Firefly Music Festival 2016: A RVA Mag review (Part 2)

by | Jun 30, 2016 | MUSIC

Continuing on with our coverage of the massive Firefly Music Festival that took place in Dover, Delaware two weekends ago, we look at the two major days of t

Continuing on with our coverage of the massive Firefly Music Festival that took place in Dover, Delaware two weekends ago, we look at the two major days of the festival: Saturday and Sunday, where most of the bigger names took the stage.

If you missed RVA Mag’s first half of Firefly coverage, you can check that out here.

But first, I wanted to get into a little more about the overall experience before diving into each artist’s performance.

Festivalgoers had several options to pick from when it came to watching the shows. There was the Backyard Stage which saw some pretty big acts, the Porch Stage and the Lawn Stage where most of the smaller bands and musicians performed. The Pavilion stage seemed to have many of the electronic bands and some cool light show acts.

All of the headliners performed on the massive Firefly Main Stage (seen above), which was right in the middle of the festival site.

Firefly also had smaller venues for a more intimate listening experience. The Coffee House and the Tree House, literally nestled around trees, were all acoustic performances that gave the fans an up close and personal view with some of the smaller acts and even some bigger ones on the bill such as Travis Barker, who packed the Tree House to the point where you couldn’t even get a glance of him pounding on the drums to the beats of various hip hop bangers (unless you’d climbed to the top of one of the trees to look out on to the stage.)

Sweaty people were packed in like sardines to see Blink 182’s drummer perform an intense, hardcore 30-minute session of wailing on the drums ending in him tossing his drum sticks into the crowd. Someone was up on stage rapping and getting the crowd hyped up, but that will remain a mystery to you as it does for me because my view was obscured by a sea of bodies.

We didn’t get a chance to venture over to The Coffee House where rock/blues band Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats performed a smaller, up close and personal set.

To escape the sun, but still here some tunes, music lovers and dance-crazed individuals were lured to go into The Thicket, Firefly’s silent disco, similar to Bonnaroo’s, except the structure was much cooler. Dark, enormous trees surrounded the venue which lit up with neon pinks, yellows and greens at night, with light up globes overhead. It made for the perfect dance atmosphere once you snagged a pair of headphones.

Bodies mashed together and danced to the latest beats as the festival continued on without them. This was one of the most popular sites to be at the festival, especially when the sun went down.

At night, festivalgoers danced the night away and cooled off from the blistering sun and seemed to meld together as one big form in motion together to the beat of the music that no one else could hear.

While music was obviously the reason and center for the festival, Firefly offered up an entire entertainment experience for festivalgoers who were interested in other attractions throughout the day to either escape the 85-degree heat or just for a change of scenery.

Among the attractions were Dogfish Head Brewery, the Delaware-based brewery, which offered Dogfish head brews on site in a bar along side Firefly Ale, a Dogfish Head Pale Ale specially brewed for the festival.

The Market, which worked as a makeshift bazaar, featured over 10 shops, from jewelry to leather purses, to the loungey nest-like hammocks sold by ENO that could be seen strung up anywhere there was a tree available.

A pro-marijuana booth was there urging festivalgoers to come over and check out their vast and vibrant array of bowls and other smoking devices while trying to persuade them to sign a petition to “legalize it.”

For relaxation, tired festiegoers could perch up in a hammock in a dark, thick closed-in wooded glen called the “Hammock Hangout.” None of my crew ever wanted to waste time in there, but it sure looked relaxing and I’m sure a nice place to cool off.

The Beercade was also a fun, air-conditioned alternative to checking out the live shows.

Attendees could go inside and grab a brew, play a number of different video games such as foosball and Dance Dance Revolution, or dance the old-fashioned way next to ginormous speakers as they charged up their phones.

Dining options at Firefly Music Festival I have to say were plentiful and diverse, but not the greatest. And not that any of us expected to feast on escargot, steaks, and flaming desserts, but I don’t think I felt good after any of the meals I had during my three-day experience. The one exception was two tacos from Chipotle which were my only saving grace.

Other than that, hungry festival attendees had the option for Thai, Tex-Mex and American fare such as hot dogs and hamburgers, barbecue, popcorn, fried-everything and a creole place serving up shrimp and alligator po-boys for $15 a pop.

