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Firefly's 2013 Edition Reached New Heights

posted by Maressa Levy on June 25, 2013

Photo: Alex Ebert of Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros at Firefly 2013 by Laura Baker-Finch

Dover, Delaware -- We packed up and headed to Firefly's sophomore installment last weekend, where we spent three days taking in performances from Red Hot Chili Peppers, Haim, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and so many more. Despite traffic and Sunday's intermittent sudden downpours, the weekend's act were worth hours on the road and one wet afternoon. Scroll down for our day-by-day experiences, and head to our Firefly Photo Gallery for our favorite shots from the festival.

Day One

I was unsure what to expect as I packed my bags for the weekend, excited to head to Delaware for Firefly's sophomore edition. After a successful first run, I couldn't wait to see what the festival's second year had in store. One parking ticket later, we were on the road.

We alotted plenty of time for the three hour drive, planning to get into the fest at around noon to allow for an afternoon interview. The drive went smoothly until we got to Delaware, where we ran into traffic. Thinking it would be a short holdup as cars and campers entered the grounds, we weren't discouraged - then an hour in traffic turned into two, which turned into three. Finally, eleven hours after leaving New York, we pulled into the parking lot, having missed our interview as well as the majority of the first day's bands.

We headed into the festival grounds to pick up our press badges and make our way to the stages. Festival organizers Red Frog Events were very apologetic upon hearing about our travel trouble, stating that although they had learned a lot since last year, the city of Dover was still catching up. We walked through the gates and headed straight to the media tent to charge our phones, which were depleted from navigation, before taking a quick survey of the grounds and catching the end of Grizzly Bear's set on the Backyard stage. Post Grizzly Bear, we headed back to the tent to prep for one of my most anticipated performances - Red Hot Chili Peppers.

I've been a fan of RHCP since high school, as liking the band is a sort of right-of-passage for Floridian youth. I had seen the band last year at Lollapalooza, but standing ankle-deep in mud surrounded by 16-year-olds on molly tends to put a damper on your experience. This time, all the conditions were right - I had a great spot stage right, the air was cool but not cold, the moon was full, and the excitement was palpable as life-long fans and newcomers alike crowded Firefly's Main Stage. The band exploded onto the stage, plunging into their intro jam before seguing into "Around the World," followed by their 2006 hit "Dani California."

Bassist Flea, known for hamming it up with crowds, and guitarist Josh Kinghoffer played a killer breakdown together following "Under the Bridge," leaning into each other in a premeditated jam that seamlessly flowed into fan favorite "Californication" from their eponymously named 1999 album. After a few tracks off of their more recent albums "I'm With You" and "Stadium Arcadium," the band launched into their cover of Stevie Wonder's "Higher Ground." The band ended with "By the Way" before leaving the stage for the first time, returning quickly to the crowd's cheers for an encore. I left The Woodlands to the sounds of "Sir Psycho Sexy," exhausted from the journey and still in for a drive to our hotel.

Day Two

We got to Firefly Saturday afternoon and headed through the campsite and into the festival just in time to watch the tail end of the Japandroids set before catching ZZ Ward and heading to the Coffee House Stage's backstage to sit down with Eric James and Mason Ingram, the Brooklyn-based duo that is The Last Royals (stay tuned for the interview). After listening to a bit of Kendrick Lamar's performance, we walked back to the Coffee House to hear The Last Royals live, where fangirls danced in the front of the intimate venue, hopping in time to the group's upbeat tracks. Lead singer James crooned his way through tracks "Winter Waltz" and "Wake Up," with drummer Ingram beating out the rhythm in time to James' guitar riffs. After an enthusiastic (if short) set, we made a quick stop at Alabama Shakes before a trip to The Lawn Stage for Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a performance I was eager to see.

Led by Alex Ebert, the 11-person group that is Edward Sharpe and the Magenetic Zeros poured onto the stage Saturday afternoon. Reminiscent of The Polyphonic Spree, it's tough to pick just one genre for the band, which pulls inspiration from folk, rock, bluegrass, and psychedelic artists. Ebert had no problem keeping the crowd engaged, even climbing the barrier at one point to interact with fans and perform amidst the crowd. The band made its way through "Janglin" and "40 Day Dream" before launching into their hit "Home" off of their 2009 album Up From Below.

We headed to The Porch Stage toward the back of the festival grounds for Crystal Fighters, a band I hadn't heard of until that morning. The British/Spanish act is part alternative, part dance, and a lot of fun. Still riding the wave of their May 2013 sophomore effort Cave Rave, the six-piece band is led by Sebastian Pringle, who graced the stage in a silver-sequined and black dress over what appeared to be black leggings.

During their set, Pringle announced the show would be their last in the US, as the group's next performance is set for this weekend in Paris, France. Fighters started with electronic-inspired track "Solar System" before launching into alternative-esque track "Champion Sound," which harks back to their origins with the line "And maybe one day we'll go to rehab / Or back to Argentina, it's not that far away / Any day now." While the crowd started off small, I turned around mid-way through the first track to see festivalgoers literally running toward the stage, eager to get a listen to the quirky group. Ebert plucked at his ukelele as he sung, joining the myriad unique instruments the band utlized, including a txalaparta, or wooden instrument reminescent of a xylophone, a danbolin, or type of snare drum, and a txistu, or Basque pip whistle.

Next up were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, a band I'd been looking forward to all day. Lead singer Karen O has a unique sound and an even more unique performance style, which was immediately apparent as she walked on-stage wearing a zebra-striped shirt, sneakers, and a bedazzled red suit complete with fringe. On her head, she sported a headband/hat hybrid that simply stated "YEAH." From the moment she graced the stage, I knew I was in for a killer show.

