'Ten Thousand Lightning Bugs..'
It was mid-February of this year that I decided to drop $350 on a four-day weekend pass to a summer music festival. I was in Grand Rapids at a friend's place, looking over the details online — who would be playing, where we would stay, and so on — when he and I pulled the trigger and signed ourselves up for the Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Delaware, the capital of America's first state.
Flash forward four months and set the clock to about 12:45 AM on a Thursday morning that still feels like a Wednesday night, and the two of us had just packed up the Chrysler Sebring that was to be our chariot and set off for the festival. Little did we know — to use an oft-used phrase — that the journey would take double the time Google Maps had allotted.
In keeping with my typical road trip tradition (see: ran off the road in Tennessee; incident with a concrete median in Chicago), we met face to face with car trouble outside of Middletown, Maryland, breaking down (apparently) on a small side trip to the Antietam National Battlefield (the history buff in me couldn't resist (and please forgive me for all these parentheticals)). Funny thing about that: turns out the fuel gauge had broken and we'd simply run out of gas. The subsequent $90 I paid to Mid-Valley Auto & Truck Repair for that information is not exactly what one would call money well spent.
Once back on the road, pit stops in Washington, D.C. — for a bite to eat at District Taco and a stroll on the National Mall — and Annapolis — for drinks at a yacht club — followed, before we drove over the breathtakingly-beautiful Chesapeake Bay Bridge and made the final jaunt into Dover. When we finally pulled up to our campsite in a field near the Dover International Speedway we had been on the road for nearly 20 hours.
For being in such a random place, Firefly's lineup was surely insane. Ellie Goulding, Of Monsters and Men, A$AP Rocky, and M83 were among the big names there — and they weren't even the headliners. Among that group was Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Florence & the Machine, and Deadmau5. Ellie was phenomenal, Florence dazzled as I imagine she usually does, and I thoroughly enjoyed hearing a band called Night Riots play, but the group I had travelled 600+ miles to see was Blink-182, who were scheduled to play on Sunday evening. Even though my friend had to work at 8 AM in Grand Rapids the next morning, I convinced him to stay for half of the Blink concert and it was the most glorious half hour of alternative punk rock I have ever experienced.
Sights and sounds at Firefly included a "hammock hangout;" giant beer pong, complete with passersby being nailed by errant attempts; five different main stages, including the Pavilion Stage, where various DJs did their thing; drugged-out campsite neighbors contemplating life's big questions; $26 cocktails served in plastic souvenir mason jars; various hubs where festival-goers could purchase things like towels, sunscreen, or any number of assorted bric-a-brac; and the nearby Dover Downs Hotel & Casino, which we paid a visit or two (or three) to when our ears weren't being serenaded by today's alternative/rock/pop/hip-hop/electronic scene.
I cannot tell you why festival organizers would decide to hold an annual musical extravaganza in the middle of Delaware, nor how they got such big names to show up; I cannot express fully what it was like to drive 10 hours straight through the night on the return trip so that my buddy could sleep before work, nor how our bodies must have hated us after four straight days of nothing but PB&J sandwiches and beer; but I can tell you this: Firefly puts on one hell of a show.