I’m sorry, Sunday, but why you gotta come so early? We missed Delaware’s lower case blues, Penguin Prison, and J. Roddy Walston, and offer 10,000 apologies, but it’s kind of your fault, Sunday, for starting at 11:20 in the morning...
On the Road with Chunky Glasses: Firefly Music Festival
Dover, Delaware 7/20 - 7/22
Part Three: Sunday, July 22nd
1:00 - 2:15 p.m. The Head & The Heart vs. Reptar. Verdict: Reptar
So who’s b-a-n-a-n-a-s and can suck energy straight from the universe to pour all over a live audience? R-e-p-t-a-r, that’s who. I came in the gates with every intention of heading to the main stage for H&TH, but walked straight into the buzz saw of noise coming from Reptar on the Porch Stage, and couldn’t leave. Magnetic, this band is live. I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve had Body Faucet sitting in my inbox for three months, and didn’t like the first three tracks enough to give it a full listen, but that blinding oversight was cured after their Firefly set. Damnation those kids can play.
2:15 - 3:30 p.m. AWOLNATION vs. Bombay Bicycle Club. Verdict: AWOLNATION
AWOLNATION squeaked ahead in the what-to-watch derby, because BBC is playing D.C. in July - and by the end of an hour we were all sweaty dirty messes. Crowd favorite “Sail” was a screechy vortex of flailing arms and legs, and shouting of the singular-word chorus -- while there had been junior varsity crowd surfing on Friday and Saturday, clearly everyone was saving themselves for Sunday. At one point there appeared to be more people soaring in the air than there were people below holding them up. Optical illusion or festival magic? WE VOTE MAGIC.
3:45 - 5:00 p.m. Mariachi el Bronx vs. Cold War Kids. Verdict: Bit of both
The last time I saw Cold War Kids, the mix was so LOUD that every sound and lyric was completely indistinguishable; unfortunately at Firefly, they had the opposite problem, as the mix started too low and it was hard to hear anything over Matt Maust’s deep bass lines. At least Nathan Willitt’s voice is strong enough to shout over most anything, and by the set’s midpoint the sound issue had been addressed. “Hang Me Up to Dry” is one of my favorite songs, so I may be biased toward that performance, but it was well delivered and well received by the crowd. After the scorched-earth frenzies of Reptar and AWOLNATION, the crowd was pretty mellow for CWK, but they’re not really a jump around and wave your arms kind of band. After a half-hour and some much needed rest from dancing, I headed back over to check out Mariachi el Bronx, and whoa, was I glad for the break once I arrived.
Get your lower extremities a passport, because your dancey legs are going to make a run for the border with Mariachi el Bronx. If it looks to your eye like a punk band has donned a bunch of costumes from “Three Amigos” and hit the tour circuit, you’re partially right - Mariachi el Bronx is actually the alter-carnation of The Bronx from Los Angeles. One of the most purely entertaining acts of the weekend, these guys dropped Mexican folk music tweaked with American industrial punk, creating a mixture that was highly energetic and strangely authentic. It’s a bit hard to digest the whiteness of most of the band members versus the authenticity of the music, but they somehow pull it off - if either permutation of Bronx comes to the DMV, we’ll be in the front row. With a magnum of Gatorade.
5:00 - 6:15 p.m. Fitz & the Tantrums vs. Tinie Tempeh. Verdict: Tinie Tempeh
Only a couple of people in our group were familiar with Tinie Tempeh, but they were ferocious in their support and it was well founded. Tempeh has a rabid following in his native London, and that vibe has now infected the U.S. as well if the crowd at Firefly is any indication. Tempeh hit the stage with rapid-fire lyrics and calf muscles that defied basic anatomy diagrams (he jumps straight up and down for the entirety of his performances) and by the time his set ended, we’d all burned off another 500 calories from arm-waving alone. Between the Mariachi leg workout and the Tempeh training for arms, 4:15 - 6:15 felt as much like a CrossFit death march as a music festival. Time to mellow out with Death Cab and a Dogfish Head Namaste.
