The release of the Firefly Festival 2013 line-up caused quite a stir and a good amount of excitement this week as fans learned that Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and the Red Hot Chili Peppers would be headlining in Dover sometime between Friday, June 21 and Sunday, June 23.
There are 69 other bands on the roster, though, and chances are that even the most voracious indie music listener will have questions about the sound of acts like Grizzly Bear, Zedd, ZZ Ward, Dispatch, Krewella, Ellie Goulding or even Delaware natives The Spinto Band.
So, from now until the festival kicks off, the end of the work week will now conclude with "Firefly Fridays." Each week, we'll introduce you to one or two non-headliners (including some YouTube footage, of course), so that once the schedule is released, ticket-holders will hopefully have a better idea of how to make the most of their Firefly experience.
This week, meet Delta Rae.
The Firefly Festival won't be Delta Rae's first trip to Delaware. The six-member band actually played in Rehoboth Beach at Dogfish Head Brewery the night before last year's festival kicked off. It was a free show and probably one of the last times anybody in Delaware will get the chance to see them sans cover charge.
Since then, they have crisscrossed the country, pouring their hearts out for new fans and playing late night shows like Conan O'Brien. The group was even invited to close out the Democratic National Convention but when bad weather forced the event to another venue, the concert was cancelled.
The band features three siblings – Ian, Eric and Brittany Holljes – as well as Elizabeth Hopkins, Mike McKee and Grant Emerson, giving the band four lead singers, a drummer and a bassist. And, everybody does double—sometimes triple—duty with more instruments like keyboards, guitars and trashcans, which often get added to create the band's organic, soulful sound.
1 Rock god recognition
The band comes with the credentials that only 2005 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame inductee Seymour Stein brings to the table. This man knows good music when he hears it, having signed artists like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Madonna, The Pretenders, The Smiths, Ice-T and Depeche Mode.
The story goes that during a meeting with Stein, following a request to hear the group sing, the legend-maker asked them to stop about 10 seconds in. He gets up, walks to his door and hollers for his colleagues, "You gotta hear these people!"
2 Southern roots
Much of the band came together when Ian and Eric Holljes moved from the West Coast back to their birthplace in Durham, N.C. for college. You can hear some of that inherent southern-ness in lyrics that explore the Southern gothic and civil rights. But, there's Americana, too, with explorations in storytelling, folklore through bits of gospel, bluegrass, blues and pop.
Page 2 of 2 - Several songs explore the band's relationship with Durham. And while the brothers do the songwriting, everybody has a voice and a stake in the final product. Bassist Grant Emerson said they just work on it until they get it right, filtering their collective influences to make it cohesive and comprehendible but not overwhelming.
"Sometimes the brothers will have a whole song sketched out. Other times, they'll have an idea and I'll sort-of add my flavor to it," Emerson said. "Then, we just hammer it out until it makes sense and we all really love it.
3 Ordinary and not-so-ordinary instruments
With six band members, four of whom offer lead vocals, the harmonies alone often act as an instrument. But, there's more than just the powerful Joplin-esque voice of Brittany Holljes and the cool raspy quality of Elizabeth Hopkins. Many songs feature classic guitar riffs and keyboard notes while others feature trashcans or the electric upright bass, which Emerson taught himself in 10 days for the band's first traditional Christmas show.
"We have very strong vocal harmonies but we also have a big percussion side as well," Emerson said. "We do a lot of rhythmic stuff with trashcans, too. I don't think there are many bands traveling around beating the crap out of a trashcan on stage."
To see some of the trashcan rhythms (as seen on Conan O'Brien), click here.
To hear the band's single, "If I Loved You," which is currently playing on some adult alternative radio stations, click play.