The Grove Festival: Palma Violets

Palma Violets sound a little bit like Bowie doing his best Sid Vicious impression; it’s Garage Rock on peyote. The light organ play in the background, the overuse of the bass drum, the borderline manic guitar, it all works; even the happy shakers on their track ‘Set Up for the Cool Cats’ sound more like a social commentary then some motif they learned from Fleetwood Mac.

Admittedly I did not know who they were when they came on the stage. The Grove Festival was advertised as a ‘Boutique Festival,’ so I expected to see a few bands with street cred that weren’t booked to play Lolla. I gotta say though, these guys were so incredibly refreshing that I literally watched the whole thing with a sort of gapping crooked smile on my face, the kind you get when you see something ridiculous that’s impressive at the same time. And by refreshing I mean the lead singer, Samuel Fryer, worked the stage like some drunken nephew who escaped the family luncheon, stole a guitar, busted through security onto the stage, and proceeded to rock his face off to everyone’s delight. Think Michael J. Fox’s guitar rip in Back to the Future but instead of clean cut ‘80’s, it’s Edward Furlong two days into a binge, sweating twice as much, with all the on-stage presence of Shannon Hoon at his best. Simply said, they were incredible.

Twenty years ago the music industry started making anti-corporate statements that took the form of artists dressing like our grandparents. Reused clothing, greasy hair, vintage, vintage, vintage, anything that could be deemed anti-establishment was considered the height of political awareness; everyone knows Kurt Cobain’s iconic wool cardigans. I saw this I-don’t-give-a-sh*t-what-you-think attitude in Palma Violets, and for the first couple of tracks, I think the audience saw it too and didn’t know quite what to do with it. It’s hard for people to get into a set that they feel isn’t played for them, which arguably it wasn’t. The boys have this way of playing that makes you wonder if they think they’re still in their parent’s garage. After two tracks though, it would have been hard for anyone to argue their ability to rock, their talent, and how cool Fryer looked smoking on stage. By the time they played ‘Best of Friends’ the entire park was looking for a justifiable reason to break the cool-factor-scorpion-dance that both sides were participating in and just tell the band they loved them, but it’s hard when you think the people receiving the compliment don’t give a f*ck. Enter the lyrics of the song that received the first raised hands of the day: I want to be your best friend, and I want you to be mine too, I want to be your best friend, and I want you to be mine!!! The repetitive chorus gave the audience a chance to sing along finally, and connect. Fryer let his cigarette hang out of his face as he clapped his hands over his head. There. That wasn’t so hard, was it? No everyone’s friends.

I would like to take this time to give a shout-out/ extend my own hand of friendship to William Doyle, who is BY FAR one of the greatest drummers I have ever seen live. I kept screaming, “Look at the f*cking drummer!!! Look at him go!! Are you seeing this?!?! Good Lord!! Just look at him!!” You can hear the dynamicism on their recorded tracks as well, but I’m telling you, this drummer is the tits. The whole band it awesome, fine. But Doyle, in the litter that is the drummer pool, you are a special kitten.

Palma Violets was by far the greatest surprise of the day. Huge sound and their sweaty Hobart Salesmen work shirts brought me right back to the beautifully unwashed boys of early grunge. These hard rocking boys from London know how to make an audience feel like they don’t give a sh*t you’re there….but you’ll be glad you were. Rest assured I’ll be chasing them again.

Outside Lands 2013 preview – Sunday August 11th

Sunday at Outside Lands starts a bit slow, but ends with a bang. Slightly shorter than the other days of the the festival due to San Francisco’s curfew laws, Sunday’s final sets end at 9:30, so you have no reason not to go all out all day.

Kopecky Family Band (Panhandle, 1:20 to 2:00) were just featured in a New York Times article that compared them to Fleetwood Mac and described them as “a music family producing comfort songs.” Kurt Vile (Sutro, 2:30 to 3:20), known for his solo music and for being a part of the War on Drugs, always puts on a great show, as do Matt + Kim (Twin Peaks, 6:45 to 7:35).

