DOVER, DE – As I approach the entrance of this festival I was cautious, this was quite different than anything I’ve ever experienced from a festival. See, I was kind of coerced into covering this “pop” festival by my 16-year-old, who is a metal head in his own right, but one of his favorite artists is Twenty-One Pilots. I have largely ignored this group, but we’ll get into that later.

I’m walking across this bridge into what looks like, THE WOODS. As I get to the gates…in the middle of the woods, I see the colorful signs, “WELCOME TO FIREFLY.” This is Firefly Festival, and I’m clearly out of my element.

Let’s go back to the very beginning, when I made the decision to cover this event. during the day I work for a company called Sunbury Broadcasting Corp, which has 5 stations under its umbrella, one of which is a pop station. So whenever I see ANY festival come across my desk, I apply to go (I’m going to 5 this year) so why would Firefly be any different. Then when I saw the headliner for day 2 was Twenty-One Pilots, and day 4 was MUSE, I was intrigued for MUSE, and happy for my kid that he’ll get to see Twenty-One Pilots. So, I applied, knowing full well that a radio personality named “Chris the Progtologist” was NOT getting media passes to this “pop” festival. 94 KX has some power in this region, because not only was I approved, but pretty immediately.

So I had passes, and now time to go. We arrive, and I have to say from the very beginning some things were very evident. The first of which is I’m way out of my element which my huge beard and RUSH t-shirt on. My son, who is like a chameleon, fit in more or less, but I must’ve looked like an alien. There was a lot of either button up shirts, or tank tops going on with the guys.

The second glaring observation was this might’ve been the most beautiful group of people I had ever seen. All in their late teens, early 20’s and OMG HOT AF…guys and girls. Like everywhere you look there was some scantily clad girl with glitter everywhere on her body, or some beefy, ripped dude, who just flexes while he’s walking, it was incredible to behold I assure you.

The third eye opening realization was the striking lack of diversity. I don’t think I’ve seen that many white people in one place since 1940’s Germany. Another thing that crept up on me is the uppity, entitled nature of these particular concert goers, but we’ll get DEEP into that story in a bit as well.

Finally, as far as snap observations go, the one that really stuck out to me was the sheer beauty of this fest. It is hands down the most aesthetically pleasing festival I’ve ever attended, and this was number 16. It has an old school feel with lots of colors, flags, signs, grass, and its wide open. There’s like 6 stages and you have to walk like a mile to get to each one. Sounds arduous, it was actually very cool. No matter where you go on the festival grounds there is live music being played, even at the entrance before you even walk the mile to get to the actual festival grounds.

There is a place called THE HUB, which could’ve been a festival of its own. It was filled with vendors and awesome pavilions like the PlayStation 4 trailer. They basically had a video game man cave set up in a trailer where every new release was on big screen TVs for all to play. A nice leather couch sat in the middle of the room where you can play other festival goers in “Injustice 2” and try to be “King of the Couch.” With A/C and all on a hot day, I honestly could’ve spent the entire day there…but MUSIC. So let’s get to that.

So, seeing as this was my first ever “pop” festival, and I didn’t really know any of the artists on any of the side stages, AND the main reason why we were here was to see Twenty-One Pilots, we decided that hanging at the main stage was the way to go. We checked out the side stages on the way in and they were great. I heard one female artist, Shaed, who was really good. Really good voice, nice to look at, and a decent brand of pop/synth music. We also discovered there is a brand of “live” music that is quite boring, and that is EDM. I understand the appeal, I’m not nailing on the art form. If you’re a dancer, trancer, romancer, whatever-the-fuck-ever, I see the appeal. But for me, not being a dancer in any way (I once had a choreographer teach me a dance for a show, and I nailed the dance step for step, and she still said it looked awful. The moral of this tale, I’M NOT A DANCER) I didn’t get it, especially during the day when you’re light show are like the ghosts that follow me…I know they are there but I can’t see them. In any case, addressing the aesthetic beauty of this fest yet again though, the tent in which the EDM artists were performing was amazing. GIANT white balloons on the ceiling, and a huge stage with cool lights, or what seemed like cool lights, and screens.

It was at this point, while we were standing in the EDM tent that we were beckoned to the main stage by my closeted love for the band The Killers. No, they weren’t playing, but the band on the stage was playing a killer version of The Killers “Somebody Told Me.” So we make out way into the crowd and it was a band called Judah and the Lion. This Nashville based act was very entertaining. Their original stuff is like hip hop infused country pop, I know right? It actually sounds as good it sounds if you like that type of thing. With the use of banjo, and accordion, they have a unique sound and a great singer. They were fun the watch and really got the day started nicely.

