As the Firefly Music Festival got underway Friday at the Woodlands International Speedway in Dover, Del., OK Go hit the Lawn Stage and quickly reminded all onlookers that they are much more than just a novelty act famous for their “Here It Goes Again” treadmill choreography, “This Too Shall Pass” Rube Goldberg machinations, and slow-mo explosions in “The One Moment.”
So, how did the band that once danced with dogs in “White Knuckles” showcase their actual musical chops? By covering “Black Dog,” by a “little band from England,” Led Zeppelin.
OK Go’s Zep jam session was surprisingly legitimate — treadmill-free, but a real rock ‘n’ roll workout in its own way, muscular, lean, and mean. The Chicago powerpoppers, for better or worse, may always be best known for their creative viral videos (their two YouTube channels have racked up a combined 347 million views), but their simple and effervescent Firefly set — featuring Cheap Trick/Cars-reminiscent toe-tappers like “You’re So Damn Hot,” “Get Over It,” and “Do What You Want”; nearly constant confetti showers; and cocksure frontman Damian Kulash’s SNL-worthy cowbell solos — proved OK Go are as entertaining onstage as they are onscreen.
Over on the main stage, alt-rock darlings twenty one pilots sandwiched a few fun and unexpected covers between their own massive hits “Stressed Out,” “Tear in My Heart,” and “Ride.” Lead singer Tyler Joseph showed his softer side by playing a few bars of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love” on a ukulele and bringing out his dad for a Father’s Day weekend performance of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win.” Then he and his ski-masked cohort Josh Dun really got the Firefly party started, ‘90s-style, with Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” and House of Pain’s “Jump Around” (the latter accompanied by their friends and fellow Firefly performers Judah & the Lion). We couldn’t help but fall in love with their choice of cover tunes.
Meanwhile, Pharrell Williams-endorsed electrofolk newcomer Maggie Rogers, making her first-ever festival appearance, also went totally ‘90s, recruiting her college friend and fellow singer-songwriter Fletcher for a silly and delightful rendition of the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe.” Indie girl power!
billboard: Tfw when maggierogers and findingfletcher cover the Spice Girls at LiveAtFirefly ???? pic.twitter.com/kfy9fLxVY6
— Music Youtube (@Music_maestro) June 15, 2017
Comedy rapper Lil Dicky also time-traveled back to the mid-’90s, for an oddly earnest cover of R. Kelly’s Space Jam classic “I Believe I Can Fly.” (“Wasn’t that amazing? I think I could win American Idol with that,” he boasted.) Then he truly acted like it was the freakin’ weekend by giving one lucky — or at least seemingly willing and amused — audience member a vocoder-assisted lap dance.
Ethereal and exotic alt-pop songstress Banks, who celebrated her 28th birthday Friday at Firefly, didn’t do any lap-dancing (or any cover songs, for that matter), but she was flanked by two interpretive backup dancers, and together they put on a magical Backyard Stage set, full of drama and mystery — especially when Banks, looking like a Gothic Venus in her black latex seashell jumpsuit, introduced one song with an elaborate sign language routine. (Many Firefly artists had ASL interpreters onstage with them, but Banks took matters into her own hands, so to speak.) “I had a dream about a girl named Rainwater that inspired a poem. I went on a walk that inspired me to learn sign language,” Banks explained on her Facebook page. “It’s a longer story. But I am so grateful that this life has given me the opportunity to push myself, to learn, to take chances, and to be brave.”
And speaking of Gothic-ness, over on the main stage, AFI frontgod and proud vegan Davey Havok looked like the poster boy for the “health goth” craze, rocking black denim shorts over black opaque tights and a studded black vest over a black tunic — and somehow barely breaking a sweat in the 90-degree festival heat. The hardest-working man in alt-rock today (he also plays with Xtrmst, Blaqk Audio, and the No Doubt-affiliated supergroup Dreamcar), Havok managed to out-Muse Firefly Sunday headliners Muse with his unsubtle showmanship — all wide-armed Jesus/Bono poses, denim-straining high kicks, and over-the-top operatics and theatrics. A Fire Inside, as AFI are also known, definitely brought the fire to Firefly.
Yahoo Music’s live stream of the Firefly Music Festival continues Saturday at yahoo.com/firefly, starting at 1:30 p.m. PT/4:30 p.m. ET and featuring T-Pain, the Naked and Famous, Kaleo, and more.