If you’re a fan of EDM, today might be your day to commit to that style of music. There’s A-Trak (Twin Peaks, 5:10 to 6:00), up-and-comer Dillon Francis (Panhandle, 7:35 to 8:20) and finally Kaskade (Twin Peaks, 8:25 to 9:35). Young duo MS MR (Panhandle, 6:00 to 6:40) aren’t EDM by definition, but they are definitely electronic music that you can dance to, so if you have the time, absolutely check them out.

Red Hot Chili Peppers (Lands End, 7:45 to 9:35) are the night’s official headliner, and if you’ve never seen them, they’re definitely worth seeing, since you don’t really know when they’ll be on the road next. The same applies to Willie Nelson (Sutro, 6:30 to 7:40), where you can expect a layer of smoke to appear soon into the now 80-year-old icon’s performance. And then of course there’s Vampire Weekend (Lands End, 5:50 to 7:00), who will probably have one of the biggest crowds of Sunday, but will also probably put on one of the most fun shows.

The final day of a festival, much like the first, usually comes with a lot of last minute mind-changes. Maybe you haven’t seen a certain stage, so you decide to change that, or maybe you haven’t really explored all the food options so you decide to take an hour off from music to find something great to eat. Since Sunday is a bit shorter and the final day, don’t be afraid to tire yourself out running from stage to stage or splurge a bit on a tasty snack. This might be your last big adventure of the summer; make the most of it.

Biggest Conflict: Vampire Weekend vs. Willie Nelson vs. Matt and Kim vs. MS MR

Must See Set: Vampire Weekend

Outside Lands 2013 preview – Saturday August 10th

You’ve now gotten acquainted with beautiful Outside Lands grounds. You had time to study your map, realized it takes a good ten minutes to get from the Sutro Stage to Twin Peaks, and realized you only need to get to the Panhandle Stage a few minutes early to have a great view. Right when you think you’ve figured things out though, Outside Lands hits you with a bunch of big decisions to make.

Saturday night’s headliners, Nine Inch Nails and Phoenix, are probably the most overlapping in fanbase of the three night’s offerings. They play at almost identical times, with Nine Inch Nails at the main, Lands End Stage, from 8:25 to 9:55 and Phoenix across the grounds at Twin Peaks from 8:40 to 9:55. If you’re a fan of both bands, there’s really no way to win here. I might suggest flipping a coin.

Just prior to that is an equally tough decision to make – the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Lands End, 6:40 to 7:30) or Grizzly Bear (Twin Peaks, 6:50 to 7:50) or the Head and the Heart (Sutro, 7:20 to 8:20). Here, I’d definitely recommend the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Jurassic 5 (Lands End, 5:00 to 6:00) will be a cool reunion if you’re into hip-hop, as will Young the Giant (Lands End, 3:40 to 4:30), playing a sort-of-hometown, sort-of-reunion, although it hasn’t been nearly as long since they toured last and it’s really only home for frontman Sameer Gadhia, who graduated from Stanford.

If you get to the park early enough, try to catch some of Atlas Genius’ set (Twin Peaks, 2:10 to 2:55). The Australian duo just finished a tour opening for Imagine Dragons, and are soon setting out on a headlining tour of their own, playing some of the same venues they just opened at. Even earlier are The Lone Bellow (Sutro, 1:05 to 1:45), one of my favorite surprises at SXSW this year. They are playing early enough that there shouldn’t be too much of a crowd for their set of folky, alt-country.

There is also a bunch of great local music on Saturday’s bill. Chipper indie folk from Social Studies (Twin Peaks, 12:45 to 1:25), anthemic rock from the Soft White Sixties (Lands End, 1:00 to 1:50), alternative folk-rock from Thao and the Get Down Stay Down (Sutro, 4:40 to 5:30).

