Farewell to Firefly 2019: Fans see changes but excitement remains

DJ Goodsex crowd surfs in the Silent Disco in The Thicket at Firefly in Dover on Sunday. Special to the Delaware State News/Daniel Briggs

DOVER — By most accounts, the eighth annual Firefly Music Festival was another exciting time for attendees, but for some longtime festivalgoers they sensed a change this year.

“This is my third time out here and it did feel a little different than I remember,” said Cincinnati native Trevor Payne. “I think the music got better since the last time I was here, as they went all out with the big acts with Travis Scott, Post Malone and Panic! At The Disco.

“Those are some real heavy hitters. You can’t get much bigger than that. But everything just seems bigger than before. The last time I was here it just seemed more intimate in a sense.”

AEG Presents, already a majority holder in Firefly, acquired the remaining ownership shares of the festival last summer from Red Frog Events, a Chicago-based event company.

070 Shake entertains fans at The Prism stage at Firefly.

Since then, AEG — the concert promoter behind events such as Coachella and Stagecoach in Southern California, Panorama Festival in New York City and 8,000 concerts a year — has handled promotion and production at Firefly.

“That explains a lot,” Mr. Payne said. “It did kind of have the Coachella feel this year. Before it felt like a small festival just enlarged, but this time with all the big acts it seemed like way larger than an event like Coachella.”

Dover native Dos Bethea shared that sentiment.

“This is my fifth year,” Mr. Bethea said. “I think the lineup overall got bigger with some of the bigger names but I think the level of talent went down. But then again that’s kind of subjective because it’s based on what I like. Other people might think different.”

Mr. Bethea said he did notice that it was easier for attendees to enter the festival this year.

Fans spread a positive message while waiting for the show to start at Firefly Sunday in Dover.

“That was run smoothly,” Mr. Bethea said. “Usually it takes forever to get in, but this year it didn’t feel like that. The line seemed to move a lot quicker. Also it seemed really cleaner this year. Usually there is a lot of trash everywhere, but for some reason it didn’t look like that to me. The organizers did a great job of having a lot of trash cans and recycle bins.”

Mr. Payne also said the food options were better than previous years.

“There seemed to be a lot of different options than burgers and fries,” he said. “That’s definitely a plus because being here for three days you get tired of eating the same thing, so having different options to choose from is something I really appreciated this year.”

As far as the performances, Mr. Bethea said he was pleased.

“I was a little disappointed in Travis Scott,” Mr. Bethea said. “He underperformed to me. His set was too short. But other than that I was pretty satisfied with everybody I wanted to see. I even became fans of some new bands as well.”

Fans pose for last day photos at Firefly.

Recent lineups haven’t been able to match the drawing power of the 90,000 who came to see Paul McCartney in 2015 and 80,000 for Foo Fighters in 2014.

“I think it’s less people this year,” Mr. Bethea said. “That’s how it feels to me for some reason. “But sometimes you really can’t tell because everyone is all over, scattered out at different stages, but at night when the headliner performs and everyone is at one place it seems there are a lot more people than you remember.”

This year the concert was trimmed from four days to three.

“I think when it was four days everyone would start to come in on Thursday and just be here for a solid two days on Friday and Saturday and then leave on Sunday,” Mr. Bethea said. “I think with it being three days people didn’t get a chance to really experience the festival how they wanted, because instead of coming in on Thursday, this year people came in on Friday and didn’t have that extra day beforehand to unwind.”

Quinn XCII takes the Main Stage at Firefly in Dover on Sunday.

But Pennsylvania resident Will Lash said he still enjoyed himself even after arriving on the festival’s last day on Sunday.

“I just got here,” Mr. Lash said. “I was on vacation and I’ve never been here before and my friends always talk about it so I wanted to experience it for myself. I was tired of them talking about it so I just came.”

He said the festival has been everything his friends talked about.

“It’s been great,” Mr. Lash said. “I listen to a lot of different music, so to be out here and have access to a lot of different genres is pretty cool. I’m going to come back next year and make sure I plan it right where I’m able to come for the full duration of the festival.”

Mr. Bethea said as long as the festival continues to improve each year, they should have nothing to worry about.

“I think the Bird bikes, or scooters would help greatly,” Mr. Bethea said. “People can rent them and drop them off as they get close to the gate if they’re far away from the camp site. People don’t want to take those long walks. I think they can still make money like that.

Silent Disco dancers party in The Thicket.

“But other than that people are still going to come out. I plan to come out. It’s a great event each year. People love to hear good music so I don’t think the festival will slow down anytime soon.”

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