The Specials hosted Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students and parents at their show at Brooklyn Steel. The Brit ska legends were touring in support of Encore, the band’s first new music with vocalist Terry Hall since 1981. Artist/activist Manuel Oliver, whose son Joaquin was one of the 17 students killed in last year’s Parkland, Fla., shooting, spoke to the sold-out crowd, and the Specials—including protester/activist Saffiyah Khan—incorporated the Instrument Of Hope (a trumpet made by survivors of the shooting from bullet casings) into their set. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for this special(s) evening.
The National is easy to find. Matt Berninger and the brothers Dessner (Aaron and Bryce) and Devendorf (Bryan and Scott) are always on tour. Case in point: Earlier this year, the band played our hometown of Philly three times in less than a month. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich caught up with the National at 2019’s Celebrate Brooklyn (with Courtney Barnett opening), thinking nobody else would be there. He was wrong.
“It” 17-year-old pop star Billie Eilish just wrapped up the North American leg of her When We All Fall Asleep Tour. The energetic, 19-song performance from California’s scary sweetheart at the Met in Philly definitely had the adoring crowd wide awake, as did the opening set by Denzel Curry. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich was there—and was sad when the party was over.
Florence + The Machine just finished up leg five of the High As Hope tour (U.S., Canada and Mexico), which started almost a year ago, just after the band’s fourth album was released. The jaunt concludes late September with two shows at the almost 2,000-year-old Herodion Theatre in Athens, Greece. MAGNET photographer Chris Sikich caught up with Ms. Welch and band at Columbia, Md.’s Merriweather Post Pavilion, which turns 52 on Sunday.
While the rest of the world is sipping natural wine and vaping curated indica at eco-friendly festivals headlined by Ariana Grande, we prefer to spend our summer nights pounding Lemmys and smoking skunk weed in small clubs listening to doom metal. (We have our sister magazine Decibel to thank for that.) So when we heard the legendary Pentagram was playing the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn, we couldn’t wait for this day of reckoning. Bobby Liebling and Co. were nothing short of relentless, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there for when the screams came.
At the Philadelphia Museum Of Art, Patti Smith and daughter Jesse Paris Smith paid tribute to Walt Whitman, namesake of my fourth favorite bridge over the Delaware River, titler of my second favorite Team Dresch album and my high-school English teacher’s number-one brainiac amour.
I loved the stories Patti told about the single childhood visit to the museum that made her decide to be an artist and finding fashion across the river at the Goodwill in Camden, N.J.; her recitations of Allen Ginsberg’s ”A Supermarket In California” and Whitman’s “Song Of The Open Road”; and Jesse’s reading of a letter from Whitman to his mother after seeing the body of an unknown young soldier during the Civil War.
Maybe best of all was hearing Patti’s voice fill the Great Stair Hall as she sang in chanteuse mode, especially Neil Young’s “It’s A Dream” and Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love.”
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich
Celebrating the release of Conversations, the debut album from the Dove & The Wolf, carried a sweet ache—not so much because the band’s no longer based in Philly, but because its luxurious harmonies portend heartbreak almost every time.
Michelle Blades and Shamir, who shone in their own opening sets at Johnny Brenda’s, joined the Dove & the Wolf for some of the most emotional songs of the night, with Shamir’s delicate quaver adding depth to “Free Around You” and Blades bringing her excellent guitar work to “Growing Apart” and “Queens.”
—M.J. Fine; photos by Chris Sikich
Wu-Tang Clan continues to celebrate the 25th anniversary of landmark debut Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) with tour dates across the globe. RZA and Co. returned home to New York City for their third show of 2019, playing the Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk. MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski shot them on sight.
After seven years of the Firefly Music Festival tradition, Coachella producer AEG Presents (which already had a majority stake in the 750-acre Delaware event) bought the remaining ownership shares. While loyal fans were promised minor changes to the usual four-day weekend, right off the bat, AEG cut out a day. For most, this wasn’t the end of the world, unless you’re a fan that arrives a day early to see some of your favorite DJs. For example, last year, Thursday held big names such as Two Friends (famously known for their Big Booty Mixes) and Chromeo. Concertgoers would arrive Wednesday to set up camp and unwind at a “pre-party” function before the major headliners to come. This year, campers were still able to arrive a day early (but this time on Thursday) to get settled and experience what should’ve been a sneak peak at the DJs for the weekend. That is, if it hadn’t gotten rained out. With the weekend off to a rough start, some of the festival-goers might have thought the tradition had been broken too soon.
Firefly is usually held Father’s Day weekend, but this year it was pushed back a week. Luckily, Delaware got all of the storms out of the way on Thursday, which made for a beautiful rest of the weekend. This event has quickly become one of the biggest festivals on the East Coast, with its ideal, open-air location.
For me, Friday began in the scorching heat with a refreshing and soulful throwback: TLC. The sun beating down didn’t stop these ladies from going all out, or the devoted fans from singing along. The thing I loved about this crowd was the age range, because it doesn’t matter if your 16 or 60, everyone knows “Waterfalls.”
