Dave Grohl at Firefly (Photo courtesy Firefly Music Festival)
Yesterday’s list of summertime cover songs by bands playing at the ever-growing Firefly Music Festival was by no means exhaustive, as you’ll see below.
The second day of Firefly, Friday, June 20, started around 12:30pm and stretched until 2am. (And for morning people, unlike myself, Red Bull sponsored a breakfast series where you could awake even earlier and catch some up and coming bands.)
My day, however, began with neo-psychedelic band Basic Vacation, hailing from New York City. Vocalist and guitarist Chris Greatti, bassist Jon Paul and drummer Mike Montalbano formed a snappy trio, playing their established songs like “I Believe” as well as new songs like “Sirens.” They also played a damn catchy cover of Tears for Fear’s “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Greatti said at the time that the band would not play it again after Firefly, but c’mon, guys! That was a really good cover, and you really put your own spin on it.
It was during the performance of Basic Vacation on the lawn stage that I began to notice an odd phenomenon. Lots of kids were carrying large cut-out heads of random celebrities, like Nicolas Cage and David Bowie and Bryan Cranston. I have no idea why they carried them, but these large cut-out heads showed up on the viewscreen monitors surprisingly well when the cameras cut to the audience during any particular show. If anyone can explain to me how this got started, I would be very interested in knowing.
courtesy of Arctic Monkeys.
And so with this review of Arctic Monkeys at 9:30 Club on Tuesday night, my time reviewing concerts on We Love DC has come full circle. On December 11, 2009 I posted my first feature review as WLDC’s new music writer. It was a glowing review of Arctic Monkeys’ 9:30 Club performance and their dedication to artistic development in the face of a relatively disinterested audience who just wanted to hear the hits.
The world was a different place then. 9:30 Club tickets were sold via Tickets.com instead of Ticketfly. Osama Bin Laden was still hiding in every shoe, belt buckle, and in-seam instead of resting in a watery grave. I had yet to experience and subsequently declare 2010 ‘the greatest year of live music ever’. And Arctic Monkeys had a huge savings account of mainstream goodwill that they hadn’t yet squandered with their somewhat anti-populist tour.
I don’t know if it is because the quality of 2010’s concerts irreversibly raised my standards or if it is because Arctic Monkeys are currently caving in to popular opinion instead of sticking to their artistic guns, but something about this week’s concert really disappointed me. How this band that has only received rave reviews from me in the past suddenly ended up boring the hell out of me is kind of mystifying. I guess the answer is a combination of both aforementioned reasons.
“My Arctic Monkeys Tickets” courtesy Greta Kauffman
Arctic Monkeys made their return to the 9:30 club in a rip-roaring fashion on Tuesday night with a set-list that mixed their trademark hyper-pop with their new album’s dedication to song-craft and musical exploration. The effect was at times lost on the sold-out crowd but the combination of their good-will towards these Brit-pop phenoms and the lads’ savvy use of radio hits peppered through-out kept the good times going for all. I was extremely pleased to see this young band so committed to their artistic development in a live show when so many other young acts fall back on crowd-pleasing when faced with sudden global levels of success.
I last saw Arctic Monkeys at the Coachella Music Festival in 2007 on the “Favourite Worst Nightmare” tour. The band in ’07 was confident and beaming, clean-cut in hair and dress. Their set then was a barn-burning bit of guitar-driven Brit-pop that left everyone smiling. A great time but somewhat disposable on an artistic level; really a reflection on their sophomore album which to this day feels like a minor offering compared to their blisteringly awesome debut. Since I last saw them play, Arctic Monkeys have gone on to become one of the biggest bands in Brit-pop and have toured the world several times over; lead singer and songwriter Alex Turner put out an excellent 60’s pop-inspired side-project (The Last of the Shadow Puppets); and the band has produced “Humbug“, easily their most adventurous and daring music yet. The lyrical risk-taking and musical development on “Humbug” is a breath-taking statement by the band that they are serious craftsmen and represents their evolution from being the latest Brit craze to being vital musicians in a landscape full of one-n-done, Ipod commercial composers.