Review & Photos | Firefly Music Festival | Delaware

Review & Images by: Jake Krolick

Firefly Music Festival :: 6.21-23.13 :: Dover, DE

Filled with a tired sense of love and many good memories from the 2013 Firefly Festival, our impressive 60,000+ crowd scattered in all directions. We had just tucked another successful trip to Dover Delaware under our belts. Considering that this was only the second music festival Red Frog Events had produced, they have seemingly cracked the combination needed for enjoyable times. Everything they learned about the festival last year helped the 2013 festival grow considerably in size and scope, but not in the number of stages. Having only four stages meant you could take in boatloads of music. Between the music, the volume of things to see and do was simply impressive. The arcade was back again stacked with even more old-school video games. Tom’s Shoes staked out an even more massive existence with easily three times the number of artists decorating custom footwear. There were twice the hammocks, silent black and white movies, a new headphone disco, a main stage hot air balloon, and a re-worked woods filled with floating umbrellas. With all these sights wrapping up your imagination in so many ways keeping to the job at hand, seeing music was an enjoyable chore.

A little landscaping went a long way and the work on the area leading through the Porch and Backyard stages with its many picnic tables, planted trees, and grassy sculptures made it a well thought out addition. The food options could have been a bit more desirable, especially for vegetarians, but the beer, oh Dogfish Head you had our hearts in 90 minutes. The brewery was larger than most major sized restaurants. In fact, it was less a brewery and more just a massive air-conditioned circus tent with a bunch of TV banks that made watching people and the hockey game quite entertaining Outside the local beer love, was the corporate sponsor Heineken that could be found absolutely everywhere. There were so many porta-johns on the festival grounds that in three days I waited only once for a stall. Mother Nature shined all three days and she even showered our hot sweaty masses Sunday before sending us home happy and satisfied.

Yes, the eastern seaboard has an honest to God, large scale festival that can rival any out there. It appears that Red Frog and Dover will continue this relationship for the next 10 years. If they continue to hone the site and work out traffic issues we should see the Firefly Festival take its place on the podium next to other top festivals.

It would be hard to start Friday without pointing out the horrendous traffic issues. They could easily be blamed on route 1 and route 13, a nasty combination of two lane highways, traffic lights and tolls. It slowed the start for some and delayed many others. The crowd on the grounds didn’t actually soar to complete numbers until Saturday. If you were in early, then you were luckily treated to a similar size crowd as last year with twice the room to move. Wild Belle set the mood off properly with siblings Elliot and Natalie Bergman sending us sunshine and daydream filled vibes while Natalie slunk around stage hiding under her big black hat as Elliot blasted out the skanky beats of “Happy Home.” They translated their album Isles’ songs into deeper grooves with brassier moments that helped the slow growing crowd shed the world outside the festival. Django Django had a much cooler start. It took lead singer Vincent Neff and the Wu- Tang tee sporting drummer David Maclean four songs before they changed direction and kicked the crowd in the ass with a bumping version of “Firewater”. They settled on a surf rock vibe mixed with a little Egyptian soul for “Skies Over Cairo” as Maclean pulled off a wicked thrashing on his drum. Dr. Dog sent their love to all from Philadelphia in attendance with a stirring rendition of “Shadow People.” Sam France, Foxygen’s singer and wild front man appeared on stage, saying "I have mental problems, they told me." Only minutes later he scaled the scaffolding on the Porch Stage before dedicating the very '60s sounding rock song, “Shuggie” to James Grandolfini. This was the first of many dedications to the recently deceased actor. Action Bronson had missed his earlier set as he sat in traffic tweeting his frustrations. No worries, the Coffee House was jumping for his 7:00 make-up show. The larger than life white rapper let out his previous frustrations restarting twice due to sound issues before growling out an angry version of “The Come Up.” Since Public Enemy was late to the stage it was also possible to catch Chuck D and Flava Flav covering the infamous album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back.

It was nice to see Dan Kurtz from The New Deal working with Dragonette. If you haven’t caught them yet be ready to try something different. The electro-pop genre may not be my favorite, but lead singer, Martina Sobara was sure easy on the eyes. Anthony Kiedis and the rest of The Red Hot Chili Peppers opened their set with “Around the World,” and before it was over peppered in a splendid version of “Higher Ground” off of 1989’s album “Mother’s Milk.” Earlier in the day Kiedis was involved in a scuffle with a Rolling Stones security guard at the Four Seasons hotel in Philadelphia, Pa. Kiedis alluded to this incident during Firefly, after Michael “Flea” Balzary accidently kicked him on stage. Kiedis remarked “You kicked me as hard as you could in the neck, its ok it’s my karmic day to get hit…”

We started our Saturday with some strong black coffee and Blondfire doing a damn fine cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dream’s.” The crowd had surged to its full size complete with Actor Adrian Grenier aka Entourage’s Vinny Chase hanging in the shade by the time Jim James shuffled across the main stage. He displaying some fancy footwork and a fairly standard festival set save for the spirit he showed during “A New Life” and The New Multitudes cover of “Changing World.” Kendrick Lamar pulled in the largest crowd the Firefly Festival had seen yet on the Lawn stage where no one could kill his vibe as he rattled through most of good kid m.A.A.d City. The choicest cut of his set hit like a prize fighter as “Money Tree’s” > “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” make our necks snap back and our arms jump.