If the festival was good for one thing besides music, you could count on good people watching. People from all walks of life attended Firefly. Young, old, college students, high school students, older couples and the diehard festieheads. And just as the individuals themselves were interesting and diverse, so was the fashion.

Everything from Tune Squad jerseys, to fringe boots, speedos, crop tops and cut off jean shorts, body suits, bathing suits, rompers and everything in between could be seen at Firefly. The high-waisted frayed denim shorts that showed as much ass as possible and lace bra combo seemed to be the trend of the festival.

Guess I’ll know for next time.

The more adventurous attendees also carried around different signs from a Tina Belcher sign, to a giant Yoda head, a picture of Drake making the ugliest face known to man, a dolled-up Donald Trump head on the end of a stick, and the famous leprechaun sketch man.

The vibe was definitely an all-around good time, family like atmosphere. Everyone was super friendly and laid back and shared the same passion for the music that we did.

Now let’s get to the reason you’re reading this review: the music.

On Saturday, we were feeling a little tired, but we didn’t go too hard Friday night so we were able to soldier through and see more bands than the previous day. After a lengthy and complicated walk to the press tent and making our way to the Artist Lounge, we were able to get back on track (tasty free drinks in hand!) and make it to see COIN, a pop-rock quartet out of Nashville.

They were very different, I liked their sound a lot and it was good music to chill and kick back and listen to.

@coin #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

Atlas Genius was next on our group’s list. The Australian group rocketed to fame with their hit “Trojans” and their other breakout hit that was constantly on the radio, “Molecules” off 2015’s Inanimate Objects. Their laid back indie-alternative sound is catchy and something you can bob your head to, but didn’t persuade me to get up and jump around or push my way to the front. They drew a fairly large crowd during the day and seemed to keep the crowd in the mood throughout, so I think there’s definitely a devoted fan base out there, but I wasn’t particularly sold.

Scottish beauty Lauren Mayberry, who leads electronic band CHVRCHES, is simply incredible.

She came out on a stage in a white dress, which was a great contrast to the bleak backdrop. Her sweet voice and emotionally-driven music, which reminds me of 80’s dreampop, is awe-inspiring and you can only watch in amazement as she captivates her audience and pulls them in whether they’re willing or not.

@chvrches #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

Her show was packed end to end with people swaying to the electro beats and the dancey/catchy tracks had the whole crowd moving and shaking. I lost my shit, as the rest of the crowd did, when Mayberry performed “Recover”.

She may be tiny, but don’t be fooled, that voice is larger than life.

@chvrches #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

Almost every single act at Firefly was exactly on time for their set, which was very impressive.

That’s a rarity at a music festival, but it’s much appreciated for fans who spent a ton of money and time to get there to see their favorite performer.

This however, was not the case with New Jersey rapper Fetty Wap. We had one member in our group that was looking forward to him all weekend and the hype that the man would bring who has brought the world “My Way” and other trap bangers.

To my friend’s and most of the crowd’s dismay, Fetty Wap was 35 minutes late to his hour-long set. He had a DJ come out first to get the crowd pumped with his Spotify playlist of different hip hop songs, which worked for the first 15 minutes or so, with everyone dancing and waving their hands in the air. Puffs of smoke created a little canopy over everyone’s heads. After that, the crowd began to grow restless and shout “Bring out Fetty!” Finally, around 7:45 pm, the hip hop artist sauntered on stage shouting out to all his fans, most of whom were already over the waiting.

The younger part of the crowd lost their shit, but I stayed and waited for what he might offer up. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much. You couldn’t understand him, he had another person with him on stage shouting non sense plus he was trying to sing, so it was more cringe-worthy than anything. After 10 minutes, my friend and I parted from the group and moved on to see another act.

Long-running indie band Death Cab For Cutie was definitely an act devoted fans were waiting for as the band has been making music since 1997. The crowd for their show was massive and consisted of giddy-men and women most of which who were near tears. A sea of young and old individuals, some reliving their teen years, others just discovering their music, but still bobbing and moving along and singing every single word.

I was never heavily into them, but their stage presence and guitar playing is undeniable. They still got it and proved they can still perform the old hits with excitement, energy and dedication.

