After a year-and-a-half delay, fans had to wait a few extra hours for the start of the ninth year of the Firefly Music Festival. With a slight weather setback, anticipation grew for the first Firefly back since the pandemic.
All Hail Eilish
Gates opened up Thursday evening just as the sunset. Despite the thick mud, the path into The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway, draped by large light-up fireflies, set the perfect magical ambiance for an evening of feelings, instigated by the night’s headliners Girl in Red, Phoebe Bridgers and Billie Eilish.
The damp fog seemed to lift right at the end of Phoebe Bridgers’ set. With her final song “I Know The End,” the piercing live trumpet and screeching guitar amps colliding with Bridgers’ gut felt screams had the crowd releasing a year of built-up tension. It was an emotional moment that healed all those listening.
“Well, this is all an elaborate ploy to see Billie’s set,” Bridgers’ joked, just as the crowd tripled in size to see the notorious Billie Eilish take the same main stage.
Despite being only the third live audience performance of her new album “Happier Than Ever” the nineteen-year-old had the crowd belting every word. Starting with one of her original hits “Bury a Friend,” Eilish set the tone for a night filled with intense melodic energy.
Whether it was her loud cackle while dawning a fan’s sparkly cowboy hat during the soft song of “Halley’s Comet” or forgetting the lyrics to the sultry “Billie Bossa Nova” because she was too distracted by a fan’s sign requesting “sign my tits,” Eilish’s heavy lyrics were constantly lifted by her fun spirit. And yes, she did pause to sign his chest.
Jumping higher and screaming louder each time Eilish requested, the crowd’s participation grew stronger with each song. By the end of the night, her fans sang along so loud, you could barely hear Eilish’s voice.
Looking on the “Brightside”
Friday’s sun allowed for the true beauty of the festival grounds to shine. With six different stages, art exhibitions, bazaar central market, thicket silent disco and Dogfish Head Brewery, there was no shortage of activities and beautiful hidden corners to explore.
Cage The Elephant turned up the heat with their set. Decked out in a tight sequined space suit, frontman Matt Shultz brought an unmatched liveliness that set the stage for the rest of the evening’s performers.
Folktronica Duo Sylvan Esso finished their Free Love tour on the Wonder stage. Wearing her signature platform boots, lead singer Amelia Meath took her fans to another world with her folk vocals and contortionist-like dance moves. With the stage lights matching every beat the moment felt more like a dark grungy club, than the woods of Dover, Delaware.
The legendary group The Killers proved their place in rock. Their setlist had the perfect blend of songs from their most recent album “Imploding the Mirage” and classics such as “Mr. Brightside” and “Read My Mind” — beckoning festival-goers of all ages to sing and dance their hearts out.
In true Rockstar fashion, the band pulled a fan from the crowd that promised he was a strong enough drummer to keep up with Brandon Flowers. The fan, Caden, lived out a long-time dream of playing alongside The Killers during “For Reason Unknowns.” A new tradition for The Killers that Firefly Music Festival was ecstatic to be a part of.
Concluding their electrifying set with the beloved track “When You Were Young,” The Killers had the entire crowd engaged. Fireworks falling like water on the back of their stage matched the burst of passion that came from the band and fans as they sang.
A Mystical Weekend
On a stage filled with neon signs, a basketball hoop and palm trees, Glass Animals launched us into the night while wearing Greek letters printed on a mesh jersey. Ending with their recent hit “Heat Waves,” the party vibes were unstoppable.
Tame Impala continued the party with their mix of indie and dance hits like “Borderline,” “Let It Happen,” and “The Less I Know The Better.” Their iconic light visuals danced along the treetops making the whole Woodlands feel like a mystical world.
The dance party continued well into the night as Diplo filled the Woodlands with fire and flashing lights, performing his hits “Thunderclouds” and “On My Mind.” He even played mixes of the day’s previous performers Glass Animals and Tame Impala.
“Shake Ya Tail Feather”
On Sunday, attendees were greeted by a full marching band led by stilt performers, baton twirlers and dancers. Celebrating the welcoming and inclusive nature of music, Firefly had its first-ever Pride parade.
Hitmaker Nelly brought fans back to his roots, playing favorites “Shake Ya Tail Feather,” “Ride Wit Me” and “Hot In Here.” Nelly was both proud and humble of his mainstream past. The atmosphere was so positive and welcoming, bringing together both country and hip-hop fans by performing his collaborations with country artists Florida Georgia Line and Kane Brown.
Machine Gun Kelly made a splash by entering the stage through a giant pink prescription bottle and a monochromatic outfit to match. He ignited the crowd by performing a cover of Paramore’s “Misery Business” and his punk hits, “My EX’s Best Friend” and “Bloody Valentine.”
Megan Thee Stallion had jaws dropping during her entire performance, as she showcased her strength and endurance. Never out of breath, she rapped and danced with her trend-worthy knees. She invited two groups of audience members (or as she called them, “hotties”) on stage to show off their twerking abilities, but no one compared to the “Savage” queen herself.
Making history, Lizzo closed out the weekend as one of the first black female headliners at Firefly Music Festival. Lizzo’s stage, filled with only women, created an empowering moment for all those who identify as female. Offering words of encouragement and acceptance after almost every song, Lizzo established an atmosphere that inspired every viewer.
Performing hits “Rumors,” “Like a Girl” and “Coconut Oil,” Lizzo kept the crowd joyful while expressing the importance of self-love and acceptance for all. Remaining true to her brand, she embraced her recent viral Tik-Tok by singing her version of the viral Backyardigans’ song “Into The Thick Of It!,” even pausing to film a Tik-Tok duet with Selena Gomez.
Lizzo’s message compliments the beauty of music festivals: Firefly offers a place of love, liberation, and acceptance in a beautiful, wooded setting. This year was no exception. After a year and a half of being apart, artists and guests both felt so gratuitous and humbled to be together again.
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