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FESTIVAL COVERAGE: Firefly Music Festival 2018 | Thursday & Friday

Review by Miranda Woody-Martin Firefly Music Festival came back with a bang to The Woodlands of Dover, Delaware this year. With a stacked lineup and a whole lot of rambunctious festival goers riled up and ready to take on the infamous “Woodlands”, this year was one for the books. I arrived at Firefly Music Festival on Thursday, June 14th. After unpacking and setting up the campsite, my husband and I ran toward the festival gates to see what fun we could get into this early on in the weekend. Luckily, Thursday night featured performances from Hippie Sabotage and Chromeo, who were both ready and willing to get the party started. Upon entering the festival my husband and I traveled to the Lawn stage, nearest to the festival gates and notorious for hosting acts like Kesha in past years. Hippie Sabotage took the stage and, in a less-mellow-than-usual way, turned the music up and dropped the bass. A sea of festival-goers danced, clad in LED hula-hoops and carrying colorful, meme-ridden camp signs. Hippie Sabotage kept the crowd engaged by shouting out constant crowd commands (most notably: “put your middle fingers in the air!”). The low, heavy bass and polished-yet-grimey sound made me a Hippie Sabotage fan, to say the least. However, my husband (a HUGE Chromeo fan) was ready to make our way to the Backyard stage across the venue to get a good spot for Chromeo’s set. We ran off further into the Woodlands, passing through a brilliantly lit pathway of decorative disco balls and dangling lanterns, to arrive at the Backyard. A crowd had already amassed for Chromeo’s set, and we all stood in anticipation as day-one Instagram posts already began to flood the flat-screens next to the stage. A feed of posts featuring the hashtags #Firefly2018 and #FestivalFashion flooded the screen as festival attendees searched for their own face in the sea of “likes” and “mentions”. I always appreciate it when festivals engage fans in this way; it makes the whole ordeal seem more personal and interconnected, despite living in the technology age. Musings about technology aside, Chromeo took the stage and wowed fans with their relentlessly cool “future-funk” sound. Sporting a piano with chrome lady’s legs and a flight of stairs on the stage that lit up when walked upon, Chromeo put on one hell of a show. The funk duo played old hits like “Momma’s Boy” and “Juice”, as well as some tracks from their new album, such as “Must’ve Been” (sans D.R.A.M, of course). Although I wouldn't count myself a huge Chromeo fan per se, they did have a great, tight sound and I thoroughly enjoyed the fully auto-tuned mic the keyboardist made use of throughout the set. Chromeo also had some pretty fun toys, such as a chrome-faced electric guitar (that shone like a spotlight into the crowd) and the stairs I mentioned before. Chromeo also had one thing I (honestly) didn’t anticipate them having: talent. Chromeo made a heck of a lot of (good) sound for just two guys, and I have a newfound respect for the funky duo. They played guitar and keys while singing and doing some impressive footwork, and that sh*t ain’t easy, friends. As the evening came to an end (well, for us old folks anyways), my husband and I took the long trek back to the South Hub campground. Upon arriving, our neighbors were throwing a party. Sleep became a non-option, but we began to kindle a friendship with our friendly camping neighbors (on both side of our lot) and spent the evening listening to stories about their lives, past festival experiences, and so on. It was interesting to say the least. Friday morning came bright and early, as it does when it’s ninety degrees outside and you’re sleeping in a pop-up tent, and us and our neighbors woke up for some breakfast and, of course, a lot of coffee. Before I could take my first sip, though, someone had already said it: “aren’t the Arctic Monkeys playing tonight?” I lit up. “YES!” I chimed in, “and I can’t wait”. My entire summer thus far had revolved around the fact that I was going to see Arctic Monkeys live, and I was ridiculously excited to attend their set later that evening. Before any of that, though, I had to get ready. Festival goers came out of the woodwork covered in glitter and flower crowns, and I donned my black sun hat and a fringe top with high-waisted shorts. Now, feeling that I looked the part, I took my husband by the arm and we made the long-trek once more toward the festival gates. We got in relatively easy (since it was, after all, only the first full day of the festival) and made our way into the venue to see a DJ set: Kasbo performing in the Pavillion. We arrived at the Pavillion stage to find a few of our neighbors taking in Kasbo’s show. Kasbo rattled off some EDM hits of his own, plus a few rap mash-ups. I’m not exactly well versed in the EDM/DJ world, but from what I could tell he sounded good (and, after all, we had a great time dancing along to his beats). We didn’t stay very long, though, because Jimmy Eat World were taking the Firefly stage within minutes. My husband and I waltzed over to Firefly stage and saw a large skrim already in place there that read “JIMMY EAT WORLD”. I had one thought: man, I never thought I’d see these guys live. Not to be rude, but I didn’t think Jimmy Eat World had actively toured since (maybe) the early two-thousands. However, I was excited to see them play the hits. Others in the crowd felt the same way, as one girl and myself joked amongst ourselves, “man, it’s like prom 2001 or something!” Amidst my joking, Jimmy Eat World took the stage. All jokes aside I was super excited to see them, and my husband and I danced and bopped along to all the angsty pop-punk hits Jimmy Eat World had made famous over the years. Before anyone asks: