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Live Review and Photos: FYF Christmas Party, December 11, 2010, The Glasshouse and Aladdin’s Jr. – Pomona, CA

It seems like I spend a lot of my time recounting childhood memories and discussing the differences in how young people approach, receive, and possess music with how we experience music as adults. And though we could easily mourn the loss of youth as we age, adulthood grants people certain privileges that make getting older somewhat worthwhile. You can buy beer, you can gamble, and you can vote. And one aspect of adulthood that is often overlooked, but totally rules, is the tradition of the Christmas party.

I know Christmas is all about presents when you are small, but when you start going to holiday parties, you realize that New Years, Halloween, and even St. Patrick’s Day will fall short of matching the chaos that makes a Christmas party the event of the year. Thrown by your employer or an organization for which you participate, it is a chance for you to celebrate the year with people whom you may not often see outside of a professional atmosphere and, you know, get wasted. Like, super wasted. People will fight, people will fuck, couples will breakup, and fuel for the gossip mills will be created to keep the people buzzing for an entire calendar year. Christmas parties, if done properly, should create the kind of humiliation that is usually reserved for network television sitcoms.

But while most Christmas parties rent a hotel ballroom or just hold it at the office, FYF Fest held theirs at two small venues in Pomona; The Glasshouse and Aladdin Jr.’s. Now, I don’t know if they do this in other areas, but in Pomona, Santa Ana and Los Angeles the art gallery districts designate a night every month to open the galleries in the evening and, somehow, make it acceptable to serve booze to whoever. In the name of art, people are allowed to drink from paper cups on the street and the galleries offer the beverages for nothing more than a small tip. Either by luck or through careful planning, this was happening at the same time as the FYF Christmas Party.

Big Freedia was the first act I was to catch at the larger of the two rooms, the always all-ages Glasshouse. It is a staple of growing up in L.A. or Orange County and despite being in Pomona, it continually attracts decent acts based on the fact that it is owned by Coachella and Goldenvoice mogul Paul Tollett. The downside is the gutter punks and hesher trolls that roam freely outside, but if there is something could create a distraction from, well, from pretty much anything, it is Big Freedia. To describe her show in one word: Ass. Sure I could talk about New Orleans Bounce like I know something about it (I don’t) or take the angle of discussing homosexuality in rap music like it is what she would want (I doubt it is), but I’d rather just go with “ass.”

The set is about fun from what I can tell, coming complete with dancer who looks like a Jewish librarian WWF character, who wags her ass constantly. After a couple songs a dozen or so audience members were invited on-stage to also wag their asses, a ladder was employed to provide more creative ass-wags, and so-on. It is the kind of set that works perfectly as a party-starter, though I am skeptical I’d want to experience the kind of function that would have Big Freedia as the main event. Still, the Echo Park elite (including Wavves’ Nathan Williams) crowded the side-stage, snapping shots of the madness while sipping from paper cups that indicated they had been gallery hopping earlier.

The FYF Christmas Party was scheduled without much overlap, so you could run from venue to venue and see pretty much the whole thing. When I arrived at Aladdin Jr.’s to watch Dangers, I admittedly knew nothing about the group whatsoever. I went in the wrong door but the doorman allowed me to remain where I ended up; side-stage behind the soundboard. I noticed a couple other photographers near the front of the crowd and began to feel guilty, like I had overstepped my privileges. Then the music started, and any thought I had of joining the crowd dissipated into relief.

Dangers is the kind of hardcore that makes most hardcore bands look like pussies. In a similar way to how Big Freedia’s show made the music secondary to the ass shaking, Dangers also left me without much memory of the actual sounds I heard. I remember the kids flying onto the stage as the crowd moved in waves, and once they planted their feet firmly, they would yell at the singer and then jump back into the crowd. It was chaos, it was frightening, it was kind of incredible. There’s no way I would ever shoot from the audience, or even stand in the audience for this band, though. Well, maybe if One Thirty BPM ever offers health coverage. Until then, I’ll stay behind the metal rails unless there are acoustic guitars involved.

