Now that the mud and filth that had been accumulating in layers on my body have been scrubbed off, I can finally recover comfortably by binge watching shows and movies all day on my couch in my wonderfully air conditioned home, and recall all of the memories made this past weekend.
I had never camped at a music festival before, and I had never been to a four-day music festival either so Firefly seemed a bit daunting to me at first, but I was ready for the challenge. The squad was more than prepared — though, it didn’t initially feel like it as we made the trek to Dover, Delaware (more like DelaWHERE, am I right?!) unsure of what to anticipate. Upon arriving at our home for the next four days, we were forced to set up camp in our muddy swampland (that’s over exaggerating, but not entirely inaccurate) while it was lightly raining. There was an unspoken nervousness about the precedent that this set for the long weekend ahead of us, but at the same time, there was a oh-well-fuck-it-let’s-have-fun-anyway vibe in the air. And that’s exactly what we did despite the weather, living conditions, hygiene levels, and chaffing issues (our weekend was sponsored by Johnson & Johnson baby powder).
Day 1, Thursday. After setting up camp and getting acclimated with our makeshift home, we chilled until the late start of the festival. What was supposed to be a relaxing day, though, turned out to be kind of strenuous since the mud made trekking through the festival pretty tough. Thank baby J for Target rain boots because it made getting from stage to stage just a tiny bit easier. After solving some wristband entry issues, we were off to an otherwise great start music-wise with Hey Rosetta! at the Backyard Stage. The lighthearted indie rock sound of the band made it easy to jam out despite not previously knowing their songs. After hearing the one Panama Wedding song I knew, we headed over to catch a bit of Grizfolk, who I’d previously seen open up for Bastille on their Bad Blood tour. When I first saw Grizfolk, I was extremely underwhelmed, but at Firefly, it was clear that they had improved and their typical alt rock sounds were exactly what I needed while I chomped on Hawaiian-style soba noodles (the real MVP of the weekend). Catching the tail end of Solidisco at the Pavilion Stage (which housed most EDM acts for the weekend) pumped us up for Sweater Beats, who I had seen open up for Flume and, later, Chance the Rapper when he came to Rutgers. Sweater Beats was one of my favorites of the weekend — his use of choppy synths and tight drums remind me of Flume and Cashmere Cat, but are unique in the way he combines multiple layers of sound packaging it all in a dance-worthy track (i.e., “Cloud City”). After Sweater Beats was the first tough scheduling conflict of the weekend between The Kooks, X Ambassadors, and Tycho. Since I’ve already seen Tycho at Coachella, I stayed for about 3 songs before moving to X Ambassadors who I was STOKED to see. Besides “Jungle” and “Renegades,” I was unaware of other X Ambassadors songs. I was pretty disappointed with their other songs, which when played live, sounded like they were confused about what sound they wanted to establish for themselves. Nonetheless, “Renegades” and “Jungle” were on point and the perfect amount of rock and roll. On the way out, we heard The Kooks and were still jamming, so I can only imagine what it was like to be in the heart of the crowd during hits like “Junk of the Heart (Happy),” “Bad Habit,” and “Naive.”
Day 2, Friday. The first day of waking up early due to the heat started with a trip to the porta potties, which were steadily hoarding all types of waste products. After taking a baby wipe shower and feeling like a million bucks after doing so, we hung out at the campground until leaving around 2:30pm to try and catch Manchester Orchestra at the Main Stage. Despite my face melting off, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Manchester Orchestra and their alt rock songs — it provided a nice break from the predominantly indie weekend. Other notable performances of the packed day included Walk the Moon and Odesza (another weekend favorite of mine). I was stoked to see Cage the Elephant and even left Walk the Moon a bit early to catch ’em. I wasn’t particularly impressed but not necessarily disappointed by their performance — I would say their set was just average. “Come a Little Closer” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” were still amazing, of course. Lead singer Matt got me stoked to see Paul McCartney later that night by singing Happy Birthday to Sir Paul. Glass Animals was just as groovy as you’d imagine with their hard-to-pinpoint sounds that put you in what feels like a drug-induced trance (perfect for: those tripping on Acid). After Glass Animals was the second tough conflict: Modest Mouse, Run the Jewels, and Kygo. After staying for about 10 minutes of Modest Mouse, we headed over to Kygo, which was a no brainer for me since I had skipped out on him early at both Ultra and Coachella. Listening to Kygo’s steel drum synths just felt right, but when the second set of speakers shut off leaving only the main speakers, it got kind of old after a while. From what I heard from my other friends, Run the Jewels was as aggressive as their music is, creating a fun and wild atmosphere for the crowd. After finally finding a spot on the grass that wasn’t too muddy, we popped a squat and enjoyed listening to Paul freakin’ McCartney. Having parents who always sung Beatles songs to me growing up, and I mean, being a functioning human and knowing who the Beatles were, it was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I was seeing a Beatle perform LIVE right in front of me who was also breathing the same air as me. Since he had just turned 73 the night before, it was only right that Paul opened up with “Birthday.” My Firefly moment- and the moment I’ll remember for the rest of my life- was when thousands upon thousands of festival attendees came together to sing along to Hey Jude. Looking at the illuminated stage and the crowds that surrounded, I couldn’t help but get choked up thinking: you’ll never be as young as right now. I get the chills every time I think about the moment. It felt weird going from that magical moment to the raging crowd of Zedd, who I was initially excited to see, but was ultimately unimpressed (although my friends had a blast). I made what I consider one of the best decisions of the entire weekend by leaving Zedd early to catch Marian Hill who was straight up swagger and baby-making music. The use of heavy beats, sensual saxophone solos, and smooth vocals immediately made me 8-months pregnant. I was sweating profusely both from the humidity and the music.
