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Commentary: Firefly Music Festival showcases the musical diversity of the indie genre

Arts and CultureCommentary: Firefly Music Festival showcases the musical diversity of the indie genre

Staff Reporter

Staff Reporter

Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the Firefly Music Festival booked a number of well-known artists, such as Green Day and Dua Lipa, to play for four days of performances and excitement.  However, aside from the bigger names, a common theme appeared throughout the comparatively lesser-known musicians in the lineup, revealing that one genre can sound very different depending on the artist.  

When looking up the particular genre of many Firefly musicians, the search result is frequently “indie,” with slight variations on the type.  Despite what search engines tend to say, each of these artists have their own individualistic spin, which brings about the question of what this type of music truly is. 

Firefly performers, such as The 502s, The Head And The Heart, Matt Maeson, The Brook & The Bluff and Dayglow, reflected on what their specific style of music means to them.

The 502s was formed by Ed Isola, who brought together a group of his lifetime friends and relatives to create music together. Since their first extended play, commonly referred to as an EP, in 2016, they’ve grown a massive fan base of 1.3 million monthly listeners on Spotify alone. In large part, their rise to fame can be attributed to the recent popularity of the feel-good tune “Just A Little While,” which fans found themselves dancing along to at Firefly.

Despite the internet describing The 502s as folk-indie, when Isola was asked to define the band’s music, he was hesitant to give one specific genre. 

“Honestly, when someone says, ‘What kind of music do you play?’ I just [start] listing instruments in the band,” Isola said. “I definitely think we started off as folk or folk-rock. Very straightforward there. Then over time, everybody inside the band has an influence and it has evolved into something different now.”

The 502s aren’t alone in the struggle to accurately explain their genre.

The Head And The Heart is a group most known for the soulful hit “Rivers and Roads,” but their musical rhythm stretches far beyond the approach found in just that one track. With a broad range of instruments on stage at Firefly, The Head And The Heart’s Saturday night performance had the crowd swaying to their slow songs and singing loudly to their upbeat melodies.

Charity Rose Thielen, violinist and vocalist in the band, had an outlook on The Head And The Heart’s well-loved style of music which sounded remarkably similar to what Isola said.

“I think it’s an amorphic thing and it would be hard to define,” Thielen said.  “I don’t want to be boxed in. Even as we’ve evolved, the test is always: How does the whole song sound acoustically when stripped back? I think that our music is basically everything acoustic.”

Although The Head And The Heart and The 502s both perform acoustic songs, their respective sounds and instrument choices remain very different. Even still, the umbrella term of “indie” is used in reference to either.

Matt Maeson graced the Main Stage of Firefly on Saturday afternoon with a set that captured the ears and hearts of listeners.

His debut EP was released in 2016 and included “Cringe,” which soon attracted a number of newfound fans. Since that release, however, Maeson has grown in popularity and produced varying songs, some that have acoustic elements and some that are more electric.

“[My genre] kind of jumps to different things,” Maeson said. “There’s some pop-centric songs but some more heavy rock emo-centric songs. So I guess I’m a singer-songwriter alternative-rock-pop-indie guy.”

While indie may be only one piece of Maeson’s explanation of his genre, “alternative-indie” is the main category he is put in, which further demonstrates the musical diversity of this classification.

Firefly featured even more indie artists on Sunday, Sept. 24, such as The Brook & The Bluff, a band of friends and family from Birmingham, Alabama. They too described their music with a variety of genres. 

“I think that the five of us all have wildly different tastes [in music],” Joseph Settine, lead vocalist, said. “So when you throw them all together, you kind of get everything: indie rock, pop, folk, soul and funk.”

While some artists struggle to put their music into one word, others speak confidently about their passion for indie.

Firefly performer Dayglow reflected on how listening to punk and alternative rock growing up helped him find his place in the music industry as an indie artist. Now with over 8 million monthly listeners on Spotify, his childhood passion for music seems to have paid off.

“[Making indie music] sort of feels the most natural to me,” Dayglow said.

Even with the numerous definitions of what indie music is, there’s no doubt that the genre is quickly taking over the music industry.  This year, Firefly displayed a number of artists who fall under similar versions of indie, but each managed to bring a unique energy and sound to the stage.

“[This type of music] just feels like a natural extension of our limitations,” The Head And The Heart’s Thielen said, before taking the stage on Saturday.  “Like we aren’t trying too hard and we aren’t listening to others.”

Firefly showed that indie music is dependent on individual artists, even within a band, because each person brings their own instrument and love for a certain style. In practice, the genre has undeniably become a melting pot of varying musicians with distinct visions.




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