles after the tour in order to prepare for the last two days of the fest. Just days before the last shows, Carlson was beaten by security guards while promoting his festival with flyers outside of a Radiohead concert being held at the Hollywood Bowl. Carlson and his friend Phil Hoelting, video blogger and founder of videothing.com, were chased and roughed up by security guards after the guards realized that Hoelting had taped them using excessive force on a concert-goer. The security guards are said to have taken the video tape of the incident from Hoelting during the scrap. A police report has been filed and the case is ongoing.
Despite countless setbacks and ridiculous amounts of debt, Carlson intends on bringing the fest back for a sixth year, once again taking the show on the road. “You know, I love doing all the things I’m doing with music, but I’m twenty-three-years-old, and I’d like to be able to move out of my dad’s house one day. Maybe it’s time I got a real job. I’ve actually applied to be a crossing guard. I’ve applied six times, and I get shot down every time. I think I’m going to apply one more time and see what happens,” Carlson said. Something tells me the F Yeah Fest will be around for many years to come.