Amongst the rainbow woods and the hot air balloons at the first Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware this Sunday there were countless killer acts that I hope the huge crowds who attended saw that day. Here are the highlights:
Fitz And The Tantrums — The guitar-less group I was least excited to see turned out to be the most intriguing. True performers, Fitz and the Tantrums gave 100% in delivering their funk and soul pop sound. The six-piece Los Angeles band never stopped dancing, crooning, or begging the audience to participate; it turns out you don’t have to know their music to really enjoy it. If you didn’t know the words, they taught them to you. With the style and cool of Motown classics but the sleekness of modern pop, hits like “L.O.V,” “MoneyGrabber,” and “Don’t Gotta Work It Out” got even the sleepiest audience members dancing. While James King seduced with his saxophone riffs, the obvious sexual tension built between lead Michael Fitzpatrick and singer and percussionist Noelle Scaggs. Getting into each others’ faces and dancing too close for comfort in that 90 degree heat, lets just say the two get really into their music. Playing a groovy cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams,” they somehow managed to make the iconic song their own.
Death Cab For Cutie — We know exactly which drug Ben Gibbard was using to get through Death Cab for Cutie’s set. The extremely sick lead singer explained, “My drug of choice today is Dayquil. You guys are going to have to help me hit the high notes.” Even under the weather, the guy needed no help. Opening with the 8-minute version of “I Will Possess Your Heart,” that alluring and groovy bass vamp live made that eventual climax even more satisfying. Playing favorites like “Cath,” “Marching Bands Of Manhattan,” and “Soul Meets Body,” they were able to quickly win over the crowd. Much less mellow than many expected, Death Cab For Cutie brought a surprising amount of intensity to “We Looked Like Giants” where Gibbard dropped his guitar and joined Jason McGerr on an extra set of drums assembled during the song. Gibbard amused the crowd a bit when he went on a rant about possibly seeing “fish people” in the audience and a fan called back out, “Your bassist looks like Robin Williams!” I think they were both a bit confused.
Girl Talk — What do N.E.R.D, Bruce Springsteen, Aerosmith, Notorious B.I.G., Belinda Carlisle, Beck, and Jimmy Eat World all have in common? Girl Talk sampled all of them in his party popping set. While it was a little weird seeing the mash-up artist before the sun set, nothing was going to stop the thousands of people at his stage from dancing. Whether they were wearing horse masks, Native American garbs, or simply break dancing, there wasn’t a single still body in the crowd. While giving labels and musical genres the big F-You, Girl Talk, or Gregg Michael Gillis, still catered to his crowd. And this was much appreciated as a fan screamed out, “You are a fucking genius!”
The Black Keys — In a world where rock and roll seems to be slowly dying, the Black Keys restore hope in its future. The men of many little words focused solely on their music. With huge, Hendrix-style solos and intricate drumming, the Ohio rock duo make you want to sing along to their instruments instead of the lyrics. People everywhere were playing the air guitar and banging on their imaginary drums sets to their bluesy hits “Your Touch,” “Lonely Boy,” and “Howlin’ For You.” While drummer Patrick Carney sweated through “Gold on the Ceiling” and “Tighten Up,” guitarist Dan Auerbach summoned an unholy racket from his amps. They brought the festival to a beautiful close when they opened their encore with “Everlasting Light” and a gigantic disco ball dropped down, illuminating the Dover sky.