This past weekend the eighth edition of Firefly festival took place, right in the heart of Dover, Delaware in the Woodlands at the famous Dover International Speedway. Normally used for NASCAR races, this past weekend it was turned into a multi-genre music festival for the ages. Aside from the massive yearly lineup Firefly brings each year, this year featured a large number of changes. While the festival was dropped down to a three-day festival instead of four, camping was completely overhauled. The new setup gave campers a unique and special pre-party Thursday and expanded the campgrounds massively, from RV camping, glamping to standard GA camping. Camping was a large focus for Firefly this year and all the effort put into this new immersive camping experienced really showed! Another big change going into Firefly was ownership of the festival, with AEG Presents (the minds behind Coachella) recently buying Firefly last summer. The Firefly community was skeptical about the buyout, although after the weekend we all just experienced, it is safe to say Firefly is in excellent hands.
Day One In Dover:
Making the drive down from lovely New York City, arriving at the festival around 8 pm. Check-in and passing through security was quick and simple. Firefly overall had to be the most organized multi-genre festival I’ve ever attended, hands down. Giving myself some time to quickly explore the festival grounds, this being my second Firefly fest I was curious to see what changes have been made. My impression was at the core Firefly is still very much the same festival everyone loves, although some very major changes have been made. The most obvious ones being the production improvements to the silent disco and making it three channels instead of two, as well as giving the Prism stage some needed upgrades.
I kicked off my 2019 experience with none other than Tyler The Creator. I heard very mixed reviews about his music and new album. I wanted to be the judge of it myself and see what the hype was myself, especially since he had his own production during his main stage set. Tyler’s energy was unreal, he had the crowd bouncing and the stage flamethrowers on full blast. So high the flames could be felt all the way towards the back of the stage, it is safe to say Tyler came in with the intention of turning Dover upside down with his set. Playing songs from his latest new albums IGOR and Flower Boy with special matching lyrical visuals to go with the performance, Tyler played fan favorites such as “911/Mr.Lonely”, “Who Dat Boy” and “EARFQUAKE”. Although not a fan of rap/hip-hop, Tyler really made me a fan of his music, you should experience his sound for yourself.
Rushing over quickly to the Prism stage to check out Louis The Child, It’s been a really long time since I had the chance to see him, so curiosity ran through me. Playing the jams we know like “Love is Alive” and “It’s Strange”, it’s good to know the boys still got it and delivered a fun festival set for us. Mixing it up by playing some Madeon tracks for us such as “You’re on” and playing some festival favorites such as “Loyalty” by Kendrick Lamar, this set to me was really a much needed set to bounce around and enjoy myself.
The next artist on my schedule has been a band that has been on my bucket list for a VERY long time and truthfully the main reason I decided to make the trip to this festival. Seeing them for the first time was an unbelievable experience, it was such a dream to finally see none other than Panic! At The Disco! The moment they hit the stage it felt as one big rush came over the Firefly crowd, within seconds of the first track kicking in the fireworks began to light up the star-filled Dover sky. My body automatically began jumping as high as it could at that moment, and looking up seeing the fireworks definitely gave me that “this is amazing, life is good” festival feels moments that doesn’t happen often enough. When that feeling hits you, it hits you good.
While playing a mixture of tracks from all the albums in their catalog, the tracks performed from “Pretty. Odd.” and “Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die!” were the highlights from this performance. Ten minutes into this set I found myself singing along loud and proud to “Hey Look Ma, I Made It” and shortly afterward “Nine In The Afternoon”, the bands live trumpet players and violinist really made the small details of these songs come to life. The frontman for Panic Brendon Urie showed the crowd his infectious dance moves and serious vocal skills, while also playing the piano throughout the set and even the acoustic guitar.
My personal highlight was when Brendon played the acoustic version of “The Green Gentleman”, while we reached the end of the set and the crowd was blessed with a special surprise. The Firefly crowd witness the band cover the infamous track by Queen “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This was truly a special moment and it showed off Panic’s wonderful musical skills and ability to play to the crowd effortlessly. Their performance was without a doubt the highlight of the weekend for me if you ever get the chance to see Panic! At the Disco… definitely go!
I closed out day one with an artist I’ve seen many times but always bring the heat. You can always expect a party with Zedd! Opening with his track “Spectrum”, as the drop kicked in fireworks behind the Prism stage lit up the sky. Following up with a track I haven’t heard in a while but is made for festivals, the visuals turned bright red as Zedd played Nom De Strip‘s track “The Game”. Throughout his performance we got to hear all the fan favorites such as Zedd’s remix of Rude, Break Free and everyone’s guilty pleasure track at one point Clarity. If you’ve seen Zedd before, you know you’re in for quite the memorable night. His performance was the perfect closing out on an amazing day one of Firefly.
Day Two In Dover:
I was able to get to Firefly earlier than usual this day, and I was still feeling the buzz from last night. It was exciting to head back to the Woodlands. While the line up overall for Firefly was very impressive today, I wasn’t exactly familiar with a lot of the acts or simply just wasn’t a fan… yet. Day two was a day to explore, and I did just that, starting off with a DJ group I’ve heard a lot about which is Emo Nite. They played the smaller and more intimate Treehouse stage which made the experience that much better, it was as though we were all at someone’s house party listening to our favorite rock songs. They were playing Blink-182 “I Miss You” to everyone’s favorite My Chemical Romance song “The Black Parade”, and admittedly, it took me a while to get into. The idea of three punk rock kids playing random rock songs on CDJs was bizarre to me, but Emo Nite is not about technical DJ skills, it’s about jumping around with your best pals having fun. They played an earlier set in the silent disco before this performance where they actually had the first silent disco mosh pit… that’s quite impressive.