Day 3, Saturday. After marinating in my filth for 3 days, I finally took a mini-shower via watering can and a few water bottles. I felt like a new woman — and that’s no exaggeration. Still exhausted from the day before, we took it easy and played several rounds of Mafia, which was full of ridiculous death stories and random accusations (shout out to the South Beach Killa), before leaving around 3pm to catch Gary Clark Jr. We were all so clearly beat from the day before so we spent most of the day sitting on a picnic blanket listening to the music. Gary Clark Jr. was awesome and obviously one long guitar riff upon guitar riff. Andrew McMahon was underwhelming, but it could also be because I was expecting him to perform more Jack’s Mannequin stuff. After was the most energetic set and one of my absolute favorites of the weekend: Matt and Kim. I love Matt and Kim, but I was totally not expecting their set to be THAT much fun. The Brooklyn duo are perfect together and their stage presence/energy was palpable; aside from catchy pop beats with heavy percussion, their set was full of crowd surfing (“If you have never crowd surfed before, now’s the time to check that box off!”), t-shirt waving, and jumping. Matt and Kim got the crowd moving like no other artist I had seen that weekend. After Matt & Kim, I caught a bit of Spoon while spooning some salad into my mouth (lol), and was expecting to see Dirty Heads, However, because of an impending storm, Foster the People was moved up 15 minutes earlier than expected, which means I had to go right from Spoon to Foster. One of my biggest disappointments of the weekend was not being able to see Dirty Heads. My favorite of the entire weekend was Foster the People, and while yes, that is probably a biased opinion, their set was amazing nonetheless full of all its typical glorious psychedelic indie rock through a combination of songs from Supermodel and Torches. It felt almost religious while they were playing “Coming of Age” knowing that they had first debuted the song at Firefly 3 years ago. We were at Kid Cudi for a few songs before he stopped short with an announcement that Firefly was shutting down for the night due to a big storm with approximately 60 mph winds (aka enough to blow me away). Because of the storm, Kid Cudi was unable to continue and Kings of Leon didn’t get to perform. A bit freaked out by this, we rushed back to the campsite and acted like a mini-army moving quickly to get everything in place before the storm came — it almost felt like we were in The Day After Tomorrow, and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t for a second consider calling an Uber to take me anywhere but there. That night, we slept inside our cars, but at 4am I couldn’t take the heat of the cramped trunk of the van and had to go for a walk around the campgrounds with a friend. It felt a little surreal to see some of the damages the storm caused and reminded me vaguely of the time I drove around with my family after Hurricane Sandy had hit New Jersey.
Day 4, Sunday. Momma, we made it! It’s safe to say that every single one of us (and there were 12 of us to be exact) felt both exhausted and excited on the last day of the festival. It was a weird combination of excitement for the day ahead, but also for the day to be over because that meant home, real showers, air conditioning, a bed, and food other than burgers and hot dogs. After packing up our campsite and moving to a parking lot closer to the actual festival, we were all ready to endure the day. Although we were excited for all the acts we were seeing that day (to name a few: Hozier, Bastille, and The Killers), we were all counting down (“After this set, we only have Bastille, Empire of the Sun, The Killers, and then home!!”). Despite having already seen Hozier at Coachella, he was one of my favorites of the weekend. With his man bun, blues-y, rock and roll rhythms, and romantic yet destructive lyrics, Hozier wow-ed the crowd playing hits like “From Eden” and “Someone New.” Because mother nature took Sunday a little too seriously, it was incredibly hot the entire day, so for as many acts possible, we took shelter on the good ol’ grass. I enjoyed Bastille so much and sang along to every song because it’s impossible to not, but I was a bit disappointed with the sound production considering they performed on the Main Stage. The bass created an uncomfortable sound that slightly took away from the vocals. Still, Dan from Bastille is a dreamboat and I’d listen to him sing any day. FINALLY, we were waiting in the tightly packed crowd for The Killers with sweat dripping from all possible places on our bodies. The Killers were 20 minutes late, but were immediately forgiven when Brandon Flowers ran onto the stage with his boyish charm and nothing but a smile and a “Hello” before bursting into “Mr. Brightside.” It didn’t take long for the crowd to lose control and sing along to the song that we’ve all screamed at the top of our lungs at least one time before. Responsible for so many hits, The Killers made sure to play all of them from “All These Things That I’ve Done” to “Somebody Told Me.” Along with their hits, The Killers paid homage to Creedence Clearwater Revival (“You guys like CCR?”) by playing “Bad Moon Rising” and honored Kings of Leon (“You guys like Kings of Leon?”) by performing a cover of “The Bucket” and an abridged version of “Use Somebody.” I, personally, had another Firefly moment when the band performed “Runaways,” one of my favorite songs. I felt honored to have been able to see The Killers perform considering a performance from them nowadays is rare. Just like during Foster the People, it was amazing to watch the band come in a full circle since they performed at the inaugural Firefly in July 2012. It only felt right that the night and the entire weekend closed out to “When You Were Young.”
While my time at Firefly was enjoyable, there are things the festival can improve, like having more stadium lights put up considering both the wet and dry mud created uneven and almost dangerous walks at night. Also, their evacuation method was unorganized and could have easily been chaotic if the hordes of festival attendees began to run back to their campsites. Although the severity of the storm was unexpected, a precautionary plan should have been created and implemented given that the forecast for the festival had predicted rain for the weekend anyway (trust me, I know because I checked the weather several times beforehand to help plan my #ootd). As for the mud though, I think Firefly did what it could to make things a bit easier for attendees.
In the heat of the moment (literally — if it wasn’t hot, it was humid), I was unable to truly consider my time at Firefly — honestly, I think dirt was clogging my brain. But looking back now, Firefly was the perfect way to end my season of festivals. The dirt might be gone, but my sunburn and memories live on.