Biggest Conflict: Everything after 6:30. Yeah Yeah Yeahs vs. Grizzly Bear vs. The Head and the Heart, Nine Inch Nails vs. Phoenix, etc…

Must See Set: Yeah Yeah Yeahs

The Grove Festival: Girl Talk

I tip my hat to the event planners who had the foresight to put Girl Talk on before Hot Chip, who played before Phoenix. The three of them were a proper jab-hook-uppercut combo that bowled us all over. Girl Talk…There are not a lot of curtains to pull back here, so-to-speak. No insights that one cannot deduce for themselves if they’ve heard even just one of Gregg Gillis’ tracks. You could play 30secs if any of his mixes to a stranger on the street who seemingly has no understanding of what’s hip, ask them three words to describe what they think his concert might be like, and they would be right. It’s like this: the songs sound the exact same, but instead enjoying it in your living room that’s the size of a hamster ball, it an entire square city block of sound. Bigger IS better. Always.

As I fear giving you a redundant perspective, I’m going to take an editorial risk here, and attempt to explain the concert as it banked off of my friend Amy who was standing beside me. It’s like this: I’m actually reviewing my friend Amy watching the concert, instead of reviewing the concert itself. It’s Girl Talk through an ‘Amy’ filter. Got it? Are we clear? A postmodern concert review? I don’t think anything would make Girl Talk happier.

First off you should know that my friend Amy and her better half Grant are easily the most decorated concert soldiers I know, which even if I was trying to be humble, is incredible. They have seen so many bands, have collected so many tickets stubs, seen so many venues, and in the specific case of Grant, bought a gazillion concert tees. Seriously. He had a tee for almost every band that played the festival, and he changed them as the bands changed to show his fandom. (I tip my hat to YOU, Sir.)

“Holy sh*t, write that down,” Amy says. She’s doing her condensed booty shake which means she’s feeling it, and wants to move so badly that only small movements will guarantee she moves enough. She’s points to the stage, “MJ’s Do You Remember vs. Daft Punk’s Get Lucky! That’s new. Sh*******t.” She continues to move. She looks at me again and this time taps my notebook. “Write it down.”

Girl Talk has revolutionized the mixed tape. I don’t think anyone can dispute that. Who else do you know who can mix like he can? Nobody. Maybe your mother, but we don’t know who she is. “Look at him go!” Amy’s screaming because Gillis has removed his soaked white t-shirt and is swinging it above his head. She turns to me, “He’s like a little DJ Ninja.” I look up to the stage and sure enough he’s making exaggerated Bruce Lee gestures.

Every DJ has his own dance persona. Some of them favour a simple fist pump, others make hands like they’re begging for justice while jumping up and down, not to mention the ever elusion no-dance-at-all which makes you believe the DJ doesn’t even know the crowd is there. Girl Talk is a full extension kind of guy. Finger tips, to pointed toes, he explores the full breath of bodily expression. Amy giggles, and then smiles affectionately. “Ahh, that’s adorable.”

The stage is flooded with people pulled from the crowd, and I would wager his entire entourage. Honestly though, thousands of people around us are having the best dance party of their lives “Lindsay, my mind is exploding right now. Aren’t you dying?! This is so awesome.” As the set progresses, the bulkier dudes up front who at first were dominating the stage are beginning to run out of steam. “Uh, oh. Some of them are slowing down,” she says, and raises her eyebrows in concern. She nods towards the pixie-sized girls with fairy wings who are covered in body paint. “At least we know some of them are going to make it.”

I can tell you who did make it. Amy. As Girl Talk’s last climactic beats echoed through the park, Gillis raised his hand as if the salute the drifting notes as they sailed away. Amy closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, then turned to me again. “Bathroom then beer.”