After Emo Nite I decided to roam around and check out 15 minutes each of Dashboard Confessional, Alison Wonderland and Death Cab For Cutie respectively, while each stage was crowded and had their own fanbase out in full force. It didn’t fit my mood for the moment, which is why I love bigger festivals like Firefly. If you don’t like the artists playing the bigger stages you can always roam to the smaller stages and find local or smaller talent which may blow your mind. Making my way to the silent disco, one of the channels was dedicated to more groovy music (House, Techno and so on). In my mind, I thought I would only spend 10 minutes max here, although come an hour and a half later I was still dancing to the sounds of the amazing house DJ that was playing at the moment. That was without a doubt the longest and most fun silent disco sessions I have ever had before. Sometimes, it’s great not to take your festival schedule to serious and roam the festival grounds.
Having felt it was time to step out of the silent disco, I came across a really nice surprise. Walking up to a random stage I was graced with a rocking set by the band called Masionair, I’ve been addicted to their song “Astronaut (Something About Your Love)” and didn’t even realize they were playing the festival! What made this set really great was the fans in the crowd were real Masionair fans, the energy was over the roof and the band fed off that energy.
Taking a much-needed break before the headliner of the prism stage started his set, I was on pins and needles because it’s been a while for me to see Kygo. I knew he would deliver the perfect closing set for day two. Starting his set hoisted above the stage, Kygo begins playing the piano for the live audience to enjoy. Slowly being lowered and dropped mid-stage to start his hybrid DJ/Live set, he began with the Stadiumx Remix of his song with Imagine Dragons “Born To Be Yours.” Kygo stood above the DJ decks yelling “What’s up FIREFLY!?!?! Are you ready for this one!?” The drop kicked in and yet another “This is life” moment came, as the fireworks began to rush behind the Prism stage, I began to feel the rush in my own head. That euphoric feeling of just feeling the vibes and that moment, there is nothing like it. Kygo played tunes from “It Ain’t Me” to “Stay” among all of Kygo’s best music, to the guilty pleasure track “Body” By Loud Luxury and closed off his set with a special live miniature orchestra version of Firestorm. I don’t have many chances to see Kygo play but every time I do get the chance it’s really special, this performance was no exception and I left day two of the festival with the biggest smile on my face.
Day Three In Dover:
The last day of Firefly arrived and wanted to make it count, so I arrived at the festival grounds around 5 P.M. to make the most of my day. Sunday does end two hours earlier with a midnight curfew, meaning you should probably come earlier and enjoy while you can. This day was planned in advance, and I followed my schedule exactly as planned. First up was the Las Vegas resident 3LAU! His music catalog is very impressive and no two songs sound alike at all, while 3LAU is known as a big room DJ his music is far from that in a good way. This set was filled with tons of new music and mashups. Aside from his newer tracks like “Better with you” or newest single with Bright Lights “Down For Life”, it surprised me how much I didn’t know what he was playing. It was a great set that really gave the crowd that fun outgoing energy that was needed, it was a rager for sure.
There was a small time conflict between Vampire Weekend and GRiZ, so I decided on only seeing the first half of Vampire Weekend and seeing all of GRiZ. Conflicts like this are rough, but if you really manage your expectations and just accept it, situations like this usually work out for the best. Vampire Weekend played a lot of great newer music. I’m not too familiar with their newer tracks but it had my head bobbing and doing a small jiggle for their set. GRiZ performances are always unique as a lot of live instruments are used, his saxophone gets the crowd moving and adds a layer of excitement to his performance. If you’ve never seen him play before, I highly recommend it because he’s a very unique act.
Taking one last break as it was important for me to be ready for Sunday closing sets and the long drive back home to NYC from Delaware, this was a bit of a rough one as I did want to see DJ Snake but also wanted to end this amazing experience with something not so mainstream. Seeing Nora En Pure closing out the Treehouse stage on the schedule caught my attention when the set times were first released… it was clear that this was the way to properly close my weekend off with a bang. This set was a lot deeper than expected, Nora’s music is very groovy and tropical. With this small intimate crowd, Nora guided us into the deeper side of house music, absolutely loving it as it really played to the crowd. As she played her track “Come With Me” the crowd burst with excitement, hips were moving and bumping to this amazing track. One thing I loved about Firefly was the crowd, even though it is an all-age festival the younger generation really made some of the performances that much more memorable. Whoever was in the crowd for Nora set was in it to win it, and were graced with the closing ceremony fireworks.
Overall my second Firefly festival was extremely impressive! It was wonderful to see how much fun this festival always is. Especially after reading all the comments on social media and seeing the changes with the camping experience, I was a bit nervous that the buyout would change the festival experience. But as I said earlier, all the amazing things about Firefly are still the same, if anything AEG saw what didn’t work or wasn’t effective and simply remodeled that portion of the experience. I would love Firefly to still be its own standalone festival, not borrowing artwork or production from other festivals AEG owns such as Coachella. It has a really great thing going for it and Firefly can surely be its own standalone stable brand without needing to borrow other elements from festivals. It’s exciting to see where AEG will take Firefly next year and what unique and exciting ideas will be implemented for it. It is going to be hard to outdo themselves considering this festival has organically grown throughout the years and everything is executed perfectly. Since they outdid themselves this year, surely next year will be even better!