In 2015 I got tickets to a free concert that was first come first serve at a small venue in Boston to see a few artists in a showcase that Converse Rubber Tracks puts on every year. That year, the main act was Chance the Rapper, a name that I was familiar with from Acid Rap, but was not yet a hardcore fan. My parents, that same night, had bought tickets to the Boston Symphony Orchestra, so with no argument, I saw the BSO and decided I could see Chance another time.
I know. I am pissed at myself too.
Fast forward to 2017 in Dover, Delaware, main stage, Saturday night. I finally got to see Chance, but in a much larger environment than it would have been had I gone a few years back.
It was not surprising to see Chance’s name at the top of the Firefly line up this year. On the contrary, Chance is playing almost every major music festival (and a handful of smaller ones as well) while also working on his own tour. Chance’s dedication to not only music, but to social activism and specifically the city of Chicago are aspects that he made apparent in his show. Chance made a point to get the crowd involved in the songs, even demanding that they yell or jump or sing along. This, almost aggressive manner got the crowd moving. His show was incredibly well performed, and had the literal sparks to match the energy of it all. He played the hits from Acid Rap, went through Coloring Book and even brought in a gospel choir to bring it all together. The show ended with fireworks to close out the third day of the festival in a extravagant manner.
While the show was incredibly well performed, it was also clear how rehearsed it was. There were so many moving parts, between guests, pizzazz, choreographed dances and miscellaneous aspects of the show that worked very well, but to a point, was almost over done. Chance is the king, there is no question about that. His music is beautiful and the aspects of the live show were truly remarkable, but during his set, all I could think about was the time that I had the possibility of seeing him perform at a small venue in Boston post Acid Rap. Seeing him in a small setting would be amazing and it is so great for him how much his career has progressed. Maybe I am selfish for wanting to see a less pizzazz-filled show, but I feel that it would be more genuine. Chance wanted the crowd to engage and sing every word and jump and scream, but this crowd in particular quite simply did not know every word to every song, nor were they necessarily ready to jump after an exhausting few days. He definitely got us moving, but the crowd and environment just did not seem like the place that he should have been performing. He did a great job, but I will always wonder what it would have been like to see him a few years ago.
Galantis is a Swedish EDM duo comprised of Linus Eklöw and Christian Karlsson, who is also part of the trio Miike Snow, which was also at Firefly this year. They had a similar feel to other shows that we had seen with the fact that they were mixing DJing and live producing with live percussion. The stage was set up so that the bottom part of the stage was set up like a production set would, with a few large drums behind them so they could easily switch between.
This show was especially nice for its EDM feel, as it was one of the few that was outside of the EDM stage. This show took place outdoors (no roof), which gave the audience more space to jump around and dance, unlike some of the shows that happened in that EDM tent.
They played the tracks expected (“Love On Me,” “Rich Boy,” etc.), while also mixing in more dance-y tracks, giving off an almost European-dance-club feel. The show was one of the last for the day before Chance took that same stage to close out the busiest day of the festival (both show-wise and attendance-wise.) The energy level stayed high, they did a great job of incorporating live percussion into their set and all in all it made for quite an interesting show.
Slushii is an EDM producer based out of Los Angeles. With support from label OWSLA, created by Skrillex and being the first signee of Marshmello’s new label, it is no surprise that Slushii is quickly on the rise.
Slushii had an absolutely great set, full of wacky noises, hard drops and everything in between. It was so well done that we felt as though we had heard it before. At some point, I looked over to my friend who is a huge Slushii fan, who knew all the words to each song and exactly how they were going to transition. Then, I realized that he even knew the commentary during the transitions as well, knowing exactly what he was going to say for the entire set. The reason that this set sounded so refined was that this great set has already been performed (or at least large parts of it). The whole thing really reminded me of the music video of “1 Million Views” by Goldfish.
Slushii also just released a new track with produce Ookay. Listen below.
