Dad Rock: Bleachers, Hamilton Leithauser, twenty one pilots & Busta Rhymes Celebrate Father’s Day at Firefly Festival

Lyndsey Parker

(Some videos here contain profanity — sorry, dads!)

Sunday was Father’s Day, of course — but it was also the final day of the Firefly Musical Festival in Dover, Del., so some of participating artists found ways to celebrate onstage.

Jack Antonoff, of Springsteenian alt-rockers Bleachers, no doubt experienced the best father-son bonding moment of the weekend — when his dad, Rick, brought new meaning to the phrase “Mac daddy” by jamming on guitar to Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way” with Bleachers on the main stage. (“That was f***ing cool,” Jack quipped later.) The elder Antonoff must be proud of his Jersey boy: Not only has Jack enjoyed a Grammy-winning career with his other band, fun., and amassed an impressive songwriting résumé working with Taylor Swift, Sia, Sara Bareilles, Carly Rae Jepsen, and most recently Lorde, but Bleachers’ fist-pumping, life-affirming set of John Hughes-soundtrack-reminiscent anthems was a Firefly weekend highlight.

Antonoff wasn’t the only Firefly performer whose set featured a cross-generational cameo this weekend. On Friday night, twenty one pilots singer Tyler Joseph brought out his dad, Chris, for an impromptu cover of DJ Khaled’s “All I Do Is Win,” which was definitely one of the winning moments of the day.

Back to Sunday, former Walkmen frontman Hamilton Leithauser, over on the Lawn Stage, acknowledged the holiday in a very different way with “The Bride’s Dad” — a darkly comedic yet heartbreaking drinking song (off I Had a Dream That You Were Mine, Leithauser’s 2016 collaborative album with ex-Vampire Weekend multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij), sung from the point of view of a deadbeat dad crashing his estranged daughter’s wedding.

“This is my ‘dad song’ for the day,” Leithauser told the crowd. “This is about a dad who I don’t know, but I did meet him at a wedding that I went to about five years ago in upstate New York. … This man got up and gave this speech, and it really made me kind of weepy, and I was really digging it, and he sang that song ‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ I’ve always loved since I was a kid. He really got to me. He gave this sappy toast. And then he was immediately thrown out of the wedding, because he wasn’t invited; it turns out he was the father of the bride, and there’s some history there. So I can’t imagine — wherever they are, if he’s even with us anymore — that they’re having the merriest Father’s Day. But I wish him the best. I don’t know his name, but he really struck me.”

Leithauser then crooned in his boozy, woozy, world-weary voice: “For years and years I disappeared/Tonight I’m here, and I’m giving my best… Your mother left, she’s not impressed/The wedding guests are starting to get restless/And I think I have worn out my welcome… They carried me away/Through the center of the crowd/From the corner of my eye/I swear I saw you smiling/You’ll always be my darling, sweetheart.” Surely any fans in the crowd with less-than-storybook (or less-than-Antonoff-like) relationships with their own fathers were moved, or maybe even a little amused.

Rap legend Busta Rhymes and alt-country Canadians the Strumbrellas also gave shout-outs to Firefly fathers during their Sunday afternoon sets, proving that the gift of music is one that can be enjoyed by festivalgoers of all ages.