The Grove Festival: Gaslight Anthem

Occupying in my personal opinion the best time slot for natural light, Gaslight Anthem is one of those successful underground bands who everyone loves and no one has ever heard of at the same time. Proper Indie starlettes, it is so incredibly obvious when you see them live why they have accrued such a loyal cult following. They may not be mainstream, but when lead singer Brian Fallon offered up his microphone, like he did last year at another concert, it was Eddie Vedder who rose to the challenge to sing with the band. So…ya. You should know this band if you don’t already.
Gaslight Anthem has a huge catalogue and generally isn’t one of those bands who really shine in a 45min time slot. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take what I can get, but after such a short set they left the stage and I felt like I was being left in bed just when things were really getting going. Bands like Gaslight Anthem need at least an hour and half for listeners to get their fix. They are just one of those bands; bands that bring you back to that time in your life when music was invigorating for the first time.

It might be easier for people in my age bracket to understand this, as Gaslight Anthem has been true to their sound since their inception in 2007, but their particular brand of rock calls to mind that early millennial punk-easy-rock sound that was equal parts Thrifty’s flare jeans and non-gendered nail polish, and ironically disintegrated most standards of which is socially accepted as cool at the time. Today, in 2013, Gaslight Anthem is the epitome of modern rock. They continue to push the limits of conventional songwriting while still honouring the rock elements that gave the likes of Springsteen and Billy Joel their mass appeal.

They played mostly from their newest release Handwritten, peppering the set with a few oldies but goodies. When ‘45’ started up there was an amazing moment in the crowd when those who knew the song roared, and those who didn’t know who they were watching looked to those who did and nodded emphatically. Crowd synergy. As musicians they are beyond talented. They know who they are, and their the sound seems to come effortless which is amazing because as performers they are quite adept at pulling the heavy single-foot-stomp that we as listeners employ to keep time along with the drummer when the beats are deep and the bass is as responsible for that as the drums.

Like I said, the sunset was tempering into twilight. After writing all of these reviews up today it is becoming increasingly clear that I am obsessed with light. Seriously though, no matter where you’re reading this from, no matter what time of day, make a note to wait for the sunset. Download ‘National Anthem’ from Handwritten, press play, and tell me if the orange light filtering from the West isn’t made better by that song.

Outside Lands 2013 preview – Friday August 9th

With less overlapping sets than Lollapalooza and less heat and dirt than Bonarroo, Outside Lands is quickly rising to the top of the list of premiere summer music festivals. It’s set in the meadows of San Francisco’s stunning Golden Gate Park, where the temperature’s rarely top 80 degrees and there’s always a good spot to watch a set from. Outside Lands has also gained fame for it’s top-notch food, beer and wine offerings, which include selections from dozens of northern California’s top eateries, breweries and vineyards.

Friday at Outside Lands has typically been noticeably less crowded than Saturday and Sunday, but this year might change that. This year’s festival sold out weeks in advance of all tickets, and features some of it’s biggest draws on opening day.

Top on the festival’s bill this year is Paul McCartney, who will play for nearly three hours to close out Friday (Lands End, 7:10 to 9:55). Expect massive attendance at McCartney’s set, since his only headlining competition will be EDM superstar Pretty Lights (Twin Peaks, 8:40 to 9:50). Pretty Lights, known for his glitchy hip-hop style beats and phenomenal visual shows, but even the best in the EDM game could never put up a solid fight against an former Beatle.

Earlier in the day, Friday offers a lot of good garage rock, as well as some smooth and soulful offerings. The Men (Panhandle, 3:05 to 3:45) and Wavves (Panhandle, 6:15 to 6:55) should both have some solid mosh pits going at their quick sets. D’Angelo (Sutro, 6:05 to 7:05) has been one of this festival season’s most hyped artists, and earlier in the day, Jessie Ware (Sutro, 3:25 to 4:15) will put on a great show with her emotional, Florence + The Machine-esque vocals.

