Paramount exhaustion set in with sunrise on the third and final day of the Firefly Music Festival at the Woodlands just outside the Dover Motor-Speedway. One would think with all the chemicals coursing through the bloodstream they might go on singing and dancing forever. This was not so for the fine, dedicated staff at Surviving the Golden Age. Neither our photographer Arturo nor this humble writer became distracted at all by the late night antics of finer specimens from the world over rhythmically writhing in some mythical parade of flesh to Big Gigantic or The White Panda at the post- headliner parties, nor then at the after-after party, nor then the 3x after up in one of the luxury suites at the Dover Downs Hotel and Casino. We are professionals here, merely observers, who refrain from the devil rum and thusly must note the ten bands that played before Matt and Kim‘s three o’clock set were each and every one uniquely stellar and shouldn’t be missed for any reason.
Y’all know Matt and Kim. They got a ton of super catchy keyboard driven singles floating around on soundtracks, over radio waves and in commercials of the hip and now, most notably the incessantly catchy “Daylight.” Fully prepared to write off this Brooklyn duo as a studio act unable like many hip-hop groups to sustain energy outside the club, it came as a shocking surprise to see the vitality and exuberance contained within a paltry two man group. They were perfect dynamo counterparts, exchanging and multiplying the energy given off by the other. Kim often standing atop her drumset to pound the bare sticks in time to the audiences clapping as Matt (who was surely classically trained) belted out chorus lines while rocking the keyboard harder than most death-metal axmen. It was quite bizarre, but exciting, sexy and intolerably fun. As if on cue in a mid-beat break, an unnerving thunderclap struck in perfect timing, the skies opened up and it began to rain. Matt and Kim turned the disaster into pure opportunity returning to the song without pause or distraction. Like some old black and white film the group had 30,000 fans dancing in the rain. It was spectacular!
The interesting bit about the low lands of Delaware is that rain doesn’t abate heat for any longer than it physically rains. And when the rain stopped just prior to Dispatch‘s performance the humidity set in so thick it could be cut with a knife. It was purely miserable, but then again there’s something in Dispatch’s brand of unpretentious frat boy Reggae that does much to soothe and comfort. Like Ben Gay or a childhood friend “Two Coins,” “Flying Horses,” or audience favorite “Bang Bang,” comforted frazzled nerves and exhausted bodies. And like the music itself the crowd danced languidly, not overly doing it, but with a joy and connectedness to the music other acts could envy.
The following act surely would have envied it. Passion Pit‘s Micheal Angelakos just can’t seem to catch a break. The group dropped out of last year’s Firefly owing to the frontman’s well publicized health issues, issues that seemed to dog the modest alto unto this year’s performance. The set was intense, the audience rabid until mid-song “Little Secretes,” Mr. Angelakos voice cracked and gave completely. He issued an impassioned plea for the audience to help sing along but his spirit as well as ours was broken. The set ended tragically early.
Tragic only if you’re a fan of Passion Pit. If your tastes side more towards the concurrently playing, long time StGA favorite The Walkmen. In this instance it was pure serendipity. The entire festival one was crushed by the weight and swell of the multitudes, but at the Backyard stage The Walkmen played to only a few hundred. Better yet, those few who forewent Passion Pit for the Walkmen were true fans. This winning combination of a small, devoted audience added a feeling of glee as the meager turn out sang along to career spanning tracks. Ever dapper frontman Hamilton Leithauser’s firebelly bravado hasn’t aged in the least over the past decade, and the performance as an ensemble was just as rollicking as any of the Johnathon Fire Eater early NYC days.
The night’s headliner and one of the most anticipated acts, Vampire Weekend, was next on deck. Much like RHCP before them, it was uncertain if such a well loved, well heeled group could actually deliver. One might have feared they’d fallen into a routine similar to Green Day who’ve played so often and conducted such a relatively similar set for so long the show would come off as boring, mundane. All assumptions were laid to rest over the nearly two hour set. While Contra may have been a stumble, everyone can agree Modern Vampires of the City was critically and commercially a smash. The Ivy Leaguers did not disappoint, in fact made it a point to play all their best loved in glaring contrast to MGMT. There couldn’t have been a better close out to the night and the Firefly festival as a whole.
En somme, the three days of the Firefly Music Festival were an exhausting adventure. Firefly offers little more than most big name festivals, but with each succeeding year it seems to get better. Year one’s paramount technical failures were for the most part absent (all apologies Dan Deacon) and despite year two’s fallout of Earl Sweatshirt and the Lumineers, two acts that might have justified the ticket price of their own accord, there is little reason in face of all the travel, the money and braincells spent, the heat exhaustion and minor disappointments that Firefly wasn’t a worthy experience.