Franz Ferdinand blew up the main stage of the Firefly Music Festival on Friday, June 16, igniting a dance riot with their well-recognized favorites but also introducing a few new songs and a few new members.
The Scots quintet found themselves in the United States for a brief tour, opening an opportunity for vocalist Alex Kapranos, bassist Bob Hardy, and drummer Paul Thomson to introduce American audiences to guitarist Dino Bardot and keyboardist Julian Corrie.
As a special bonus, Julian and Paul turned up for a DJ set at the remote Treehouse Stage at the end of the night. That became a mini-rave once Alex turned up as well and invited the intimate audience onto the stage, where the members of Franz Ferdinand mingled with the crowd and generally got down to some soulful electro tunes. More on that in a bit!
Franz Ferdinand began their Firefly set with “The Dark of the Matinee,” a top song from their 2004 self-titled debut album, which featured prominently in the set. Soon, the band broke open the new songs, which they have debuted live starting last month on this US tour. They have been cycling through four strong new songs, which presumably will be making it onto a new album in the very near future — “Paper Cages,” “Lazy Boy,” “Huck and Jim,” and “Always Ascending.”
The new songs were great live, and they fit very nicely within the Franz Ferdinand ethos. Other live highlights included “No You Girls” from the 2009 album Tonight, and “Ulysses” from the same. Somehow, “Ulysses” seemed particularly poignant under the hot sun among the surging crowd with a cup of Dogfish Head Firefly Ale in your hand.
The band soon played the always fantastic “Do You Want To” from 2005’s You Could Have It So Much Better, and they of course cleverly change the wording to sing: “Well here we are at the Firefly Party/I love your friends/They’re all so arty, oh yeah.”
I was surprised not long ago when the band announced the introduction of *two* new members to replace the departed Nick McCarthy, but now I completely see why they made the move. Dino played well those great glam guitar riffs that Nick originated, and he certainly held his own in performance with his bandmates. Julian was clearly a secret weapon, however! Not only would he pick up his own guitar on occasion, but he added a dedicated keyboardist to the band, providing it with more versatility than it may have previously demonstrated. (And don’t get me wrong — Franz Ferdinand already was one of the best bands of the modern era!)
Julian previously maintained a bit of a solo career where he billed himself as Miaoux Miaoux, releasing three solo records, most recently via Chemikal Underground Records. He’s also an experienced sound engineer, so I was quite curious when I saw that he and Paul were doing something on the Treehouse Stage later. It was billed as “Paul and Julian from Franz Ferdinand,” and I wondered if it would somehow explore Julian’s solo interests.
Upon turning up at Treehouse, the audience was treated to Julian plugging in his gear. The Treehouse Stage at Firefly is a pleasant stage surrounded by woods, and the space certainly has more of a low-key indie vibe. The crowd was quite intimate, but I suspect way more people would have turned up if they knew what might happen next.
As it turns out, Julian and Paul DJ’ed some soulful electronic music, and Alex appeared on hand, signing autographs and participating in selfies at first. But then Alex invited everyone onto stage, first by helping them up onto stage from the ground, but then by opening the artists gate to simply allow people to pour through and onto the stage.
Once on stage, the crowd formed a protective cone of DJ worship around Julian as he jammed through a mix that included songs like “Stand on the Word” by Joubert Singers, “Set It Off” by Strafe, and “Bahdeni Nami” by Omar Souleyman.
Julian and Paul played music for roughly 45 minutes before shutting it down quickly, but it was 45 minutes of delirium for any Franz Ferdinand fan. What an opportunity! What fantastic chaps! And what a festival. Thanks, Firefly.
Here are a few more pictures of the members of Franz Ferdinand hanging out at the Firefly Treehouse Stage on Friday, June 16, 2017.