Local Musicians Set to Take Stage at Firefly Music Festival This Summer
Armani Lee thinks that this year’s Firefly Music Festival lineup gives the “authentic Philly music experience.”
“[Those attending the festival] can feel they’re in Fishtown with the indie scene, or in North Philly with the hip-hop scene,” said Lee, a Philly singer-songwriter who will be playing this year’s festival. ‘Just trying to bring that culture and feel, because Delaware is so close and Firefly is one of the biggest festivals in the country.
RECPhilly, a creative marketing agency in the city, helped curate a showcase of Philadelphia musicians for Firefly Festival in Dover, Delaware this July.
Some of the artists include Vita and the Woolf, Hardwork Movement, OddKidOut, Joie Kathos and Luke O’Brien.
Dave Silver, founder and president of REC, said he and his co-founder Will Toms were interested in “exploring the possibilities,” after working with The SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas the past three years.
They created a proposal for the festival that provided REC’s knowledge of the music market, Silver said.
“Because they are a very fan-engaged festival, we wanted to help them reach the people on a more direct level that opened a lot of doors,” Silver said, adding that REC Philly will be involved in coordinating a contest to pick more local artists for Firefly, which will be announced in April.
After raising $8,000, RECPhilly put together the first Philadelphia-only concert showcase at SXSW in 2015. For 2017, they’ve raised $140,000 as of Monday and have more local partners like Temple University, The University of Pennsylvania and Visit Philly.
For Firefly, Silver said they put together a long list of artists who “deserved the opportunity.”
“I just think they deserve the recognition,” Silver said. “Philadelphia has such an amazing underground, local music community that is thriving and the world needs to know about it.”
Brewerytown resident Luke O’Brien, a hip-hop artist playing Firefly, got his start through cyphering at parties while studying at Loyola University in Baltimore in 2007. His solo career didn’t kick off until 2013, when he moved to Philadelphia.
Last January and February, O’Brien put out an EP and an album titled “Jack Of All,” which was inspired by Aziz Ansari’s TV show “Master of None.” Though he didn’t like the show initially, the final episode of the first season features a monologue from Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” which O’Brien said he found relatable.
“I do a lot of woodworking,” O’Brien said. “I do a lot of wedding and portrait photography and then I work in a school and then music. I always feel like I’m a jack of a lot of things but I didn’t feel like I fully succeeded in any.”
O’Brien added that he’s looking forward to being on stage and in front of a larger, festival audience. In preparation for Firefly, he’ll be performing shows in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City in April and May.
“I know going there, there’s going to be a lot of people and a huge stage,” O’Brien said. “All of those people in the audience are music lovers since they are attending a festival, so I am excited to play and have people say ‘hey that was awesome, how do I find more of it?’ and build relationships with more fans.”
Lee, a singer-songwriter influenced by reggae and jazz, didn’t pick up a guitar until he was living in a residence hall at Temple University his freshman year.
“It was a dorm room dream,” Lee said. “Hours and hours and hours, it became more of an obsession and passion that I didn’t know I had. My life transitioned from going out on the weekends to staying home.”
Now a recent Temple graduate, Lee said he’s going “back to his roots” and playing open mic shows and writing new music to prepare for Firefly.
“When I woke up that morning and saw my name under Bob Dylan, it was just ‘damn, this is real. It’s happening,’” Lee said.
Silver added that the lineups for major festivals in the U.S. lack Philadelphia representation. He also hoped by showing the diversity of music in city, it will help highlight overlooked artists.
“Now these artists have a platform to be recognized and the Philadelphia music scene has a chance to be in the spotlight,” he said. “We really just wanted to give a taste of all the different styles, I didn’t think it would give the city justice if we were just spotlighting one genre in specific.” •