Review by Anthony Orisses
June 2014 – Firefly Music Festival took place this past weekend in Dover, Delaware. The festival was host to arguably one of the strongest lineups of any US festival this summer as more than 125 artists performed over four days on 7 stages. 80,000 fans came out to celebrate this year. Attendance was up from 65,000 people in 2013 and 30,000 people in its inaugural year in 2012. Firefly had attendees from all 50 states as well as 17 countries. The festival footprint covered nearly 300 acres, including camp space.
With its powerful lineup and high attendance, the festival is on its way to becoming the “Bonnaroo” of the Mid-Atlantic. While nothing can truly compare to the unique experience of Bonnaroo, which can be considered the Disney World of festivals, Firefly, in only its 3rd year of existence, managed to book some of the biggest acts in music and was surprisingly organized and well put together. The actual festival grounds were fairly easy to get used to and were very clean despite having a cloud of dust in the air throughout the duration of the 4 day festival. Having the freedom to do whatever you want, at your own pace, at your own schedule adds to the magic of any good festival. The weather situation also worked out perfectly this year. Friday and Sunday were very hot and sunny while Saturday was cool and cloudy with zero rain which helped cool everyone off and was the ideal weather for in between sunny days.
Amongst some noteworthy performances were:
The Foo Fighters who headlined the Friday night show. They put on one of the best performances I’ve ever seen in my life. Dave Grohl is the ultimate rockstar and knows exactly how to play to the crowd. The band performed all their hits and had the crowd singing in unison for the majority of their performance. As an encore, they came back and did 5 songs. 4 classic rock covers – Alice Cooper – “School’s Out”, Van Halen – “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love”, Rolling Stones – “Miss You”, Queen – “Under Pressure” and then closed the show with their own biggest hit – “Everlong”.
Pretty Lights always put on an incredible performance. Pretty Lights puts on a spectacular laser light show and its combination of hip-hop beats mixed with dance/techno sound had everyone dancing and vibing to his set making him the perfect festival DJ set.
Outkast, who seems to be playing every single festival in existence this year, did a solid job. Their sound projected the best of all the hip-hop artists that I saw at the festival. It seems that often times many hip-hop artist’s sound don’t always translate well to outdoor festival stages
The Arctic Monkeys – sounded as clean and polished as they do on their album and drew a very large daytime crowd.
Weezer gave the crowd what they wanted to hear and everyone left their set happy.
Martin Garrix put on a very energetic set. He performed midday on Sunday but probably deserved a later set instead of playing while the sun was still out.
Girl Talk – put on a pretty good show. He sampled a countless amount of catchy and popular songs and does a masterful job of mashing them together. In case you haven’t heard of him, he is good artist to put on if you’re hosting a party.
Grouplove – put on 2 performances, one on a major stage and a second acoustic set on a small stage. The acoustic performance got packed out very quickly but everyone who got there early was rewarded with a fantastic performance.
Ziggy Marley was definitely the perfect act on a sunny and relaxed final day.
Big Gigantic closed out Firefly by being the final performance of the festival. A lot of fans gained a new found respect for them as they play live saxophone and drums over a DJ set.
Also on Sunday, the festival broadcasted the US vs Portugal World Cup soccer game on the main stage. Insanity ensued both times when the US scored. However, the heartbreaking tying goal in the final minute of injury time tough to stomach for all who stayed to watch.
The camping grounds weren’t terribly far from the festival entrance but definitely far enough that once you walked over you probably weren’t going to want to walk back. Leisurely entering and exiting is definitely more common at Bonnaroo. The total camping space were more than 15,000 with an estimated 50,000 campers As with all festivals, you often times become close to your camping neighbors and get to meet interesting individuals from around the country and the world. We happened to meet a couple from San Francisco who ended up becoming a part of our extended festival family and attended the majority of shows together with them. Making contacts with people from around the country is part of the fun of these festivals. In the world of social media you can remain in contact and possibly meet up together at future shows and festivals. This year there were two Hubs located in each of the main camping areas. The Hubs included morning yoga, food trucks, , Walgreen’s General Store, Red Bull Sound Stage with performances throughout the day, Headphone disco for late night music options after festival gates close and showers. The shower setup, if one was so inclined, was pretty efficient. Garnier set up showers and for $5 you could wash off all the festival dust and take one of the most glorious showers of your entire life.
Firefly organizers got together and gave a private press conference in regards to the festival. Greg Bostom, Firefly Music Festival Director, said at the press conference:
“The Woodlands got a little makeover this year. We are very excited that the Main Stage has moved to its permanent home that can accommodate the 80,000 people. We’re excited to have what we think is one of the best main stage venues in the whole country. The theme of 2014 is and has been bigger is better. We’ve expanded the site generally, and the third party presence. We are very excited and proud to once again be partnering with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Red Frog Events has a national partnership with St. Jude. Firefly alone has raised over $75,000 for the cause and we expect that to grow significantly this year. Thanks to Dover International Speedway, our partner from day one when we were a bunch of crazy kids from Chicago with the idea of putting on a music festival. Thanks for giving us the time of day.”
Delaware Governor, Jack Markell, also took the podium and spoke about the impact the festival has had on the state of Delaware:
“We are very excited. This is certainly a highlight in Delaware the last three years, and we are really excited it’s coming back next year. This really is an incredible partnership across our state agencies. From a tourism standpoint, this is unbelievable. Last year, of the 65,000 people who came, two-thirds of them had never been to Delaware before. The economic impact last year was $12 million. This is huge for our tourism industry, which is a $2.2 billion industry in Delaware. Local workers last year put in over 157,000 hours. That’s equivalent to 76 full time jobs. Firefly has also donated more than 500 meals to the Dover Interfaith Mission Shelter and they’ve done a great job in terms of their green efforts. They have an incredible focus on recycling as well. This is one of the biggest, most important music festivals in the country. We are absolutely in the top tier. It only stays that way if Delawareans continue to support it, as I’m sure we will.”
Tickets for next year are already on sale. Firefly 2015 is going to be 18-21st, and you can start buying tickets online for a pre-sale price of $199 at www.fireflyfestival.com