Anyone who could predict that OFF! would be a critical darling is a genius. Anyone who thinks Keith Morris cares is delusional. As half of the FYF Fest leadership – the other being Sean Carlson – this was Keith Morris’ event and one of the big ones for the still relatively new band, who had been P4K BNM’d just days before. Fans welcomed him as the legend he is, and although telling a story about a friend dying of a brain aneurysm may be a buzz kill, when you have been around and survived as Morris has, people better damn-well listen when you have a story to tell.

OFF!’s music sounds like the classic hardcore that Morris had a hand in originating with Black Flag and the Circle Jerks. The passion is still very much there for him and it is a welcome site to see so much positive attention coming their way.

I’m not going to lie; my opinion about La Sera is affected by my opinion of Katy Goodman (Kickball Katy of the Vivian Girls) who just seems like the sweetest girl in the world. Usually playing second fiddle to Cassie Ramone, La Sera offers her a starring role and her likability carries them. The chamber-pop vocals need more time to sink in for me, but they had a “fuck it” attitude that was perfectly in-line with the night. Not as in they didn’t care, but as in how they sounded was not nearly as important as how much fun they had. Sure, it was a Christmas party for the fans, but it was also a party for the bands and in the end, La Sera kept people having fun, which is all a lot of the crowd will recall.

No Age were the evening’s headliners, though the original plan had them joined by The Soft Pack at the top of the bill and The Strange Boys as the special guests, neither actually happened. Nevertheless No Age were enough to make everyone feel privileged to be in Pomona on a Saturday night. FYF Fest and now their jam-packed schedule of shows that they host can be philosophised on and theorized, but really it comes down to good music, low prices and memorable events. No Age is the band that is most often tied to the organization, as they have been involved since before they were No Age and share DIY principals with the fest’s founders.

No Age skipped this year’s FYF Fest, but arrived at this party with a(nother) critically acclaimed album, visual effects and a third member handling knob spinning. Opening with “Life Prowler,” drummer and vocalist Dean Allen Spunt created his first percussion loop and then stood up behind the kit to give the vocals the amount of attention critics could argue they always deserve. Maybe when they add a fourth member we’ll hear what that sounds like, but for now, the vocals will have to be secondary, because the rest of No Age’s live show is about perfect.

The set was a non-stop climax, from “Teen Creeps” and “Every Artist Deserves A Tragedy” at the top of the set to a killer version of one of the year’s best songs, “Glitter,” which saw Randy Randall nearly throw his guitar into the air and swing it while letting a sustained note ring, always at the same point in the chorus as if that motion was inherent to get the right sound. I’ll take his word for it.

A highlight was No Age’s cover of the Black Flag classic “Six Pack,” an obvious sign of respect, possibly even a history lesson, and an all-too-rare sign of maturity in a genre that seems hell-bent on never growing up. “Brain Burner” was another standout and it’s cool to see the punky, noisy anthems treated as such by the crowd, who showed enthusiasm for the older tunes. But the most fun part of watching No Age is paying attention. Watching the two guys between songs tinkering, tuning, tapping on drums and seeming to just be moving along at a relaxed pace, is actually the basis of their songs. They record their loops almost secretly, especially considering that they could just use prerecorded samples, but they don’t really need to advertise what they do that makes the song special. You either get it or you don’t.

The FYF Santa surely got it, making not one, but two running leaps from the stage to the crowd. The grown-up No Age was welcome, but Christmas is about being a kid, and I guess somewhere in between is ideal.

The crowd by the end of the night lingered on the streets with a drunken fog covering the majority of their eyes. The Wavves singer had notably been asked to leave the venue due to being hammered, as were other attendees. It seemed like a trial by fire for teenagers, a taste of the meaning that Christmas will take on for them, like it or not. Most Christmas parties don’t have this much punk music though; this one was a little bit cooler than they usually are.

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