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Fan-Curated Firefly Outshines Unrelenting Heat

There comes a point in your Firefly weekend, where it all – the 7 am wake up calls by way of chanting frat boys and someone blaring incoherent EDM, the long lines for practically everything from the new Twenty One Pilots merch to the best mediocre burger in your life, and the sweltering heat endured for hours upon hours just to be with your favorite artist/band for a short while – it all becomes normal.

Well, as normal as Firefly can be. A glorious mess of inebriated debauchery and really, really good music – this year the first with a lineup selected by fans. My second year at the festival, I walked through the gates a returning friend rather than a welcomed stranger. The grounds felt familiar, like returning to your family’s summer vacation spot, and the feeling of being surrounded by thousands of sweating and dancing festival goers felt like a warm embrace. It’s home, if just for a weekend.

Taking advantage of one of Firefly’s many premiere packages (ranging from $200-$20000+), I arrived for camping on June 14th in the Wednesday Premiere Lot situated north of the festival grounds, just steps from the Firefly Main stage. General Admission camping was located to the south of the grounds, spread around the Dover International Speedway. In addition to ease of access to/within the grounds, Wednesday camping also provided a small lineup of artists exclusively for premiere campers, headlined by Dutch DJ Sam Feldt.

The Festival grounds boasted nine stages, including The Rambler, a traveling stage built into a Hummer which showcased rising indie artists throughout the weekend. O.A.R, Kaleo, and Glass Animals shook the Lawn and Backyard stages Thursday evening with dazzling light shows and raucous performances, giving new cred to the Thursday lineup, seen by many as the unofficial start to the weekend before Friday’s headliners’ “official” kickoff.

Friday sizzled in the post-early morning rainstorm heat while Judah & the Lion, AFI, Franz Ferdinand, and Weezer ignited the monstrous Main stage in all it’s glory before many jumped back over to the Backyard/Lawn stage side for a dueling Miike Snow and OK Go timeslot. Rounding out Day 2 into the wee hours of Day 3 were fan favorites Twenty One Pilots and DJ giant Flume.

With the expected rain unexpectedly far from The Woodlands, Saturday emerged sustaining sweltering heat and boasting an even larger lineup. Starting off with rising indie entertainers Rainbow Kitten Surprise and hip-hop veteran T-Pain, Saturday was already feelin’ itself before the sun hit it’s peak. Following impressive sets by both Bishop Briggs and Francis and the Lights, many stood idly by in front of the Main stage as one of the more unique and surprising headliners readied to perform.

Bob Dylan performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

Bob Dylan performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

Finally, with baited breath, the crowd watched as stage lights went down and then come back up again. The band filed onstage, and then, there he was. Bob Dylan. With his Oscar standing proudly stage left, the legend himself stood a wonderful sunset performance that came and went without an additional word from Dylan or even a bow from the frontman himself.

Now with a name like Bob Dylan, you’d expect his performance to close out the night, however in one of the more confusing cases about this year’s festival, Saturday still had plenty of performances, and two more headliners to go. Following Dylan, DJ duo Galantis took the Backyard stage along with what must have been every glow stick in Delaware while many awaited another surprising addition to the lineup: Kesha.

Kesha performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

Kesha performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

With talk about her lawsuit fluttering through the air, many wondered exactly what she would do. If she can’t perform her songs, what will she perform? After a glitzy rockstar entrance sporting a leather and fringe biker getup, many of those questions were quickly answered. She can’t perform the music that was originally produced for her songs those few years ago, but her lyrics are hers to do with as she pleases. So why not just strip the now-outlawed pop melodies and replace them with that of a hardened rock concert? And that did she do. Rock and rolling through a setlist of fan favorites, she performed “a little f**ked up” in the singer’s words with a massive “F**K THE WORLD” sign upstage. Many may have doubted her, but after that set, she proved her point. As if fans needed any more, The Weeknd and Chance the Rapper closed out Saturday, running through favorites from early releases and current chart toppers, both ending their sets in style with firework displays and confetti.

Sunday’s weather did not let up to close out the Festival’s sixth edition. Fans awoke early to catch Busta Rhymes’ highly anticipated afternoon set at the Main stage, then ran to seek shelter among the trees for most of the afternoon. The sounds of The Strumbellas, Hamilton Liethauser and Waka Flocka Flame ushered in the evening, handing things over to current indie sensation Bleachers at the Main stage. Frontman Jack Antonoff – in the spirit of Father’s Day – welcomed his dad to the stage for their rendition of Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”.

Thirty Seconds to Mars performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

Thirty Seconds to Mars performing at Firefly. Photo credit: Elainy Mata.

Jared Leto and the rest of Thirty Seconds to Mars charmed the sun away with an audience-interactive set that left music aside for more interaction with the crowd, a move polarized by many after a long weekend in the sun. Calming things down before they got crazy again, indie classics The Shins and mellow rockers Phantogram left it all to Muse, the Sunday headliner, and my most anticipated performance of the weekend. The British electro-rockers dominated the Main stage with a audio/visual experience boasting technical wizardry, crowd pleasing jams and lasers galore. Streamers and confetti filled the air following “Mercy”, a track off of their latest album Drones, before the band returned for an encore consisting of their 2009 smash hit single “Uprising” and fan favorite “Knights of Cydonia” – an ending moment many, including myself, will never forget.

Whoever felt like catching yet another artist before the weekend officially came to a close made their way to the Backyard stage one last time for DJ Dillon Francis, while the rest of us made our way back to camp. Another successful weekend in the Woodlands over with bittersweet dreams of warm showers, soft beds, and sweet tunes playing in our heads.

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