yes, they played “The Middle” and “May Angels Lead You In”. They also told the audience that they had some new stuff coming out soon, which blew everyone’s collective minds. Two weeks earlier I had heard Third Eye Blind tell the crowd at Bunbury the same thing, and I wondered if it meant that the pop-punk kings of the early two-thousands were coming back with a vengeance (and actually good, new music). Time will tell, but I’m starting to think that 2001 is coming back in a big way-- and soon. After Jimmy Eat World’s set, my husband and I declined to go anywhere. We decided to post-up at Firefly stage because two of our favorite bands would grace it with their presence later that evening: Foster the People (who I was seeing for the second time in the span of two weeks) and Arctic Monkeys. We didn’t move a muscle, except to take obligatory pee-breaks and buy some smoothies. We were ready and willing to get a great spot for both Foster and AM, and oh man, did we. When Foster the People came on stage around 8:15 PM, I was screaming my head off. Literally. I had seen them just two weeks before at Bunbury Music Festival, and that made me all the more excited for their electric, energetic set. Mark Foster donned the stage first with trendy slicked-back hair and a cut-out tank (complete with skinny jeans and some, shall I say, pumped up kicks) and a very serious look on his face. He began to sing the words, “It’s like I’m coming of age”, and the crowd blew up. Foster the People played a set very similar to the one I’d seen only two weeks before, but it felt brand-new to me since their delivery was spot-on. As they played through their hits such as the aforementioned “Coming of Age”, “Houdini”, “Helena Beat” and “Sit Next to Me”, I danced the night away. Mark Foster performed some impressive footwork himself, doing a jig here and there between lyrical bars, which thoroughly impressed some of the crowd members around me. A girl in front of me yelled, “okay, then!” and high-fived me. It was awesome. By the time “Pumped Up Kicks” came around, though, Mark Foster turned more serious once again. Most likely referencing the recent influx of celebrity suicides, Mark Foster told his fans to be a “kind ear” to those in need of mental help, at the very least. Foster’s message was genuine, and very much appreciated during these dark times. I was also glad that Foster mentioned this before the band performed “Pumped Up Kicks” which is, as most of you know, a song about the mindset of a fictional school-shooter named “Robert”. The band closed out the show with their mega-hit, complete with confetti cannons and strobe lights galore, and then wrapped up their set accordingly. Once again, I was blown away by the ultra-talented Mark Foster and his band. However, my night had not come to an end yet. In less than an hour, Arctic Monkeys would take the stage. Arctic Monkeys had been the favorite (and probably most significant, thematically speaking) band of my husband and I since 2014. On our first date in summer 2015, my husband and I played through all of the album AM and vowed to go see Arctic Monkeys with one another some day, somehow, even if we were just friends. Well, one marriage and three years later, here we were: about to see Arctic Monkeys live. Our excitement was palpable as Alex Turner and the rest of the band took the stage in brilliant, seventies-chic style. Alex Turner, the band’s frontman, sported a yellow-tan blazer and golden neck chain with slicked-back long hair and ultra-cool shades. I (and honestly, my husband) absolutely swooned over the frontman’s new look, which complete the “concept” of the band’s latest concept album Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino. The band opened with a track from the new album, actually, which made the crowd erupt with excitement. Arctic Monkeys were surprisingly diverse with their set, though, obviously trying to avoid playing songs from AM and Tranquility Base exclusively. They played old favorites like “Crying Lightning” and “I Bet You’d Look Good on the Dancefloor”, as well as mega-hits like “Why’d You Only Call me When You’re High” and “Four out of Five”. Throughout it all, though, Turner kept up an electrifying stage presence that set the crowd ablaze; his swagger and thick British accent made him seem like the coolest man to have ever existed, in all honesty. I remember saying at one point, “man, I want to be like HIM when I grow up!” The Arctic Monkeys played “Do I Wanna Know?” before leaving the stage, only to return for a three-song length encore (much to the fans’ delight). The encore consisted mostly of AM favorites, such as “Snap Out of It” and “R U Mine?”. Alex Turner played guitar like a mad-man (in the best way possible) and sang his lungs out to “R U Mine?”, which closed out the show. Leaving the stage with high energy and a lot of thanks to the audience, Arctic Monkeys set was complete. I could hardly believe I’d seen them live, and could believe even less that they were that good. There aren’t enough words to explain how truly awesome these guys were live. Reeling with energy after AM’s set, my husband and I decided to stop back by Backyard stage to take in a bit of EDM fan-favorites Big Gigantic’s set. Big Gigantic are notorious for having angelic vocals coupled with fast-paced, bass-heavy beats, and their show was pretty fun. Each bass drop came complete with a sea of glow-sticks being thrown in the air by festival goers, and by the time the set ended I was sore from jumping around so much. Overall, both Thursday and Friday made for a great start to the festival weekend. Luckily, they only comprised half of the fun. Stay tuned for my coverage of Saturday and Sunday, the latter half of Firefly 2018, which includes performances from Eminem, Alt-J, and more.

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