Next up was AFI, an actual hard rock band. I didn’t think I would see like hard rock or metal here. I know Weezer is up later in the night, but that’s alt rock at best. So AFI hits the stage and they were very good. Heavy-ish (for this fest) and brooding but they got this crowd going. I even saw a mini-mosh-pit off to the right of me. Some interesting things I observed during their performance were the fact that there was an interpreter for the deaf on the stage with them. Now I’ve been to well over 500 shows now, and I’ve never EVER seen that. At first I thought it was a fan who jumped on stage and started dancing. Then I thought it was a planned stage thing because singer Davey Havok went over and started like dancing with her. Then I realized she was following what he was saying, and I have to say, that was pretty impressive and amazing. That’s a true performance style in itself, and a remarkable skill. She was on the stage for the majority of the rest of the day/night.  On the topic of singer Davey Havok, the only drawback from AFI’s performance is his general douchbaggery. First off, he barely addressed the audience, which is fine, if he has little to say to us, I’ve known many bands/artists that don’t talk between songs, but I mean with his eyes or performance as well. Worse than that was constantly dropping the mic after songs. Can someone get the memo to Davey Havok that Verizon killed the mic drop thing like a year ago. It’s obnoxious, and honestly it made me feel bad for the roadie that had to come out and put his mic back on the stand every 4 minutes on a hot day.

Ok, break time, near the end of AFI we bailed to get some grub because honestly that might be the best part of the festival experience, THE FOOD. Connor and I saw many wonderful options from smoked meats, to unique Chinese food and there was even a sushi truck. Ice cream sundaes and milkshakes rounded out the food experience, and that was only in the section near the main stage. I will say that this festival had the most choices in beer I think I’ve ever seen. They even had their own brand of Firefly brew.  If I wasn’t being a responsible parent and reporter, I probably would’ve sampled ALL THE BEER.

After our excursion into food land, it was time for the next band Franz Ferdinand. This is a band that I knew existed and pretty much just pegged them as background music. Not bad, just not attention grabbing. Everyone knows their one gigantic hit “Take Me Out,” but that was it for me going in. I have to say, I’m now a fan. WOW, what a great live performance. Four-part harmonies, great rock and roll music and a fantastic front man who also wore a guitar the entire time. It was honestly one of the best “non-stage show” enhanced performances I’d seen in quite a while, ranking up there with VolBeat.

Ok, so now the real story begins here. Weezer was the next band up and this is where I began to experience things at a concert that I don’t think I ever have. Weezer is a legendary status band, they’ve been around a long long time. So I get the general excitement over them being at this fest, but the crush of humanity that began from about 30 minutes prior to Weezer hitting the stage until the end of the night was something I’ve never dealt with.

Now before I get into the buffoonery that I had to endure from this amateur, young crowd of almost exclusively entitled white people, let me say a few words about Weezer. I’ve never seen Weezer, because I don’t consider myself a fan of Weezer. I like their songs, quite a lot actually, but I’ve never gone out of my way to listen to them or see them live. That has changed after Firefly Fest. Another top notch performance. Anthem after anthem performed to perfection. They were entertaining with having to rely on a lot of talking or gimmickry, it was just the music.

Ok, RANT TIME. Before I fully launch these nukes, I want to say that the organizers of this festival did a fantastic job. It’s a beautifully laid out festival, with a lot of choices of food, music and drinks. They were pretty relaxed with letting people bring water bottles in and posting refilling stations throughout the grounds. The stages were nice, and we actually did meet some interesting, nice people.

OK, enough of that. LOOK, upper-middle to upper class, white college kids, I need to tell you a few things.

    1. There are many spots in your life when your good looks, witty catch phrases, sculpted bodies, keen fashion sense, last name and money will help you, in the pit or on the floor area at a concert, nobody gives a fuck. If you’re an asshole in this area, nobody sees what you look like anymore, and nobody cares who you are, or where you come from, they just know you’re being an asshole.
    2. You don’t smoke cigarettes while you’re dancing around people and there is no more than 6 inches between said cancer stick and my face. After several warnings to this one douche canoe, with his Hawaiian button up shirt, unbuttoned of course, his 5-o-clock shadow, and his frat-boy baseball cap on backwards, OF COURSE, I said him “if that goes in my face, I’m putting it out in your eye.” He disappeared shortly after that despite his sculpted physique.
    3. Hey, asshole, yea you with the 50 pound backpack that you keep slamming into my chest, how would you like everyone to get the contents of said bag, because the next time it sinks my chest in, that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Your bag will be the Firefly Fest community store. I sure they have my size.
    4. Hey dude, so I get that you LOVE Weezer, and “Island in the Sun” is your jam, but I don’t really know you, like at all, so if you could please refrain from grabbing my shoulders and shouting the chorus in my face, with all that beer/bong/cigarette breath you have…I’d appreciate it Tex. Oh, and tell your 14-year old girlfriend to stop checking me out, it’s creepy, and I’m not interested.
    5. “Ummm, yea, no sorry…there’s no more room up here…LITERALLY.”
      “But my friends are right there.”
      “Well that’s great, but THERE’S LITERALLY NO ROOM.”
      “Maybe if I could…” as she shoehorns herself to try and get past me. Fucking amateurs.
    6. Okay, this one was ACTUALLY funny because it didn’t really affect me, it just made me laugh. Pop concert goers, I know you’ve seen some really cool concerts on YouTube and TV where people crowd surf right? Look, Firefly Fest is not the place for it. IDK if these uppity little bitches just couldn’t muster getting the people to the front, if they were too drunk/high, or if there was the obvious lack of beefy, bearded metal heads that will toss a motherfucker up if they start going down, but very few crowd surfers made it the distance.

