Music Park: Firefly Music Festival Pt. 1 of 3 (Dover, DE — 6/16/17)

21Pilots-Jump-Firefly-061617 Twenty One Pilots had a massive crowd eating out of their hands at Firefly Music Festival on Friday, June 16, 2017. (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival/Live at Firefly)

The sixth edition of the Firefly Music Festival delivered a diverse line-up over four days of musical performances June 15-18, 2017. Threatened rains stayed away, and artists as different as 21 Pilots, Bob Dylan, and Muse came to stay. An estimated 90,000 people descended on The Woodlands in Dover, Delaware to watch more than 125 acts.

My experience began Friday, June 16, with Franz Ferdinand, taking a well-deserved space on the Firefly main stage with two new members of the band and at least four new songs. I described the full experience of Franz’s performance in an early blog, and you can read all about it.

In short, 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.

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Franz Ferdinand at Firefly (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival/Live at Firefly)

After their set, members of Franz Ferdinand later appeared at the Treehouse Stage for some DJ hi-jinx with an intimate audience. Read about our report!

After Franz Ferdinand, Weezer took to the main stage for a highly entertaining concert. The repeat Firefly performers began their show with the iconic “Hashpipe,” and they were clearly in good spirits as they jammed out on their instruments.

Rivers Cuomo and company turned to the always popular “Blue” album, the band’s 1994 debut record, quite quickly with “My Name Is Jonas” as their second song. They would revisit that album throughout the set with “Undone (The Sweater Song),” “Say It Ain’t So,” and “Buddy Holly,” the latter of which of course capped the end of the show.

Clearly in the zone, Rivers occasionally donned odd costumes and sang with an air of detachment. Such antics made it something of a surprise when he covered “Hey Ya” by OutKast about one-third into the set. Weezer presented the stripped-down version matter of factly, as if it were a Weezer song instead of a hip hop anthem, and their steady hands made it so. In particular, guitarist Brian Bell made that cover happen, and his stoic, bearded visage served as a rudder for Weezer’s trip through summery tunes on a sweltering evening.

Weezer-Firefly-061617 Weezer at Firefly (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival/Live at Firefly)

Weezer have been at work on a new album, another self-titled record called the “Black” album, and they performed new song “Feels Like Summer” later in their set. “Feels Like Summer,” released as a single in March, is the lead number from the new album, and it feels much like a good, typical Weezer song despite Rivers’ talk that the record will be grittier than previous Weezer efforts.

The Los Angeles power poppers drew a very large crowd to mainstage, and Firefly Music Festival attendees were clearly happy to embrace their return. Weezer truly are in very fine shape, and they warrant your attention at an upcoming concert although they don’t have anything planned for our DC metro area currently.

As I crossed the fairgrounds to resume my adventures with Franz Ferdinand, I heard Swedish indie pop trio Miike Snow play “Ghengis Khan,” their infectious neo-psych number from last year’s album iii. Well, they played it a bit early, I thought, given how popular the number has remained in the past year. Still, I gave it only a few moments’ listen before continuing on my way.

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Twenty One Pilots at Firefly (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival/Live at Firefly)

I returned to mainstage for Twenty One Pilots, the “most popular band that no one over 40 has ever heard,” according to a friend. The alternative hip hop duo came with a big production, lots of charisma, and vocalist Tyler Joseph’s dad (it was Father’s Day the next day after all), who gamely led the audience in a dance for a brief cover of “All I Do Is Win” by DJ Khaled.

Indeed, the Twenty One Pilots’ show was high on covers. Early in the show, the band covered Elvis Presley with “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” which they released as a single in 2012. Later, they brought their friends and tourmates Jonah & The Lion on stage of successive covers of “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba and “Jump Around” by House of Pain.

Well, Tyler and drummer Josh Dun were clearly having fun, and so was the massive crowd that turned up to see them. And they did manage to acknowledge their own catalog, starting the show with “Heavydirtysoul” from their most recent album, 2015’s Blurryface. (They have since collaborated with Mutemath for an EP.) Twenty One Pilots closed their show with “Trees” from their 2011 second album Regional at Best.

All in all, our first day at Firefly Music Festival was a success, and Firefly organizers deserve a lot of credit for growing the grounds to accommodate more and better stages over the past few years while also keeping everything running smoothly and relatively clean. A strong first day propelled us into a good second day, and I’ll share three interesting acts from Saturday, June 17, in our next Firefly installment tomorrow.

Meanwhile, Firefly Music Festival has announced its seventh edition will take place June 14-17, 2018. Start making plans and keep your eyes on the Firefly website at http://www.fireflyfestival.com.

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Revelers celebrate Twenty One Pilots at Firefly (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival/Live at Firefly)

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