As for Tyler, The Creator, though, there wasn’t such a large age range. But clearly devoted fans knew almost every word to the songs on his new album, IGOR, even though it’s been out for about a month. Those who have stuck by Tyler since day one were disappointed when he didn’t do “Yonkers,” the song that introduced his crazy personality and one-of-a-kind voice. But no matter what he performed, nothing could top his wild energy as he jumped across stage in his neon-green outfit.
I’m personally a big fan of DJ sets; so my two favorite sets of the day had to be Louis The Child and Zedd. Louis The Child performed at sunset at the Prism Stage, one of the new additions that came to Firefly this year. Formerly known as the Backyard Stage, it’s a large open field area where some of the biggest names play. Louis The Child played mixes of their most popular songs, including “Fire,” “Better Not” and “Love Is Alive.” I had pretty high expectations after watching a video of one of their sets that went viral on Twitter, and Louis The Child sure did not disappoint.
To close the night, Zedd blew the crowd away with a truly remarkable set. Even though he didn’t end until about 2 a.m., my friends and I didn’t want it to be over. An important aspect to DJ sets are the lights and visuals, since the DJs are behind their stand most of the time, and Zedd surely kept that in mind. We knew Zedd’s second year returning to Firefly would be a great show, so we parked ourselves right next to speaker and took in the beautiful night. One of his best-known songs, “Clarity” got everyone singing along—and even ended with fireworks. One of the security guards told us that if the performers want fireworks during their sets, then they have to provide them. So that’s how you know how much they care about pleasing their fans.
Some of my favorite parts of Firefly are the things they offer aside from the main shows. For example, The Thicket is an area dedicated to a “silent” disco, where everyone wears headphones and can change from station to station. I really enjoy this because people can listen and be dancing to whatever they want, then easily change their mind with the click of a button. This is perfect for those who aren’t quite ready to stop at 2 a.m., when the shows are over. The silent disco was open until 4 a.m., and you bet I stayed that long every night.
Saturday definitely brought a ton of emotional performances, but I think I can speak for most when I say the headliner was the most disappointing set of the night. Travis Scott has gotten a tremendous amount of acclaim for the recent album Astroworld, so you’d think he’d do more than three songs off of it. Not to mention, he didn’t play one single song the whole way through. I get that’s what rappers do—they cut to choruses every once in a while to keep the crowd going—but not with every single song. I love Astroworld and I love Travis. He’s a very good performer, but sadly, he was a huge disappointment at Firefly.
As for the other sets I saw Saturday, I was really impressed. Brockhampton was one of the performances I’m really glad I stayed for, despite how tired I was. Kevin Abstract has a spectacular voice, and he and his bandmates definitely put on an entertaining show. Alison Wonderland was another one of my favorites. “Church,” probably her most famous song, was one that she really saved for the end on purpose—the combination of her vocals and beats had everyone dancing.
I don’t know if after going for three years, I have an attachment to Firefly—or just music in general—but there’s always at least one set that just floods my body with emotions. This year it was Kygo. It was the last show of the night on Saturday, and it honestly left me speechless. I could go on and on about the lights and the beat drops, but the absolute best part of the night was when Valerie Broussard slowed things down and sung “Firestone.” Everyone in the crowd felt the love as she was singing “We light up the world” over the normal piano beat and eventually sped things up with the original version. As the chorus came on and the beat dropped, the whole crowd lit up and danced together. It was electric.
Along with all the awesome things Firefly has to offer, like hand-made jewelry, sunglasses, purses, scarves, the fest also serve some pretty amazing food that you can’t really find anywhere else. My personal favorite are the Island Noodles.
And with all great things, there must be an end. Sunday sadness for an end to an unforgettable weekend, once again. The first show I saw was 3LAU, a DJ I actually never heard of, but after this weekend, I will definitely be listening to him again. Firefly is amazing for seeing your favorite artists, but it’s also a great time to come across some pretty dope new ones, too. With the last day being the hottest day, it was tough to keep with it, but 3LAU’s set just made me want to keep dancing.
After my third time seeing Post Malone, I can honestly say he never disappoints. Although it was nearly impossible to get anywhere remotely near him, it was still worth pushing through people to get as close as possible. He’s one of the few artists who sounds just as amazing in person, and he was incredible. Post had the whole crowd singing every lyric the entire time, especially hit sing-a-long “I Fall Apart.”
Vampire Weekend played before Post, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be waiting during any other set. Vampire Weekend is such a calm and soothing band with an awesome style. It didn’t really matter how far away we were to feel the positive vibes from a killer band.
One thing I’m happy about this Firefly experience was not driving down— and being picked up at the gates after the show. As I drove back to Pennsylvania after the festival (and stopped for food), I still managed to get home before the madness of traffic exiting the campsite even left the festival grounds. Maybe that’ll be something Coachella can help Firefly troubleshoot for next year.
—Samantha Geiger; photos courtesy of Firefly Music Festival
Khruangbin returns July 12 with Hasta El Cielo (Dead Oceans/Night Time Stories), a dub version of last year’s excellent Con Todo El Mundo. The Texas trio has hit the road for a mixture of festivals and headlining dates. Laura Lee, Mark Speer and Donald “DJ” Johnson just played Central Park’s SummerStage, and MAGNET photographer Wes Orshoski was there. Despite the rain, he felt the universe smiling upon him.