If you are not already familiar, Franz Ferdinand is a rock group from Scotland that has been around since 2002 (much longer than many of the other acts that played over the weekend.) Because their last studio album, “Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Actions” was released back in 2013, I was surprised to see their name on this year’s lineup, trying to figure out if there was an album that I had missed since middle school.
They played a bunch of tracks off of their self-titled album that was released back in 2009 (my personal favorite), as well as a slew of tracks off of their newest album and “You Could Have It So Much Better,” released in 2005.
Their 6 p.m. time slot while the sun was going down was a beautiful sight and drew an excited crowd that I could tell also went through a Franz Ferdinand phase around the 7th grade (like I did). Though the crowd at Firefly is majority college-aged (give or take) people, the crowd clearly was very familiar with the older works of the band, making for a high-energy show. Hopefully they will release something new soon.
Big Wild is a tall, surfer-boy-looking producer from Massachusetts (represent), now working out of California. In 2015 he caught the attention of producers Odesza, who he then went on tour with. Later, a few of his tracks appeared with Odesza’s label, Foreign Family Collective.
So many of the artists at the electronic music stage were great DJ’s and had great sets, but Big Wild had some of the best original tracks out of any of the artists that we saw at that particular stage. He has also produced some of my favorite remixes, but as a producer, you should be able to start off creating great tracks, and then more on to changing up other people’s work. You can’t be a good editor if you can’t write. The thing is, his original tracks are just as strong as his remixes.
Big Wild not only incorporated his live production into the set, but also utilized live percussion like a few others shows that weekend had. Between those two things and only having one body on stage, that is quite a few balls to be juggling, and he did absolutely remarkably. Speaking as someone who was raised by a percussion major and drum line family members, the percussive qualities of the show were minimal, not to discount the added live aspects of the show, but it was definitely fun to have incorporated.
Big Wild has some really cool sounds in his work – between the usage of wind chime samples, ethnic-sounding percussion, strings and a variety of featured vocalists – the songs are anything but similar, though they manage to maintain a familiar and intriguing sound. Some of these featured vocalists include: iDA HAWK, Yuna and Tove Stryke, whose voices all are intertwined with Wild’s impeccable production.
Wild builds up to his drops simply by laying another layer here and there on his tracks, and having the drops almost come out of nowhere. The use of violins and wind chimes adds a subtle familiarity to the sounds with an added “sneak-up drop” that you don’t always see coming. He uses a capella samples and perfectly timed fades, along with strong synths all in one. He incorporates so many varied sounds in his different tracks, but somehow, it works; and perfectly so at that. Even just comparing his sounds in 2014 to his newest EP, the sounds are so varied. Listen to “Venice Venture,” released in 2014, versus 2017’s “I Just Wanna.” Plenty of similarities and differences, but the main overlapping factor is that the songs are all straight fire.
In the summer of 2015, I was with my friends at a small lake in Michigan. One of the people we were with gave the somewhat common phrase of “check out my friend’s mixtape! This guy is in my stats class and he’s actually pretty good.” Fast forward to this summer, where Quinn XCII (the guy in the stats class) and ayokay are some of the most heard summertime tracks out there. These two started off their music careers in the Midwest, where they rap about (“parents in Minnesota,”) with ayokay producing the tracks and Quinn XCII rapping. One is simply not the other without the counterpart. They work as a duo, which makes it surprising that they did not choose to just completely combine forces in the first place. Especially when the first mixtape, “Change of Scenery,” released, each track was done together, so it was no surprise when ayokay decided to bring out Quinn at his show, who also performed at Firefly this year.
Ayokay also brought out Chelsea Cutler to perform their collaborative track, ”The Shine.” The show had a great energy to kick off the EDM tent with a great producer, but still a gentle start to the day. The visuals, combined with the production and two guests made for quite the eventful hour.
Glass Animals is an English indie rock band that has one of the most unique sounds in popular music today. Their almost euphoric, jungle-feel songs are truly inexplicable. Their sound transports you and is unlike anything else I have ever heard before. Their songs have a similar feel to each other, but each bringing in a different aspect than the next.
