Camping, Crowd Surfing and Covers: A recap of the Firefly Music Festival

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The Pathway at Firefly Music Festival | photo by Tom Beck
The Pathway at Firefly Music Festival | photo by Tom Beck

The hardest part of camping at Firefly was being forced to reconcile my love for music with my longing for basic hygienic practices.

The only bathrooms were Porta-Potties, there was no place to wash your hands or brush your teeth (okay, yes, there were handwashing stations but they almost never worked), and it cost $5 to shower in a communal group of phone booth sized stations that were only accessible after you waited in a long line.

Firefly attendee (and my camping neighbor) Cassidy Clauss plays Stump | photo by Tom Beck
Firefly attendee (and my camping neighbor) Cassidy Clauss plays Stump | photo by Tom Beck

But once you get past that, the whole thing was a life-changing experience. I finally realized why so many people buy tickets to music festivals even before the lineups are released – because there’s so much more to them than just the music. Not only did I listen to four days worth of great live tunes, but I hung out with cool new people, watched a World Cup game with thousands of Firefly attendees who also happened die-hard U.S. soccer fans, and was introduced to an outrageously fun hammer-flipping drinking game called Stump, which all of you reading this should try some time. (NOTE: This sounds ridiculously complicated and possibly injury-conducive, but for a festival campground scene, it seems about right. -ed.)

All tree stumps and hand tools aside, the most important part – the music – was great. Or at least what I managed to see. With so many acts going on at times that often overlapped, I couldn’t manage to see every band I wanted to, but did manage to see most. Courtney Barnett was amazing, and probably my favorite performance on Thursday. She seemed genuinely stunned that so many people showed up to see her play, but she totally made the best of it. Her performance was highly energetic with lots of running around and jamming to the music onstage. Bad Things were another band who were great to see live, even if most of the audience consisted of teenage girls shouting about how great Shaun White is. But in reality, the band is much more than White. In fact lead singer Davis LeDuke turned out to be a fantastic front man, and did a phenomenal job getting the crowd into the music, which proved to be a tough task considering that most people were just there to witness Shaun White.

Airborne Toxic Event violinist Anna Bulbrook crowdsurfs | Tom Beck
Airborne Toxic Event violinist Anna Bulbrook crowdsurfs | Tom Beck

The Airborne Toxic Event’s Firefly performance was my fourth time seeing them live, so I new what to expect.  Of course, they were also amazing and played an energetic live set that include a cover of “I Fought The Law” and a stage dive by violin player Anna Bulbrook.

As far as the bigger acts go, the only one that left a bit to be desired was the Arctic Monkeys, who sounded flat throughout the majority of their performance. Apart from playing their first big hit, “I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor,” they struggled to get much energy going for virtually every other song on the set list, and as a result, were probably the biggest let down of the festival. It’s a shame because I was really looking forward to their set.

Beck absolutely killed it. I wasn’t as big of a fan as I was for many of the other acts, but his performance stood out, from a Michael Jackson cover of “Billie Jean,” to an awesome bluesy harmonica solo and spectacular dancing skills, Beck was simply on Saturday night, leaving fans chanting “one more song” after the performance, literally wanting more. Unfortunately, Beck never came back onstage for an encore, but the amazing performance totally made up for it. He’ll definitely be an artist to watch for at next month’s XPoNential Festival.

Bad Things singer Davis LeDuke and drummer Lena Zawaidah | photo by Tom Beck
Bad Things singer Davis LeDuke and drummer Lena Zawaidah | photo by Tom Beck

Friday night’s Foo Fighters performance was the band’s first in a while, but they showed no rust playing not only their own music, but a few classic rock covers during their encore, which included Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out,” Queen and David Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You,” and Van Halen’s “Ain’t Talkin’ Bout Love.” In fact, covers seemed to be a bit of a theme throughout the festival; apart from covers by the Foo Fighters and Airborne Toxic Event, I saw several others, including San Fermin ending their set with an amazing version of The Strokes’ “Heart in a Cage,” Jack Johnson performing “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly along with Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released,” and a snippet of Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love.” towards the end.

It wasn’t until Jack Johnson’s set when I realized how perfect his music is to be the last headliner of the festival. His chill vibes and summery music was a perfect send off to the highlight of my summer. I think it’s fair to say that I’ll definitely be buying a wristband again for next year’s Firefly Festival.  I’m already counting down the days.

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