@deathcabforcutie #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

The highlight of Saturday night was definitely the one, the only, Florence and the Machine, who performed on Firefly’s main stage. This indie pop band that hails from London is like nothing I’ve ever heard and there are few acts that can stand up to the power of lead singer Florence Welch’s voice and the stage presence.

Appearing on stage as if sent from above amidst smoke in a long, flowy pale yellow dress with beams of light surrounding her bright red hair, it was almost other-worldly. Opening with “What the Water Gave Me,” her sweet charisma and powerhouse voice sent the crowd into a frenzy.

I’d listened to her music before, but hearing that voice in person gave me chills and almost brought me to tears.

@florenceplusthemachine #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

Many of her songs were very passionate and she sang with such emotion and conviction it made you feel as if you were going through all of the pain, suffering and happiness with her.

Her voice is haunting and it felt more like a spiritual experience than just attending a regular everyday show, with Welch leading us on whatever path she chose. She sang her popular hits “Dog Days Are Over” (a crowd favorite) as she belted out the chorus giving us all hope that our darker days are behind us. Meanwhile,she danced in bare feet from one end of the stage to the other.

She also performed the uplifting “Raise It Up” where the crowd was encouraged to lift up their neighbors and significant others beside them.

Welch commanded, and the crowd followed.

She graciously thanked and interacted with the crowd throughout her entire two-hour set, telling us “how beautiful” we all were and how much love we had inside. Her love and adoration for her fans seemed completely genuine and oftentimes artists forget the reason they are even up on that stage, but Welch did anything but that.

She held the mic out for us to sing parts of her songs, and directed us like a conductor to sing the chorus to “Shake it Out” because her regular choir was unable to join her for the festival. A

bout halfway through her set, the singer jumped between the barricade that divided VIP from the rest of the crowd disappearing among the sea of people and popped back up again on a platform all the way in the back of the area and sang her heart out up there.

One lucky fan in the front row was even serenaded when Welch performed “What Kind of Man” and she stroked his face and touched as many people as she could almost “blessing the people” you could say.

@florenceplusthemachine #fireflymusicfestival

A video posted by Amy David (@amycathd) on

Welch sang a beautiful love ballad called “How Big, How Blue” before revealing to the crowd she wrote the song after falling in love, and once she had, everything around her, she said, she loved just as much. She sheepishly grinned like a little school girl gushing about her first crush as she broke into the soft, sweet song.

The songstress kept moving and dancing the entire time, from leaping to the sounds of the brass instruments that backed her, to spinning about to the soft plucks of the harp strings.

During one particular song, she even broke into this modern ballet-like routine with just instrumentals for probably five minutes. She dramatically collapsed on the stage at what we thought was the end of her set. And as the lights dimmed, Welch came back out for an amazing encore of a few songs with just as much energy and personality.

She performed the song “SPECTRUM” for the victims of Orlando and waved around the rainbow-colored LGBTQ flag running back and forth on stage with it as she loudly and proudly sang the chorus, “Say my name/And every color illuminates/We are shining/And we will never be afraid again.”

#FlorenceWelch's tasteful Orlando tribute at #Firefly2016

A video posted by Lyndsey Parker (@lyndseyparker) on

During a break in the song she chanted “Love is Love is Love” and encouraged the crowd to follow suit. We did, until the words echoed throughout the festival, amplified by a thousand united voices.

This was the band’s last U.S. stop on their tour and man am I glad I had the chance to witness it. It was an unreal experience and an unforgettable one at that.

As we were winding down for the night, we took a break next to the enormous LED art sculpture right in the middle of the festival. Changing from neon green, to red, to yellow, the loopy spectacle was a great meet up place when our group got separated. We nestled up to other weary partiers and listened to the soft and entrancing electronic sounds of St. Lucia playing in the background at the Backyard Stage. They were good to chill to and had a pretty cool light show going as well with different shapes and colors to brighten the darkness.

Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of our Firefly coverage.

Amy David

Amy David

Amy David was the Web Editor for RVAMag.com from May 2015 until September 2018. She covered craft beer, food, music, art and more. She's been a journalist since 2010 and attended Radford University. She enjoys dogs, beer, tacos, and Bob's Burgers references.




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