Words: Jordan Catalana
Firefly Music Festival took place this past weekend and was, in a lot of ways, just another music festival. Only in its second year, Firefly is still trying to figure out what kind of player it wants to be in the totally saturated summer festival roster, but some 40,000 people showed that they didn’t mind genre-hopping from the Avett Brothers to Tom Petty to Zedd. While the weekend was an overall high, some moments shone way brighter than others. Here are Firefly 2013’s major winners and losers.
One of the problems I had at Firefly ’12 (and at every other festival really) is that it was a total boys club. Firefly ’13 pulled a complete 180, and the chicks dominated the schedule. Established performers like Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes, Ellie Goulding, Kim of Matt and Kim, and Azealia Banks kicked ass as always, and seemed to serve as perfect inspiration for a new crop of lady rockers. Blondfire, Chvrches, ZZ Ward, LP, Crystal Fighters, and Haim, to name just a few of the lineup, kept the female power going throughout the festival from start to finish.
Loss: Rave kids
As I said before, Firefly is in the midst of carving out its niche and, consequently, covers enough genres to include EDM. Artists like Krewella, White Panda, and Zedd drew huge crowds in the wee hours of the night, leaving packs of neon-clad molly-trippers floating throughout the rest of the festival somewhat aimlessly. I get it. You’re here for the strobe lights—no need to keep interrupting Grizzly Bear to tell me you don’t understand what you’re watching.
Win: Azealia Banks’ background dancers
Azealia Banks is a spectacle in her own right, and I should have never expected anything less from her live show. She rocked an hour long pre-Petty set on Saturday night and had the fiercest dancers EVER, one guy and one girl in total Fly Girls style.
Loss: Kendrick Lamar’s predictability
Firefly marked Kenrick’s 934th music festival appearance since 2011 and every bit of that showed. Sure, he had one of the biggest non-headlining crowds there, and sure, I was thoroughly entertained by all of the thin white boys passionately rapping around me, but there’s a certain point when the “put one hand up… put both hands up!” routine gets stale (hint: steal Azealia’s dancers).
Win: The ground
After the Gov “Mud” Ball fiasco of ’13, the firmness of the ground was definitely a victory in my book.
Loss: Anthony Kiedis’ face
Some rock stars, like Bruce Springsteen or David Bowie, age well. Others just do not. Close-ups of Anthony Kiedis during RHCP’s headlining show on Friday showed every one of his fifty years—and not in a good way.
Besides in obvious folksy settings like the Avett Brothers or Dispatch, strings took the spotlight in some unexpected places during the festival. Most notably, Jim James of My Morning Jacket fame embraced the cello and standing bass for a psychedelic jazz jam and Kishi Bashi, a personal favorite, combined violin, banjo, and a standing tom with his synthy vocals for a truly refreshing performance.
Loss: The NBA
If I had a dollar for every bro in an NBA jersey worn on the grounds I would be able to buy the NBA.
Win: Vampire Weekend
I thought it was strange that Vampire Weekend didn’t have a headlining spot, especially considering the 5/14 release of the well received Modern Vampires of the City, but the hour and a half set proved to be the perfect ending to Firefly 2013 (sorry, Foster the People). Their set was appropriately built for the crowd, pulling tunes nearly equally from Vampire Weekend (’08), Contra (’10), and Modern and even if Ezra Koenig fucked up every word while closing with “Walcott”, you could tell the band was just as happy to be there as the audience was.
Loss: Earl Sweatshirt and The Lumineers
Both acts pulled out of the lineup last minute (to be replaced by Schoolboy Q and Ben Harper, respectively). Where were they? Were they together? That would probably be a weird party.
Win: The Backyard
Firefly’s 70+ artists played across four different stages, the greatest treasure of them being “The Backyard”. Nestled farthest away from the entrance, The Backyard was not subject to any extraneous foot traffic and, therefore, an unmatched private concert experience—and pristine port-o-potties to go with it. It was here that I saw Grizzly Bear with maybe three hundred people. It’s also where two hundred of my closest friends and I danced with Azealia and her dancers and The Walkmen and Chvrches what must have been some of their most intimate shows as of late.
Loss: Inevitable post-festival excuses and apologies
My experience shows that, in recounting festival stories, no one will ever agree with the schedule choices you’ve made. You know what? In the Sophie’s Choice that is a lot of the band conflicts (well, okay, maybe not Sophie’s Choice), decisions are made and you just have to own them. So, before anyone can lecture me on what I did right or what I did wrong, I’m not sorry that I couldn’t see all of Matt and Kim, or all of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, or any of Passion Pit for that matter. I saw who I saw for a reason, and I don’t need anyone making me feel guilty for skipping out on Lord Huron to get a $10 grilled cheese.
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