With four nights of non-stop music at The Woodlands of Dover International Speedway in Delaware’s capital, the 2018 Firefly Music Festival provided plenty of excitement and hordes of great live performances.
Taking place from Jun 14-17, the festival attracted approximately 65,000 people, believed to be the largest crowd in its seven-year history, and no one went home disappointed.
The first night was spent getting accustomed to the grounds and staking out the different stages and food trucks, plus talking music with tent neighbors, but it also provided some early opportunities for music. At the Pavilion, Thursday night featured Bryce Vine, and Shallou and Two Friends, the popular DJ duo who closed out the pre-party with a crowd-pleasing sing-a-long of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down” and additional variations of well-known songs.
Friday night included more moving from stage to stage, and it was great to see a diverse mix of artists having fun and doing their thing. A special shout-out to 25-year veterans Jimmy Eat World, whose set included “Pain,” “Work” and the crowd-pleasing “Middle,” these rockers proved they could still bring it like young ones.
Logic mixed up his set with music off of his various albums, giving the most time to his latest, Bobby Tarantino II. He had a very positive vibe throughout, which was the perfect message for this festival.
To the delight of most, Arctic Monkeys played an extra-long set nearing 1 a.m., and even came back for a three-song encore that included an incredible “R U Mine” finisher.
Still, there was time to rush over and see a DJ set of Foster the People, who partied as if the night was infinite. There’s no doubt these festival goers would have cheered on until sunrise had they been given the chance.
My favorite thing about Firefly is discovering new acts or those whose work I merely know casually. Of course, the trick is getting to the smaller stages to see these bands without missing the headliners and other names on your must list.
One of those discoveries was alt-rockers flor, who played Friday afternoon on the lawn, performing songs off its recently released debut album, come out. you’re hiding. The songs were tight, and the band’s tune “rely” is destined for a long stay on the charts. It was clear the crowd was largely unfamiliar with them, but was won over quickly with flor’s energetic set.
On the lawn, I had the opportunity to see part of the sets for Rob Gallo and They. The former provided a fun, laid-back atmosphere, and I really enjoyed the song, “Young Lady You’re Scaring Me.” And the latter of the two impressed me with a successful old-school-meets modern R&B sound.
Another interesting find on the first day was Hippie Sabotage who played a short five-song set, finishing with a cover of Tove Lo’s “Habits (Stay High),” which proved a fantastic homage. There are two brothers in the group, Jeff and Kevin Saurer; one mixes beats and the other sings and hypes up the crowd. They made a lot of friends that day by tossing loads of T-shirts into the audience.
At the Treehouse stage Saturday, Smallpools was solid on its brand-new song “Stumblin’ Home” and there was a lot of energy from the crowd for the acoustic set. People went crazy when Sean Scanlon brought a couple out for a proposal. The band did great covers of Radiohead’s “Creep” and Calvin Harris’ “Slide.”
The Firefly stage was the place to be for the rest of the night, with Lil Wayne starting the evening off with a bang, playing a lot of old favorites and being especially appreciative toward his audience. He started with “Mr. Carter,” and ended with “A Milli” and in between was a whole lot of fun—especially on a cover of Drake’s “The Motto.”
Another crowd pleaser was The Killers, with the song “Mr. Brightside,” perhaps the most well-known song of the entire festival. You could see different generations of fans singing along together and this was the one band that seemed to bring people of all ages out. Lots of singing and dancing through hits like “Runaways,” “All These Things That I’ve Done” and a cover of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
The last act of the night almost always attracts everyone at the festival and this was definitely true for Eminem, who walked out, saw the crowd and commented, “I have never seen this many people looking back at me.”
With a set-list of almost 30 songs, the legendary performer started out with a cover of Dr. Dre’s “Medicine Man” and played a lot of his old stuff, finding the most applause for “Stan,” “My Name is” and “Lose Yourself.” It was an amazing ending to an incredible day of music.
Highlights for the final day—which is always somewhat sad because you know you have to hit the road after the acts—included a small set from saxophonist Kamasi Washington (who would later play with festival-closer Kendrick Lamar), Canadian electro star Charlotte Cardin, and of course the Pulitzer prize winning Lamar himself. From “DNA” to “Swimming Pools” to “Humble,” the star held off the Firefly exodus and further cemented himself as one of the greatest musicians of this generation.
For more information about Firefly Music Festival, visit here.