Headliners: Paul McCartney, Kings of Leon (cancelled), Snoop Dogg, The Killers
Stages, organisation, vibe/crowd, food, camping
THURSDAY Grizfolk, Twin Peaks // FRIDAY Wolf Alice, Logic, Sylvan Esso, Chiddy Bang, Morrissey, Modest Mouse, Paul McCartney // SATURDAY Gary Clark Jr., Spoon, Sublime with Rome, Kid Cudi, Kings of Leon // SUNDAY Benjamin Booker, Hozier, Citizen Cope, Snoop Dogg, The Killers
Born just 4 years ago, the Firefly Music Festival has quickly become one of the most anticipated music experiences of the American East Coast. Despite the expanse of the festival grounds (two large stages, three medium stages, and four smaller stages) in Dover, Delaware, all three of the main days were well attended by the nearly 80,000 fans. The audio and visual effects were impressive for a festival this size, aided by extra speaker towers. This has been my third year and probably the most fun, and the memory holds up strongly, despite the rainy Thursday night and the hurricane that passed through and drenched us Saturday night. Our campsite had particularly bad luck— the rain turned it into a swamp and left us with flooded tents two out of the three nights that we camped out. The beauty of Firefly was the sense of cohesion with fellow festival goers that prevailed, from running back to camp in the thunder and lighting, to singing along to Beatles covers we all grew up with, to accepting that we had all gone days without showering and were muddy and disgusting.
A common complaint about music festivals is that people get bored of the festival-pop sound that’s become so popular recently. Acts like Bastille and Walk the Moon pair quite well with flower crowns and flash tattoos, which gets repetitive and sometimes creates a sense of commercialisation that doesn’t sit well with everyone. Firefly was no exception. This profit-oriented attitude also stood out while waiting in the giant queues for the water refill stations (of which there was certainly not enough- we waited over an hour in 30+ degree weather). Since there were rules against bringing in any outside liquids, including water, most people resorted to buying overpriced bottles of water. All the signs and announcements urging us all to drink enough water might as well have been advertisements for bottled water.
The most anticipated act was by far Paul McCartney, followed closely by The Killers, Snoop Dogg, and Kings of Leon (which we all missed after they evacuated the festival grounds when the storm passed through). There was a wide range of acts that catered to varied music tastes, from EDM to blues and soul. One drawback was, because the festival was so huge, getting from one stage to another could take as long as 15 minutes, which meant that some tough decisions had to be made in regards to personal scheduling. It was nearly impossible to see a full set— on Friday Morrissey played right into Modest Mouse who played into Paul McCartney. Modest Mouse was one band I was really looking forward to. They’ve been an old favourite for years and I’ve never had the chance to see them. Their set was well balanced, with plenty of their newest album and some of the classic favourites towards the end: “Dramamine,” “Doin’ the Cockroach,” “Float On,” and “Dark Center of the Universe” one after the other. I love festivals because, more often than not, I leave with a list of musicians to start listening to, and that’s exactly what happened with Benjamin Booker. He has a punky garage band vibe that I really got into and his solos were really no joke.
Saturday was a bit of a letdown, aside from Gary Clark Jr. (another new discovery!), Sublime with Rome sounded like a subpar Sublime cover band and Kid Cudi failed to engage the crowd as much as I expected him to, but to be fair, the Firefly crowd was mainly indie-oriented. On our way to see Kings of Leon, the entire grounds were evacuated and we were told to take down all our tents and to take cover in our vehicles. We still had plenty of fun stuffed in the back of my boyfriend’s 1995 Chevy van, but seeing Kings of Leon would definitely been the more attractive option.
The next day was muddy but rain free. Snoop Dogg was probably the most engaging act— he ‘borrowed’ a 6 inch long, 1 inch wide blunt from someone in the crowd before he even began preforming and invited ‘all the sexy ladies’ up on stage with him. He was very, very fun but he did spend a lot of his set essentially singing karaoke to “I Love Rock and Roll” and “Jump Around”, which was disappointing considering he has 20+ years of songs.
We ended our weekend with The Killers, who did not disappoint. “Mr. Brightside,” “Somebody Told Me,” “When You Were Young,” and “Human” were so much fun to hear live and their sound was refreshing after 3 days of festival-pop bands. When they played two Kings of Leon covers in their best effort to make up for the previous night’s weather, it added to a sense that we all belonged to one big tribe, ending the weekend on a very positive note.