After rainy Thursday evening shows, the first full day (Friday, June 17) of Dover, Delaware's fifth annual Firefly Music Festival kicked off without a hitch. I started my day off in the Toyota Music Den, where BrooklynVegan is hanging and DJing all three days (come say hi!), and then saw my first big-stage set of the day at 5:15 PM: Vince Staples.
I don't know if it's just because it's called Summertime '06, but Long Beach rapper Vince Staples' fantastic 2015 album has always sounded like hot sun hitting blacktop, so Vince's set made for a great one to watch in the sweltering heat. I don't think there was a cloud in the sky when he went on -- people were getting sweaty just waiting for him to take the stage -- and his set couldn't have fit the mood better. It felt even hotter when he played "Fire" and projected flames on the screen behind him. This was easily the biggest crowd I've ever seen Vince play for, and he had everyone in the palm of his hand. People were jumping up and down, clapping in time and waving their arms anytime Vince motioned for it, and then some. The singalongs were sparse compared to the jumping and arm waving, but Vince did manage to lead the crowd in shouting "I ain't never ran from nothin' but the police."
The stuff that goes over best at Firefly tends to be the slightly-alternative pop stuff -- the craziest crowd I saw on Friday was for Ellie Goulding, to give you an idea. But even if that's not your bag, it's pretty easy to make Firefly a good, personal experience. Not long after Vince's set ended, I opted to catch Flogging Molly, who were up against Of Monsters & Men. My guess is that OM&M had the bigger crowd, but Flogging Molly really made for a nice change of pace. As someone who was at an exclusively-punk festival a week ago, I'm obviously biased, but I think throwing a punk band or three in the mix is always welcome at the more pop-oriented festivals. Especially one like Flogging Molly, where aggression takes a backseat to fun, drunken, lighthearted partying. (Dave King was throwing Guinnesses in the crowd during their set, in case you weren't sure this is a drinking band.) They had the whole place bouncing around and singing, and loaded their set with favorites like "Drunken Lullabies," "Seven Deadly Sins" and "What's Left of the Flag," all of which are basically stone-cold classics to anyone who's into Celtic punk. They also brought a serious side with them. King dedicated a song to his mother, who passed away this past December. And he also dedicated a song to the victims of the Orlando shooting, and projected rainbow-colored lights during it.
The best band on Friday though, was easily Tame Impala. (They were luckily without much conflict, as Ludacris' set was moved to 12:30 PM on Sunday.) As we just said when they played Brooklyn, Tame Impala excel at the Big Outdoor Show and their Firefly set was no exception. Their crowd was gigantic and they played like true rock stars. Super loud, super tight, never missing a beat, never singing off key. Just pure, professional rock music. As you'd expect from Tame Impala, the light show was about as important as the music itself. It's super trippy, with kaleidoscopic swirls on the backdrop, and pastel hues flooding the stage. They also set off confetti three or four times during the set, always resulting in huge cheers from the crowd. Like at those Brooklyn shows, the setlist was heavy on fan faves, including "Let It Happen," "Eventually," "Elephant," "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards," "The Moment," and still more.
It's hard to imagine how to follow a set that strong, and actually I didn't stay to find out. (Kings of Leon and Disclosure were up next, but I headed home.) The festival continues on Saturday (6/18) with Florence + the Machine, A$AP Rocky, M83, Death Cab for Cutie, Fetty Wap, and more. If you'll be there, stop by the Toyota Music Den during the day, where you can see intimate sets from Quilt, Son Little, and more, and say hi to us. Stay tuned for more Firefly coverage.