My second day at Firefly Music Festival exposed me to acts both familiar and new as I spent the afternoon treading along well-manicured paths from stage to stage on Saturday, June 17 to investigate the likes of Sunflower Bean, DJ Jazzy Jeff, and Capitol Cities — three acts that quite captured the diversity of the artists performing at Firefly this year!
No strangers to DC, Brooklyn trio Sunflower Bean alternated between ‘60s style psychedelic rock and more polished post-punk vibes during their well-received set. They drew quite a crowd to the Firefly Porch Stage, where they played songs from their debut album, last year’s Human Ceremony, as well as their upcoming record, perhaps dropping later this year.
From their debut album, Sunflower Bean performed the likes of “2013,” a laidback rocker that incited a crowd singalong. Vocalist Julia Cumming imbued the song with hazy vocal stylings, surely inspired at least in part by the Velvet Underground, particularly with its start-and-stop lyrics and its inquisitive tone.
Sunflower Bean closed their set with the third of three new songs, this one apparently titled “When We Were Young.” The tune strikes upon a theme of timelessness or perhaps of capturing a specific moment that runs through their songs. The new song has more of a snappy, poppy cadence than some of their earlier numbers, and it suggests a slight change of their rudder into post-punk waters more than their traditional psychedelic sound.
With Julia on bass as an intriguing frontwoman to watch and the easy chemistry of Nick Kivlen (lead guitar and vocals) and Jacob Faber (drums), Sunflower Bean is a strong band of good musicians. They undoubtedly won a lot of new fans with their set at Firefly. Check them out next time they come through your city.
A quick trip through the woods delivered us to DJ Jazzy Jeff, performing at the Pavilion Stage. All throughout the day Saturday, I kept hearing whispers of the rumor that Will Smith would appear at Firefly Music Festival with Jeff. The two are indeed touring a bit this summer together in a revival of their youth act DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. However, Will was nowhere to be found on this sunny day in Delaware.
DJ Jazzy Jeff set his sights on a crowd-pleasing, if occasionally puzzling, mix of songs, hitting early tracks like “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool and “Jump Around” by House of Pain in his set. The early mix demonstrated Jeff’s skills as in beatmatching, mixing, and transitioning.
By the middle of his set, however, Jeff was simply going for big crowd reactions wherever he could get them. He made a very questionable leap from “In the End” by Linkin Park directly into “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross, which lacked any interest in smooth transitions. Of course, by the end, Jeff was throwing out tracks like a glitchy version of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.
Over on the main Firefly Stage, Los Angeles jazzy psych duo Capital Cities delivered an entertaining show as always. Early in their set, they performed the entertaining “Kangaroo Court” from their first and only full-length album, In a Tidal Wave of Mystery. They followed that up with “Center Stage” and its catchy refrain of “Everyday I walk away with the feeling that I’m center stage/There’s a good time/There’s a good time.”
During “Center Stage,” Ryan Merchant led the audience through the “easiest dance” ever, which he dubbed the Capital Cities Shuffle. It consisted of a few steps to the left and a few to the right, and the large crowd followed his steps from their positions across the wide lawn of the pavilion.
Capital Cities came with a few surprises as well. They performed a new song from their upcoming second album — a song called “Swimming Pool Summer,” which sounds a lot like a Capital Cities song should with its jazzy vibes and summery overtones. Touring member Spencer Ludwig on trumpet truly deserves a lot of credit for the texture of such Capital Cities songs, and the trumpet truly gives them a timeless character. I was less impressed with a cover of “Pets” by Porno for Pyros, however, which I found to be a bit of a headscratcher. The droning song contemplating the uselessness of the human race certainly didn’t fit the generally bright Capital Cities oeuvre.
Should anyone have lost the vibe, they surely regained it with a show-smashing rendition of “Safe and Sound,” the Capital Cities hit that put them and their debut record on the map. Stick to the good stuff, guys?
All in all, we caught quite a diverse mix of music in our second day of the Firefly Music Festival (technically the third day of the festival overall). Stay tuned for our third and final installment of our Firefly 2017 overview, where we wrap it up with an epic Sunday and a stage-shattering performance by Muse.
Until then, remember you can prepare for the seventh edition of Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, with Firefly 2018 on June 14-17, 2018. For more information, visit www.fireflyfestival.com.