6:15 - 7:45 p.m. Death Cab for Cutie vs. Allen Stone. Verdict: Death Cab
Flagship indie darlings Death Cab for Cutie appeared on the main stage, and dammit I forgot my plaid shirt. Playing a deep mix of songs off five or six different albums, Death Cazzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz, oh, shit, I fell asleep, because DCfC was bore-ing. Although lead singer Ben Gibbard announced that he had a cold, and the band isn’t touring much together right now (Gibbard is gearing up to release a solo album), there’s not really an explanation for the lackluster performance other than they all need a long break; they seemed to be stalling on a lot of material just to fill their allotted time slot, and they left the stage 15 minutes early. Death Cab has appeared at every festival and benefit concert on Planet Earth in the past five years, and hopefully after some well-deserved rest we’ll see them back at one in 2013, right there in that 6 p.m. time slot their music seems designed for.
7:50 - 9:20 p.m. Flaming Lips vs. Girl Talk. Verdict: The Flaming Lips
This was one match-up that made me mad, because there’s no way to disengage from a Flaming Lips show to run over for Girl Talk. Wayne Coyne demands commitment, and the show the Lips put on has to be seen to be believed. Confetti, hula hoops, blue fog, a human-sized hamster ball, dancing girls on stage, a megaphone, a fur collar, sparkly nudie videos and rock lasers, lectures about right, wrong, and the universe, and some of the most interesting music you’ll ever hear performed anywhere - yep, it’s the Flaming Lips. Although Coyne’s voice was nowhere near as strong as I’ve heard in past iterations of this show, it still all works. It’s not a concert, it’s a fucking spectacle, so dive on in, and know that the Flaming Lips think you have the most beautiful face. And you’re going to die.
9:30 The Black Keys
Ahh, the Black Keys. Admit it - when they start in on any of their keyboard-drenched songs, you get a weird feeling up the back of your spine, because they are just flat out sexy cool. Their appearance as the closing act at Firefly may have seemed like a odd choice for anyone who’s seen them live before - they keep it simple, and concentrate on putting all their energy into perfectly crafted songs rather than running about on stage and preening for the video monitors, but Firefly’s final performance was actually a perfect ending to the weekend. We’d already had enough confetti dropped on us, enough laser beams shot at us, enough bread and circus and crowd surfing and screaming dancing girls, and we needed a really good band to see us safely home. The Black Keys played all of their hits, and played them well. All in all, it was a perfect Delaware ending to a perfect weekend in Delaware. Who knew?
So what’s the takeaway from this first year? We have no real complaints, but maybe a few suggestions for next year. More water stations, please - the lines to refill water bottles were endless midday, so we just drank beer. Oh, did you do that on purpose? Okay. More hammocks and swings would be nice - we never got a chance to partake because the lines were loooooong there, too. And can we please have Japandroids next year?
Here’s the most important thing we’d say to you, Firefly organizers: Please don’t get any bigger. By midday Saturday, the size of the crowd made it increasingly difficult to get from one stage to another, and if you turn Firefly into an 80,000-capacity megafestival you may well ruin much of what made this first year so great. Keep the four-stage set-up, keep the no-more-than-two-at-a-time scheduling, keep the variety. Don’t go getting all big. It was perfect this year, and we’re really, really looking forward to what you’ll put together for us in 2013.
Everything good must come to an end, so it’s time to say thankyouverymuch to Joy for being an amazing photographer and absolute repository of bad-ass lyrics, Joy and Hadar both for being the goddesses of Camping Lot 2, to Magic Mike for being the best chauffeur, knower of crucial background band information, and speaker of some of the better lines in these reviews, and especially to the organizers of Firefly for putting together a line-up to be envied. We’ll be back...
Thanks for a great weekend FIREFLY!!!
We'll see ya next year!!!
- The entire ChunkyGlasses Team