Serenaded and sunburned, The Woodlands were filled with fans this weekend for the sixth edition of the Firefly Music Festival.
Over four days, attendees enjoyed what was billed as the "first ever fan-curated festival". The bands, the food, and even the merchandise was put to a vote online. The result was an eclectic mix of pop, rock, and hip hop – chicken, sausage, and noodles.
It was sneaky sweaty all weekend as overcast days gave way quickly to a beating sun, but the festival vibes were fun and ever-present.
We had the chance to attend two days of this year's festivities in Dover. It was a shortened stay, but we're old and broke and had a barbecue to get to. Here's what we learned at this year's edition of the Firefly Music Festival.
The Weeknd knows how to throw a party.
"You think they can hear us all the way in Philly right now?" pondered The Weeknd from Firefly's main stage Saturday night. The twenty-seven-year-old Canadian singer crooned the crowd through a barrage of his hits and features, never patronizing but primed to party with a live band and a glowing neon effects triangle suspended above the stage. All blankets were abandoned as the entire crowd grinded their way through his set of baby-making music and boisterous ballads of drugs and sex. Fireworks went off into the Delaware sky to close an effortless evening with one of the best voices in music.
Who knows what Kesha knows.
Perhaps the oddest performance of the weekend came courtesy of Kesha, The chart-topping singer seems to be gathering herself still after a messy sexual assault legal battle. Backed by a band and wearing what can only be described as a sexy Roy Rogers-esque outfit, she spent a lot of time talking things out with the crowd. She shifted from palpable anger over recent events to admiration for the fans gathered at Firefly as she performed off-tempo renditions of her biggest earworms. This had all the elements to be really unique and cool, but it failed to connect more often than not. It was an evening of contradictions. After a speech about meeting Bob Dylan earlier in the day – someone she "studied songwriting" from – she went into a clunky version of the juvenile "Dinosaur", complete with band members in dinosaur masks chasing her around stage. All that being said, it was still very powerful to see Kesha cover "You Don't Own Me", an emotion-soaked nod to her lawsuit troubles.
Bob Dylan is better remembered than experienced.
Who doesn't love Bob Dylan? He's the bedrock on which so much has been built in the history of music. He's a poet, he's a game-changer, he's a legend. Unfortunately though, he's no longer a powerful performer. Even while playing a string of hits, some of the greatest songs ever written, they lose a lot of their importance and influence when the crowd has to struggle through the sandpaper sounds of the seventy-six-year-old singer. "Simple Twist Of Fate", "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue", even "Don't Think Twice" sound silly and more like Scooby Doo singing at this stage in the game for Dylan. The crowd was complacent and thin through his no nonsense set. Everyone should listen to Bob Dylan, only a brave few should still enjoy him live.
What didn't Twenty One Pilots do?
The greatest concerts end with a big event, something beyond the music that leaves the crowd amazed and astonished. Twenty One Pilots set to close out Friday night at Firefly featured about six. There might not be a band that super-serves their audience like this Columbus, Ohio outfit. Along with a dizzying display of lights and hits, the duo of Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun followed spectacle with spectacle. The Twenty One Pilots live show has become famous for Dun drumming on top of the crowd. That's a full drum set on a platform on top of the crowd. However, there was also the moment when Joseph climbed high above the audience to finish a song from a sky-high structure. Then there was that time that Dun ran across the crowd in a giant hamster ball, or when he performed a drum battle against a video-version of himself. That's not to mention the sweet moment of Joseph bring out his father for a rendition of DJ Khaled's "All I Do Is Win", or when they brought out fellow festival performers Judah And The Lion to perform Chumbawamba's "Tubthumbing" and House Of Pain's "Jump Around". It was an hour and a half of sensory overload that somehow managed to remain earnest and emotional. It's no wonder Twenty One Pilots have become one of the biggest bands in the country.
There was a lot that we saw and enjoyed over the course of two days at Firefly. Weezer packed a set with favorites and the best from their latest "White Album", Lil Dicky was hilarious with his mix of humor and hip hop, and Benny Benassi and DJ Jazzy Jeff kept the party pounding in the Pavilion. As always, Firefly Music Festival was a perfect blend of sun and songs to kick off the summer.
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