Most people have sporadic first days at festivals, with lots of getting lost and unexpected changes in plans. My best advice for Friday is to do just that. If there’s a specific set you’re dying to see, go ahead and camp out at that stage early, but for the most part, let Friday be your day to wander around a bit, find ChocoLands (vendors selling cookies, cupcakes and chocolates hidden in the forest), and maybe catch some sets by bands you’ve never heard before. Your festival is only getting started.

Biggest Conflict: The National vs. Zedd.

Must See Set: Paul McCartney, part of it, at least.

The Grove Festival: Phoenix

Phoenix started their set with the first track from their new album Bankrupt!, aptly titled Entertainment. By this time the park had completely filled up, and people were pressing aggressively towards the blue lights filtering off of the stage. I was behind a fence, stage right, watching the sea of neon wayfarers fist pump through the first few tracks. By all accounts the energy was there. Girlfriends were propped up on their boyfriend’s shoulders, there was a lot of looking back to see if the people behind you were seeing what you were seeing, as we do when we are watching spectacle. We had all gotten to the point where we were screaming for the volume to be cranked all the way up in order to have our faces pushed back as we pushed forward with our arms raised. Matrixes of lights crisscrossed in front of us; floating pictures and video were projected onto a screen behind the band; and eventually we all gasped at pyrotechnics.

Somewhere around the third or fourth track however, Phoenix lost my attention, and I settled into really wondering if this band was worth the production value their team had quite obviously put into their show. So I did a little research and discovered that lighting technicians/ ‘The Light Show’ costs somewhere between $150,000-$500,000 per concert. That’s incredible! Especially if you take into consideration how much the musicians are actually making. If the record company is the one promoting the event, then they get paid and the artist makes a percentage of the total tickets sales and from that manager fees, promoter fees, road crew, road crew beers, and all the bits and bobs of travel are also paid out. In fact the only direct way to pay the band is by buying their merch, which if you like the band is something that you should be doing every time.
I began to wonder what we as viewers are actually paying for: the music, or the show. Moreover, how have these terms become mutually exclusive!? Today, the relevance of these questions has become paramount when considering how music junkies can participate in helping the industry out of the red. Concerts themselves are becoming the last stand for listener appreciation. Music streaming, pirating, and a myriad of other ways to get your music for free is slowly killing the industry. As my friend Baz always says, businesses crumple under the pressure of these ‘million little paper cuts.’ Q Music Corp. has no other choice but to rely on concert goers for steady income, and so begs the question: What are we paying for?

This is not to say that Phoenix isn’t a band without merit, and that I didn’t enjoy feeling the swell of the music and the crowd. Phoenix IS popular for a reason. Somewhere during their set though, the lights took over and they seemed to be only a live soundtrack to the dancing blue beams, strobe lights, and eventually the fireworks. Bottom line, the lights outshined the band, and as a trend that’s a huge problem.

As the show began to power down, the lights went out, and we began to hear the tinkling organ keys of the title track, Bankrupt!. In those fleeting seconds of darkness and clean notes everything that I just said gelled in my brain and I understood how important clean music was to me. As the song transitioned, the lights flooded up, and we all broke into a comfortable sway, mesmerized by the lights and Thomas Mars’ cool vocals. When the song faded, so did the light, and so the day was over. When I walked out of the park ten minutes later, little yellow ringed black dots still plagued my vision.

Pitchfork Music Festival 2013 Preview

The 2013 Pitchfork Music Festival is set for its ninth year in Chicago’s Union Park July 19-21. Much like its parent website, the festival has gained worldwide acclaim for showcasing emerging and established artists from the independent music world. This year features headliners R. Kelly, Bjork, and Belle & Sebastian, as well as Swans, Solange, Joanna Newsom, Low, Tory y Moi, Metz, and more. With a park as tightly confined as Union Park you have no excuse not to catch it all. Here is a list of artists and attractions to look forward to.

