Photo by Kristen Driscoll Photography
Opening day of the inaugural Firefly Festival was a statement making affair as the Delaware Summer circuit stop proved to be more than merely a corporately backed, soul raping, money making event as the eclectic slate of musical performers was married to an equally diverse array of sideshow activities meant to enrapture each individual patron from the backyard BBQ corn hole efficianado to the wine tasting socialite and every gentleman of the Jack Daniel’s sipping whiskey cloth in between.
Jack white and his Third Man band battled sound complications early on in their headlining set, which muffled the opening number, “Dead Leaves On The Dirty Ground,” forcing the front-man to kick off his ivory boots and socks in an apparent attempt to distance himself from the situation afoot.
When the bohemian bluesman’s axe finally kicked in amidst “Freedom At 21″ a dampened congregation rejoiced with arms stretched skywards reenacting Andy Duphresne liberation rain dance…and the wave of jubilation continued with raucous renditions of The Dead Weather darling “Cut Like A Buffalo” and “Hotel Zorba.”
The latter wasn’t the only White Stripes composition ripped from White’s back catalogue as the songsmith fed his people a healthy diet of candy striper classics such as “Hello Operator,” “We Are Gonna Be Friends,” “Ball & A Biscuit,” and the made-for-stadium closer “Seven Nation Army,” alongside The Raconteurs’ “Steady As She Goes.”
Warming up the festival patronage for White and company was the one man electronic dance party, conveniently packed in some sort of intergalactic module, that is Bassnectar, who pressed play on a mix of musical peaks and pastures that saw EDM enthusiasts encompassed in glows of green, gold, and pink grapple with inflatable snake monsters, the idea that women have been brainwashed to hate their bodies since a young age as magazine covers girls flickered on the monitor behind, and their own chemically altered psyches.
As the light gave way to night and the gray cloud coverage above, Silversun Pickups arose clothing the The Backyard Stage assemblage in a fuzzy blanket of charred guitar distortion, while the outfit’s front-man, Brian Aubert, led the band’s bid for loudest performance of day, as the axe wielder careened about the platform while manipulating his six string in a multi-tone barrage of torturous moans and spacious fret exploration on the likes of “Panic Switch” and “Lazy Eye.”
Caked in stategically applied paints of red, white, and blue hues, Walk The Moon supplied The Porch Stage patronage of equally colorful festival goers with cuts from its earth quaking catalogue of Pop-Rock compositions like “I Can Lift A Car,” an impressive claim for which the band still lacks evidence to support, and the set closing song of last Summer “Anna Sun.”
“We’re beyond excited to be hear,” said front-man Nicholas Petricca. “We really want to thank Firefly for having us. And I hope it comes back again next year because this is going to be one of the best festivals in the whole damn country.”
A cannon blast of confetti that sprinkled down to the sea of arms stretched skyward coincided with the first chunky guitar riffs dialed up by OK Go on The Lawn Stage, the band clad in Reservoir Dogs-esque garb, for its Pop-Rock setlist staple “Do What You Want.”
“This is our first time playing Delaware,” said the group’s vocalist Damian Kulash. “How many of you are from delaware? I had no idea there were so many people in this state. How many of you own a corporation? Here’s a segue…this next song we just made a music video for and it was paid for by a giant corporation.” Roll on the Chevy-treated “Needing/Getting.”
More massive explosions of pink, blue, and yellow accompanied the many sing along refrains of “Invincible,” drenching the audience and its many balloon giraffes and schools of cardboard squid in tissue paper, while striking the first momentous blow in a waged confetti war with the Experimental Psych-Rock collective, the Flaming Lips, that will provide a response on Saturday evening.
John Legend played to a boisterous patronage on the main Firefly Stage as the R&B maestro continued to execute to perfection his specialization of performing other people’s music, like his opening salvo, “Redemption Song” and Stevie Wonder’s “Keep On Running,” after Mayor Hawthorne tailored his pants suit into a pair of shorts and displayed a danceable series of funk-driven Rock across the field from his Ohio-based contemporary that saw the Firefly faithful skanking in the straw covered pasture.
Firefly fest afforded me the opportunity to get the closest I’ll ever be to Bob Dylan, as the son birthed from the legendary songsmith’s loins, Jacob Dylan, led The Wallflowers on a mainstage-opening performance that included such classic cuts as “Three Marlenas” as well as a selection of new numbers from the band’s forthcoming full-length Glad All Over such as a bouncing bass-laden composition titled “The Devils Waltz.”
Dylan also cued up the well traversed “Peace Love And Understanding” as well as the the outfit’s hit single “One Headlight.”
Matt Costa took a stool and his acoustic six string to The Porch Stage where he shielded his eyes from the purple florescence with black raybans while bewitching such unassuming college girls with various arrays of flowers in their hair on tunes like “Cold December” and a new tune titled “Brandywine.”
Heartless Bastards acted as the first main draw of the afternoon transporting its chilly riff-driven Blues-Rock from the haunts of Ohio to The Lawn Stage for an intimate showcase of such new setlist staples as “Only For You” and “Parted Ways,” to a congregation complete with a bouncing bohemian cowboy sporting a 311 tattoo and gym shorts, sipping a homemade concoction from a camelbak.
Blind Pilot’s banjo-laden folk assault on The Backyard Stage, complete with cello plucking and soft trumpet solo accompaniment, suited the surrounding forest environment well, as woodlands sandwiched an adoring gallery of spectators that exploded with each trumpet call, none more boisterous than on “We Are The Tied,” as Turf War sandwiched the opening day’s lineup in Bluesy Garage-Rock that featured its buzzed about “Cheers To The Years.”
Stay tuned for our Saturday coverage that will feature The Killers, Yeasayer, Lupe Fiasco, Modest Mouse, CAKE, and many more.