The word of the day during the first portion of Firefly Music Festival yesterday: “gnarly.” It so perfectly befit the gripping rap into the thrilling rock into the kinetic party sounds we heard in the air. From there, the operative word became “XPN,” as we experienced a solid run of some of our favorite artists making music today. All that, plus a ridiculous and fun Green Day set; read on to find out what we heard and saw at day three of Firefly.
Benny The Butcher
The midday sun beat hard on the backyard stage when celebrated Buffalo rapper Benny The Butcher played yesterday; following his impressive Roots Picnic set from June, it seemed like the perfect thing to get our day going. Benny delivered hard-boiled hip-hop with fellow Griselda affiliates Westside Gunn and Conway hanging onstage and hyping the crowd; the dazzling poetics of “One Way Flight” in particular got the audience vibing as the performance hit its peak.
When we first met London hard rockers Wolf Alice almost a decade ago, they were grunge revivalists when nobody else on their scale was making music that way. A decade later, their palette has broadened, as Firefly’s main stage crowd saw; opener “Smile” from last year’s Blue Weekend had a Screamidelica via Sonic Youth’s Sister thing going on, while “Delicious Things” got into dreamy slow jam territory. But they still go hard and heavy, as we heard on “Formidable Cool” and their first big hit, “Moaning Lisa Smile.”
New York raper / singer / force of nature Princess Nokia has a hook that goes “I step in this bitch and I do what I want / I don’t give a damn and I don’t give a fuck.” It’s not only a catchy as hell refrain on “It’s Not My Fault,” it’s obviously how she approaches her life and craft. Nokia’s dynamic set featured club rap bangers, soaring pop anthems, a cappella jazzy moments and beyond. She advocated for LGBTQ+ rights, namechecked Kathleen Hanna of Bikini Kill, flashed the crowd in the first minute of the show, and 20 minutes later spoke about the importance of faith and sorta-playfully-sorta-seriously sang verses of “Jesus Loves Me” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain.” (The latter caused a portion of the crowd to turn tail and exit, possibly to go deal with whatever trauma they’ve experienced around religion.) It didn’t faze the star of this set, though. “Leading spirituals and showing titties,” Nokia laughed. “You can do absolutely anything you want in this world as along as you have good intentions.”
The Head and The Heart
Ten years ago, heartfelt Seattle rockers The Head and The Heart played at the inaugural Firefly; “Down In The Valley” was a new song at that point. A decade later, they played a gorgeous sundown set on the mainstage and got the crowd to sing along. Pulling on this year’s Every Shade of Blue, the band was full of warmth and empathy, from the get-better anthem “Hurts (But It Goes Away)” to the delicious vibes of “Tiebreaker.”
It feels like we just talked about seeing a Lo Moon festival set, well, we were. The LA four-piece brought their divine soundscaping to the Treehouse stage of Firefly this weekend, drawing in a solid crowd that was moved by “Expectations,” “This Is It,” and more in a 45-minute performance. Matt Lowell told everyone was the band’s first night-time festival set; may there be others in this band’s future.
Also hailing from Los Angeles, also making a return to Firefly, the sister trio Haim rocked the Backyard stage with their playful pop/rock anthems and high drama: headbanging and raging, rocking out back-to-back, cuddling playfully with security guards. The front-stage drum-off is still part of Alana, Este, and Danielle’s repertoire, as are terrific songs like “Want You Back” and “Forever.” Alana told the crowd that it was the band’s last show of 2022, and although autumn had officially begun a couple days previous, they sought to keep their summer energy high with a soaring performance of “Summer Girl.”
Closing out the night with even more drama and theatrics were bay area alt-punk icons Green Day, whose set was thrilling, interactive, ridiculous, and so much fun. The thing about this band is, despite the vast portion of their catalog clocking in around the three-minute-and-under zone, they like to stretch out onstage. Billie Joe Armstrong is, 30 years into his career, a consummate entertainer, a hype person, and leans into the somewhat cliche but still endearing rock and roll tricks a la “I can’t hear you,” “are you ready,” etc. As such, despite a hit parade out the gate (“American Idiot,” “Holiday,” “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” “Longview”), last night’s set got quickly and easily off-topic. Did “Hitchin’ A Ride” need to be ten minutes so Armstrong could try to get one half of the crowd to clap louder than the other? Were those covers of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout” or Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night” really necessary? They got the people going, that’s for sure, and no matter how far the band strayed, there was always one of their own classics you know all the words to right around the corner. You knew they were coming, you sang along when the time was right, and it was glorious.
Below, check out a gallery of scenes from Day Three. Firefly concludes today, and we’ll have live Instagram Stories reporting from the festival all day long; follow along at @wxpnfm.