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Firefly On The Fly: Sunday sundown with Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Lord Huron, Kamasi Washington, Warren G and more

Kendrick Lamar | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

We rolled back into Philadelphia last night around 1 a.m., sweaty and exhausted from the final and hottest day of the 2018 Firefly Music Festival. It started with hip-hop — classic West Coast g-funk originator Warren G , whose signature jams “Regulate” and “Summertime in the LBC” played perfectly in the early afternoon — and ended with hip-hop — the Pulitzer Prize winning Kendrick Lamar, whose set was gripping and participatory, if a bit phoned-in (he twice told the crowd “This is my first time here in Delaware,” despite playing Firefly previously in 2013). Continue reading →

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Firefly On The Fly: Saturday shines with The Killers, Eminem, Lil Wayne, Lucy Dacus, Alex Lahey and more

The Killers | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Saturday is always the longest haul of Firefly weekend, and we took in a huge range of music today. Pop rock four-piece The Aces started us off on the Lawn Stage, with Philly singer-songwriter Ben O’Neill not far behind in the coffeehouse. A doubleheader of Australian rock featuring Middle Kids and Alex Lahey lifted up our afternoon.

Philly rockers Foxtrot and the Get Down performed a rare acoustic set, something they should get in the habit of doing — these songs sound like they were written to be performed in this intimate, elegant way. Continue reading →

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Firefly Guide 2018: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

Firefly 2017 | photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover, Delaware’s annual Firefly Music Festival kicks off this Thursday, and will jam-pack some 130-plus artists into four days. For a few of those artists, like headliners Eminem and Kendrick Lamar, it’s safe to say that most of the tens of thousands in attendance will be watching. For several of the artists — electropop duo Marian Hill, alternative vets Jimmy Eat World, Alaskan modern rockers Portugal. The Man, 90s R&B hitmaker Warren G — the crowds will be be reliably huge.

But for many of the acts on the bill, the audience might be less automatically robust. It might take a little bit of discovering to see them, and these are often times the most thrilling sets to catch. In the past, this has meant Bishop Briggs playing the intimate confines of the treehouse stage, or Laura Stevenson rocking the Toyota Music Den; it’s been the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff spinning the hits on a sunny midday, or singer-songwriter Hamilton Leithauser at the Coffeehouse Stage; it’s been rapper Pell rocking a Porch Stage set in the twilight, or Maggie Rogers starting the day off at the Lawn Stage at 1 p.m.

In short, it’s established names in much smaller settings than we expect, or unfamiliar names that we go on to remember. This year, we present you an assortment of artists to discover at all tiers of Firefly 2018 — from newcomers like Cali punks The Regrettes and Philly rapper Tierra Whack each playing two sets on Friday, all the way to acclaimed jazz visionary Kamasi Washington taking to the festival main stage on Sunday. Listen up, pack your sunscreen, stay hydrated, and get ready to explore. – John Vettese

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Firefly on the Fly, Day Three: Chance the Rapper, Bob Dylan, Mondo Cozmo, Kesha, Bishop Briggs, DJ Jazzy Jeff and more

Chance The Rapper | Firefly Music Festival 2017 | Photos by John Vettese

Day Three of the Firefly Music Festival brought out superstar performances from Bob Dylan, Chance The Rapper, and The Weeknd, but it also brought out some of Philly’s finest including Mondo Cozmo, Chill Moody, Hardwork Movement, Vita and the Woolf, and a DJ set from the legendary DJ Jazzy Jeff. Some great sets by Bishop Briggs, Sunflower Bean, and Kesha. Continue reading →

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Firefly on the Fly, Day Two: Weezer, Judah & The Lion, Sofi Tukker, Flume, Twenty One Pilots, and more

Weezer | Firefly Music Festival 2017 | Photo by John Vettese

Here’s a quick rundown of day two of the Firefly Music Festival. While there were over thirty bands on the schdedule on Friday, the big hits of the day were Twenty One Pilots — whose fans are the hypest people at the festival by far — and Judah & The Lion, who opened the main stage in the afternoon. Judah & The Lion joined Twenty One Pilots during their set to cover “Tubthumping” by Chumbawumba and “Jump Around” by House of Pain and the world exploded.

