Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Joe Papeo
All of a sudden it’s Sunday, and we had very little time left until reality replaced the hula hoops, hammocks, and heavenly jam sessions bestowed by Firefly. It was crunch-time, and we had to cram as much excitement into the final day as our beat up bodies could muster.
The sun was shining, bands were tuning up, and we had no idea what we were about to get ourselves into. Day Three is usually when the festival scene goes a little Gonzo, and as dusk fell, things got even weirder than we could ever imagine.
As ambassadors of rock n roll, The Waster often tells stories straight from the pit, from the tour van, from comfy couches backstage. But on this night, even Hunter Thompson would be proud to hear that we became part of our own concert review…
J Roddy Walston and the Business
If you needed a wake up call on Sunday (we certainly did), J. Roddy Walston and the Business were there to get your juices flowing again at the Backyard stage. The Baltimore-based group got down and dirty bright and early, knocking the grogginess right out of Day Three with some great American rock n soul.
If Jerry Lee Lewis and The Black Crowes had a badass baby, it would put on a raucous show like this one. Walston (vox/keys) lead the pack, resembling a combination of Animal and Cousin Itt as he banged away at his instrument with reckless abandon. Along with his bearded brothers from the Business, together they tore through energetic originals including ‘Don’t Break the Needle’ and ‘I’m Goin’ Out’.
“I don’t know what got into me”, Walston admitted after a dizzying cover of Little Richard’s ‘Lucille’ took both him and fans higher than that hot air balloon hanging in the background.
Cheers to J. Roddy for getting a crowd of hungover kids to rock out at noon on a Sunday like it was Business as usual.
Punk rockers never really hung out with the dance hall kids in high school, but that hasn’t stopped Reptar from blowing minds with their snarling musical hybrid. Plugging their new album Body Faucet, the Athens, GA outfit drew all the crazies to the Porch stage on Sunday.
“Raise your hand if you’re having a blast!”, Graham Ulicny (guitar/vox) instructed his wide-eyed pupils. Reminding everyone that it was their last chance to let it all hang out before returning to the real world, Ulicny encouraged the crowd to hoot, holler, and “emote to your neighbor”.
Reptar’s quirky stage presence put the wind in our freak flags, and their distortion-heavy jams caused a glorious racket via tunes such as ‘Blastoff’ and ‘Please Don’t Kill Me’.
A half naked dude in a rainbow colored tutu was so excited for this set that he literally ran laps around the crowd. Most of us felt the same way on the inside, so who were we to judge?
Super-fans in T-shirts emblazoned with the words ‘It’s Not My Fault’ lined up early to catch LA-based electronic sensation AWOLNATION run around like a total maniac. Joined by a full band, Aaron Bruno awakened the animals on the Lawn stage with ragers from 2011’s Megalithic Symphony, including his certified Platinum single ‘Sail’.
“This could be the best afternoon of your life”, Bruno said, baiting his audience to match the spazz in his step. Soon it seemed like crowd surfers were hoisted up in pairs as fan favorites ‘People’, ‘Not Your Fault’, and ‘Burn it Down’ all made the cut.
“I thought I was the only weirdo who liked the music I wrote”, he smiled, “but hey, let’s get fuckin’ weird!”
Was it weird? Yes. Indescribable? Kinda. Awesome? Totally. From start to finish, so many musical genres were present in this set that we were all pretty thankful for AWOLNATION’s case of A.D.D.
Fitz & The Tantrums
“Right here, right now, this is where the motherfucking dance party will begin!”, Michael Fitzpatrick assured all the hip shakers of the Lawn stage. This was our official warning, because neo-soul act Fitz & The Tantrums was about to make damn well sure everyone worked up a sweat today.
Frontman Fitz and his female counterpart Noelle Scaggs danced themselves into such a frenzy that you couldn’t help but surrender to their band’s brassy beats. And they certainly weren’t going to let no man, woman, nor child get away with standing still on their watch. “You’re not clapping”, Fitz mouthed to a few lazy onlookers he pointed out in the crowd.
Playing Motown grooves for the new millennium, the LA act performed most of the material off their 2010 LP Pickin’ Up the Pieces, as well as a retro re-arrangement of The Raconteurs’ ‘Steady as She Goes’. Fitz & Scaggs were gettin’ grabby with one another under the hot stage lights, and they shared such a sexy on-stage chemistry that it made you wanna kiss the stranger next to you right on the mouth.
But instead, we found out that we had a much more excellent adventure ahead of us…
The Flaming Lips
“When you see a guy who looks like Frank Zappa, tell him you’re dancing on-stage tonight.” The orders echoed in my head over and over again as I waited next to a tiny trailer behind the Lawn stage. The Flaming Lips were taking the spotlight soon, and somehow we had scored the best seats in the house.
A few minutes later ‘Frank Zappa’ came running full speed toward the trailer, with a pack of screaming 20-somethings hot on his tail. Once inside the trailer aka ‘dressing room’, my fellow female fans and I were assigned our roles as dancing Dorothy’s. I sheepishly squeezed into my new leotard-like costume and rejoined my partner in crime Mr. Papeo, who was invited to take photos from backstage, providing he dressed as a Cowardly Lion.
In the blink of an eye we were whisked away to Oz, and quickly found ourselves face to face with a few thousand anxious fans waiting on the grass. Strobe lights flashed, massive balloons bounced overhead and confetti cannons fired freely as the Lips made a grand entrance with ‘Race for the Prize’. There we were – Joe rocking the shot from one side of the stage while I did my hippie sway on the other.
Before the show started, the band’s stage crew had said that the hour and a half set would feel like 15 minutes from this perspective. And once Wayne Coyne surfed the crowd in his space bubble, the rest of the show was just a happy blur of blue smoke, green lasers, and waving magic wands. It was wild and strange and beautiful…sort of like Wizard of Oz.
So if you ever catch yourself arriving early to a Flaming Lips show, and you have no shame in showing some skin, do yourself a solid and find Frank Zappa.
The Black Keys
The Black Keys are absolutely killin’ it in 2012, and their quest for complete world domination found them headlining the main stage to close out Firefly. So after exiting Oz, we watched Dan Auerbach (vox/guitar) and Pat Carney (drums) humbly demonstrate that sometimes, less is more.
Whereas the weekend’s previous headliners boasted big budget productions, the duo from Akron, OH took a more stripped down approach to their setup. Tonight just some atmospheric smoke and a few stage lights were the only factors distracting us from the raw power of booming electric blues.
Slaves to the reverb got their kicks from cuts off the band’s latest record El Camino -Â ‘Gold on the Ceiling’, ‘Little Black Submarines’, and their hit single ‘Lonely Boy’ were the defining highlights of this Sunday night rumble.
Sure, you hear their songs on the radio and in commercials pretty much every day, but it’s not until you see them perform live that you are reminded what a strong discography they’ve built. Can you even name a bad Black Keys song? We can’t either.
Thank you Firefly for spoiling us rotten!!
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