It all began in March – a group of seven friends and I purchased tickets for the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware. Quickly thereafter, the countdown began for our first extreme music experience. Waiting over 100 days, we anticipated what we thought would be one of the highlights of our summer.
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Overly anxious, our group agreed to purchase an extra day of camping for an additional $20 per camping spot. We were to purchase two spots, each 10×30 feet. In total we’d have 20×30 to house eight people, two cars, two tents, and a pop-up canopy. However, upon reaching our new home for the next 5 nights, we quickly realized that all of our calculations (or lack thereof) had failed. We never mapped out our camping spot nor thought twice about how small two 10×30 camping spots would actually be, but we somehow managed to cram all of our necessities into the allotted area.
With our beers set to chill, food grilled, and campsite set, we took sight of our fellow campers while on top of our vehicles. The sight was unlike anything we had ever witnessed. Over 80,000 people joining forces in a seemingly random location for one greater cause- music.
But our euphoria would be disturbed in the rudest way. The ensuing Wednesday night held severe rain and winds, saturating everything in sight. This is when we learned our first lesson: always prepare for the elements. Pack tarps, rain gear, and bring appropriate footwear to handle the suction cupping mud. Likewise, packing an intense amount of bungee cords, industrial clips, and tent stakes are never a bad idea.
Thankfully, we were prepared to deal with our newly damaged pop-up canopy that had begun collapsing from the heavy winds. We tried our best to solidify the skeleton that had snapped in multiple locations. We were lucky to brace it using tent stakes and slivers of cut up towel as cordage. Fortunately, half of our group brought either an air mattress or a waterproof sleeping bag to shield themselves from any unwanted water in the tents. The others retreated to the cars for dry shelter.
When at a music festival, it’s important to remember that unbearable heat or any other lingering weather constraints such as the ones mentioned will play a factor in your morning routine. For us, our mornings typically began around 8 a.m. when we began to feel unbearably wet or hot and sticky. Waking up this early allowed us the necessary time to make any repairs on our campsite, cook breakfast, and even wait in the ungodly lines for bathrooms, shower use, and water refill stations.
By the time we had set sights on entering the festival we were already proclaimed by neighboring veteran music enthusiasts as “standout rookies” for the ways in which our group was able to cope with the elements. Most folks in attendance had been through this routine 2 to 3 times already, but never with rain. Apparently, this had been the first time any precipitation fell from the sky during Firefly. No matter, it was all part of the character-building experience we had been searching for.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
Thursday’s festival participants brought the likes of house music protégé, Jack Novak. Playing under a much larger, sturdier, yet metaphoric canopy, ravers jumped around in puddles to the tune of “Desert Snow” and her newly released “Driving Blind.” Along for the Thursday ride were The Kooks, X Ambassadors, Kill Them With Colour, and Tycho. Due to scheduling conflicts, we were forced to prioritize artists because many times the varying stages would each hold an artist performing a set at the same time as another artist. Our lineup for this day centered around the talents of Jack Novak and concluded with the smooth jams of The Kooks.
Friday, June 19, 2015
Friday morning brought a subtle warmth, just enough to allow us a few extra moments of recovery from our lengthy Day 1. Not having to deal with the rain gave us an opportune moment to socialize with neighbors. Quickly dragging out their Kan Jam set, we soon followed with a football to throw around. Here we spent the next couple of hours while intermittently cooking food in preparation for another day of music.
As the temperature crept up to a very arid 90 degrees we decided to fill up our Camelbak water packs (a must for any summer music festival). We entered the festival, music loud enough to be heard from our campsite, at about 4 pm. Just in time for Walk the Moon’s set on the second largest stage, the Lawn Stage. Much of the show was filled music unknown to our ears but vibes from the crowd and an incredible stage presence allowed us to appreciate their musical talents anyway. By the end of the show we were complete bandwagon fans and proud. Once this summer’s hit song, “Shut Up and Dance” came on we had completely fallen in love with Walk the Moon’s set.
Warning- our next performer is a newfound favorite of mine, AWOLNATION. More specifically the 10th track off of their Megalithic Symphony album, “Sail.” I began binge listening their music roughly a month before Firefly and haven’t stopped since. My girlfriend and I abandoned our group of friends and took aim on getting as close to the stage as possible (this is where dating short girls comes in handy). While she crept through the crowd seemingly untouched, I, being 6’3”, clawed and jammed my way through the tiny crevasses she’d make in order to get roughly 20 rows of people away from the band. Not bad for showing up 10 minutes prior to their set.
At its conclusion we took a short walk to the neighboring Porch Stage where hip-hop artist/Rapper Chiddy Bang would entice us with his hit remake of MGMT’s, “Kids,” “Opposite of Adults.” Getting to this song was painfully slow as Chiddy Bang opted to bring roughly 10 hype men on the stage who chose to rudely interrupt every song with standard MC shoutouts. However, the wait somehow proved to be worth it. Hype men quiet, Chiddy Bang stood, isolated on the stage, and gave his best for what’s arguably his biggest hit.
