The inaugural Firefly Music Festival was apparently a smashing success, as evidenced by Tuesday’s announcement that the event will return for a 2013 sophomore installment. Although the official numbers have yet to be released, large crowds flocked to Dover, Delaware’s Speedway this past weekend, despite the inclement weather, in order to check out live sets from an eclectic range of nearly 50 bands, the majority of whom claimed during their sets that it was their first time in Delaware. It was everyone’s first time in Delaware.
Kicking off to rain and a daunting weekend forecast on Friday, acts such as the reunited Wallflowers started things off right with ear pleasing hits for the poncho-adorned hipster crowd, as well as for the inevitable bare and brave hippies who trotted about in a blissful fashion with hula hoops and outlandish décor.
A three-day outdoor festival attempting to mimic its predecessors, Firefly placed their own unique twist on the multi-stage musical experience by additionally featuring culinary setups with local fare, a beautiful vineyard, balloon rides, and a pop up brewery from craft beer legend Dogfish Head, which served their established favorites as well as a specially brewed Firefly Ale, a light amber colored English Pale Ale that clocks in at 5% ABV and 25 IBUS. Served straight from a cooler with proper tapping, the beer was unimaginably fresh and crisp, rivalling the classic 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. Other popular Dogfish Head brews on hand for $8 a pour, were Midas Touch, Namaste, and Raison D’Etre, all of which tapped out by late Sunday.
A steady drizzle maintained its presence straight through day one’s main act, the incomparable Jack White. Spotty sound and glitches were a constant problem on Firefly’s main stage, rendering White’s opening numbers rough and loud. After a swift recovery, White played hits from The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and of course his solo album. It soon became evident that if audience members were not perfectly centered for acts performing on the main “Firefly Stage,” enclosed by the main speakers, songs would sound muted and dismal.
Clear skies finally emerged late afternoon Saturday, just in time for Yeasayer (Passion Pit’s last minute replacement) to electrify their modest crowd armed with glow sticks and ready to dance.
Among the more memorable acts of the Firefly Music Festival were from under the radar bands such as Trampled by Turtles, the Minnesotan bluegrass quintet whose acoustic set was powerful, fun, and mesmerizing. “It was so refreshing to see a new festival with such a great lineup and run so smoothly. We had a blast,” Turtles’ guitarist and vocalist Dave Simonett shared.
Another top act was the rock ‘n’ roll band J Roddy Waltson and the Business, who woke up early-rising fans during their noon set Sunday and ignited the energy of a swelling crowd of curious passersby who were magnetically drawn in to headbang and rock out, as lead singer J Roddy Waltson pounded the piano and furiously tossed his long hair. “I loved that there were only two bands playing at any given time. No one seemed panicked about getting anywhere and on top of that, the ‘passed out in the dirt people of Bonaroo’ were not there to block you egress,” Mr. Watson said of the festival. “Overall people didn’t seemed caught in that Netflix level of indecision where you have so many options that you just end up watching Ironman again.”
Campers were delighted by the fleeting appearance of clear skies on Sunday, after two days of braving the drizzle in order to party in the damp grass with neighbors and flip burgers on propane grills. Passes for the camp grounds were sold out by the start of the fest, packing everyone tightly into their designated spots, which provided enough room for a four person tent, car, and sitting area. Firefly made sure to provide proper amenities such as charging stations, food trucks, a mini Walgreens, and hot showers for a minimal cost to dirty campers.
Sunshine closed out the festival with an amazingly energetic set from Girl Talk, followed by the festival’s headliner The Black Keys, who drew in arguably the largest crowd and rewarded them with stellar performance.
Dover International Speedway will again play host to the Firefly Music Festival in 2013. A limited number of three-day passes are currently on sale on their official site for a discounted price. Given the fact that wristbands and camping passes sold out this year, opting in now may not be such a bad idea. It would be a shame to be shut out of all the 2013 fun!