So as I said in my first post about Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, I wanted to make an entirely separate post about the performances I saw to really get into each one without posting a mini-novel that no one would read. And a month later, I am finally delivering. (To be fair, I still think about a lot of these performances daily, so I feel fine about the delay in this post’s publication).
Full disclosure: some performances I stayed for briefly, others I was the last person to walk away from. This experience as a whole really was incredible because I was able to be exposed to so many artists and genres I was not privy to prior, and for my first impression to be that of a live performance was a pretty powerful thing. In no particular order, here are my reviews of the performances I saw at Firefly 2017:
This Australian DJ is one of my friend’s favorites, so there was no missing her set. I’m not totally familiar with EDM as a whole, so I can’t tell you much about the type of music she was playing as much as I can just say that it was just good. At one point during the set, she asked the crowd if they were ready to have the best night of their life, and it really did feel like that. Everyone dancing together felt communal and special, especially when I saw an elderly gentleman shadowing one of my friend’s dance moves next to me. It was sweet and innocent and fun. Not to mention, Lunoe is visibly pregnant and still jumping around and performing with everything she’s got. I later read that big fans of hers have taken to bringing baby toys to her shows to gift her. Below is Lunoe performing “Stomper” at The Pavilion Stage at Firefly 2017
Truthfully, I still don’t really know who Lil Dicky is. Again, I attended this performance because my friends were very interested in seeing him. His performance was definitely not my favorite just because I felt like it wasn’t all that cohesive or polished. I guess the flow of a set (or lack thereof) is absolutely up to the discretion of the artist, but I thought the performance was choppy. Lil Dicky’s lyrics are clever and weird; his experience with comedy and writing catchy ads apparent. (Note: I read his Wikipedia page almost immediately after seeing him perform to try to get a handle on what I witnessed.) His career is still very new and only just beginning, and it was very clear that he was just happy to be performing and being able to talk to a group of people interested in seeing him. I’ll be curious to see how he develops as an artist as time goes on.
TWENTY ONE PILOTS
I will start this review off with a sweeping declaration: this was the most entertaining and possibly the best performance of the entire festival. TOP has performed at Firefly three or four times prior to this year, and have graduated from side stage shows to headlining the entire festival. They’re all about being true to one’s self and keeping away from herd mentality and status quo. Their performance opened with a short film bashing on the popular California-based music festival, Coachella. When lead singer Tyler Joseph took the stage he told the audience, “It’s not that we don’t like Coachella… we can’t stand it.” They then spoke about how important Firefly was to them because it has been a place where fans have been overwhelmingly welcoming in addition to a way in which their growth as artists could be tracked. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun are outstanding performers. They’re entertaining, engaging, and SO talented. Their visuals and music range from moody and brooding to whimsical and optimistic. I got a full sense of the genuine nature of their friendship as well as their dedication to their fans (I learned that weekend that they call themselves The Skeleton Clique). While the performance as a whole was note-worthy, here are just some of the major stand-out moments:
- Tyler Joseph brought his dad out to celebrate Father’s Day a little early and they danced to “All I Do is Win” together.
- Joseph also got into a giant red hamster ball and crowd surfed.
- A drum set bolted to a giant wooden panel was lowered onto the audience to hold above their heads, where Josh Dun played for about five minutes.
I think the best song of the night was either “heavydirtysoul” or “House of Gold”, but below are clips from their performances of “Heathens” and “Ride” on the Firefly Stage:
I love T-Pain; I love T-Pain; I love T-Pain. The line to get in for his mid-day performance was incredibly long, so I missed the first fifteen minutes of his set (…which, yes, included “Buy U a Drank” and I’m still upset about that). The performance was high energy and a lot of fun; in addition to playing some new songs, T-Pain also sampled his entire repertoire. I know he’s been featured in a lot of songs, but hearing them consecutively was impressive — the man has worked with everyone. My favorite, of course, was when he sang the chorus of Chance the Rapper’s “Finish Line / Drown”, and then told the audience to see his “good friend Chance” perform later that evening. Here’s a video of T-Pain performing “Bartender” which conveniently cuts off before I really start singing a lot. (You’re welcome.)