Julia Holter

The ideal setting for Julia Holter is around 1AM in a dark basement. The LA songstress calmly helms the keyboards with a voice that is at times haunting, at other times poppy, and sometimes both. Holter’s tracks are full of strange time signatures, winding piano parts, and builds that lead nowhere. Let’s hope these elements are as engaging in the afternoon sun as a late night dungeon. With a new album due out next month we are bound to hear new sounds. Maybe the next great summer picnic song will be in there.

Ryan Hemsworth

As DJ pseudonyms get more and more ridiculous by the day the fact that Ryan Hemsworth goes by his birth name feels appropriate. The Canadian export has no specific sound and needs no gimmicks to prove his skills. His latest EP Still Awake has received a very positive response to its more ambient and soundtrack inspired songs. Despite this success do not expect this to be a lay on the ground and stare at the clouds type set though. Hemsworth shines live when he is free to get the crowd moving to a blend of his album originals, remixes of everyone from Grimes to the Backstreet Boys, and even random mash-ups like A$AP Rocky on top of Japanese pop music.

Rustie

Oddly enough, the two closers for Saturday night both hail from Glasgow, Scotland. If Belle & Sebastian is from before your time or their brand of indie pop is simply not your cup of tea, then go check out their fellow Scot, Rustie. His single “After Light” caught some ears in 2011 and his BBC Essential Mix was hailed as one of the best mixes of 2012. Even so, Rustie is still not very widely known in the states. This should change and it will for those present on Saturday night for his fusion of instrumental hip-hop and grime.

Autre Ne Veut

Arthur Ashin, aka Autre Ne Veut, has been garnering well-deserved buzz all year behind the release of his album Anxiety. The title comes from Ashin’s struggles with his own anxiety and deals with the complexities in his personal relationships. His unique music is no less intricate than the subject matter. Ashin passionately belts out his soulful R&B vocals on top of heavily layered synths that make sitting still a challenge. At times it sounds like too much for one man to pull off live, but based on the outcome of Anxiety this guy knows what he is doing.

MIA

Everyone seemed to get a little down on MIA after her 2010 album MAYA. Although she became conflicted with her stardom over the years I’m guessing that Miss Arulpagasam cares what the world thinks about her more than she would like to let on. As a result, expect a big comeback when she hits the stage Sunday at Pitchfork for her first large scale show in almost two years. If the video backing the wild “Bring the Noize”, from her new album Matangi, is any indication then MIA is fired up. Let’s hope she brings the noise and the flare that made all of our jaws drop in the first place.

Attractions

CHIRP Record Fair

The Chicago Independent Radio Project (CHIRP) has become one of the most active organizations in supporting independent music in Chicago. Stop by to learn more about CHIRP and support them and local record stores and labels by picking up some new vinyl. Already have more vinyl than you know what to do with? They will be taking donations as well.

Flatstock

Hosted by the American Poster Institute, Flatstock will be packed with eye candy. If a quality poster is your preferred method to commemorate your love of live music, then be sure to stop by the Flatstock poster show. You will be able to meet artists and pick out top-notch posters highlighting your favorite acts.

Aftershows

Do not fret if the festival ends and you still have not whetted your appetite for live music. After leaving the grounds you will be able to explore the city’s great live venues with official aftershows, unofficial aftershows, and even a few arena rock shows.

Thursday, July 18

…And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, UME – Double Door

Caitlin Rose – Schubas Courtney Love, Starred – House of Blues

Jeff Parker, Rob Mazurek – Constellation

Sally Timms, Janet Bean – The Hideout

Sarah Neufeld, Olafur Arnalds – Millennium Park

Savages, Parquet Courts – Lincoln Hall

Majical Cloudz, Pitchfork DJs- Lincoln Hall

Friday, July 19

Foxygen, Gauntlet Hair, Gambles – Schubas

Julia Holter, Jessica Pratt – Constellation

Merchandise, Daughn Gibson, Connections, Steve Gunn – Bottom Lounge

Savages, Sky Ferreira- Lincoln Hall

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island

Pearl Jam- Wrigley Field

Saturday, July 20

Mac DeMarco, Ex-Cult, OBN IIIs – Empty Bottle

Richard Colburn of Belle and Sebastian (DJ set) – Debonair Social Club

Trash Talk, White Lung, Ratking – Bottom Lounge

Waxahatchee, Carbonleak, Modern Hut – Schubas

Wolf Eyes, Pharmakon, Marshstepper – Bottom Lounge

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island

Ray-Ban x Boiler Room Afterparty feat. Nicolas Jaar, Ryan Hemsworth, Todd Edwards, and more- Constellation