Sofi Tukker was the best set I saw today. The Brooklyn based duo – Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern – played very interactive dance rock with touches of South American percussion. Maggie Rogers came onstage to join in on a song with them. Banks was stunning; and her haunting performance was marked with beautiful sound, choreography, and a lot of awesome weirdness. Franz Ferdinand DJ’d Euro pop on the Treehouse Stage after their main stage set; and Louie Louie performed on the Campground Stage. Continue reading →

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Firefly on the Fly, Day One: Maggie Rogers, OAR, Glass Animals, Kaleo, Eden and more

Kaleo | Firefly 2017 | Photo by John Vettese

Day one of the Firefly Music Festival was marked by near perfect weather – sunny skies and comfortable breezes – and some excellent sets of music. Maggie Rogers was by far the standout set of the day. She’s originally from Eastern Shore, Maryland, so this was sort of a hometown set for her. Both OAR and Salt Cathedral played pop-up sets in the Firefly Coffee House after their main stage sets; OAR had the place packed. And there were several cool covers; Maggie Rogers did “Wannabe” by Spice Girls, and Eden did “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson and “Hey Ya” by OutKast. Continue reading →

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The 2016 Firefly lineup is here!

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The Firefly Festival lineup for 2016 has been announced. Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Florence & The Machine, Nathaniel Ratefliff & The Night Sweats, Major Lazer, and Tame Impala top the bill, with some exciting lesser known musicians like Lauren Stevenson, Jack Garratt, Arkells, and Teen Men and Son Little from Philly. Continue reading →

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Beck was off the hook at Firefly and I can’t believe he’s playing #xpnfest

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Beck at Firefly | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

A month from today, I’ll be at the Susquehanna Bank Center on a (hopefully) crisp and breezy summer evening, and the stage just down the way will be populated by a handful of musicians fronted by the one and only Beck.

I was massively excited when we announced the eclectic modern-rock songwriter as one of the XPoNential Music Festival headliners, but like many of you, I was a bit uncertain. What kind of Beck would we get with this show? His last release was an unrecorded songbook that other musicians were welcome to perform in their own chamber-rock groups. His current release is the introspective and hushed Morning Phase. Would the XPNFest bring Beck backed by a band? Would it be a sad-man band or snappy party crew? He’s a knockout performer no matter the tone of the setlist – a very varied 2006 show at the Tower proved that – but something about an outdoor festival setting seems to beg for the livelier side of the catalog. Is that what we were getting?

Beck at Firefly | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com
Beck and his band at Firefly | Photo by Joe Del Tufo | joedeltufo.com

Beck’s performance last weekend at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware assuaged my fears. The big and bright Saturday night set, played to a crowd of thousands clamored around the Lawn Stage of the festival, was more celebratory than somber. It pulled selections from across the breadth of his catalog – 90s slacker rock intertwined with aughties postmodern funk, hip-hop beats cut into overblown punk. And the quiet side of his catalog wasn’t ignored either – “Blue Moon,” the sublime single from Phase, made an appearance alongside Sea Change‘s shuffling “Lost Cause”; the bluesy harmonica stomp of “One Foot in the Grave” showed up as well.

Those songs were great to hear, but the energy of other selections was staggering. Rousing opener “Devil’s Haircut” got things off to a punchy start, the iconic “Loser” dropped early on in the setlist, “Sexx Laws” was delightful and the off-the-hook energy of “E-Pro” was unreal. Clad in a button down shirt, suit jacket and stylish fedora, Beck leaped gleefully in the air, brandishing a guitar and mugging with his five-piece band while thousands of LED lights twinkled behind them in a psychedelic display.

Elsewhere he crooned, and danced – showed he’s still adept at doing the robot, to be specific – and dropped a sweet cover of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” By the closing notes of “Where It’s At” and the subsequent bows, I was dazed and collecting pieces my brain from all across this unassuming field in Kent County.

“I can’t believe he’s playing our festival,” I kept repeating to myself. And granted, we may have a completely different Beck. He may be in quiet Sunday night mode, or he might stretch the scope of his set even further given his headliner slot. One thing’s for certain – it’s going to be an outstanding show.

Weekend passes for the XPoNential Music Festival can be picked up here; single-night tix for the Beck performance can be found here. To get a taste of the possible eclecticism in store, listen to our career-spanning Beck Spotify playlist here. And check out some videos and the full Firefly setlist after the jump. Continue reading →