I started listening to Taylor Bennett about a year ago when I heard “Broad Shoulders”, a song by Bennett featuring Chance the Rapper, who happens to be Bennett’s older brother. That’s all I really want to say about Chance here because even though the brothers are visibly very supportive of one another (Bennett encouraged his audience to see Chance perform later that night and Chance gave a shout-out to his younger brother for performing at his first major music festival), it isn’t easy being compared to your siblings; Bennett’s career is very much his own.
Taylor performed at a small side stage that was bursting at the seams by the time the artist stepped onstage. The crowd of about 3,000 people, he told the audience, was the largest group he had ever performed for. Before the show began, Bennett came out onstage and told the audience that they were having some IT problems and because of it, there would be a delay in the show’s start time. He recognized that people were waiting to see him, though, and he told the audience that he didn’t want to just sit backstage knowing the people that came to see him were in the dark about what was happening. After introducing himself and explaining the situation, he free-styled a song that he was still working on, reading the lyrics off a note on his iPhone.
When he came back onstage, he was excited and energized. He interacted a lot with his DJ as well as the audience. I know a lot of people don’t like when artists talk during their set and would instead prefer them to just perform their songs, but I think that personalizing a performance and catering it to a specific location / group of people is reflective of the idea that the success of an artist relies in its fan base, and it’s nice for performers to reiterate that in their conversation. Bennett is only 21-years-old but is so talented. He’s quick-witted, honest, fast, and definitely an artist to watch. Here he is performing “Broad Shoulders” – it’s my favorite song of his; I had to!
I got to the stage in which The Weeknd was performing pretty early, so right off the bat I can say that being close to such a talent was Incredible. I honestly am tempted to post every video my friend took at the show and let those speak for themselves because I have little to say beyond how enjoyable his performance was. The Weeknd’s voice is even better live, if that’s even possible. He had a sharp and clean light show – often just bright geometrical figures being highlighted to the beat of the music. Of any headliner I saw, he sang the most songs (which was overwhelmingly from Starboy, of course, but I think there was a nice mix of old and new songs).
At each headliner show, there was someone signing the performances to a group of hard-of-hearing concert-goers in the front of the stage; I took particular notice to this during The Weeknd’s show because he had to literally step over the woman signing to cross the stage multiple times throughout the night. I’ve never seen this offered at a show/concert/etc., and I thought it was really special and inclusive. This is a snippet of The Weeknd’s “Sidewalks” because those RUNS though!!
Chance the Rapper
Chance was scheduled to perform on a stage immediately following The Weeknd’s performance about a mile away. Initially, I had planned to leave The Weeknd early in order to get a decent spot for Chance, but could not bring myself to leave The Weeknd’s show. Once it ended, essentially everyone who had watched the performance did an about-face and collectively started walking towards the stage Chance would be at. He actually went on a little late, so we ended up not missing any part of the performance, which I was excited for because Chance was a big deciding factor in my attending Firefly this year.
Truthfully, I think the experience would have been different if I was closer to the stage, but there were so many people there and I was all the way in the back. It made for a good sitting area as we waited for him to come on, I suppose. But I think because I was watching Chance on a screen and couldn’t really see the stage there was somewhat of a disconnect for me. I truly enjoyed the show, however. Chance was almost puzzled to see just HOW many people were waiting for him, as if he wasn’t aware of the hook he seems to have on people. Like his brother, Chance is super gracious and talked a lot about his desire to be a fearless person and actively embrace life’s challenges. His setlist for the night included his hits from Coloring Book, in addition to “Waves” and “Ultralight Beam” from Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, as well as songs from his project with Donnie Trumpet called Surf, and even a little from Acid Rap. Towards the end of the set, Chance brought out Francis & the Lights and together they performed “May I Have This Dance” with some top notch choreography.
Chance’s performance at Firefly was wonderful, but actually going to see him again in September. I’m really looking forward to experiencing his music live a little bit closer and more intimately.
So despite my efforts to avoid it, this post ended up being a mini-novel anyway. There were multiple times during Firefly that I surveyed my surroundings and was honestly overwhelmed by the amount of people that were there. It was striking to me that I could know essentially no one there and still guarantee that we were all unified by our interest in music and that felt so powerful to me.
Which performer are you itching to cross of your bucket list?