From Chiddy Bang’s set we quickly raced over to the seemingly ageless Paul McCartney’s set on the Firefly Main Stage. Talk about a drastic change of music genre. His set lasted for two hours and a half, enchanting everyone with hits like “Hey Jude”, “Let It Be”, “Live and Let Die,” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.” Paul also played a musical tribute to George Harrison beginning “Something” on the ukulele while also honoring John Lennon with “Here Today.” Newer content, including songs made with new band, Paul McCartney and Wings, also found its way into McCartney’s 33-song setlist.
House music extraordinaire Zedd followed Paul McCartney’s lengthy set to conclude the night. Many took Paul’s set as a “pregame” for Zedd, but not us. Half of our group from Long Island retreated into the Hammock Hangout where we could easily hear every bit of music and even caught glimpses of the flashing lights coming from the Backyard Stage.
Saturday, June 20, 2015
Saturday morning was when we began using primal instincts to gain an advantage. As a group we figured waking up early could be an advantage to avoid lengthy lines for bathrooms, showers, and water refill stations. Getting all of these things done in a timely fashion was much appreciated.
Packing food for this trip consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers, sausages, bacon, protein, protein, and more protein. We thought to bring some apples, oranges, and Ramen Noodles, too. But it wasn’t until this morning that we came across a farmer’s market stand just outside the Hub, our common area for necessities. Hastily, we grabbed avocados, tomatoes, and lime- the three necessary ingredients for guacamole (we wanted onions, jalapeños, etc. as well but they weren’t available). Saturday morning’s lunch turned out to be our best. Burgers topped with makeshift guac, yum.
After lunch it was time to venture back out into civilization. Our group took an hour and a half pilgrimage to a local mall where we used normal restrooms, ate… again, and purchased necessary supplies (beer) to get us through the remaining two nights.
After this excursion we traveled back into the festival grounds, where a storm was quickly approaching. At the beginning of Kid Cudi’s set at 9:30, we were asked to retreat to our tents due to the impending storm. Cudi’s set was tarnished but thankfully Steve Aoki, who was scheduled to perform following Cudi, was able to reschedule for Sunday afternoon. Earlier in the day we had also seen Foster the People and closers Matt & Kim. If you ask me, Foster the People blew Matt & Kim out of the water.
Upon arrival back at our campsite, we battened down our campsite expecting the absolute worst. Everyone who could fit slept in a car on this night. Many of us were too fatigued, too worn out, to suffer another night in the rain.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Our campsite suffered no damage! It seemed as though all of our desperate attempts to secure our campsite paid off because there were no signs of damage anywhere.
We were rejuvenated and ready to go by the time lunch was over. Sometime through lunch, we had received a notification from our Firefly apps saying Steve Aoki was prepared to perform at 2:30. Everyone hurried through their morning routines because of this. We didn’t know it at the time, but Steve Aoki would turn out to be the perfect start to our final day at the Dover Downs.
Following Aoki’s set, we hustled back to basecamp in search of food and refreshments. We had only one hour before Hozier would hit the stage. Fortunately, that hour would turn into nearly two. By the time we arrived at Hozier’s performance he was already concluding with “Take Me to Church.” Everyone in attendance seemed to be enjoying themselves and “Take Me to Church” sounded like a carbon copy of the radio hit version, so we can conclude that Hozier killed it.
Next up was Snoop Dogg. Not much to be said about the former Lion, his set included more work from other artists than work of his own. Going in, our group was saddened that his set was only an hour. Thirty minutes, in we were checking our itineraries to see who else was playing. By the time we rummaged through our bags for the schedule, Snoop’s set was coming to a slow and painful end. His most notable busts were “Drop it Like it’s Hot” and “Young, Wild, and Free,” and in both of which he was unable to maintain a steady beat while attempting to rap his verses.
Last but far from least, was a set by the Killers. For this one we came prepared. I brought a towel large enough for our group to lay on. The Killers are a great band with uncalculated musical talent, but being that their music isn’t one for dancing we opted to groove from the ground for this one. I remember hearing the beginning of “Mr. Brightside” before shutting my eyes and falling asleep until the end of Firefly 2015. It was a sad way to end my first music festival, but I couldn’t have asked for a better song to sum up the experience.
Monday, June 22, 2015
While there were no musical performances on Monday, (the festival most likely gives festival goers Sunday night to sleepover to avoid DUI/DWIs) I feel it is worthy to note that post-festival cleanup isn’t nearly as bad as packing for the weekend. I’ll admit it was one of our biggest concerns due to the limited space in our vehicles. Thankfully, most of our supplies were damaged during the festival’s storms so we threw much of it out. Thanks Mother Nature!
If you find yourself out of state for your first or next musical experience make sure you grab a delicious breakfast before beginning the trek home. For us, Waffle House did just the trick to welcome us back to hygienic society.
Until Next Year… The Firefly Squad
Lead-In Image Courtesy of Joey Fernandez; Other Images by Joey Fernandez and The Firefly Squad; Videos by Joey Fernandez