Words by Adrianna Hillborn | Photos by Timothy Becker
A year’s worth of waiting was finally made worth it on Thursday, when the Firefly Music Festival opened its Main Gate at 5:00pm. With the addition of Thursday night performances, this year’s Firefly Music Festival kicked into gear one day earlier than last year. The massive crowd filed in from the campgrounds and parking lots into one of the longest lines I have ever seen to get into the festival grounds. Without knowing the exact size of the crowd, I would estimate around 40,000 people were on site. Its always interesting getting in the middle of a crowd that large, you always have the few people that keep the crowd hyped up with chants of USA! USA! and the bass line to “Seven Nation Army”.
The first band I made my way to see was Parade of Lights. This electo-pop band from Los Angeles made for a good opener to my festival. During their set, Parade of Lights asked the crowd, “What did we come to Firefly to do? Dance!” and they busted out into bouncy, danceable tunes.
Next up for me was Kodaline at the Backyard Stage. This was my first time hearing this band from Dublin, Ireland and I found myself sitting in the grass enjoying the folky rock sounds tinted with harmonica and mandolin. The cloudy skies that had been threatening rain began to clear and the magic of Firefly turned the sky into a golden sunset.
I was psyched for Courtney Barnett’s set because I enjoy her double EP, A Sea of Split Peas a lot, and I had missed her recent show at Union Transfer. And while I did enjoy her performance very much, I felt that her wordy rock n roll songs didn’t seem to translate very well into the festival setting. It seemed like the crowd hung around long enough to hear Barnett’s hit “Avant Gardener” and then they bailed. Which is unfortunate because I feel that her music is thought provoking and humorous.
Phosphorescent was excellent, as I knew they would be. The keyboard-heavy jams, building up slowly and intently mixed with Matthew Houck’s nearly unintelligible vocals, create a feeling of longing that almost makes your heart ache, the songs are that moving.
Without a doubt, Thursday night was Amos Lee’s night to shine. The Philly native stole the show for me, with songs running the gamut from folk to blues, zydeco to R&B and rock. Amos Lee did them all, and he did them well. His set was chock full of covers including Beyonce’s “Single Ladies,” Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls,” and a crazy good version of Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You.” Amos Lee greeted the crowd and said, “Y’all just drove to a farm in Delaware… Y’all music-lovin motherfuckers” to which the crowd responded with a loud cheer.
During his set, Amos Lee busted out plenty of dance moves, and watching him dance was a show within itself… that man can move! Lee closed his set with an unexpectedly rockin version of the theme song from Game of Thrones, which surprised the crowd and hearing it in a live setting makes you realize how great that song actually is. When Amos Lee left the stage, the crowd clapped and cheered for an encore which we never got. It didn’t matter. Amos Lee had already won Thursday night.
I wrapped up my night with Local Natives and their chill harmonies from California. They too mixed up their set with a few covers, including a previously unreleased Johnny Cash song called, “Out Among the Stars” and also the Talking Heads song “Warning Sign.” With the first night of Firefly 2014 in the books, there are still three full days of music coming my way. Stay tuned!