Sunday, July 21

Parquet Courts – Bottom Lounge

Phish- FirstMerit Bank at Northerly Island

Firefly Music Festival Concert Review

The second Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware went off this year with great success. The headliners Red Hot Chili Pepers and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers each put on incredible performances to audiences containing the majority of the 65,000 festival goers. The show took place at Delaware’s Dover Downs, an international speedway with over 100 acres of woodlands on the premises, which is where the entire festival took place. The campsites are set up about ten minutes away from the front gates on foot, for which the closed down a bridge road that goes over the highway and it is a decent trek. Once inside the two bigger stages are easily accessible and the two smaller stages are tucked away, about another ten minute walk. The festival grounds are littered with awesomeness, such as Heineken rave tents, the Dogfishhead brew house, an illuminated forest garden, a headphone dance party, hammock hangouts, and food stands.

The first day was filled with anxious excitement. Wilde Belle led the buzzing audience into a groove with the swaying beautiful blonde front woman in shades Natalie Bergman and her brother Elliot. The band is super tight and set the mood right. Their songs “Backslider” and “Keep You” stuck out, even soared, surely gaining them new fans. Natalie’s infectious voice matched by the groups impenetrable grove with hard, nearly hip-hop-esque beats set the bar for three day to come.

Django Django kicked off on the big main stage and led a mid-day dance party. Their energy and European coolness rubbed off on the audience well. Their sound is so individual and danceable, some really fun music. As the Delaware sun beat down on the audience, the sense of community could be felt. Atlas Genius was next on the smaller main stage. Keith Jeffery moved around the stage like a seasoned professional, displaying great talent on guitar. The Australian brothers and their group was really impressive live, with a great song selection and good showmanship. The audience sang along to “Trojans” and “If So” and discovered other tunes like

Public Enemy played on one of the back stages as the sun began to set on the first day. Chuck D was on point with his stage presence, bold and in charge. Foot soldiers stood guard of DJ Lord’s booth. Flavor Flav, depending on your stance of him, either made the show or ruined it, hyping the audience with his “Yeah Boy’s” and at one point taking a turn on the live drum kit. Public Enemy was a fun show and a taste of history for the mostly young crowd. The sounds and lights from Calvin Harris could be heard and seen from any distance. The pumping beat and light show took the audience by storm and people went wild. “Sweet Nothing” blasted throughout the grounds like the Festival’s soundtrack. Don’t let anyone say a techno show is not worth seeing, just tell them to check out Calvin Harris.

Red Hot Chili Peppers took the main stage to headline first night of Firefly. The audience was literally packed like sardines, even from a great distance. With guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, the band still sounds classic as ever. They focused on big hits like “By the Way,” “Dani California,” “My Friends,” and “Under the Bridge.” After the slightly lacking solo on “Dani California” Anthony Kiedis advised Klinghoffer to “hate his guitar.” It was very interesting to hear him giving advice in front of nearly 60,000 people. The show was an absolute highlight of the entire festival, a very memorable experience.

At 9 am on Saturday, the temperature was already up around 90 degrees. ZZ Ward was the first group we caught, who played to a relatively smaller crowd, with some obvious diehard fans present. Not too much later, Jim James put on a great show. The bass lines could be felt at our core as James led this band, wearing a black suit and letting his hair run wild. He played a guitar that had a stand on the back, moving it around like he was Steven Tyler with a microphone stand; this was an appreciated innovative piece of equipment. Later he played saxophone and partook in odd behavior, such as holding up a golden teddy bear to his band and the audience and singing half the show with a black towel over his head. Awesome stuff. When you thought you had seen it all, he toned it down and played an utterly beautiful version of “New Life.”

