As the dust settles from Dover after this past weekend, Firefly Music Festival is becoming just a fond memory. The second staging of “The East Coast’s Premier Music Experience” drew double the crowd than last year (sitting in at a nice 60,000) and featured an incredible weekend of music and activities. The festival is staged at “The Woodlands” a tremendous wooded area behind Dover International Speedway. This intern attended the festival this year (also the first festival or camping experience he has ever attended) and is here to recount the amazing 3 days he spent with 60,000 of his closest friends.
Acts I saw: Ellie Goulding, Calvin Harris, Red Hot Chili Peppers
Acts I missed: The Avett Brothers, Dan Deacon
Unfortunately after leaving Townson, Maryland, we hit a little traffic. A two hour ride got bottlenecked by the other tens of thousands of people who were also arriving at The Woodlands and turned into a six hour trip, but some group bonding was in order anyway. After arriving and setting up our campsite, the eight of us headed over to start enjoying the festival itself. Ellie Goulding took my festival virginity as we arrived right before her set began. The British songstress put on a good show despite the awkwardness of her music playing when it was still well-lit outside. She saved all her hits for the end but still kept the audience grooving while jumping around stage for her hour-fifteen minute set.
While we wanted to to see The Avett Brothers, the next almost two hours ended up being dedicated to exploring the festival grounds and getting some food. Chicken and Waffles was our pick as we passed by Flavor Flav and the rest of Public Enemy on The Porch stage.
After fueling up, we were ready to handle Calvin Harris, and thank god we stopped to recharge. Though none of us were eagerly awaiting his set, he definitely stole the night (and possibly the festival). The DJ not only had an energy-packed set, but he also had a light show that got the woodlands partying it up for hours. His set easily drew more energy from the audience than any other throughout the entire festival. While playing hits like “Sweet Nothing” “I Need Your Love” and “We Found Love,” Harris made sure that not a second was dull.
The Red Hot Chili Peppers also put on a great performance on the first night. The veteran rockers brought down the house playing hits of old and new for the Dover audience. An awesome show came together overall with the bassist and guitarist battling in between headstands and other body maneuvers that wasn’t expected from men of their age.
By the end of the RHCP we were wiped and went back to our camp before any late night festivities began.
Acts I saw: ZZ Ward, Alabama Shakes, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, MGMT, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and parts of White Panda/ Big Gigantic.
Acts I missed: Kendrick Lamar, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Azealia Banks
For us, the day started awesome with the – not so bad to look at – pop rocker Zsuzsanna Eva Ward, who thankfully has the nice and easy stage name of ZZ Ward. Ward had a set filled with energy and fun while she reminded us how excited she was to be there. Though certainly one of the lesser known acts (with a 2 p.m. time-slot) Ward put on an incredible performance overall, and for me it was the best of the day.
While we missed Kendrick Lamar, nobody really felt cheated as we instead walked over to catch most of Alabama Shakes. The southern rock band had a very relaxed set in the early evening but poured their heart and soul into their hits like “Hold On.” The girls in our group decided they wanted to be lead singer Brittany Howard while the men just wanted to be serenaded by her.
Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, certainly ones to never disappoint, delivered an amazing show Saturday evening. While Alex seemed like he was high off of a little more than life at Firefly, he put on an incredible show. He didn’t bark as he did during Bonnaroo but he managed to put an insane amount of energy into his set while commending the audience for being brave, considering that we will someday die. During their biggest hit “Home” he allowed the audience a chance to tell a story. That didn’t go so well when everyone decided to just tell him how much they loved his song, but either way it featured some awesome audience involvement.
From across the festival grounds we could faintly hear the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, but food and hydration took precedence during their set. MGMT was the next big act of the night and they also put on an incredible show! While for some ridiculous reason they didn’t play “Kids” they made sure to dish out “Time To Pretend” as well as all other hits for another high energy performance.
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers headlined Saturday night and brought out every kind of audience member possible. From grandparents to middle schoolers the audience was filled, but unlike during RHCP the night before, everyone seemed to be sitting back and relaxing. Just before “Free Fallin” he gave a shout out to anyone in the audience who was “cheating on their boyfriend or girlfriend,” which caused some tension in our group that contained two couples. Aside from his banter, Petty reminded everyone why he has his own channel on SiriusXM and had the entire festival grounds going nuts during “American Girl”. After Petty closed his set we mixed time between Big Gigantic and White Panda before heading back for the night.
Acts I saw: Matt & Kim, Dispatch, Passion Pit, Vampire Weekend, Foster the People
Acts I missed: Ben Harper, Zedd
The last day started off with the best performance of the entire festival, Matt & Kim. Though I had never heard of the band before this weekend (although I knew their song “Daylight”), they had a truly incredible performance. Not only were the songs catchy and fun, but they probably put on the best show I have ever seen. Kim spent most of the set jumping on her drum set while Matt held one leg high in the air while keyboarding. Kim removed her bra and made jokes about the hickies that Matt left her and continued with their set. In between literally running on top of the crowd and climbing various parts of the stage to “Bugatti” they also just sounded amazing. They commanded attention from the audience (and they deserved it.)
As the afternoon went on, Dispatch was the background music choice of the day. While everyone ate, navigated porter potties, and took naps in the middle of the grounds, Dispatch offered great head bobbing music while everyone came down from the high of Matt & Kim’s performance. Passion Pit put together a set filled with apologizes, but fun nonetheless. After announcing how sorry they were for canceling the year prior at Firefly, lead singer Michael Angelakos announced that his throat was killing him and it would be rough for him to finish the set. During his set, someone in a Spiderman costume starting climbing unauthorized areas which added for a good side act. Passion Pit did have to cut their set 30 minutes short due to the increased throat pains, but nobody really noticed since they jammed all their singles into the last few minutes anyway.
The last two acts of the festival brought out all the hipsters for a great time. Vampire Weekend– who really should have closed the night, but I digress– had a great time on stage while the audience crowd surfed, a lot. By a lot I mean that towards the back of the crowd I personally counted 25 people coming over my head. After people grounded, they performed huge hits of old and new like “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” and “Diane Young” making sure not to disappoint.
Foster the People were all that was left to close the festival off Sunday night. While it would have made much more sense to have a band with more than one hit close, they did a decent job. Everyone walked around and bought their last beer and piece of merch before coming back to rock out to “Pumped Up Kicks,” and say one final goodbye to The Woodlands.
While I am extremely sad to be home, Firefly 2013 was an incredible experience that I’ll never forget. Here’s to hoping that the festival only grows in years to come (as well as my bank account so I can keep attending them).
If you spent this entire post wishing you were there, tickets are already on sale here for Firefly 2014!
(Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Firefly Music Festival)