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The Inaugural Firefly Festival: A Success Story

posted by Laura Baker-Finch on July 26, 2012

  • Jack White
  • Polica
  • GROUPLOVE
  • GROUPLOVE
  • Young The Giant
  • Modest Mouse
  • Yeasayer
  • Bombay Bicycle Club
  • Cold War Kids
  • Fitz & The Tantrums
  • Death Cab For Cutie
  • The Flaming Lips
  • The Flaming Lips
  • The Flaming Lips
  • The Black Keys
  • From July 20-22, 30,000 festivalgoers took over Dover, Delaware, for the inaugural Firefly Music Festival. With a lineup featuring headliners Jack White, The Killers, and The Black Keys, attractions such as an arcade and hot air balloon rides, and a festival ground that lives up to its name The Woodlands, it was hard to imagine Firefly Music Festival not doing well. But reality surpassed all expectations this past weekend as I joined 30,000 fellow fans to brave the rain all in the name of live music. Despite an unappealing location (until within the festival grounds, that is), rain, and unexpected side-of-highway camping – the festival proved it deserves its self-declared description as "The East Coast's Premier Music Experience."

    Head over to our Firefly Facebook album for our full photo gallery of the weekend.

  • Jack White

    After a longer than expected trip from New York City to Dover on Friday, I finally made it into The Woodlands. After a quick drink to forget the drive, a brief tour of the festival grounds, and a few songs from Silversun Pickups, it was time for Jack White - who, despite having seen him earlier this summer at Sasquatch!, was one of my most anticipated acts of the weekend. Despite a rocky start (the first song had major mic problems and “Freedom at 21” sounded as if a capella), the man behind The White Stripes, Raconteurs, The Dead Weather, and a new solo album kept all fans happy even in the rain with songs spanning all four of his major projects – which he played barefoot.

  • Polica

    Ryan Olson and Channy Leaneagh of Polica effortlessly combine dreamy, R&B-inspired vocals with electro-indie synth, bass, and drums. The duo first garnered my interest when Justin Vernon of Bon Iver said of Polica, "They're the best band I've ever heard." Not sure if I'd go as far as Vernon, but their set impressed despite the daylight juxtaposing the darker vibe of their album "Give You the Ghost."

  • GROUPLOVE

    GROUPLOVE delivered the most energetic set on Saturday, maybe even the entire weekend. From the moment they stormed the stage to Kanye's "Monster," through their Whitney Houston cover, to fan-favorite "Colours" that brought their set to a close, you couldn't look away. Their onstage presence resulted in the ultimate crowd dance party; not one person was standing still or silent.

  • GROUPLOVE

    Between the drummer's facial expressions, the singer/guitarist's electric blue hair, and the singer/keyboardist's perfectly spastic dancing, GROUPLOVE was just as enjoyable to watch as they are to listen to.

  • Young The Giant

    Despite only having one studio album under their belt, the guys of Young The Giant, formally known as The Jakes, seemed far from lost up on the Firefly Main Stage Saturday afternoon. Lead singer Sammer Gadhia commanded the stage with his powerful vocals and onstage dancing.

  • Modest Mouse

    Although I had seen them twice beforehand (at Governors Ball and at Splendour In The Grass), Modest Mouse was nevertheless a welcomed last minute addition to the Firefly lineup. The myriad of instruments and musicians on stage - including two drummers - always manage to intrigue and impress despite their lack of movement across the stage. As usual, the group played all their crowd-pleasing hits but with one surprise - "The World At Large," which I've never heard live yet is a personal MM favorite.

  • Yeasayer

    Yeasayer was an extremely late addition to the Firefly lineup - so late, in fact, that they were not included in the schedule. The group, who were in Europe only a few days before the event, were asked to fill in for Passion Pit, who cancelled due to mental health issues. The band paired their self-described "Middle Eastern-psych-snap-gospel" music with intricate lights and a hypnotic, pulsating bass.

  • Bombay Bicycle Club

    The rain haunting Firefly finally cleared by Sunday afternoon, just in time for Bombay Bicycle Club. The London-based quartet played an energetic set that was matched by an even more energetic crowd. Unfortunately I had to leave midway through to head back to my tent and grab a camera charger. But I was at least able to catch favorites "Shuffle" and "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep?" as well as a new track they're trying out on their current tour.

  • Cold War Kids

    After bringing my camera battery back to life, I headed over to the Firefly Main Stage for Cold War Kids. CWK are one of those bands I've been wanting to see for years, so you can imagine my excitement as they played tracks from all their past albums as well as a few they're currently working on in the studio. Although far from disappointed by their sound and song choice, I was expecting more banter and audience engagement from the group.

  • Fitz & The Tantrums

    Fitz & The Tantrums are competing with Grouplove for the most energetic weekend set. As Michael "Fitz" Fitzpatrick exclaimed, "Right here, right now. This is where the motherfucking dance party will begin." the crowd happily obliged; and kept the party going throughout their lively performance. Not only did the group impress with their own songs, but with an impeccably chosen cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics as well, during witch Fitz crowd surfed (the only artists to do so this weekend - besides Wayne Coyne in a hamster wheel of course).

  • Death Cab For Cutie

    Death Cab definitely delivered one of my favorite sets of the weekend - perhaps because I had waited too many years for the chance to see them live or maybe just because they're a talented band seemingly incapable of a bad album. Either way. Death Cab gave a magnetic performance despite frontman Ben Gibbard's sickness; as he admitted to the crowd, "I'm currently on my favorite drug of all time: Dayquil!"

  • The Flaming Lips

    As I walk behind stage to make my way to the photo pit entrance for The Flaming Lips, one fellow photographer asks if I had ever shot the band before. After I declare I had not, he simply gave a telling smile, stating, "you're in for it." And boy was he right.

  • The Flaming Lips

    Wayne Coyne is no stranger to onstage antics or to the unexpected and obscure (this is the guy who made a poster with his own blood, after all) and the Lips' Firefly Performance was no exception. From popping confetti-filled giant balloons to crowd surfing in a giant bubble/hamster wheel - nothing was held back. The surprisingly small crowd (they competed with Girl Talk) didn't take away from the energy or enjoyment; all were mesmerized until the very end of "Do You Realize?"

  • The Flaming Lips

    Coyne's onstage antics also included festivalgoers clad in Wizard of Oz costumes, a massive disco ball, confetti canons, and a microphone camera live-streaming his face on the stage screen.

  • The Black Keys

    In stark contrast to Jack White's dramatic blue-lit setup and The Killers' over the top light show and fireworks, The Black Keys kept things simple onstage - but not when it came to the music. The duo played the majority of their songs with an accompanying band yet also proved they can hold their own live by playing a few tracks alone.

  • In addition to fans and artists alike declaring Firefly Music Festival "the next Bonnaroo," the announcement that the festival will return to Dover in 2013 further proves the inaugural event's success. Until you can experience it for yourself next year, head over to our Firefly Facebook album for more weekend shots.