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Festival Review: CoS at Firefly 2012

on July 24, 2012, 10:38am
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 Festival Review: CoS at Firefly 2012

America’s East Coast hasn’t had the greatest luck with multi-day music festivals. Remember Vineland? All Points West? Sure, upstate New York plays hosts to plenty of jam-band and electronica festivals, and NYC has CMJ and Governors Ball-type events, but none of those are really in the same league as, say, Coachella or Bonnaroo. Companies that try to build the next “destination festival” northeast of the Virginias always seem to struggle, so for Red Frog Events to call Firefly Music Festival “the East Coast’s premiere music experience” even before its Delaware gates opened for the inaugural outing showed either a ton of confidence, or severe hubris.

Things looked uncertain one week out; forecasts called for thunderstorms through the first two days, and one of the fest’s highest-billed acts, Passion Pit, canceled their appearance. But Mother Nature kept her potential tantrum to some mild pouting, and Yeasayer stepped up as a worthy substitute for PP. Friday’s rain may have kept attendance down, but crowd control was always well-managed, with attendees snaking through gates like at amusement park rides seeming to prevent the jammed funnel effect that often plagues entrances to ‘Chella or ‘Roo. No more than two acts were ever playing at once, and the stages’ close proximity to each other kept walking down while an alternating schedule and the setting’s natural barrier of trees prevented sound bleeding. Port-a-johns a plenty meant little waiting there, however minimal food options (the best was actually found in the camping area – hello gastroPod!) and water filling stations did lead to some impatient sighing.

firefly fest 6 Festival Review: CoS at Firefly 2012

Lack of dietary options wasn’t the only hiccup the festival experienced. Though the staff and volunteers were incredibly courteous, they started out pretty clueless. “We may have the volunteer shirts on,” one young lady told me when I asked where the nearest water station was, “but we have no idea.” Many vendors weren’t given any money for change until well after gates had opened. Security didn’t know what to do with VIPs or media, and it often changed depending on who you asked. By day two, the wristband RFDI chip scanners came out, and things began to run more smoothly, but inconsistencies and policy changes persisted through Sunday. And then there was sound. Everyone from J. Roddy Walston to Jack White experienced some sort of sound issue. Whether it was a mic turned off, a terribly uneven mix, or instruments being entirely muted, no one was safe from some sort of audio inadequacy.

Then again, Red Frog is young. Firefly is young. Every baby bumps his head now and then. What makes you strong is how you carry yourself with all your bruises, and Firefly did a fine job. The crowd mixed happily, relaxing in the Hammock Hangout or shooting skee-ball in the Arcade. Bands, many of which attested to never having played in Delaware before, seemed to enjoy their time in the First State, as well. Wayne Coyne could be seen taking a ride on one of the on-site hot air balloons, while Michael Franti & Spearhead, Grouplove, Young the Giant, and others squared off in a pickup soccer match backstage. Save for some first-year jitters, the inaugural edition of Firefly was a highly promising one. Here’s hoping it can keep its fire burning bright enough to return next year for another round.

-Ben Kaye
Assistant News Editor

Photography by Ben Kaye.

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Capt P
July 25, 2012 at 3:31 pm

I ended up going Saturday only (Friday wasn’t really an option and we figured Sunday wasn’t worth it- esp since we had a 7 hour drive home). For a first year fest, it was really fantastic. Incredibly well organized, superb line up, no lines for anything (except for water once), and prices in range with what I’ve come to expect at festivals. With the amount of bands/stages they had I liked the 2 at a time set up, but if they add more stages next year they should really stagger it up more. (though the ‘leave a show 20 mins early to set up at the next stage’ tactic worked wonders every time.)

Another small complaint would be the lack or originality- though honestly that’s more to do with it being a first time and not really knowing how the crowd would react to everything. The coolest things were the hammock forest (which I’ve seen stuff very close to before) and the custom Doghead beer just for the fest (which was pretty sweet). If the hot air ballons were free you could add them to list as well. The stages were really generic looking, and they didn’t really play at all into the “east coast fest” nearly as well as they should’ve.

Unless they jack up the prices or have a shitty line up I will probably come back next year for the full weekend- either camping or staying with my aunt in NJ.