I’m going to write about this separately because it was asshatery of the highest order. So, Weezer ends to much fanfare, and the easing of the crowd crush did NOT let up like I had hoped. This crowd was clearly here to see the headlining Twenty-One Pilots, and we had a 90 minute wait ahead of us, packed in like sardines, with 1000% humidity and body odor.

So now, people started getting tired, and shuffling around a bit, and SOME started to sit down, which was interesting because sitting down actually takes up more space, but that’s whatever, those people to the left of me need to deal with that. Then, all of a sudden, I feel my feet being crushed and my 16-year old son says “I can’t put my other foot down.” I ask why and he says “because this girl is sitting here.”

At the same time, a woman behind me starts to faint, so we have to clear a lane to the front (because that was closest) so we “try” to clear a lane, but this girl is just sitting there. So I say loudly (for effect) “I’d love to move, but princess down here can’t be bothered…she’s resting.”

So now she gets up, and starts screaming at me “YOU ARE SUCH AN ASSHOLE. YOU’RE AT A MUSIC FESTIVAL…YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT THIS IS WHAT IT’S LIKE AND IF YOU WANT TO BE UP FRONT YOU HAVE TO FIGHT FOR IT!!! SO STOP BEING A NEGATIVE, PESSIMISTIC ASSHOLE!!!!”

Now, I’m going to admit, I yelled back at her, mostly because this uppity, entitled, gorgeous, college-aged white girl thought she could just be a bitch and everyone would just agree with her. Not to mention the fact that I’ve been to over 500 shows in total, and 16 festivals, I know the proper concert etiquette and sitting in the General Admission section in front of the stage is NOT part of it. So I yelled at her “Are you kidding? I KNOW I’m at a festival, that’s why I AM standing and I AM helping those around me who need help.” So, she huffed and she puffed and she turned around saying “UGH, I can’t even look at you” like I gave a shit.

**Side note – I wound up apologizing because I shouldn’t have raised my voice, after all, I was the adult in that situation…but entitled white chicks everywhere, LISTEN…that’s not the thing to do. **

Ok, now for the actual mind blowing part of the day, the headliner Twenty-One Pilots. Now I know that this is a metal site first, and the great majority of you feel that pop music is garbage, and I honestly I’d normally agree with you, but Twenty-One Pilots is a different animal.

First off, when T-OP hit the stage, the rush to the stage was unlike anything I had ever experienced. I actually let out an audible “HOLY SHIT!” it was crazy. After the rush settled and I could pay attention to the show I have to say I was mind blown. The stage show, lights and performance by a two piece was really incredible.

With catchy hook after catchy hook sandwiched between solid hip hop and great drumming, this dynamic duo plowed through a 2 hour set deep into the night. Josh Dun is a very underrated drummer who not only played his instrument well, but did back flips on the stage, performed a drum solo on a mini-drum kit that was held up by the audience, crowd surfing style, but he even got into a human sized hamster ball, and ran on top of the audience. Tyler Joseph is the main writer for this group and a multi-instrumentalist who has a very unique performing style, and a devotion to his fans that really earned my respect.

The thing that really impressed me most was that as douchey, and crappy as the majority of these fans were all day (there were some really cool people too, so I don’t want you all to think that every person was a douche, it was just a great majority) they appear to be really great fans. They knew every word to every song, and this is a band that not every song is a huge hit. The only other band that I’ve seen this type of crowd participation is Coheed and Cambria (coincidentally my 16-year-old’s other favorite artist).

This show, from the music, to the crowd, from the screen presentation to the lights, was the best show I’ve seen since RUSH’s Clockwork Angels tour, and probably before that. The only thing that kept Twenty-One Pilot’s from being the best show I’ve ever seen is the fact that half of their music is pre-recorded, and not played live. It’s the nature of pop music, and on top of that, they are a two piece, but even with that, these two guys physically played as much as they could, and for that they are a cut above the rest of the pop scene. I will certainly see this group again, as I’ve become a full-fledged fan of Twenty-One Pilots as a result of this performance.

 

Written by Chris Elio for Bloodrock Media on June 26, 2017