First annual Firefly Music Festival, at Dover, Del., attracts crowd in excess of 30,000. (VoB Photo/Kaitlin Nëwman)


Band lineup includes Grouplove, Modest Mouse,
Death Cab for Cutie, Cold War Kids, The Killers

By Kaitlin Nëwman and Andrew Windham
Rainbow trees, hammock slung forests, hot air balloons and the scent of fresh rain set the atmosphere for the sold-out woodland music festival known as Firefly, which hit Dover, Del. the last week of July and seems destined to become a summer tradition.

The festival’s first-annual lineup included big names like Jack White, The Killers and the Black Keys, supported by bands such as Modest Mouse, Grouplove, Death Cab for Cutie, the Flaming Lips and Cold War Kids.

The three-day festival offered attendees the chance to buy a camping pass that included a 10×30-ft. campsite where they could set up camp with tents, propane grills, coolers and flags marking their territory.

Within a few hours of opening, the dull grass was covered with tents of every shape and size, resembling a colorful shantytown of music enthusiasts.  The mood was bright and relaxed, in contrast to the dull skies hanging low above Dover.

“In my opinion, camping was pretty much overall good,” said Brian Haack, one of the attendees — most of whom were in their early to mid-20s — in an interview with Voice of Baltimore.

However he noted that “they definitely could have given more space. Having to fit your car and your tent in the same space was difficult. It was in a really nice location though; for the majority of it people were in good spots. If the festival is bigger next year they’ll have to move to a bigger location or it won’t fit. Overall, it was really good!”

Grouplove performs at first annual Firefly Music Festival at Dover, Del. during July. (VoB Photo/Andrew Windham)

Jack White kicked off the first night with a rock and roll performance no one is likely to forget anytime soon. The rain added gritty appeal to his performance, sprinkling inside the stage as White kept his persona on point, shredding on guitar while barefoot.

White played most of his classics, including “Seven Nation Army.” The atmosphere of the festival had been set.

The Killers wrapped up Day 2 with a bright lightshow performance, dazzling the crowd for miles with their spotlights reaching the clouds.

Brandon Flowers, The Killers’ lead singer, sang their classics with some new songs included as well. Flowers’ performance of “Spaceman” had the crowd dancing and singing after a long day of periodic rain showers.

After two days full of music, drinking, camping and walking, the crowd still hadn’t had enough.

Two-man band The Black Keys put on a blues performance, unexpectedly opening with one of their biggest hits. Ending around 11 p.m., the crowds shuffled through the festival gates back to their campsites for the last time, smiling, laughing and conversing about how they can’t wait for next year.

“I thought all the bands put on overwhelming performances,” said Paul Albert, but “The Killers were my favorite. I really liked the feel of the crowd; good vibes everywhere. In comparison to other festivals I’ve been to, it wasn’t as packed. It was an overall really good experience.”

Along with an awesome lineup, Firefly Music Festival featured a hammock forest, a lighted vineyard, Jack Daniels stations, an arcade with old-school classics, and photo booths for guests to utilize between seeing all their favorite bands.

The Flaming Lips electrify the crowd, above, at last month's Firefly Music Festival, as The Killers perform at night, below. (VoB Photos/Andrew Windham)

TOMS shoes, the online retailer famous for donating a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair purchased by a consumer, was also at the festival offering guests a chance to buy a pair and have a local artist customized them. The wait for shoes was anywhere from two to four hours the entire festival.

Despite weather reports calling for rainstorms all weekend, the clouds held back and offered shade and cool temperature, spreading only a slight mist overtop the large community.

Festivalgoers dressed in various garments, from bathing suits to raincoats. Some came prepared for the weather, others didn’t seem to care. Attendees sat on blankets and enjoyed the music with friends, new and old.

Young and old alike resembled love children from the 1970s, wearing long skirts, tie-dye clothing and earthy jewelry.

The community that was raised from the dirt near Dover Downs was less than practical, but it worked.  Patrons of the festival typically greeted each other with smiles and a wave, and more than occasionally a hug to a stranger was greeted with a friendly laugh, something rare in the contemporary U.S.

With West Virginia’s All Good Music Festival now in Thornville, Ohio and Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., Firefly has now become the prime location for East Coast festival enthusiasts with around 30,000 attendees its first year.

Tickets are already on pre-sale for the summer of 2013.


One Response to “AT DOVER, DEL. — First annual Firefly Music Festival seems destined to become summer tradition”

  1. Answering a Few Q’s « 120 Pearls

    […] I have been published in The Baltimore Sun, USA Today, Seltzer Zine, Voice of Baltimore, Unique Design, The Towerlight, etc. Photojournalism doesn’t really go by where your photos have been though, so yesterday’s news is, well, yesterday. I am constantly updating my portfolio to reflect my style and what I feel is current. A really great photographer once told me that photojournalism work is like “Living a champagne life on a beer salary”, definitely true. I typically make a decent amount of money but the experiences are what fuel my desire to be in this industry, not my paychecks. I shot Firefly Music Festival last summer in Delaware, my first real photo pit experience, next to Rolling Stone and NYT photographers and it was awesome……I didn’t make any money. But you can check my story out here at The Voice of Baltimore.  […]

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