Written by Nick Hopton
Photos courtesy of Firefly Festival
It was 2:30 PM on Thursday when we lined up for the gates of our heaven to open. And naturally, it was raining. Not that kind of rain that makes you huddle under cover, though. It’s the kind that washes away any stress and worries you have had in the days leading up to this moment. A cleansing, if you will. A precursor to the weekend that was about to be experienced. That reset you only get once in a blue moon.
It’s tough to describe with words. It’s one of those things you have to be “in” to realize its impact on the mind, body, and soul. A collection of incredible artists and people dug inside a patch of woods in the middle of Dover, Delaware. A sense of community can be felt as soon as you step inside its walls. You are one with Firefly, and Fireflyis one with you.
As the storms passed and the festivities kicked off, we were treated to thrilling mid-day acts such as late lineup addition Husbands, Philadelphia’s Mannequin Pussy, and my newfound friends, The Unlikely Candidates. The Pavilion, the unofficial dance hall of the weekend, was treated throughout the day and night by Neil Frances, San Holo, and Jamie XX. As the dusk came over The Woodlands, the Firefly Stage played host to Willow, Jungle, and our first headliner, the incomparable Halsey. Equipped with a simple yet indulgent stage design and an absolute “fuck you if you don’t like it” attitude, she single-handedly lit the night on fire and set the tone for the rest of the weekend.
After an uncharacteristically cold night (albeit refreshing to not wake up sweating like usual at a fest), Friday was undoubtedly the hottest day on the scheduled act-wise. As the gates opened at noon, hordes of fans rushed to the front of the stage to get their places for what was sure to be the weekend spectacle. The return of My Chemical Romance. But first, a slew of outstanding acts was ready to warm the stage and crowd up in preparation for the fireworks that would ensue later. Under a beautiful blue sky, we were treated to electric sets from Anna Of The North, Mod Sun, and Dayglow, knocking off any hangover cobwebs that might still be lingering from the past night. Admittedly while I wanted to see more stages and acts on Friday, the lineup at the Firefly stage was too great to walk away from. Immediately following the artists mentioned above, we were hit with a quadruple threat of nostalgia in the form of Cold War Kids, All Time Low, the punk pop queen Avril Lavigne, and Weezer. The quartet immediately shot me back to my teenage years and thousands of others. It was a great feeling to hear the music we grew up with still resonating and being belted out by the masses.
The night grew long, and the crowd grew restless. They knew what was next—the return of a band they never thought would perform again after their breakup in 2013. At 10:50 PM, My Chemical Romance returned to the stage with thunderous roars and applause that they had the crowd in their hands for the next hour and a half. Playing hit songs from every one of their albums, along with some deeper cuts which sent the hardcore fans into a frenzy, it was everything you could have wanted in a comeback festival show (minus Vampire Money, but that’s a story for another day).
While it was hard to get past the previous day’s spectacle, Saturday was no slouch either. It promised to be just as incredible. The day started with Jagwar Twin, Sueco, and a unique late addition set from Tauk, who put together a last-minute set of Stevie Wonder and Jimi Hendrix tracks to knock the socks off the midday crowd. I took some time during the day to wander around the grounds, to take it all in. It was beautiful to see people of all backgrounds, fashion styles, and musical tastes coming together to enjoy this place as one. It didn’t matter who you were in the “real world”. Here, you’re family. Our late afternoon sets included Wolf Alice, Daisy The Great, and the brilliantly unhinged whirlwind that is Yungblud. I had never seen him before, but he gained a fan for life with the over-the-top, energetic set he put on the Firefly Stage. An absolute highlight of the weekend. We then took it down a few decibels with The Head and The Heart, followed by a ramp-up from the ever-evolving Bleachers. But the final band of the night was one that has always been about one thing. Rock and Fucking Roll. Green Day, once again, showed the tens of thousands gathered why they have been, and continue to be, one of the biggest bands in the world. With a rousing, career-spanning set, they punched a hole into the night sky and put their stamp in Firefly lore forever. Between bringing fans on stage to perform with them (big shout out to West Chester’s own Zach Marsden for playing the hell out of that guitar) and having a complete command of the crowd from start to finish, this was one set that people will never forget.
Unfortunately, Sunday had issues that were entirely out of the control of everyone involved. The threat of severe weather forced the festival to shut down for hours, ultimately losing much desired set times and bands in the process. At 7:00 PM, the crowd was still treated to amazing sets featuring T-Pain, Manchester Orchestra, Charlie XCX, and the absolute superstar headliner Dua Lipa. Every day cannot be perfect, but the staff and artists made up for the missed time with grace and professionalism. Hats off to them for keeping the last day together despite Mother Nature.
Firefly is something special in my heart, along with many others. It’s our yearly escape from the world for a few days, a chance to remember who we are and what we love. No matter the lineup or the time of year, we always look forward to it. And I can only hope that you will experience this adventure with us next year if you haven’t joined us yet. Because I can guarantee you will love it just as much as we do.