Saturday was humid, but the breeze kept blowing up creating little pockets of energy. If you opted to skip out on Alabama Shakes and Edward Sharpe you snatched up a stellar laid back section of music over on the Porch and Backyard’s stages starting off with Michigan’s Lord Huron who gave a sleeper set. The band showed they had teeth placing some emphasis on the harder moments of the music while Ben Schneider really dug into the guitar as he jammed out a heavy version of “Time To Run.” Chvrches lit up the afternoon with a hazy moody electronic set adorned with Lauren Mayberry’s distinct vocal style.

Crystal Fighters blew our smallish crowd away with energy and pizazz as a lively sequined vested Sebastian Pringle led the Crystal Fighters through crafty versions of “Plage” and “You and I”. This band was such a treat to watch and I was thrilled to hear the table next to me rave about them latter at the Dog Fish Head brewery. On the way to the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s set we swung near the Lawn stage where Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were finishing their set with “Home”. Every single person from food and beer vendors to security staff were singing along to the song. Like it or not that song is in the lexicon of music forever burned into our brains. Over at the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Karen O was dominating the stage with raunchy microphone placements (she shoved it in her pants), a crowd filled with an unimaginable grouping of props and another massive dedication of the song “Maps” to the late James Gandolfini. Karen’s dancing during “Phenomena” was rivaled only by the amount of fan held props as she thrusted out her pelvis with some James Browne style moves. The odd assortment of items held up by audience members continued to grow with a picture of Kevin Bacon's head attached to a body made of bacon, a large boat life preserver, and a giant photo of James Gandolfini’s head. Before the set ended Karen led the crowd through a highly feisty version of “Gold Lion” complete with an extended intro and wilder dancing.

“Where are all the Firefly’s?” remarked one younger patron. She had her answer as a fan painted head to toe in green with a stack of glow sticks duck taped to his backside jumped out screaming “I’m right here.” These sorts of high comedy interactions were everywhere Saturday evening as Tom Petty's set began with a cover of the Byrds' "So You Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star?" His playing sounded sharp, but was marred by a massive group sing-along. His best moments came during versions of “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and a Travelling Wilburys cover of “Tweeter and the Monkey Man.” The Brewery was a perfect place to take in the remainder of Tom Petty’s show. From here Petty appeared larger than life on the HD screens flanking the main stage. Plus, the sing-along that was going down was drowned out by the distance between the brewery and stage. Late night Tom Evan’s celebrated his 25th birthday with a bottle of champagne and a bunch of old college buddies. They all knew him before he became half of the DJ mash-up force known as the White Panda. The White Panda set was dominated with a sea of dancing fans and mash-ups of John Mellencamp and Run DMC. Saturday evening’s party didn’t end there as it raged into the early morning at the red bull stage and around the camps.

For a second year we lucked out with some amazing bands playing Sunday to small crowds while most slept in. The afternoon rain was a godsend breaking the humidity with two drenching rain storms. Delta Rae started the showers with the apropos version of “Bottom of the River.” Before the rain ended one of the best shows of the whole festival began with The Last Bison playing their hearts out to the soaked crowd. Virginia’s answer to the Fleet Foxes brought the house down with amazing versions of “Switzerland” and a remarkable cover of M83’s “Midnight City.” Matt and Kim were charismatic and dirtier than ever as Matt Introduced Kim as his band mate and person he had sex with. Kim volleyed back by removing her bra and playing semi-topless for the set. Beach balls filled the air as the duo led the crowd through the largest dance party in the final leg of the festival. The Lumineers were a no show due to medical conditions. Ben Harper and Charlie Musslewhite filled in for the missing band. This devastated some fans, but for others, it was great to hear the new work that Harper has been doing with Musslewhite. These two clearly are deep into a relationship based on music and it translated incredibly well live. Musslewhite and Harper exchanged long meaningful glances, smiles and nods as they rattled through “I don’t believe a Word You Say”, “She Got Kick” and a body shaking version of Led Zeppelin's "When the Levee Breaks.”

LA’s Capital Cities put on a danceable show that would have butted up better near Matt and Kim. The LA band destroyed the funk and jams as they did covered the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive.” Passion Pit simmered out quickly when front man Michael Angelakos ended early because of allergies exclaiming “I just can’t catch a fucking break with this festival.” Foster the People closed the gates by presenting a nice light show and some more sing-along moments highlighted by a decent "Helena Beat" and an EDM take on their hit "Pumped Up Kicks" ending with singer Mark Foster bounding across the stage banging a cowbell.

As a whole The Firefly Festival met all expectations and blew some away. Because it was so successful Red Frog already announced Monday that next year's festival will be held June 20-22.

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[Published on: 6/27/13]

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