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The Flaming Lips. Photo Credits: Valentina Collas

Firefly Festival

(22 Jul 2012: Dover Racetrack — Dover, DE)

Much like the festival’s sudden uprising in the midst of Delaware the sun made an appearance for the first time throughout the weekend brightly paving way for a clear, warm day. Already, or rather, still intoxicated patrons strolled in just after noon with groggy eyes in hopes this final day of Firefly would be as promising as the weather. There couldn’t have been a better more peaceful method of kicking off the impressive Sunday lineup, not to mention a second day of hangovers, than the Head and the Heart.


Eager fans of the Black Keys were already staking claims to the main stage grounds with blankets and reading material, leaving the spattering Head and the Heart’s fans to spread out between territories and struggle towards the barrier. The majority cared little about the opening group but as the music began to play the attention of the full audience was arrested by the crystalline sound previously absent of main stage displays. With instrumentation and vocals blending harmoniously, H&H’s organic music and excellent lyrics earned new fans amongst the headliner junkies—who after some few chords put down their books, quit their prattle and watched in amazement with the already initiated a powerful and soulful performance.


Afterward, if one was ready to pick up the pace, Bombay Bicycle Club took stage in “The Backyard”, opposite the main stage. Complete with a danceable, feel good sound the musicians resembled something from a ‘90s teen sitcom and presented their tunes with a smile and a head-banging fit that better resembled fits of joy. The group seemed to genuinely enjoy playing despite being muddied by the continuing annoyance of volume and electronic distortion. Neither did the crowd seem much to mind. The Britpop’s twangy, treble sound incited dancing and cheering from the crowd all the same.


Returning to the main stage shortly after sound technicians could be seen making last minute alterations as a large, excited audience crashed together in anticipation of the next group. Nearing 4 pm, the mercury was high enough to make even the stationary break sweat. Fanning themselves, the crowd waited to be cooled by the chill sounds of the Cold War Kids. Their set was stellar but relaxed, perhaps too much so, and the show itself was not much to be seen. The band did what they could to sustain energy but their signature style of music is suited more for listening and understanding than rocking. Nonetheless, the crowd went wild for “Hang Me Out to Dry”, and general post show reactions were positive.


With so many artists to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where one may head next, but if a pick-me-up was needed it would have been folly to pass up Fitz and the Tantrums playing the Lawn. With a sound influenced by multiple styles: bits of reggae, ‘80s pop, ‘70s jazz, and soul, Fitz and the Tantrums kept the show fun and high energy from first to last. Dedication and love for their work was evident and the musicians were having just as much fun with the performance as their audience, dancing together and demanding participation from the wild crowd. When they broke out a Jack White tune, and later a “Sweet Dreams”, cover, it seemed as if the already wild crowd would burst at the seams. By the end of the set, the swollen audience might have not only been excited but quite literally aroused by the sexy antics, and almost erotic back and forth play between the male and female lead singers.


Perhaps some of that same crowd was merely lining up for the next act the Flaming Lips. And I wouldn’t blame them, the veteran rockers started so strongly it was hard to imagine they could end with anything to top the intro. With dancing fans on either side of the stage and smoke billowing out from behind, the band thrashed through their loud, almost incoherent set. Soon enough, explosions of confetti and balloons were raining upon the audience as Wayne Coyne entered the ever famous man sized hamster ball to surf the crowd. The entire show was an attack of bass, easier to comprehend from a distance, but concerning rowdy entertainment, there were few at Firefly who could compete with the excitement and energy of the Flaming Lips.


If there was one to top it, it would have to have been headliners the Black Keys. As the lights dimmed, fans that had been waiting for hours in the sun roared with applause and cries of both joy and relief. Much like the Killers, the Keys’ performance included a spectacular light show and larger than stadium sound, delighting fans with top choice El Camino cuts and causing the sing along chorus from fans to almost overpower the Keys themselves. Even though their set ran long, the band went to lengths to play an extended encore, saving some of their best loved songs from past albums, leaving after the last fading ring of distortion a nearly hysterical crowd.


Billed as the east coast’s premier music festival one must wonder whether Red Frog Media meant it literally. Over three days fans from all over the country soaked in the rain and seared in the sun to hear brief sets by the bands they loved. They suffered through the initial confusion of staff, disparaging equipment issues, and an amazing lack of dietary options. The outlook after the first day of festivities was certainly dire, but over-all the festival proved to be worth the ticket price and more. Most would assume they were saving the best for last, but I prefer to think it required a few fluttering stalls for Firefly to take flight.


As of press time hard numbers have not been released in regards to attendance, but in a press release dated 24 July, Red Frog has announced it will return to Dover in 2013.


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