The band opened with "Sacrilege," the first single off of their 2013 release Mosquito, while Karen instigated the crowd as only she can; fans shrieked and cheered as she gyrated and jumped, spitting water into the air like a fountain before collapsing against an amp, sensually rubbing against it. After a handful of newer tracks, including the track that lends their latest album its name, the band played through their older hits, including "Maps" and "Heads Will Roll." Karen left the stage to the crowds disappointment, but came back on to perform "Despair," for which the video was released yesterday. Before leaving the stage once more, Karen pulled the mic down her shirt and into her pants, unbuttoning them to pull the mic out before swinging it around like a lasso and walking off stage. Although it was my first Yeah Yeah Yeahs show, it certainly won't be my last.

Saturday's final act was Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, an artist that began gaining his fame long before many of the fest's attendees were born. Despite the age gap, Petty has shaped the evolution of popular music, and fans swarmed the stage to see the icon perform. Petty spoke to the crowd, promising to get through "as many songs as time allowed." After powering through "Love Is a Long Road" and "I Won't Back Down," Petty delivered a fiery rendition of Big Joe Williams' track "Baby, Please Don't Go," immediately launching into "Mary Jane's Last Dance" and "Free Fallin'." We left the festival soon afterward to fit in some much needed rest before the festival's last day.

Day Three

In the endurance sport of music festivals, Sunday was a marathon. The earliest of our three days, we headed to the festival before the main gates opened for an interview with singer/songwriter LP, formerly known as Laura Pergolizzi. After a hilarious and entertaining interview with the songstress (which will be up in the coming weeks), we went to check out The Last Royals once again, this time on the larger Porch Stage. During the band's first track, the sky opened up, and it started to pour. Despite the rain and the 1pm set time, this was one of my favorite moments of the festival; dancing in the rain to a newly-discovered band is what festivals are all about, and given the amazing weather we'd had the first two days, I wasn't discouraged by the downpour. As the band played the first chords of "Good Day Radio," the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, and the rain was over as suddenly as it had started.

Following The Last Royals, we walked over to see California-based Haim, and act I've been trying to see since I heard their catchy indie pop track "Don't Save Me." I was anticipating an incredible performance, and Haim didn't disappoint. Comprised of sisters Este, Danielle, and Alana Haim, the trio had amazing chemistry with each other as well as with the crowd, which was immediatly apparent. While middle sister Danielle jammed out on the guitar, stopping to incorporate drums into the mix at times, Este played bass and Alana, the youngest Haim, covered rhythm guitar, some percussion, and keyboard. At one point, Alana commented on the crowd's hats, asking the audience to throw her one. Someone obliged, sending her up a cool graffiti-covered cap. Danielle and Este were quick to follow, winding up with a fisherman's hat and a too-small straw hat, respectively. Each sister had a distinct style; while oldest sister Este was clothed in a patterned skirt and crop top with her signature red lipstick, Danielle wore all black, complete with a leather vest. Alana's outfit could have doubled for beach attire, with her tiny black shorts and loose sleeveless shirt. The girls continued to jam out in their signature, hair-flipping style, powering through hits "Falling" and "Forever."

LP was next up, performing on the Firefly Stage to a swarm of fans. LP emerged in a baby blue three-piece suit over a black and white t-shirt, zebra-print socks peeking out from her classic leather shoes. She started with "Levitator," singing the chorus with her impossibly strong, clear voice and broad range, plucking her ukelele in unison. As she launched into "Wasted Love" the rain began once again, this time accompanied by thunder. In between tracks, LP chatted amicably with the crowd, evoking laughter at her witty outbursts. Although we had to take cover to save our camera equipment from ruin, we enjoyed "Into The Wild" (best known for being featured on a Citibank commercial) from a nearby tent, where we took a lunch break.

After exploring a bit more of the festival grounds and playing a game dubbed "Stick" with some muddy teenagers in the Hammock Hangout, we headed to The Lawn to take in Dispatch, a surfer/stoner rock act I've loved for years. The group played through all the favorites, from their most recent material off of their 2012 release Circles Around The Sun to their classic tracks off of 2004's Bang Bang, mixing up their hit "Out Loud" with a "Mrs. Robinson" tag. The highlight of the show was when the band brought a toddler out on stage, who clambered around in giant headphones pushing buttons and dancing. After a solid set, the band retreated backstage, coming out to perform a few more tracks before they ended their performance for good.

Our last performance of the fest was Vampire Weekend, who released their latest album Modern Vampire of the City just two months ago. Lead singer Ezra Koenig was met by screams as he walked on stage, opening with "Cousins" off of their 2010 album Contra. New releases "Diane Young," "Hannah Hunt," and "Everlasting Arms" were met with crowd fervor, and as we walked back to the media tent to organize our gear and start the drive home, I had a smile on my face, humming "Diane Young" as I walked.

Traffic aside, I was thrilled with my first Firefly experience, and I'm eagerly awaiting the fest's 2014 edition, which will take place June 20-22. Following the success of this year's edition, festival organizers and Dover International Speedway, where cars are parked and some campgrounds are set up, have reached a ten-year agreement granting organizers exclusive rights to the festival grounds as a music venue. Tomorrow, June 26, at 9am EST a limited quantity of pre-sale tickets will go on sale for $198.

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See Also:

Photo Gallery: Firefly's Sophomore Edition
Music Monday Playlist: Firefly 2013
The Inaugural Firefly Festival: A Success Story