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.