Busta Rhymes led off the day on the Main Stage, and the kickoff did not go well. Rhymes apparently didn’t feel the need to watch a clock, and nearly 30 minutes into his 60-minute slot still hadn’t appeared, despite loud “Boos” from the large, dusty crowd awaiting his set. Finally a DJ came out, trying without success to whip up some sympathy. Rhymes finally emerged with neither apology nor explanation, repeatedly shouting inspiring phrases like “You muthafuckas ready?” Scuttlebutt from backstage had it that Rhymes was unhappy that his set was scheduled for so early in the day. Read your contract, muthafucka, that’s 12:30 PM.
In stark contrast, the next group, the Strumbellas took the stage saying “We’re a rock and roll band from Canada. Thanks for coming out,” and put on a terrific show. Coming off their performance at Coachella, the group features almost-pop hooks and solid musicianship, the band mixed acoustic and electric instruments, with standout contributions by fiddler Isabel “Izzy” Ritchie and lead vocalist Simon Ward, though all members contribute vocals. Energetic, happy to be playing and in command of their instruments, this is a real band, with real instruments, and real people playing real music.
There’s a new star on the horizon, and she fronts MisterWives. Mandy Lee is the East Coast’s answer to Miley Cyrus: cute, irrepressible, likeable, and an inventive mover with a great set of pipes. Lee is in constant motion, singing and dancing while connecting with her bandmates and the audience—which she does superbly, reaching out or crouching at side stage. She projects her love of performing music, and the audience loves her for it. Arms swirling, legs kicking, constant, infectious grin at the ready, the girls sings to her boyfriend, drummer Etienne Bowler, and to us all, “What did I do to deserve you?” Lawdy, lawdy, this band makes me want to go out and buy their records, then learn how to dance.
Jared Leto, musician and movie star, arrived by (giant) helicopter a little after 4 PM for the 7 PM 30 Seconds to Mars show, and when he arrived onstage, so help me, he was still wearing his cape. Leto spent much of the electrifying set exhorting the audience: “Get up!” “Get down!” “Sing” “Make some noise!” “Jump!” “Get crazy!” “Scream!” “I want to see 1,000 people up on someone’s shoulders!”
With longish hair, a full beard and layers of clothes, including the cape for quite a while, Leto had to be hot as Hell as the band ran through their bigger hits, and took breathers only when getting audience members involved in the performance. At one point, he called for two crazy people to come onstage and wound up with one of the two in a seahorse outfit, sharing the stage. Leto took a selfie with the two, and ended the set by asking perhaps 50 “crazies” from the audience up onstage, pointing at them out one-by-one, and inviting them. “I’m looking for crazy women—I’m talking restraining-order crazy,” he said. I suspect “restraining-order crazy” women were in scarce supply at Firefly, which is notable for its courtesy and sanity, but Leto did make many people’s year, that final night of Firefly.