What makes a proper music festival? Is it multiple stages and an option to camp? Does it mostly depend on the variety of artists and other non-musical entertainment? Either way, record label Fool’s Gold brings the festival mentality across the country in their Day Off one-off concerts, merging dance music and hip-hop with packed lineups consisting of young artists and established stars. The show is curated and run by DJ A-Trak, head of Fool’s Gold and one of the most respected artists in the game. This year’s entry took place at the Shrine Auditorium at USC and while the lineup was solid and the guest stars were interesting, the end result failed to shine too bright.
The two-headed attack of EDM and hip-hop was a good idea, something the HARD festivals do quite well, and nearly every artist had a good DJ on stage. Milo & Otis had a solid midday set, if not by-the-numbers, to kick off the second half of the show. They spun things from their own catalog, but felt the need to throw in some party classics like “Let Me Clear My Throat” and some Major Lazer for those unfamiliar with their work. Their track “Out The Speakers” with A-Trak is currently heard in advertising everywhere, so it brought the crowd to attention during its duration. The crowd ate it up, pushing hard against the rails, which required the DJ duo to request the masses take a huge step backwards, counting down to said step the way they would normally count down to a bass drop.
Security was top-notch on Saturday, spending over eight hours saving people from the heat and other fans. This is an outdoor show and in the shade, but temperatures were still high, leaving exasperated fans along the rails for many hours. Instead of just ignoring the issue, security was constantly filling up plastic cups with water and handing them out along the first few rows. Between sets, they would ask people if they wanted out, and started pulling dozens of people over the security barriers, getting them to safety. It was a level of care and attention not seen in the majority of summer concerts, and with over exhaustion and heatstroke scorching young people during California concerts, it felt like a mature way to handle the problem.
While most concert set times are flexible, Day Off’s was beyond unreliable. Artists were scheduled for 15 minute sets, like Post Malone, who ended up with well over 30, and co-headliner Travi$ Scott was slated for a half hour, and ended up playing over an hour. Going long is not a huge problem, if the artists are cool with it and time isn’t wasted, but the final portion of Scott’s set was spent searching for an auxiliary cord so they could play a new song. The slew of guest stars throughout the day strung things out even longer, from Vic Mensa and Jaden Smith, to the ASAP crew and Chief Keef, just to name a few. Fans get more for their money when bands play long, but rarely is a schedule off by entire hours, meaning people timing their arrival were led astray. It also wouldn’t be a huge deal if there was constant entertainment going on, but too many dead spots between acts kept things from sustaining the vibe. Instead, the party would come to a complete stop, A-Trak would try to hype the crowd for 15 minutes by shooting off a t-shirt gun and constantly asking them to “give it up for yourselves.” The cheap pops are par for the course, but when it’s constant and in place of advertised music, things get stale.
The highlight of the show was definitely Travi$ Scott. Scott came out furious, having learned hours earlier that his debut album Rodeo was leaked online. Instead of railing against the internet and the modern music dynamic, he swore to put on the best set of his life, which he more than likely did. Scott was on fire, pinballing back and forth across the stage during tracks like “Antidote” and “3500.” He asked for the spotlight to be turned off halfway through to make things a bit more intimate, resulting in a more focused second half that got more personal with each song. The Houston native is definitely ready to bloom and this set showed his ability to perform with all eyes on him.
Sadly for headliner Action Bronson, the crowd was spent, and more than half left to head inside and cool off after Scott’s blazing slot. Bronson is bigger than a show like this, but didn’t take a step back for his set. Touring with The Alchemist has lit a new fire under Bam Bam, as the legendary producer always has a nice 80’s nod for him to come out to, Saturday’s being “Easy Lover” by Phil Collins. He opened with the “Silverado” from 2013’s Blue Chips 2, followed by “The Rising” and an appearance by cousin Big Body Bes. Dressed in all back with a backwards hat, Bronson pushed the pace with each track, making up for lost time in his own measured way. Fans started coming back after catching their breath, but Bronson was definitely usurped by the younger and more raw Travi$ Scott.
At the end of the day, Day Off proved its worth, but did so in a long and meandering path. More focus, cheaper water (four dollars is a crime), and an accurate schedule was all this thing needed to be stellar, but at $40, you could do way worse in terms of live music in Los Angeles. A-Trak is constantly upping his game and there is no doubt that next year will be even better. Hopefully they learn the lessons from this show and make the necessary adjustments going forward.