Dover man hopes for more local bands at Firefly

The band Shutter from right to left, Eugene Stone, Dan Stone and Jeremy Allen practice in Dover. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — On June 15-18, the rapidly growing Firefly Music Festival will return to Dover for the sixth time. Last year’s festival showcased around 120 musicians and attracted 90,000 fans from all over. Big name acts like Florence + the Machine, Deadmau5, Mumford and Sons and Kings of Leon were the highlights on the Main Stage in 2016.

This year’s event is likely to net similar attention — published reports have said that rapper Busta Rhymes and electronica duo Phantogram, who last played Firefly in 2014, are two of the acts already on the bill. A full lineup is expected to be released soon.

But earlier in December, officials at Red Frog Events, who are responsible for the festival, announced a format tweak. Firefly now identifies itself as the first fan-curated festival and have posted surveys on its website where patrons can vote on everything from talent and attractions to food and camping. The polls for the event closed as of Jan. 6, and details on the results will be likely be released soon, but the new democratic lean has one Dover resident particularly interested.

Dan Stone is a regular attendee of the festival who has both worked it as an EMT/paramedic and enjoyed it recreationally. A fan of the musical acts and environment it brings to Dover, he also began wondering a few years ago if the festival might be an ideal launchpad for local musicians too — being one himself.

Mr. Stone, his brother Eugene Stone of Dover and Jeremy Allen of Bear make up a three-piece “pop punk” band called Shutter.

Dan Stone has started a petition to get the Firefly Music Festival to welcome more local bands to its event. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

“We’ve been around off and on for about 10 years,” he said. “For the most part, we play locally, anywhere from New York and New Jersey to Maryland and, of course, Delaware. We’ve played at the Trocadero Theatre in Philadelphia and in the Atlantic City area too.”

Mr. Stone thinks his band, and other local ones like it, would make a great addition to Firefly’s lineup if they were given the opportunity to perform. Although he admits that the music scene in Delaware is a small one, he says it’s enthusiastic. If Firefly were to offer the space, he can think of at least a dozen local bands with live show experience that would be interested right away — many of whom have professionally recorded tracks and CDs.

Hoping to draw some attention to the idea in 2013, Mr. Stone started a Facebook page called the “Firefly local stage petition”. The site had nearly 1,700 likes at last check.

“There’s a ton of interest in a local stage,” Mr. Stone said. “I get alerts every day still about new likes on the page.”

He also reached out to Red Frog Events to pitch the idea.

“Initially they sounded like they were interested but then it kind of fell off,” he said. “Several other bands contacted them too.”

He realizes it’s a lot to ask, but logistically, Mr. Stone thinks the costs of adding a local stage would be minimal. He claims that the bands, including his, would be happy to play for free and would also be able to provide the necessary equipment.

“With everything they already have in place, they wouldn’t need added security or things like that,” he said. “A stage could be anything from a flatbed trailer, a small pad or even just an empty space.”

The bands would need a public address system of some kind, but Mr. Stone said many bands already have the requisite equipment and local music shops would likely be willing to help.

Including a few local Delaware bands wouldn’t be that much of a departure from the existing lineup, as it is often full of fairly “obscure” bands already, he said.

“I’m into the music at the festival, but when you look at the bill, there are a lot of bands in the fine print that make you wonder who they are and where they’re from,” he said. “Local bands wouldn’t be too much different.”

To some extent, Firefly already does try to showcase new acts. According to Lauren King, spokeswoman for Red Frog Events, they’ve been working to continually enhance their “Big Break” contest and it will soon have a more local focus.

Delaware bands at Firefly in the past have included Cypher Clique from Dover and Wilmington’s New Sweden and Mean Lady.

“We will be releasing details on this by the end of the month,” she said. “We will have a portion of this contest have a new twist where all applying bands will have to be based within 150 miles of Dover.”

A 150-mile radius would include Washington, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City. Ms. King also noted that because the festival is a “huge supporter of up and coming artists” they would entertain the idea of including a local stage.

“We would consider (Mr. Stone’s proposal), but cannot commit to it at this stage,” she said. “We, of course, want to do what we can to support all musicians, local and beyond.”

Although the polls for the lineup are closed for this year, Mr. Stone hopes that the new fan-curated format may be conducive to votes, petitions and write-ins for a local stage or local bands like Shutter if enough fans support the idea.

Mr. Stone’s petition page can be found at @fireflylocalstage of Facebook.

Firefly Music Festival can be contacted through Firefly Music Festival on Facebook, @liveatfirefly on Twitter or by visiting their site at fireflyfestival.com.

Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at igronau@newszap.com

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