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Firefly Is On The Brink

Of Elite Festival Status

Background image by Jeff Moses and logo retrieved from Firefly Music Festival website.

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Dover, Del., Hosts Four Day Music Festival With All The Bells And Whistles Of The U.S.A’s Mega Festivals Like Coach, Roo, Austin City Limits Thanks To A Community That Embraces The Event Like No Other


By Jeff Moses
Modern Times Magazine

June 23, 2014 — Dover, Del., is not exactly known for its amazing culture, or for an out of this world music scene but for the last three years at least they have been working on changing their reputation. The centerpiece of that reputation adjustment is their three years old four day music festival Firefly.

Even Delaware’s Gov. Jack Markell could not resist making an appearance at his state's biggest party, showing up on Friday afternoon for a press conference in the media compound before he checked out some of the event’s musical acts.

Firefly has done nothing but grow since its July 2012 inception when they attracted 35,000 people to see headliners The Killers, The Black Keys, and Jack White. In 2013, the fest attracted an audience of 60,000 in the third weekend of June 2013 to catch The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers. Then this year they had their biggest turn out to date, bringing in 80,000 people for headliners The Foo Fighters, OutKast, and Jack Johnson.

While it is absolutely true that the festival wave is coming in all over the country with events like Wakarusa in Arkansas, Sasquatch in Washington, Summer’s End in Arizona, and thousands of others, not all of them are attracting upwards of 80,000 people the way Bonnaroo, Coachella, and now apparently Firefly regularly do. But with great festival power, comes great festival responsibility.

Firefly definitely serves a fairly huge niche audience in the presence of those East Coast festival goers who just can’t justify a trip to Tennessee for ‘Roo, or the one’s who aren’t done partying yet and need another weekend long festival. However there are still some pretty big hiccups that the organizers need to work out.

First and foremost, the campsites are entirely too far from the main venue area. Going back to the campsite midday is supposed to be a minor annoyance, not an insurmountable journey, and it’s not even a nice walk. To get to the venue from the main general admission camping area, a festival goer has to walk through the Dover Downs Raceway parking lot, and then over the highway into the campground. These festivals are supposed to take the patron out of the default world, not have them trudging a mile through it every day. Obviously, it’s good to get a little exercise, but a mile from the event gates is fairly ridiculous, and there were even some patrons who were even farther away.

Furthermore, the main venue area felt like a bit of a tight squeeze for 80,000 people and seven stages. Perhaps those in charge should consider a new venue for next year..

The venue also seems to have no natural acoustics as it is mostly flat with nothing for the sound to really bounce off, which created for a lot of acoustic dead zones. Depending on where one chose to stand, it was possible to be within 20 feet of the stage and unable to hear the music at an acceptable level. The difference was most staggering during the Pretty Lights 12:15 a.m. closing set on the backyard stage. One group who positioned themselves in front of the second speaker line — about 75 feet away from the stage — said the bass overwhelmed everything, severely muffling the show. When they moved back behind the speaker line, they were able to enjoy Pretty Lights in all his bass thumping glory.

Festival sets are supposed to be turned up to 11. The sound issues must be worked out to the point that the neighbors can hear the music, in Pennsylvania!

Another issue was the quality of the art installations. It’s great that Firefly actually went and made some, but for the most part they were fairly weak. What seemed like the biggest one, which was located directly inside the gates, was nothing more than stacked up pallets, with Christmas lights woven into them, and a sign that said Firefly. It was beautifully simplistic, and made for a decent photo op, but at $250 a ticket i think a little more can be done about artwork to diversify the landscape.

Fests like Bonnaroo and Coachella have been able to maintain such prominence through years of consistency, and always going above and beyond in setting up their venue areas. If Firefly is hoping to maintain attendance stats like this year they have a lot of work to do.

All that withstanding it was still definitely a great fest. The two headliners I caught, The Foo Fighters, and OutKast were on top of their games. The Foo Fightes, for me at least, were a bit monotonous because essentially all of their songs sound the same. But I could definitely see that if I were a fan of their music the performance would have been magical. It was their first show in about 3 years, and they played all of their platinum hits. Front man Dave Grohl seemed to be in particularly high spirits bantering with the crowd and cracking jokes.

He even channeled his inner Eddie Vedder and took a jaunt into the audience before climbing a control tower with his guitar and rocking a solo from on top of it. He then disappeared for a few minutes to refresh his beer, before getting back on stage.

I thought the closing of the set, which of course included a planned encore, was a bit weak. They emerged on stage with a banner that read “The Holy Shit’s,” and Grohl told the audience they would be playing covers the rest of the night. They hit Alice Cooper’s seminal hit “Schools Out,” David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” and a few others before closing the night with “Everlong.”

OutKast was astonishingly amazing. The rumor was their festival sets hadn’t been going so well because during their hiatus from working together Big Boi spent his time making albums and touring and Andre 3,000 was focusing on other artistic endeavors. But the two ATLiens seemed to have had the rust shaken off and were spry as they were before the hiatus.

Their set included mega hits like “Miss Jackson,” “Rosa Parks,” “Roses,” “I Like The Way You Move,” and “Hey Ya” among about a dozen others and they skipped the encore all together ending on their track “The Whole World.” The stories and banter were on point, and they even brought Sleepy Brown and his velvet pajamas along for the ride. The full live band also added an element to Outkast that I, had never seen before.

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