35mm of Firefly: Revisiting the Woodlands on film

Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Firefly 2016 | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

Dover’s annual Firefly Music Festival is just about the friendliest mega-festival you’ll ever go to.

I say this, worth noting, not having been to Bonnaroo, or Coachella. Nor am I old enough to have experienced the grandaddy of all festivals, Woodstock — though I’m sure there’s a lot fiction and myth and revisionist history surrounding that concert’s supposed transcendence.

Compared to the current circuit of gigs in brutal-summer-sun-on-asphalt settings, however, the ones taking the let’s-cram-everybody-in-a-municipal-park approach, the ones making even the strongest lineup more daunting than it needs to be — Firefly is clearly a festival designed with the fans in mind. This is my third year covering it, and each year, incremental improvements are made, reacting to the previous year’s challenges while keeping an eye towards growth. In 2016, spending a long weekend in the Woodlands amidst a throng of 100,000 fans felt remarkably…comfortable. Water stations were plentiful, opportunities for cooler air and shade were at (most) every turn, music was never far – nor was it in your face either. Getting from the Lawn Stage at the festival’s south gate to the main Firefly Stage on the north side took maybe 20 minutes in the rockiest of conditions; in the past, it required over a half hour  to traverse the festival grounds.

In any number of ways — the forest setting and ubiquity of nature surrounding the show, the super upbeat signage, the way corporate branding was (for the most part) downplayed — Firefly shared experiential commonalities with homespun, hyper-local hippie-oriented musical gatherings dotting the map. The differences being, of course, the colossal pop stars (The 1975, Mumford and Sons, Ludacris, CHVRCHES) and soon-to-be pop stars (Pell, Kaneholler, Quilt, Son Little, Civil Twilight) filling out the lineup. This is, after all, an event where music industry mechanizations move the gears. It’s just refreshing to see that this can be done while still providing a positive experience for the fans.

For this year’s Firefly, I documented it with a mix of digital photography and a roll of 35 mm film on a Canon AE-1. The film is back just recently from the lab, and today I present its highlights to you, with some running commentary. See my digital pictures from Friday here, from Saturday here and Sunday over here. Continue reading →


Firefly Sunday recap: Mumford and Sons, Earth Wind and Fire, Ludacris, Grouplove + more

Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN
Mumford and Sons | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

The fifth annual Firefly Music Festival came to a close yesterday with a day of beautiful weather and stellar performances, from a high-energy set from Ludacris at half past noon to the astonishing headlining performance from Mumford and Sons. In between were knockout sets from Earth Wind and Fire, Grouplove, The 1975, Elle King and more. The Key’s editor John Vettese was there all weekend. Check out some of his photos from Sunday below, and see a Saturday recap here and a Friday recap here. Continue reading →


Your Firefly Guide: 20 artists to discover in the Woodlands this week

Photo by Joe Del Tufo |

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 MachineM83Mumford 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. Continue reading →


Download a free Firefly fest mixtape ft. Fitz & The Tantrums, Robert DeLong, Arkells, Guster and more

Fitz and the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums | photo by Joseph Cultice | courtesy of the artist

Firefly Music Festival is just six weeks away. Featuring over a hundred bands, headliners include Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Florence & The Machine, and Two Door Cinema Club. Forty of the bands playing are on a new mixtape that you can download for free via NoiseTrade; stream it below, and catch Firefly Fest in Dover, Delaware from July 16 to July 19th. More information can be found hereContinue reading →


The 2016 Firefly lineup is here!

Screen Shot 2015-11-18 at 9.12.26 AM
The Firefly Festival lineup for 2016 has been announced. Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Florence & The Machine, Nathaniel Ratefliff & The Night Sweats, Major Lazer, and Tame Impala top the bill, with some exciting lesser known musicians like Lauren Stevenson, Jack Garratt, Arkells, and Teen Men and Son Little from Philly. Continue reading →