The first annual Firefly Festival kicked off in Dover, Delaware on Friday, July 20th 2012.
The three day camping festival at Dover International Speedway featured four stages of music, food, drinks (including beer and wine gardens), VIP areas, hot air balloon rides, fireworks, after parties, and one hell of a good time.
The camping lots opened at 6am Friday morning as cars lined up hoping to get some premium spots for their tents and RVs. Many fans also helped sell-out numerous hotels in the Dover area and of course there were those who attended single or multiple days without accommodations.
While it was impossible for us to see every single band/act that we wanted to, Firefly did an excellent job of scheduling the stages to make it easier than most festivals to catch as many as possible. At the end of each evening, the main stage was the only one still running, leaving no one competing against the headliners.
Let’s break down our highlights of Firefly Festival on a daily basis. You can click on the headings to see the full photo gallery broken down into groups for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The doors opened at 2pm on Friday with the music kicking off 30 minutes later. Although the camping lots were well handled by staff, making it a fairly easy process to check in, it took us a while to get our tents set up and everything squared away before a light rain began to fall.
We managed to make it inside the Festival by 5pm in time to catch Mayer Hawthorne. John Legend was up next on the main stage and put on a great performance.
The biggest highlights of the first day came next as Dubstep icon Bassnectar threw down a dirty 75 minute DJ set
that had fans going crazy in the rain.
As the bass drops ended, the rain drops did not. That didn’t stop Jack White from closing out Friday on the main stage in grand fashion. While we prefer the sounds of the White Stripes, White still put on a memorable show.
The festival gates opened at 11am on Saturday and we were up early to catch Imagine Dragons at 1145am. There is a ton of buzz surrounding this rock outfit from Las Vegas and it was easy to see what all the hype was about. We wouldn’t be surprised to see these guys on the Main Stage by next year.
From there we moved to the Main Stage to catch the Felice Brothers but their country-esque sound wasn’t really our cup of moonshine tea and we headed back to the Backyard Stage to see Charles Bradley.
Bradley’s modern day James Brown style act is extraordinary and really set the table for the rest of our amazing day.
At 230pm we took in Michael Franti and Spearhead. Franti is one of the most charismatic performers around and his high-energy sets and liberal social commentary are second to none. Franti danced around stage (barefoot as always) and ventured out into the crowd more than once. With news of the tragedy in Colorado (a mass shooting in the new Batman movie) on everyone’s mind, Franti addressed the situation, “It’s crazy to live in a country where it’s illegal to possess marijuana, but you can own an assault rifle.” Amen to that.
The Lawn Stage hosted Grouplove next and we were there to catch it. It was our first time seeing Grouplove and true to their name, we loved it. With multiple vocalists and musicians their rock sound is upbeat and fresh. It was definitely one of the highlights of not only Saturday, but the entire festival.
This was one point where we felt a scheduling conflict as The Knocks were playing at the exact same time on the Backyard Stage so we left Grouplove halfway through their set and walked briskly through the woods to catch the EDM duo’s live performance. The Knocks are fantastic. It was impossible for us to not join the crowd in dancing along to their infectious house-music sound.
Young the Giant was next on our agenda and the Cali rockers took the Main Stage by storm. While, admittedly, we were only familiar with some of their biggest hits, we enjoyed their set immensely. We’ll definitely be checking out more of their music on the intranets.
Chiddy Bang and Cake were both playing next and we opted to chill out at Cake’s set for 30 minutes as our feet needed a rest.
Refreshed, we headed back to the Main Stage to catch Modest Mouse. We were thrilled when Firefly added them to the line-up and we couldn’t help giggle at the image of a hot-air balloon rising behind the stage as they played their hit song “Float Away”.
Passion Pit was one of the acts we were most looking forward to seeing but they had to be replaced at the last minute by Yeasayer who took the stage and actually apologized for not being Passion Pit. They didn’t need to be Passion Pit or anyone else because Yeasayer puts on one hell of a show in their own right. We hadn’t had a chance to catch them since Coachella in 2010 and we loved every minute of their local performance (they hail from Delaware, Maryland, and Philly), forcing us to skip Lupe Fiasco.
The night ended with a blockbuster performance (complete with fireworks) on the Main Stage from The Killers. A massive crowd formed to take in the Las Vegas rockers and Brandon Flowers and company gave everyone their money’s worth. Surprisingly, it was our first time catching The Killers on stage and it was every bit as memorable as we’d expected. You never forget your first time.
As it often happens at festivals, the final day came all too soon. The weather was a bit nicer on Sunday and the gates once again opened at 11am. Our first stop was at the Lawn Stage to catch Penguin Prison which was the perfect way to start our day.
We then bounced between the Main Stage to see The Head and The Heart and the Porch Stage to catch Reptar. We enjoyed both sets but had to conserve energy for what we knew was coming later.
The gauntlet started at 220pm with Awolnation on the Lawn Stage. If you’re only familiar with Awolnation for their song “Sail”, check out some more of their stuff immediately, it’s not what you think. You can thank us later. Their rocking set had fans jumping and crowd surfing (band encouraged).
We’d circled The Cold War Kids as a can’t miss performance on the Main Stage so we made sure we were there before they took the stage. We love these guys. Their rock sound is always in rotation on the Independent Philly iPOD and that won’t be changing anytime soon. They certainly didn’t hang fans out to dry. Thanks to a generous dose of Dayquil, lead singer Nathan Willett’s illness did nothing to affect his vocals.
Tinie Tempah was up next and it was good to get some hip-hop mixed into our day. One of the things we loved most about Firefly was the wide range of musical genres and we wanted to experience as many as possible.
Death Cab For Cutie hit the Main Stage at 615pm and killed it as we agonized about what to do next.
The Flaming Lips and Girl Talk had the exact same set time. This was the biggest failure of the scheduling on Sunday. We caught the first 45 minutes of The Lips to catch the magical fanfare of giant balloons, confetti, smoke, and even a walk across the audience in a giant inflatable hamster ball by front man Wayne Coyne. It’s amazing that after 29 years, these guys still kick out one of the most incredible performances on the planet. It pained us to have to leave early but we knew Girl Talk’s set would be what it always is, one gigantic party.
Gregg Gillis (Girl Talk) mashed up sample after sample as the crowd went absolutely bonkers. Even the promoters, staff members, and media were rocking out and singing along.
The night, and the Firefly Festival, wrapped up in grand fashion with The Black Keys on the Main Stage. In just over a decade, these guys have pumped out album after album and hit after hit. It was truly a pleasure to end three amazing days of music to the sounds of the Keys in a sea of tens of thousands of other music lovers.
Firefly Music Festival was one of the highlights of 2012. It ran very smoothly for any festival (let alone one being thrown for the first time). We were initially surprised that the festival was held in Delaware (as were many of the bands who commented on how strange it felt to say “What’s up Delaware?!” to the audience) but it turned out to be the perfect venue. The place stayed very clean (including the bathrooms), the prices for food/drinks weren’t as high as at other festivals, and the music was out of this world. It’s no surprise that the pre-sale tickets for Firefly 2013 have already sold-out. We can’t wait to see what is in store for next year’s Firefly Music Festival and we hope you’ll join us in Dover next summer.