Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Joe Papeo
Stormy clouds still sat over the festival grounds on Saturday, but with a line-up this wild, the weather was the furthest thing from our minds. Firefly was not a festival of ‘filler’ bands – this was a festival that made history, one day at a time.
A long Friday of fun under our belts, these old bones were weary, and we really began to appreciate the press perks on tap at Firefly. Red Frog did a superb job of pleasing us ‘creative types’ with water, WiFi, and enough smoked BBQ to induce a full-on food coma.
But hands down the ultimate bonus of working the festival beat was the stage-to-stage chauffeur service. There’s nothing quite like hopping in a golf cart at the media tent and heading to your next musical adventure. And zipping down the gravel pathways in between sets definitely gave us the rush to tackle a monumental Day Two.
Picture us rollin’…
Since the Firefly roster primarily focused on rock bands, it was a thrill to see the one and only Screaming Eagle of Soul on Saturday’s schedule. Getting everyone riled up in style, Charles Bradley’s band The Extraordinaires started cooking some funky instrumentals before introducing “the original Black Swan” to his adoring fans.
Dressed in a rhinestone-encrusted suit jacket, Bradley sauntered up to his mic and beamed over the congregation he was about to decimate with almighty mojo. “This crowd is feisty!”, he declared before huffing, puffing, and howling his way through ‘Heartaches and Pain’. Then, anyone within earshot of the Backyard stage had their hearts melted into little puddles during the slow jam ‘Loving You’, another track off his debut Daptone effort No Time for Dreaming.
The Extraordinaires laid down the kind of lush grooves that inspire uncontrollable James Brown moves, and Bradley worked up such a sweat that he sneaked backstage for a wardrobe change. The show soon went on with a cover of Neil Young’s ‘Heart of Gold’, a song that sums up what made us so smitten by the man of the hour.
Kanye West’s ‘Monster’ blared through stacks of speakers at the Lawn stage like a sign of things to come. Because Grouplove was up next, and these crazy kids from LA just can’t be stopped. Their single ‘Tongue Tied’ has earned heaps of hype from its placement in an iPod commercial, and the five piece backed up every bit of their spreading street cred at Firefly.
“Do you guys wanna howl with us like wolves?”, a blue-haired Christian Zucconi (vox/guitar) asked the throngs of party people who turned out for Grouplove’s afternoon set. On his playful prompt, all the flower children of the Lawn seized the opportunity to completely let loose.
The alt-rockers laid the euphoria on thick during their set of tunes from 2011’s brilliant LP Never Trust a Happy Song. While Zucconi and his spark-plug sidekick Hannah Hooper ping-ponged most of the vocal duties, not a Grouplover in sight was shy about stepping up and leading a harmony.
The band’s genuine zest in attacking Day Two, especially their OMG-worthy cover of Whitney Houston’s ‘I Wanna Dance with Somebody’, made this one of our favorite sets of the weekend.
Young the Giant
In just about a year, indie darlings Young the Giant have launched from opening act to headliner status, and they are loving every second of the new-found notoriety. The success of 2011’s debut self-titled album found a humbled quintet playing the main stage on Saturday.
Repping his West Coast home-base in an LA Lakers hat, Sameer Gadhia (vox) had the ladies swooning to his dreamy serenades. It was clear we had a heartthrob on our hands – each time he softly pressed the mic to his cheek, a thousand baby butterflies were released, filling the tummies of Firefly’s female population. Sweet songs including ‘Apartment’ and ‘Strings’ even coerced the sunshine out from the clouds for the first time all day.
Young the Giant wrapped up one of their last shows of 2012 with a little help from their friends – members from Grouplove and Walk the Moon bum-rushed the stage to join them for an epic finale of their mega-hit ‘My Body’.
CAKE isn’t mad at today’s youth, it’s just disappointed in them. “Even if you forget to post this to Facebook, it’s still real”, front-man John McCrea jabbed at patrons of the Lawn stage in response to their rampant cell phone use.
Fans who were present in the moment during the early evening gig enjoyed a tasting of songs from CAKE’s most recent album Showroom of Compassion. But McCrea wasn’t through ranting yet. In between tracks like ‘Long Time’, ‘Mustache Man’ and ‘Bound Away’, the singer addressed the current condition of the music industry, too. “There’s probably 75 of you who still legally purchase music, so… thank you”, he half-jokingly bemoaned.
The Energizer bunnies of alt-rock kicked it old school towards the end of their performance, pulling out the chart-toppers like ‘Love You Madly’, ‘Never There’, and ‘Short Skirt/Long Jacket’. Of course, ‘The Distance’ appropriately sent us off to our next pit stop of the music marathon.
Modest Mouse got moody at the main stage for one of the final sets leading up to the night’s highly-anticipated headliner. And even though they haven’t released new material since 2009, the grass was filled to the gills for this last minute line-up addition.
Rocking a very deep V-neck, Isaac Brock (vox/guitar) endearingly performed the bulk of the show with his eyes closed. His heavy words seemed to pour out of a truly primal place, especially on dark tracks like ‘Bury Me With It’,Â ‘Dance Hall’ and ‘Satin in a Coffin’.
The opening riffs to ‘Float On’ got even the casual listeners back on their feet, setting off a widespread sing-along for the Mouse’s most well-known hit. But the good times were killing Brock, who’s gear was malfunctioning mid-set.
“Perfect end to a perfect show, my shit is broken”, he announced before abruptly walking off stage. Modest Mouse returned once the glitches were fixed, but by then most of their audience had already fled the scene.
Returning from a four year respite, The Killers took the main stage on Saturday night ready to reclaim any lost ground. Their new album Battle Born is scheduled for release this fall, and fans at Firefly were stoked for a mid-summer preview of new material.
Brandon Flowers & Co. cut right to the chase, coming out swinging to ‘Somebody Told Me’ off their 2004 debut Hot Fuss. The Las Vegas rockers proved that they are definitely big spenders when it comes to the production value of their shows; the extravagant lighting rig for their headlining gig rivaled that of a Phish show.
Glowsticks glided overhead as fans indulged on the fruits of Sin City – bouncing, twirling, and fist pumping their way through gems like ‘Mr. Brightside’ and ‘When You Were Young’. If there was ever a time to break out the heavy-duty party supplies at Firefly, this was it.
TheWaster.com | Day Two