Jimmy Prettyman
July 24, 2012 at 5:58 pm

I would like to start by saying hi to Ben Kaye, who I had the pleasure of meeting on Sunday. Great guy and very knowledgeable about music.
I had an amazing time at Firefly. I even got engaged to my long time girlfriend on Saturday during Charles Bradley’s performance.
Even though there were only about 5 varieties of food vendors I found the quality to be above average for festival food. The burgers were delicious, the loaded nachos were definitely loaded with flavor, and the southern-style chicken strips with sweet potato fries were surprisingly good for chicken tenders. My fiance had churros every day and loved them. The Dogfish tent was a welcome change to the domestic offerings of most fests and the frozen margarita’s were so stellar I am still thinking about them.
I loved the way Red Frog utilized the space. My one complaint if I had to have one would be that if you stayed in the Dover Downs Casino Hotel like I did then the walk to the festival was a bit brutal. I guess that is a fair trade off to have a room as opposed to a tent. Everyone at the hotel was very friendly and helpful. I highly recommend it to anyone heading to Firefly next year.
Now for the music. Every act I got to see perform really did a great job. John Legend was the highlight of the night for me on Friday night, though Bass Nectar was a close second. The energy during his set was as ridiculous and we literally danced for it’s entirety. We actually danced so hard we had nothing left for Jack White and had to leave without seeing him play. Our Saturday started out great with Imagine Dragons and just got better from there.Charles Bradley sang his heart out and set the stage perfectly for my proposal and the crowd around us when it she said yes made the moment extra special with cheering and congratulations from all around. A part of me really hope Charles himself saw it because I know he would appreciate my timing. We were so giddy the rest of the day but somehow still managed to catch some more great performances including The Knocks, Chiddy Bang,Trampled By Turtles(who we loved), and Lupe Fiasco. The Killers closed out the night with fireworks and poppy rock. They weren’t bad but certainly not my favorite of the day. Sunday may have been my favorite day but it would be hard to pick a favorite. Lower Case Blues started the day off and set the bar pretty high with an exceptional showing. J Roddy Walston was a wild man and really got everyone going. It was the first time I had heard him and I loved it. Bombay Bicycle Club is a favorite of mine and they did not disappoint. The highlight of their show was definitely the Irish Folk/Bluegrass sounding tune they did. It got people going crazy for sure. We went to get some food and a seat for a while since it was kinda hot and we were pleasantly surprised by El Mariachi Bronx. What a great collection of musicians. I really enjoyed how engaging the lead singer was. He was humble and hilarious,constantly making jokes about himself and his band mates. Tinie Tempah was next up to bat and knocked it out of the park like your favorite clean up hitter. He put on a rocking performance!! The bass was booming when he dropped some drum and bass on the unsuspecting crowd and the energy level instantly reached insanity. This old timer was ready for a rest in the Hammock Hangout after his performance for sure. We headed over and checked out about 30 minutes of Girl Talk before going to secure our spot for The Black Keys. We learned from Saturday nights headliner that if you wanted to be close you had to be early and it was no different on Sunday. We got to the Firefly stage over an hour early and still couldn’t get closer than about 10 rows back. It was packed but we secured our spot and met plenty of hard core Black Keys fans like ourselves. This was our third time seeing them in 2012. lol. The boys were amazing as always and put on another smashing show.
After a long walk back to the hotel we were on our way. Traffic wasn’t bad at all getting out of there and we were back in Virginia in no time, reflecting on our amazing weekend with smiles across the board!!!
Ben Kaye…It was great to meet you sir. We appreciated all the congrats and good times with you and your friends. Hopefully I will see you next year and it will be even better than the first go round. Just look for the big yellow Frisbee!! lol

Marci Wishner
July 24, 2012 at 8:10 pm

hey jimmy!!! awesome that you found Ben’s review… it was great meeting you over the weekend! I hope you and your fiance are enjoying and decompressing from what clearly was an unforgettable weekend for you both… congratulations again!

Jimmy Prettyman
July 26, 2012 at 11:19 am

Thank you again for the congrats and it was awesome meeting you guys as well. We are extremely thankful for all the great people like you that we met and got to share the special weekend with. That made it all 100 times better!!!
See ya next year!!!! =)

July 24, 2012 at 3:59 pm

I thought this festival was incredibly well run- clean, safe and excellent sound minus a couple (literally, a couple) snafus which I personally only heard about and didn’t experience. The staff was polite and friendly and the line-up was amazing. So little time was wasted in lines, both camping and on the festival grounds! Beer prices were low and the Dogfish Head selection was great!

July 24, 2012 at 1:50 pm

Show me a concert and ill point out sound issues. Everyone had a blast and the water lines were 20you minutes longer but I waited no longer than five minutes for food and beer it was a tremendous experience far better than bonnaroo a decade ago.


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