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Here’s a sentence I never thought I’d type: Delaware is cooler than it seems. Justify that statement, you demand? Well, okay. For one thing, it’s America’s first state, which seems like it should count for something. The state has no sales tax (which is rad), but it does have Capriotti’s, the sub shop that basically invented the Thanksgiving sandwich (aka the Bobbie, which is even radder). Mostly, though, Delaware’s coolness quotient is pumped up by the existence of its biggest music festival: Firefly.
Feeling that festival itch right about now? You can scratch it at StubHub, the online ticket-selling marketplace that has the inside line on the summer’s best and brightest music festivals. Right now, you’re just a couple of clicks away from scoring three-day passes for sets from Travis Scott, Panic! At the Disco, Vampire Weekend, and more, as well as camping passes that’ll turn a long weekend into a music-filled odyssey worth blogging about (remember blogs?).
Here’s the thing, though. Part of what makes Firefly so cool to begin with is the fact that it flies blissfully under the radar. As major festivals from Coachella to Bonnaroo grow to unsustainable excess or spoil with the formula that made them popular to begin with, Firefly keeps its equation simple: excellent music plus easygoing camping plus an idyllic wooded setting (times the occasional explosion of glowsticks) equals the best East Coast festival that hardly anyone seems to be talking about. Well, except us right now.
On the off chance you’re still not convinced, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 biggest reasons to get hyped about the 2019 edition of Firefly. Whether you want to catch Post Malone’s first year as a headliner or dine with Saved by the Bell or explore Delaware’s surprising musical history, you’ll be planning your trip with StubHub before I can even finish this sen… dang. Lost another one.
01. Vampire Weekend (and Everyone Else from the Aughts)
Between Vampire Weekend’s third No. 1 record in a row and last month’s sold-out blog rock lovefest in Long Beach, it feels pretty safe to say that we’re in the grips of a minor outbreak of aughts-derived indie nostalgia. Attendees at Firefly can get their fix and then some; in addition to catching one of Vampire Weekend’s handful of American festival dates in support of Father of the Bride, they’ll also catch sets from acts including Death Cab for Cutie, Dashboard Confessional, and a resurgent Passion Pit (who’s currently in the midst of a yearlong celebration of the 10th anniversary of debut album Manners).
02. Courtney Barnett (And Other Rad Ladies)
The women of Firefly produced many of the records that wound up on our Top 50 Albums of 2018; in a single weekend, you can catch standout styles including the confessionalism of Snail Mail (No. 22; Lush), the agitated Aussie rock of Courtney Barnett (No. 27; Tell Me How You Really Feel), and the dreamy Swedish pop of Lykke Li (No. 48; So Sad So Sexy). Throw in additional sets from acts like Hop Along, Rubblebucket, and the legendary TLC, and you’ll soon discover way more powerful female voices than the festival’s top line would suggest.
03. Post Malone in the Headliner’s Slot
Well, this day’s been written in the face tattoos ever since Post Malone outdrew just about everyone during his late-evening appearance at Lollapalooza last year. Now, it’s officially come to pass: the man whose fashion sense we once compared to “those old square mirrors you won for popping balloons at a mid-’90s carnival” has officially reached festival headliner status. After adjusting to life at the top of the bill at Bonnaroo the weekend prior, you can bet the man behind songs like “Rockstar” and “Psycho” will be ready to deliver … whatever it is he delivers to Firefly’s awaiting fans.
04. Saturday’s Small-Text Hip-Hop
Travis Scott and BROCKHAMPTON will get the lion’s share of the hype (and rightly so; I mean, have you heard Iridescence lately?), but beneath those big-font acts lies a boatload of rising hip-hop talent that we’re jazzed to see in any setting (festival or otherwise). If you’re planning your Saturday, we suggest you do so around sets by Chicago’s own SABA (owner of our No. 3 record of 2018), Baltimore beat tinkerer JPEGMAFIA, and British provocateur Little Simz (whose single “Boss” should be permalocked into your pump-up playlist from now until doomsday).
05. Firefly Eats (And Then Some)
Every festival has food and drinks, but not every festival has Saved by the Bell-inspired cheeseburgers. That’s right: after high-profile stints in Chicago and Los Angeles, the vaunted Saved by the Max pop-up restaurant will make its one and only festival appearance of 2019 at Firefly. If that’s not your definition of tubular (Zack Morris said tubular, right? It’s been so long), the festival’s other dining options might be; plunk down $99 for a reserved seat at the Woodlands Supper Club to explore a rustic spin on haute cuisine by Philadelphia chef Alex Garfinkel, or explore a robust vendor list that includes festival favorites such as Wicked Maine Lobster, Ozark Mountain Biscuit Co., and Island Noodles.
06. Exclusive Dogfish Head Beer
Whether you have a brew every now and then or spend nights out min-maxing your Untappd account, it’s pretty hard to turn down the opportunity to try a beer that’s inspired by the music festival you’re currently attending. Such is the temptation at Firefly, where attendees can sample pours of Firefly Ale from the brewmasters at Delaware’s legendary Dogfish Head Brewery. Inspired by the festival’s laid-back vibes (as well as English-style pale ales), the official beer of the Firefly got a tropical update last year thanks to a fan vote that saw coconut flower nectar and guava puree added to the traditional mix. What’s in store for the 2019 edition? We know just the place to find out.
07. Firefly After Dark
With a name like Firefly, you might expect the festival to have something extra special in store for the hours after the sun goes down. If so, you get full marks; Firefly’s grounds mimic the bioluminescence of the fest’s namesake bug in fun (and sometimes breathtaking) ways. Sling your hammock up in The Nook for a comfortable view of the headliners’ laser shows, or amble into the woods amidst the light-up art of The Pathway, which leads to the untold treasures of the Firefly Bazaar (a new addition for 2019).
08. Glowstick Set
Speaking of actual fireflies: one of the festival’s most enduring fan-led traditions involves the impromptu light swarm created when thousands of attendees all bust out their own glowsticks during the same set. (It’s the kind of spectacle that prompted Deadmau5 to declare Delaware “the glowstick capital of America” during his 2016 set.) This being an organic kind of flash mob, there’s no complete consensus on which performer gets the honor this year; a quick peek at the festival’s subreddit suggests that early contenders include Zedd, Kygos, and DJ Snake, so be prepared.
09. See Delaware Right
Part of Firefly’s undeniable charms come from its camping culture, but the festival offers another added bonus for anybody interested in exploration outside of the festival grounds. For just $49, festivalgoers can snag unlimited weekend rides from the Visit Delaware Shuttle Program, which runs to and from locations including the heart of Wilmington, the campus of the University of Delaware, and the state’s southern beaches of Rehoboth, Dewey, and Bethany. Whether you’re searching for college-town charm or a sandy Atlantic getaway, these buses (which run multiple times throughout each festival day) are an easy way to broaden your lodging options and turn a simple festival trip into a statewide adventure.
10. Learn Some Music History
Okay, so it’s probably a stretch to say that without the Victrola, there’d be no Post Malone, but it’s not a stretch to say that the last century of popular music might’ve looked very different if not for the efforts of Dover’s own Eldridge Reeves Johnson. Before heading to the festival on Friday or Saturday, pay homage to the man who made records possible (or, at least, popular) with a visit to the Johnson Victrola Museum. Admission is free, which makes it an easy way to learn about Delaware’s pre-Firefly musical history.
Buy tickets to Firefly Music Festival here.