The combination of experimental percussion, droplet-sounding production and lead vocalist, Dave Bayley’s falsetto, comes together to create an unusual and intriguing sound.
In an interview with Consequence of sound, Bayley describes the first track off their newest album “How To Be A Human Being,” as “a weird way about someone coming out into the world,” while the last track is meant to be “about the opposite of that, which is someone leaving the world.”
Their usage of unusual sounds creates a completely different atmosphere than any other show and really transports the audience. Saying that the songs are meant to be about someone first experiencing or coming into the world is exactly how their music feels; in that there is something new to experience – directly related to all their new and different usages of sounds. Their music is an experience more than anything and I fully recommend all of their tracks.
Anna Lunoe was one of the few female producers that performed this weekend in the EDM tent. Most other performers consisted of one DJ, or possibly two live mixing a set. Anna Lunoe was a new name for me to hear, and it was really empowering to see female energy take over the tent for an hour. She is the real deal, mixing all her music and finding it herself with no one hiding behind the scenes, carrying the team if you will.
Lunoe grew up in Australia, but moved to Los Angeles recently. She explained that her music has been inspired by influences of Australian pop, the Billboard charts in the U.S. and U.K. and a mish mash of other things as well, all coming together to create a very diverse music taste, which she self defines as hyperhouse.
When she is not playing festivals and shows around the world, Lunoe also works with Apple Music’s show, Beats 1. This show is a combination of different DJ’s and producers that have a show once a week, creating a 24/7 radio, streamable from just about anywhere. Other artists involved include: Major Lazer, Elton John and The Internet, to name a few. Her next airtime is July 1 at midnight.
Lunoe’s set was full of energy and a ton of songs that I had never heard before. She explained in an interview that she wants her music and sets to be educating to the audience; opening our ears to new songs we might not have heard otherwise. And she did just that.
Sam Feldt was by and large the most surprisingly unexpected and interesting show of the weekend. The predicted was to be his “goofy summertime tracks,” maybe mixed in with a few of his newer tracks. His background sound is a classic, xylophone-type with some vocals and a few horns. It seemed like a good show to start off the weekend as he played on Wednesday night before the weekend even started. This show was just for people that had gotten there early for premiere camping to set up a bit early, so the crowd really had the ability to be hit or miss. Luckily, this year the early crowd was an eager bunch, ready, with tons of energy, to get started with the weekend.
Feldt started off his set with his classics songs, like “Show Me Love” and “Summer On You,” and then would cycle through to some unexpected, for lack of a better word, sounds. For reference, a song with these aforementioned “sounds” would be the drop in “First Breath” by Kaivon or the repeated sound in “Discipline (Louis The Child Remix)” by Clubcheval.
These drops are automatic crowd pleasers. These tracks then would cycle into an even more wacky sound or into full-on deep house. The final piece of the puzzle would be a throwback to get the crowd moving again, then into a classic Sam Feldt drop, and back into summertime jams. This cycle continued, each time building up to an even wackier or more intense drop and the crowd loved The predicted show was the original Sam Feldt summertime-sound for an hour or so. The actual show ended up being this super cool cycle of interesting sounds for even longer than he was set to play.
For reference, an example of the cycle of songs that Feldt played would be starting with “Shadows Of Love” merging into “Dancin (Krono Remix)” by Aaron Smith & Luvii then going into some Garrix and Avicii (not too heavy EDM,) then into Jauz, who is a little “wackier.” He would then take a step back to putting the wacky drop that he had built up to onto a familiar song, such as “Californication” by the Red Hot Chili Peppers (which was a bit of a weird track for the show, but the crowd still ate it up.) Feldt did an incredible job of reading the crowd that turned out on Wednesday night and was able to see that we were a crowd that would be receptive to the more interesting drops and sounds, which made for an interesting, and again, unexpected feel for the show.