Alabama Shakes and their fearless leader Brittney Howard were a blast of old school southern style laid-back rock. Her voice on great performances of “Hold On” and “Hang Loose” shook the bolts every structure around. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zero’s put on a early evening show, as the day started to cool down. “Home” was played with a large majority of the audience singing along. Leader Alex Ebert traveled out to the audience and asked individuals to tell us all a story, which slightly backfired due to most of people who he lent the microphone to being so excited that all they could do was compliment the song, except one guy who exclaimed that he proposed to his girlfriend the day before.

Yeah Yeah Yeah’s played the mainstage as the day was turning to night. The trio rocked and sounded exceptional and very tight. Karen O’s personality on stage is attention grabbing, she even had some wardrobe changes. Guitarist Nick Zimmer showcased insane talent and Brain Chase was on point with his steady beat. The band was pretty obviously ecstatic to be playing to such a large audience, likely much larger than they are used to. Their show was an excellent surprise.

MGMT were up next on the smaller main stage. The screens showed interesting psychedelic images, exploding with color. The band too was filmed in this way, so much so that you could not make out distinct feature of the musicians and they were reduced to silhouettes of moving colors. They jammed through “Weekend Warriors,” “Electric Feel,” “Time to Pretend” and “Kids” from their first album, focusing on fan favorties toward the end.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers played on the mainstage to what seemed like literally everyone at the festival. While some of the group’s focus was on lesser known Wild Thornberry tracks and sleepers like “I Should Have Known It” off his newest album (2010’s Mojo), classics like “Free Falling,” “Won’t Back Down,” “Refugee,” and “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” were very much appreciated by the audience. Petty sounded as good as ever, the man seems to keep progressing despite his long track record.

On the last day of shows, some downpours of rain cleaned up the audience. Dispatch played in the early evening. A crowd pleaser was a surprise feature of Brad Corrigan’s red-headed four year-old on a drum solo. The band was dynamic and each showcased their talents on a variety of instruments: bass, guitar, bongo’s and vocals were each played by almost every member throughout the show. “Alias” was a drum fest with all three members on a bongos. “The General,” “Two Coins,” “Flying Horses,” and “Here We Go” were played to an ecstatic, singing audience.

Passion Pit’s front man Michael Angelkos proclaimed to the audience that he had terrible allergies, and after about 5 songs told us that he need our help because he completely blew out his voice. He mentioned that they had to cancel last year. Apparently he was being treated for his mental health issue, Bipolar Disorder. He said to the audience, “I didn’t know if I would ever be able to tour again.” The 90 minute set was reduced to 45 minutes, in which the last song had no vocals at all, with Anglekos going around to audience members to sing along, but unfortunately no one could really pull it off.

Vampire Weekend had a great show and surprisingly exceptional set decorations: gigantic Hawaiian looking flowers, decked out band logo. Front man Ezra Koenig’s voice sounded as crisp as on record and the band had an immense depth to the music. “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa,””Diane Young,” “Giving Up the Gun” and “Ya Hey” were all highlights of the show. As the evening and Firefly came to a close, Foster the People drove it home. Exhausted from days of music, the audience enjoyed the live renditions of “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini.”

This year’s Firefly festival was very well organized and had an incredible line-up. The crowd ages ranged from 40-something rockers to yound children (with their parents) with a very large median age of late teens to mid-twenties. The people-watching was a blast, and the sense of community was apparent. The audiences in general were very responsive and the bands responded to this well, complementing our attentiveness and appreciation. Surely the number one complaint was the distance of the campsite to the festival grounds, next year Front Row Camping or Backwoods options are a must.