Tomorrow afternoon, the first carloads of campers will make their way up Delaware’s DuPont Highway for the 2016 edition of the Firefly Music Festival.
Held in the Woodlands of Dover, the festival has skyrocketed since its inaugural outing in 2012, this year featuring seven stages and sure-to-be massive headlining sets from pop/rock megastars Florence and the Machine, M83, Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon. You’ll also find no shortage of can’t-miss performances on the second tier, this year including sets by emo titans Death Cab for Cutie, LA-based epic poet Vince Staples, Glaswegian electrorock trio CHVRCHES, psychedelic Australian vibe-wranglers Tame Impala and more.
But you’re already familiar with those names, more likely than not. Part of the fun of the whole megafestival experience (unless you truly enjoy roasting in the sun in a jam-packed field of 80,000 for days on end waiting for the big names) is wandering away from the crowd and finding something new, something unexpected, something incredible. In that spirit, The Key staff has surveyed the entire 120+ band lineup and brings you our picks of artists you may not have heard of but who are absolutley worth discovering in the Woodlands this weekend. Read on, and rock out.
New Sound Brass Band (Northeast Hub, 4 p.m.)
Philadelphia’s New Sound Brass caught the attention of the XPoNential Music Fetsival in 2014 when it led a NoLA-style second line parade from Wiggins Park to SBC to usher in the evening portion. This year, they’ll kick off day night of Firefly by doing the same thing in the Woodlands. Their trombone fanfares and marching drum beats will give you life. – John Vettese
Twin Limb (Coffee House Stage, 5:15 p.m.)
The dark dream folk of Kentucky’s Twin Limb will be a cooling relief from the hot Firefly sun. The trio released its debut album Anything Is Possible and Nothing Makes Sense last fall, echoing bands like Beach House and Other Lives. Also, vocalist Lacey Guthrie plays accordion. – Julie Miller
Skizzy Mars (Backyard Stage, 5:45 p.m.)
In step with fellow Firefly artist Fetty Wap, Harlem rapper Skizzy Mars will bring some autotuned lyricism to the Backyard Stage. His most recent project, Alone Together, dropped last year, and it’s pure party jams for the people. – J.V.
Dirty Dishes (Southwest Hub, 10 a.m.)
90s alternative fans are in for a treat with Dirty Dishes, a NYC-based band that drenches each song with wailing guitarwork alongside ever-chill vocals. – K.I.
AMFMS (Southwest Hub, 11:30 a.m.)
Baltimore area band The AMFMS have a sound that immediately transports you to another time with their effortless marriage between lo fi stylings and 70s rock instrumentation. – Kimberly Ilkowski
Teen Men (Lawn Stage, 12:45 p.m.)
It’s pretty much a backyard gig for this indie pop band from Wilmington. Tunes like “Adventure Kids” are known to coincide with homemade videos being played on stage during their sets. – Joseph Bloss
Sun Club (Porch Stage, 6:15 p.m.)
If you’re looking to dance and feel really, really good, don’t miss this set. Part Vampire Weekend, part WU LYF and with the irreverence of Mac DeMarco, Sun Club is colorful pop band from Baltimore that seems carefree and breezy. They released The Dongo Durango last year, featuring single “Tropicoller Lease.” – J.M.
RÜFÜS DU SOL (The Pavillion, 7:15 p.m.)
This down under dance duo released its second studio album, Bloom, earlier this year. It’s a beautiful mix of pulsating house music with poppy hooks; it’ll keep you on your feet moreso than pummel you to the ground. – J.V.
Gallant (Porch Stage, 8:15 p.m. / Treehouse, 10:20 p.m.)
Slight, minimalist R&B can be hit or miss in the brutal afternoon sun – just ask Moses Sumney about his brilliant but intentionally subdued Roots Picnic set in 2016. Thankfully, this Columbia, Maryland singer has an ideal slot for his sound, headlining the Porch stage as the sun goes down and the breeze rolls in. On the other hand, he’s up against Ellie Goulding. Show the man some love. – J.V.
Mail the Horse (Northeast Hub, 11:30 a.m.)
The revival of the classic country sound is something that could be incredibly corny, but there are a handful of bands that are doing it well right now. Brooklyn’s Mail the Horse is one of them, with a hint of Stones and a nod to roots of rock on last year’s Planet Gates. – J.M.
Major and The Monbacks (Southwest Hub, 11:30 a.m.)
It’s hard to not be in a good mood when listening to oldies revivalists and psychedelics Major and The Monbacks — each energetic track features a rich and full sound that’s hard to come by nowadays. – K.I.
PVRIS (Backyard Stage, 12:30 p.m.)
Their hometown of Lowell, Massachusetts is mostly known for being the birthplace of Jack Kerouac, but PVRIS is making its mark, delivering uplifting electronic pop anthems in a big way. The band’s most recent album is 2014’s White Noise, and a new deluxe reissue of it features “You and I.” If it’s not enough reason to love them, check out the limited edition shirt they just released to benefit victims and families of the Pulse Orlando shooting. – J.V.
Quilt (Lawn Stage, 2 p.m.)
Airy vocals and groovy arrangements create the atmosphere of many of Boston four-piece Quilt’s catalogue, showcasing a modern spin on soulful 60s sounds. – K.I.
Coin (Backyard Stage, 3:45 p.m.)
Jangly summertime jams are the bread and butter of this modern rock four-piece from Nashville. Their latest single, “Talk Too Much,” makes me think these gents would be great tourmates with Philly friends CRUISR. – J.V.
Pell (Porch Stage, 8 p.m.)
This New Orleans-bred, Mississippi-based MC does his thang over trap beats, poppy dub accents and bold synthesizer soundscapes. The innovative rapper dropped his second LP, LIMBO, back in November, and he brings it to life on the Porch Stage. – J.V.
Laura Stevenson (Northeast Hub, 11:30 a.m.)
Once I saw she’s toured with and been compared to Kevin Devine, not much more of an introduction was needed. As heard on Cocksure‘s “Jellyfish,” Laura Stevenson is an honest, badass rocker who deserves your attention. – J.B.
Noah Gunderson (Backyard Stage, 12:45 p.m. / Coffee House, 3 p.m.)
Born into a musical family in the pacific northwest, Noah Gunderson’s life-long journey through folk-pop has taken on more of an indie feel on his latest record Carry The Ghost. – J.B.
City of the Sun (Treehouse, 1:15 p.m.)
City of the Sun is a trio out of NYC that picks up where songs like “Embryonic Journey” and “Big Country” left off. This year’s To The Sun And All The Cities In Between is exploratory and experimental, drifting into something that almost sounds like acoustic club music. They also do a breathtaking cover of “Intro” by The xx. – J.M.
Swim Deep (Backyard Stage, 2:15 p.m.)
Birmingham, UK’s Swim Deep made a splash in their home country four years ago with a pair of singles that landed them on many major festival bills. Now with two LPs under their belts, including last year’s critically acclaimed Mothers, the five-piece is on its first US headlining tour. – J.M.
Cobi (Treehouse, 2:15 p.m.)
Something along the lines of a plugged-in Hozier, Cobi’s “Don’t You Cry For Me” is blowing up as he just finished a tour with electronic legends Above & Beyond. – J.B.
Firefly Music Festival takes place Thursday, June 16th, through Sunday, June 19th, in the Woodlands of Dover. Single day tickets and more information can be found on the Festival website.
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