Going to The Woodlands of Delaware for Firefly 2017? For the first time...? Second? Sixth? This is the one post you'll need to make it to and through Firefly's sixth year -- updated often. Whether it's camping survival tips or trying to make your way through the line-up to find what's worthwhile, I've got it all. Seriously.
First off, I want to say that, while I was initially miffed with this year's lineup (especially the headliners...), a few weeks of listening through the under card has helped me find some serious gems. So, I'll be listening and listing some of my favorite artists headed to Firefly this summer, from the bottom on up.
Ill Fated Natives: The first group I heard and was instantly intrigued by. These guys have an interesting sound -- think The Black Keys meets Jimi Hendrix? RIP the already zero credibility I had, I know, but that's about the best way I can put it. Many of their tunes have a great jammy vibe with some nice lickity licks thrown in. Definitely a group to be on the lookout for at Firefly and in the future. I'll most definitely be at their Sunday afternoon set at North Hub.
Mir Fontane: I'm not a huge rap connoisseur, but I can't deny that Fontane's "Who's Watching the Kids" is some damn good stuff. It's a bit comical at one moment, and shot straight from the heart the next. "Whatever You Want," "Space Jam," and "Twenty Five" are standouts, but almost the whole album is solid. Only having a 20min set is insulting and disappointing (and, at a crappy time -- 5pm or so), but I plan on trying to make it over to see him.
Bencoolen: I don't know what to describe Bencoolen's sound as. I'm sure this comes off as lazy of a description as it does pathetic. Just listen to them.
Vita and the Woolf: Really can't ignore these two. I'd describe them as "the poor man's Florence + Machine," but as far as I can tell, they're the real deal. The vocals on "Qiet" are simply phenomenal. Nobody with a voice as great as Pague's deserves such little recognition.
OWEL: I'm not sure what's better... the build up and overall feel of their tracks, or just the raw, powerful vocals. Soothing, yet eye-opening... like Vick's VapoRub on your upper-lip. OWEL has a unique sound that I look forward to hearing live.
the Orphan, the Poet: Alright, so "Terrible Things" is already very clearly on the up-and-up, but the Terrible Things EP as a whole is pretty great. "Terrible Things" is definitely the standout from the EP, as it's irresistibly catchy, but I can't wait for a full-length release from these guys... for some reason they're playing at General Camping twice, so I won't likely see them. Bummer.
Warm Brew: Sounds like throwback rap -- maybe most people have moved on to the newer sound of rap, but I'll always have a preference for this style. Catchy as all hell -- especially their most popular song, "Can Ya Blame Me."
Sub-Radio: A definite "Who?" from the under card that has wound up being one of my more looked forward to groups at Firefly. It sucks that they won't get the exposure they deserve INSIDE the festival (like any artists in this list), but it's a start. Different Station is a fun, poppy album, and their newest release, "Better Than That" could easily be on radio stations everywhere.
Jared & the Mill: Definitely a "poor man's" Mumford & Sons, but that's okay -- "Messengers" and "Breathe Me In" especially give that vibe, but their sound as a whole is quite comparable. Their first album recently got dropped off of Spotify (maybe some strategic way to push their new stuff?), but they're great and certainly going to just be getting bigger.
Spiritual Rez: I find it kind of shitty that they won't be playing at the North Hub (Wednesday Premier Camping) this year, but if you're in General Camping, they're a must see if you like sounds of ska and reggae. "Whiskey" and "Bring it On" are just a couple songs that ought to be far more popular than they are.
DREAMERS: It's just about at the point in this list now where a lot of people will know the artists -- DREAMERS is already fairly popular thanks to their songs "DRUGS," "Wolves (You Got Me)," and, especially, "Sweet Disaster." They ought to put on a really fun show... their debut album is pretty deep.
888: "Critical Mistakes," which sounds like it should be the theme song for Bloodline on Netflix, has a catch-as-hell poppy sound not too unlike COIN or Night Riots... but the falsetto and synth sound makes them stand out. There are few artists I'm looking forward to more than 888.
There are plenty of other artists I would highly recommend and personally love to see, but the list could go on forever in what I think wound up being a deep under card. Fickle Friends, MISSIO, Sofi Tukker, Barns Courtney, Quinn XCII, Lewis del Mar, Nahko & the Medicine for the People... this line up just goes and goes. I was one of those who was disappointed at first (because of the headliners), but some of the sub-headers and a lot of the under card are actually great -- I expect to miss a lot more shows that I want to see this year than I did last.
It's also worth adding that as of this posting, none of the bands in bold will actually be playing in the festival, with the exceptions of 888 and DREAMERS. It's possible that that could change, and I hope it does, but I'm not expecting it.
Whether you like camping or not, I absolutely think going to a weekend festival like Firefly is something everybody should do at least once. I didn't really think I would want to go to Firefly again before even going last year, but here I am, counting the days until the festival again.
Firefly has a lot of camping options, but I'll give my suggestion -- rough it a bit. I've opted for Wednesday Night Premier for a second year in a row for a few reasons. First, you get an extra night of music, which in itself is a selling point for a lot of people. Second, you get to be set up and ready a night early, which is, for me, maybe an even bigger perk. I like the convenience of being able to set up my camp site and have an extra day in the camp grounds. There are other camping options and add-ons that include air conditioning and exclusive rest rooms, but I think you'll make-do -- waking up in a bed of sweat at 8-9am isn't ideal, and I don't mean to sound like your grandpa, but it really does just add to the experience.
Another note... I'm a pretty clean person. I was certain the idea of not being able to shower for five or six days would make me go crazy -- but, dude, baby wipes. That and dry shampoo. I did end up washing my hair on Friday or Saturday with a jug of water, but I was surprised just how well baby wipes worked. I was also impressed with how inoffensive everyone else smelled... nice job, guys. I was expecting radiating crowd B.O. by Thursday night.
Anyway, there are a ton of camping tips and lists online with people saying what you should and shouldn't bring... there are a few must-haves, I think:
1.) A reliable cooler -- preferably a "roto molded" cooler that will keep ice, unlike a cheap one from Walmart. If you can afford to blow a couple hundred on a roto molded cooler, I'd recommend Rtic or Frosty, as they are the same (or very similar) quality as bigger names like Yeti for literally half the price. Ice isn't to exorbitantly priced at Firefly (I think it was $5), but you'll need to buy a bag every day and constantly drain your cooler. Plus, if you plan on ever camping again, a quality cooler is something worth investing in... I can't overstate the importance of cold water, and, of course, beer, at the campground. I also definitely recommend bringing some food to store in your cooler to make at your camp site to save money, which brings me to my next suggestion...
2.) A grill -- I don't remember for sure, but Firefly may have made it so you "can't" (well, aren't supposed to) have open flames at the camp grounds, but that wouldn't include a portable gas grill. Food in the festival obviously isn't cheap (but, pretty damn good for the most part), so you'll likely want to at least split meals.
*Stay tuned for more updates. ... in 2018 evidently, since I never finished this. SIGH.*