Firefly Music Festival took place for the sixth time from June 15 to 18. Held in The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, the four-day festival spans a diverse range of artists, food and festivities. Centered around an outdoor camping theme, the festival encapsulates seven different stages spread across green expanse and woods with names like “Backyard Stage,” “The Porch” and “Lawn Stage.”
As a first-time Firefly attendee but frequent festivalgoer, I had high expectations for the music (such a crazy-good lineup), but minimal expectations for my overall enjoyment relative to other festivals. The location — in Dover, Delaware — falls short of other festival locations that boast dynamic city environments like Vegas, NYC and Chicago.
BUT, the larger concern that was deterring me from the festival was the flashing red flag of “All Ages.” In all honesty, my fear is not of all ages, but of the potential to attract a large number of young teens. No hate — after all, weren’t we all young teens at one point? However, a quick TLDR of generalizations to illustrate my point: The teenage group has a tendency to be 1. Obnoxious; 2. Pushy in crowds; 3. Incapable of handling alcohol…or anything for that matter. While reflecting on Firefly driving home Sunday night, I realized just how incredibly wrong I had been.
Firefly is a true all-ages festival. And for good reasons too.
The lineup featured a spectrum of artists from several eras/time periods. Older, classic artists from Franz Ferdinand to Bob Dylan to The Shins brought out fans that looked to be in their 30s to 50s. Meanwhile, new and upcoming artists like Slushii, Bob Moses and Alan Walker catered to the younger generation. Despite the targeted audience demographics, the magic of it all was how open people were to discovering new music and the sheer universal appeal of music. The latter was true for Weezer’s set, where fans, old and young, showed up and sang all the lyrics to each song. The former, I especially found true at EDM sets; at Illenium and Galantis’ sets, the VIP section was filled with older attendees vibin’ out. It was as if my parents went to a rave, which as odd as that seems hypothetical, is a cool thing to see IRL.
The camping concept
From day one, it was obvious that a big chunk of the festival attendance came not only just for the music, but also for the camping experience. En route to the festival entrance, there were rows of tents, RVs, and premium glamping tents littered along the road. The clothing aesthetic paralleled this as well. People wore hiking/camping clothes, flowy pants and basic tank tops — opting for comfort over style. It was bandanas over flower crowns; drawstrings over fanny packs. Every other person sported tattoos, but not the douchey kind — instead, artfully unique and tasteful.
This properly reflected the overall atmosphere which was one of the most laidback festival experiences I’ve ever had. There was an opportunity at every corner to kick back, relax and enjoy the weather, music, and people. Hammocks, ping pong tables, and custom laser donuts were just a few of the fun engagements that everyone was participating in (specifically, hammocks were a hit with the kids).
The amount of space that stretched across The Woodlands was super effective at crowd controlling and creating a chill environment. People were sprawled out everywhere, sitting on tapestries and laying on the bare ground. I never truly understood why people liked to sit at festivals until Firefly, but sometimes your listening experience is best taken in with a view from afar, your food best enjoyed sitting down and your energy best conserved when you’re not raging out at every set. PSA: a four-day festival is NO JOKE. PSA #2: Your body should NOT challenge the weather A.K.A. burning sun and humidity.
Increasingly, I noticed that the relaxed situation and ample space was especially conducive to children attending. I witnessed a toddler girl jammin’ out to Benny Benassi while her father chilled behind her on the ground. For indie/electro-pop acts like Bleachers and A R I Z O N A, there was enough room to sit and absorb the music from an intimate distance, but also get upfront and dance it out. Even during Chance the Rapper, whose set was undeniably one of the most crowded, no one was pushing and it made the live performance that much comfortable and better.
My belief that Firefly is an openly fun event for all ages was 300 percent validated by the numerous father-child pairings that seemed to be attending for Father’s Day, which fell on the last day of Firefly. Many festivals don’t prove comfortable enough of a setting to encourage family attendance; your parents probably don’t want you to see the things you see and you probably don’t want your parents to see the things they see. Yet, I was both surprised and appreciative of how respectful, appropriate and carefree the crowd was at Firefly while still having fun. It’s a subtle air that you can only pick up on after a few days.
Some performance highlights:
- Chance the Rapper performing old tracks from Acid Rap and Surf + choreographed dance moves with Francis and the Lights
- Muse!!! One of the most electrifyingly captivating performances I’ve ever seen.
- Jared Leto’s acoustic version of “The Kill” (30 Seconds to Mars) and being extra by bringing ~40 audience members onto stage
A few miscellaneous highlights:
- Shoutout to the mac n’ cheese and double chocolate funnel cakes for being the most delicious and fattening food of the weekend
- Cleanest bathroom situation at a festival
- Throwing glowsticks at every beat drop (such a fun visual with hundreds of these in the air)
Seeing firsthand a collective of people of all ages willingly listening to new music with open minds and ears while basking in the simple enjoyment of the moment was wonderfully refreshing in a time where many festivals are becoming overhyped. So, after much deliberation, the verdict is out. Next year, if you’re a parent, consider taking your child to Firefly Festival. And for everyone else, just bring yourself, friends and all of the good energy.