Like many American festivals through the first half of 2017, Firefly’s lineup has suffered this year. Whether it’s over-saturation or simply artists’ touring and album cycles, the initial batch of fests this year have offered somewhat anemic and repetitive lineups from one to the next. Even in its better installments, Firefly often has a tendency to grab a few truly massive names, mix it with some of indie’s exciting but ubiquitous names of that particular year, then some past-their-moment rock acts and pop-leaning acts you don’t really know or care much about. All of which is to say: The acts that are here this year that are worth getting excited about have that much more pressure to deliver, to be the bright spots worth remembering amidst an generally lackluster bill. And, thankfully, Weezer were there to deliver last night.
Say what you will about Weezer. All these years and albums later, some fans are still waiting for a euphoric recall of the band’s mid-’90s classics. But approaching it that way not only squanders the joys littered throughout the band’s career, but also ignores the fact that they’ve become a pinnacle of reliability in the context of the festival circuit. Weezer appears at festivals often; they appear at unhip ones often, too. And every time they do, the bring a set built to ensure an almost unyielding endorphin rush across an hour or hour and fifteen minutes. They’re an arena-alt act perfect for these things, with a clutch of hits and singalongs that provide the ideal mix of pathos, quirkiness, and sheer infectiousness.
This was clear from the strong beginning of the set: “Hash Pipe” into “My Name Is Jonas” into “Pork And Beans.” That shouldn’t necessarily read like a greatest hits opening salvo — there are plenty of Weezer diehards who probably still hate “Pork And Beans,” and at one point “Hash Pipe” might’ve felt cartoonish preceding “My Name Is Jonas.” But how can you deny that riff, that chorus? Whatever peaks and valleys exist throughout their career, that’s almost entirely swept away when they put it all together live. People cheered and sung along to it all with consistent exuberance. The often-maligned “Beverly Hills”—now somehow over ten years old and, thus, registering as an old Weezer hit—garnered the same reaction, by the way. Contrary to their occasionally perplexing stylistic detours, or Rivers Cuomo’s status as an idiosyncratic frontman even by the metrics of idiosyncratic ’90s frontmen, or the band’s ability to still come across like the weirdo high school kids (no doubt partially because of Cuomo’s and Brian Bell’s apparent agelessness), it’s somewhat striking to realize you can catch Weezer at a festival in 2017 and they’re crowd-pleasers. Cuomo has, of course, had his fair share of fixations on Top 40-type pop success here and there. But even so. It’s comforting to know you’re going to see Weezer, and they’re going to play the singles and favorites from all over their career, saving the biggest ones for last.
They also bring a nonchalant cheekiness to the whole proceeding that’s always welcome. Years ago, I saw them cover Blur’s “Song 2″ in a half-deadpan, half-fervent tone. This time, they snuck their tease of “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” in before “Island In The Sun,” and they also played a pop-rock rendition of “Hey Ya!” which they’d only done once before, at Boston Calling last month.
In between that, you also had the image of Cuomo decked out in a regal red cape and crown for “King Of The World” and a sombrero later on. During the part where the band takes turns on lead vocals in “Pork And Beans,” drummer Patrick Wilson paused a moment to jokingly shout out a particular totem in the crowd: “Someone’s holding up a fidget spinner … come on, man.” Near the fidget spinner, someone else was holding up a giant Joe Biden head totem; fitting since we were in Delaware.
Things did lag a bit through the middle of the set, despite a spirited performance of “Troublemaker.” The middle section culminated in a medley that should’ve been a punchy bit of fun but despite kicking off with the catchy “oh-oh” refrain from “Dope Nose” and concluding with the chorus of “Surf Wax America,” it felt like a scattershot, less focused part of an otherwise tightly tailored set. Similarly, slotting the new single “Feels Like Summer” right up against the hits at the end of the set was a gutsy move, and it didn’t quite land.
But when things close with “Say It Ain’t So” and a gigantic “Buddy Holly” singalong (assisted by confetti explosions for the final chorus) it’s hard to argue with a Weezer set one way or another. Given people’s extreme opinions on different Weezer’s many albums, it’s impossible to say that anything is a perfect Weezer set; there would’ve been plenty of ’00s or ’10s moments that would’ve scared the Blue Album and Pinkerton devotees back to the bar or restroom line. But on the flipside, it was a set that had a little something for everybody. At a festival otherwise lacking in many exhilarating sets before the headliners (or, in a few instances, including the headliners), it’s always great to have Weezer effortlessly running through their deep arsenal of hooks.
01 “Hash Pipe”
02 “My Name Is Jonas”
03 “Pork And Beans”
04 “King Of The World”
06 “Hey Ya!” (OutKast Cover)
07 “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To”
08 “Perfect Situation”
10 “Thank God For Girls”
11 “Beverly Hills”
12 “Dope Nose” / “Back To The Shack” / “Keep Fishin’” / “The Good Life” / “Surf Wax America”
13 “Undone – The Sweater Song”
14 “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” (Mike Posner Cover) > “Island In The Sun”
15 “Feels Like Summer”
16 “Say It Ain’t So”
17 “Buddy Holly”