Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Joe Papeo
Big name bands finally found a reason to visit Delaware for the inaugural Firefly Festival, taking over Dover from July 20th-22nd. With a line-up that trumped that of many well-established summer shows, Firefly made its debut with guns blazing. Big shots Jack White, The Killers, and The Black Keys headlined the three day event, which also featured performances by IT bands like Young the Giant, Grouplove, Reptar, and AWOLNATION.
Red Frog Events got it right the first time – the grounds were easy to navigate/stumble, and unlike other multi-stage events like Bonnaroo, only two bands played at a time. Firefly also featured extra escapes like hot air balloon rides and the Hammock Hangout, and even an Instagram-like app to capture it all.
From getting our faces painted by Walk the Moon on Friday to spending Sunday night in Wizard of Oz costumes with the Flaming Lips, you could say the Waster had a surreal weekend in the Mid-Atlantic. Oh, and did we mention how our Editor of Photography Joe Papeo also happened to be shooting for Rolling Stone?!
Our heads still ringing, we re-cap all the unforgettable moments from the very first Firefly.
“I’m sorry I don’t know more about Delaware”, OK Go front-man Damian Kulash admitted during the band’s late-afternoon time slot. “But if Delaware is the ‘First State’, you must be the state God loves the most.”
Any band that wears full suits to perform at a summer music event shows a certain level of dedication that sets them apart from typical rag tag indie artists. OK Go is that kinda band, and they very politely played a well-executed set on Friday afternoon.
Known for their quirky music videos (like their adventures with treadmills from the 2006 hit ‘Here We Go Again’), OK Go proved just as entertaining in the flesh. A sea of green confetti swirling above helped distract fans from the rain as they bounced along to songs like ‘A Good Idea At the Time’ and ‘WTF’.
The true highlight of this set was on ‘Return’, which featured band members precisely trading different tones at different times, using only hand-bells. It was like a scene from America’s Got Talent…except in the woods…in Delaware.
Walk the Moon
Over on the Porch Stage, grown men in face-paint were rattling the scene with some speedy, synth-heavy pop songs. Fans rocked rainbow-colored cheeks too, because Walk the Moon was raised right, and the indie rockers from Cincinnati brought enough warpaint to share.
“Has anyone been naked yet today?”, Kevin Ray (bass/vox) asked festival-goers in between songs. And while the early evening performance didn’t incite Woodstock-level nudity, the band put on one of the most talked-about sets of Friday’s roster.
The quartet’s new self-titled album dropped last month, and Firefly gave them a chance to show off some serious onstage stamina. We’re pretty sure that Nick Petricca (keys/vox/percussion) bounced non-stop through the set, getting the crowd going on stage shakers like ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Jenny’. Toss in some Super Mario-themed samples and a cover of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, and the crowd was officially hooked.
If this party was gonna last all weekend long, Walk the Moon’s high-energy set hosted the ultimate pre-game.
Silversun Pickups manned (and woman-ed) the Backyard Stage at dusk for the final set before headliner Jack White was to plug in. Tucked away in the trees, the space was the perfect place for the Pickups to take us through their Neck of the Woods. A hot air balloon floated stage right while the four piece cranked out songs from their new album including the summer single ‘Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)’.
You don’t have to like the Smashing Pumpkins in order to appreciate Silversun Pickups, but you can’t deny the two bands share similar musical styles in regards to an affection for distortion pedals and angst-filled lyrics.
But the alt-rock comparisons start and end there, as the Pickups absolutely have their own swagger. And lucky for us onlookers, the LA based act seemed more like regular people and less like missing members of the Addams Family.
“I know you’re out in the rain…but you kinda like it, right?”, Jack White smirked during his headlining set on the main Firefly stage.
Most festival-goers came to see White play guitar, however, during the first few songs, you could hear everything but. Frustrated fans starting chanting “Turn it up!” over and over until the sound was restored to its gut-busting glory – just in time for White to rip through a solo on his new track ‘Missing Pieces’.
Joined by his all male backing band Los Buzzardos, White gave Delaware a debut of several songs from his incredible 2012 LP Blunderbuss, including ‘Love Interruption’ and his latest rebel anthem, ‘Freedom at 21’.
Overall, the gig stayed in tune with the Seventh Son’s previous solo shows – pulling material from his work with The White Stripes (‘Hotel Yorba’), The Raconteurs (“Steady as She Goes’), and The Dead Weather (‘Cut Like a Buffalo’).
And the festival spirit even got the best of this Detroit native, an anti-hippie who found himself in the unlikeliest of positions – playing barefoot in the rain.
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