If you're an aspiring hip-hop group and Firefly comes calling, you answer the bell without question. Even if it means you're suddenly on the hook for performing three different shows on three different stages.
Such was the case for Trio, the Dover-based, three-man group playing at The Woodlands this weekend. As the only Delaware act playing this year's festival, they were tabbed given three spots: the Northeast and Southwest Hub stages, located near each campsite entrance, and The Rambler stage, a new, roving venue that operates out of the back of a white, retired, military-issued Humvee.
"The talent buyer contacted us Thursday and told us they had an extra set and an extra hour they were looking to fill," said Matt Howe, aka "Tribe Beats," after his group's 45-minute set Saturday morning. "It was like a present from the gods; the Firefly gods, I guess. They hooked it up and we jumped on it."
Christiane Pheil, talent curator for Red Frog Events, the Chicago-based company that has been coordinating Firefly since its inception in 2012, said that Trio was initially tabbed because the group had applied to play in the past, but was specifically chosen to play The Rambler stage for two reasons.
"We are always pushing local bands; it's a hard, fast rule for us to always include Delaware bands and give them some love," said Pheil. "We also wanted to have a blend of diverse genres on The Rambler, and when we realized we could accomplish both with one act, Trio became a no-brainer."
Howe, along with cohorts Sam Carter, aka "SAM," and Matt Coston, aka "Meeze," powered through weather that was alternately hot, rainy, and then breezy, performing a 15 track set. Within five songs, all three had removed their shirts on what would be end up being a warm and muggy day on the grounds at Firefly.
"It beats slinging beers, that's for sure," said Howe, who along with Carter, was at The Woodlands last year, though in a completely different capacity. "Yeah, we were working the beer tent last year, but this is much, much better."
Stationed near the north entrance less than 100 yards from campers, Trio was ready to give the Firefly masses a literal wake-up call at 11 a.m. "Wake the f--- up!" the group yelled as an air horn blared from the DJ booth behind them.
Trio started with the aptly titled "I'm Workin'" before a rousing edition of "604," which Coston described as an introduction to non-Delawareans for how Trio does things in the First State.
"Ya see, the area code in Delaware is 302, so we call this track '604' because we double up on everything, and you're about to see that right now," shouted Coston. "Hope y'all are ready to get lit!"
The crowd of 150-200 people, which included some local friends and Firefly early risers, seemed a little shy at first. When a light shower passed through the area and the group needed to take a quick timeout to cover their equipment, it seemed like Trio might lose the remaining numbers.
But the three twenty-somethings who "live to perform," would not let that happen, and jumped into the crowd to get everyone hyped up. Within seconds, the fans that had considered leaving came back to party.
"You have to engage the crowd at a festival like this, because most people aren't exactly here to see you," said Howe. "When you have the chance to get their attention, you gotta do what you gotta do. Whether it's calling people out or commenting on how they're dressed, whatever. They want to be entertained."
Howe said their first performance was better than the show at The Rambler, due to the natural stage set-up, as opposed to a roving truck that just sets up shop in random locations. But the group did like the informal setting of The Rambler as opposed to the nervousness they felt on the North Hub stage.
"That first show was kind of nerve-wracking. I mean, it was our first set, and we had to get up there right in front of a lot of people," said Howe. "But this is cool, too. You just roll up and start doing your thing, so it's more thrown together than anything, but it's still awesome."
Trio has one more set at The Woodlands - Sunday morning at 10 a.m. - and plans to get the most out their last attempt to win fans over.
For more on Trio's music, search "Tribe Beats" on Spotify and YouTube.
You can also hear two tracks recorded at Delaware Public Media's studio earlier this year here.