Firefly Music Festival
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Special thanks to guest contributor Alex Klempay for sharing the Firefly Experience with us!
After enjoying Firefly as much as we did in 2016, we knew we’d be back despite normally loving a daily shower and being in air conditioning as much as possible. We loved and loathed our first Firefly experience almost equally, but the positive experiences we shared outweighed the negatives of sleeping five hours a night in a hot tent while having to “bathe” with baby wipes and dry shampoo.
Initially we were underwhelmed with this year’s Firefly’s lineup. But lo and behold we found a good number of undercard bands that we took a strong liking to. Ultimately, the headliners for this year’s fest were not contributing factors in our decision to shell out the cash – yet, we still totally feel like we got our money’s worth.
As usual, Firefly offered a laundry list of food options. Standouts of what we ate were pretty much any of the rice balls at Arancini Bros., Island Noodles (so much food for $10, it’s impossible to complain), and the loaded pork BBQ fries at Southern Soul. Sure, prices were a little high for what I got at some of the places (except Southern Soul -- $14 was more than fair for that mound of food), but it’s a music festival; of course prices will be inflated.
Reading through social media, there seemed to be an increase in general crime. This was joined by some seriously hard-hitting sun rays. Yet we think we enjoyed ourselves more this year than I did in 2016.
Pro-Tip: lock up valuables just in case
OAR. We’ve wanted to see OAR since we first heard their Live at the Red Rocks album. And we were just too far from Glass Animals to feel the peanut butter vibes. While Marc’s voice was a little tired, and he even mixed up words on their song “Peace,” that could not take away from the show’s energy. It was incredible, thanks in large part to their trumpeter, who didn’t stop moving once.
Pardison Fontaine. Last year’s Fettl FLOP disaster should have taught us that seeing a rap artist isn’t something worth doing at this festival. Pardison wound up coming on about 20 minutes into his set after his DJ kept hyping him up over and over while playing redundant buzzer sounds on his laptop. If you want to hype up your guy fine, but should that really take more than 5 min? We’re here to see Pardison, not one of his minions. Despite the delay, Pardison did pretty well and had solid crowd interaction. His “If you ain’t no bitch, and your mother ain’t no ho, say ‘Fuck Donald Trump!’” line got everyone pretty into it. Not enough to make up for the prima donna delay.
Kaleo came close to OAR, they only lacked a certain excitement. That being said, they are immensely talented. Kaleo just sounds like old school, classic rock and roll. Their front man, J.J. Julius Son, probably has the best voice we’ve ever heard from a live performer. A highly recommended set from a lot of the people we talked to that weekend!
Twenty One Pilots. Feel free to laugh. We’re not big fans of these guys. And we really expected to go the homer route and chose Weezer, who we were most excited to see. But we didn’t feel right about that when Twenty One Pilots out-did them in every way. The production of their set and crowd interaction are second to none and. Even if they “do the same thing every show” as the internet tells us, it’s hard to deny that “that thing” makes for an incredible show. We will say that the tween fans around us were endlessly annoying. They almost ruined the set for us, but that’s not their fault, we were all there once.
DREAMERS. Poor Dreamers, this isn’t because they were necessarily bad. We just saw so many great shows Friday between Twenty One Pilots, Weezer, Judah & the Lion, AFI, and Franz Ferdinand. Someone had to be the least great. The lead singer did crowd surf, putting him on a short list of sweaty musicians we touched during the weekend, but it was a somewhat unspectacular set. We were also confused when they said, “This song is donated to Chris Cornell,” before performing “Drugs.” Seemed a bit silly and in bad taste. All-in-all, nothing to write home about, but we’d be willing to give them a second chance.
Bencoolen. One of the first groups from the bottom of the undercard we saw and liked– after seeing them at the North Hub, I was even more impressed. While they didn’t play a high energy, they didn’t need to. They are all very talented musicians – especially their guitarist. We’re kind of disappointed they haven’t had any new Spotify releases in over a year, because what we heard them play was much better than any of their studio recorded stuff… which is weird for us to say.
Kesha. Even though it seems like a lot of people weren’t happy with her set (morons…), we think she did a really great job. Legal garbage forced her to do rock covers of her pop songs and that wasn’t what a lot of people wanted, but we thought she put on a good show with awesome energy. Some people prefer artists to just play through their songs, but we like some crowd engagement and banter. Kesha fans were not wanting for interaction with her. She was right there with us.
Bob Dylan. We know we’re getting plenty of eye rolls for this, but we suspect we’ll get just as many nods– Dylan just doesn’t fit in with the vibe of Firefly, so it was a misfire from the start. Couple that with the fact he didn’t even acknowledge the crowd once, and you’ve got a pretty big disappointment. The man is going to play what he is going to play, but he didn’t play any of his better-known songs which is a really bad move at a music festival. We appreciate all that he’s done for music, and we remain Bob Dylan fans, but we can’t help but feel like he was a waste of Firefly’s budget.
Sub-Radio. Really, they were almost our favorite show of the day. Despite being so early and at the tiny North Hub stage, their energy was incredible. The “Sugar, We’re Goin’ Down” cover was amazing, and showed that they absolutely deserved to be in the festival. They are pretty much unknowns now, but we wouldn’t be at all surprised to see them blow up–they’re too talented not to. And, since they’re releasing a single a month for the rest of the year, they have plenty of new stuff coming.
Muse. No-brainer, right? From the production to their live sound they were mind blowingly great. They were rightfully closing out the Main Stage on Sunday, and we left the most pumped of any set. As awesome as their studio recordings are, they somehow sound even better live. Couple that with the electricity they bring to their performance … we can’t wait to see them again.
Nahko and the Medicine for the People. This kinda hurts to write. Nahko was a band we didn’t know on the lineup, listened to beforehand, and got so excited for. Unfortunately, the turn out for their show was pathetic. The crowd was zoned out, and a band like this cannot compensate for that on their own. There was a point where Nahko asked the crowd to repeat, “I will be the best American I can be.” (or something to that effect), and he had to ask twice because it was basically silent – he had to say, “I hope you guys mean it.” They sound great, but they couldn’t get anyone in to it. The result was a set that made us think “bummer.”
A R I Z O N A. How could we not?! This band is a mix between Bastille and Justin Bieber and somehow the result is a good thing. Trust us, it works! If their style and music isn’t your cup of tea we’d still say to see them. They put on such a great show. We missed Bleachers for them (and you know how we love Bleacher), but we regret nothing. Theses guys made regular rotation on our Spotify account the second we got back from the festival.