Firefly Music Festival Preview

By Matt Arena

This year Dover International Speedway in Delaware will be home to Firefly Music Festival (official app). Firefly is a three-day music experience with over 40 bands, as well as a litany of other attractions, such as arcade games and even a hot air balloon ride. The lineup is one of the finest you’ll find of the many summer festivals, even standing up to (and this writer’s opinion, higher) than the usual stalwarts the likes of Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Outside Lands. Boasting headliners The Black Keys, Jack White, and The Killers, it’s hard to deny the strength of this lineup. And that’s before considering all the stellar acts books throughout the day. In addition to booking great bands, the schedule itself boasts very few major conflicts, a rarity amongst summer festivals. Below is your guide to Firefly festival, including all the must-see acts during the festival’s three-day run.

FRIDAY

WALK THE MOON
Set info: 6:45, The Porch

If any band were custom made for a festival, it would be Walk the Moon. These Ohio natives have absolutely exploded the past couple months, mostly due to the release of their self-titled debut album (to long time fans, more of a companion to their independently released album, i want i want!) and a number of TV appearances the likes of Jimmy Fallon and David Letterman. With music that sounds like it came from a sentient pack of Starburst, they’re a band that never fails to deliver live. A summer anthem if there’s ever been one, the smash hit single ‘Anna Sun’ has been topping alt-rock countdowns for weeks and boasts a still growing 3 million views for the music video on YouTube. Taking their studio tunes and giving them even more life when played live, it’s near impossible to not dance along to these guys on stage. Poised to have a Foster the People type year in terms of popularity, Walk the Moon is a band you’ll be hearing a lot about as the summer continues.

SILVERSUN PICKUPS
Set info: 8:00, The Backyard

Hot off the release of their new album, Neck of the Woods, Silversun Pickups aren’t making a lot of festival stops this summer, making their set at Firefly that much more of an important mark on your schedule. It’s always said that the mark of a truly great band is that they can translate their sound on record to their live shows. Silversun Pickups take that one step further. Louder and heavier than on the album, their songs take on a new life when played live. Songs like ‘Growing Old is Getting Old’ and the newer ‘Mean Spirits’ will no doubt have the entire crowd jumping and singing along. They might even melt your face a bit too. The passion lead singer Brian Aubert exudes on stage is palpable, as his primal screams and frantic guitar work are enough to drive even the most stagnant crowd member into jumping along. Definitely one of the best acts Firefly has to offer, do yourself a favor and experience their set.

JACK WHITE
Set info: 9:30, Firefly Stage

Though Firefly is one of the many stops Jack White’s making in support of his first solo album, there’s a reason he visits so many festivals as a headliner. One of the few modern musicians to reach legendary status (and rather quickly), he garnered a lot of buzz surrounding the break up of The White Stripes. Proving that he’s just as good on his own as he is with his many bands, White’s solo album Blunderbuss has by many been considered the album of the year. Giving new life to dirty blues, his complex riffs and old school sound have resonated well with music fans today. Even though he’s playing with a new band, Jack White doesn’t neglect the songs that got him to where he is. White Stripes, Raconteurs, and Dead Weather songs are all a regular occurrence on his set lists. And come on, it’s got to be on everyone’s gig bucket list to hear ‘Seven Nation Army’ at least one time live.

SATURDAY

GROUPLOVE
Set info: 3:30, The Lawn

Winning over new fans as a festival mainstay this summer, Grouplove has continued to impress at major stops like Coachella and Bonnaroo. Known for their out of control live presence, all it takes is one Grouplove show to understand why this band is growing so quickly. They just finished up their first headline tour in support of their debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song, and still continue to tour tirelessly. It’s hard to not respect a band that tries as hard as Grouplove, and clearly has a ball doing it. To try to describe their sound would not only be a near impossible task, but would almost do the band a disservice. Ranging between modern pop-synth indie rock and mellow, introspective electronica, they have a little something for everyone. They’ve had a massive year so far and only look to get even bigger.

YOUNG THE GIANT
Set info: 4:30, Firefly Stage

Following in the footsteps of other indie-rock acts that have recently found their way to mainstream success, Young the Giant have had quite a year. Starting with a huge main stage slot at last year’s Lollapalooza, a classic performance on the VMAS, a turn on MTV’s Unplugged, it was just a matter of time before it all clicked. And clicked it has. Selling out nearly every stop of their tour this past spring, even having to rebook several shows to larger venues, this band deserves every bit of praise they get. They’re able to mix modern indie rock with mellow beach pop and come out with an incredibly unique sound that is clearly finding an audience. Having a scorcher of a hit single like ‘My Body’ sure helps. Add to that the ever-growing popular tracks like ‘Cough Syrup’ and ‘Apartment,’ this band has been one of the biggest standout bands of the past year and show no signs of slowing down.

SUNDAY

REPTAR
Set info: 1:10, The Porch

There’s been a contingent of fantastic bands coming out of the South and making it big lately; Manchester Orchestra, Cage the Elephant, Sleeper Agent, and now Reptar. Having just opened for Grouplove on their nationwide tour, Reptar might just be Firefly’s best band that you don’t know about. Describing themselves as “disco dust,” once you hear one of their songs you’ll definitely agree. An eclectic combination of synths, guitar, bass, and drums, Reptar will make you want to dance and then mosh, sometimes both simultaneously. Their recently released debut album ‘Body Faucet’ has certainly struck a chord as the band’s popularity continues to rise. With a relatively set on the last day of the festival, Reptar will certainly set the bar high for the rest of the day.

AWOLNATION
Set info: 2:20, The Lawn

The leading pioneer of Red Bull records, AWOLNATION has been one of a garrison of new bands making quite a splash. Touring hard since the release of their debut album Megalithic Symphony a year ago, they’ve been able to garner lots of attention from their energetic live shows. Actually, energetic is an understatement. Known for quite literally crowd surfing at festival recently, as lead singer Aaron Bruno floats along the crowd on top of a surfboard, it’s hard to walk away from an AWOLNATION show unimpressed. Blending elements of electronic and rock, as evidence on their hit single ‘Sail,’ they’ve got a sound custom made for the wide expanse that a festival brings. It’ll be hard to miss AWOLNATION, as their sound will no doubt carry over the entire festival grounds. If you’re having trouble finding them, just look for the guy surfing over the crowd.

COLD WAR KIDS
Set info: 3:45, Firefly Stage

One of the few gems of Firefly, Cold War Kids haven’t been touring much lately, thus making their set all the more a must-see. Equal parts soul and rock, the Long Beach natives certainly know how to put blend these elements and highlight them in the live show. The sheer power of lead singer Nathan Willett’s voice will no doubt draw crowds towards their stage during the midday set. Though everyone will probably already know ‘Hang Me Up to Dry,’ the rest of their songs bring similar funk energy. Hearing Cold War Kids on the production and power of the main stage is a treat that everyone would be wise to experience.

DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Set info: 6:15, Firefly Stage

Easily one of the best bands in the entire festival lineup, Death Cab’s set is one that will no doubt be on everyone’s radar. Even though they’ve been around for a while, they still play with the passion and ferocity of a band still trying to break it. Those who haven’t seen Death Cab before will no doubt be surprised with the energy the band exudes live as many of their songs make the jump to a live setting better than expected. Never ones to disregard their old material, you can expect a perfect blend of songs touching upon almost all of their seven full-length albums. Balancing between the intricate riffs found on ‘You Are a Tourist’ with the beautiful lyrical and piano work on songs like ‘What Sarah Said,’ they will entertain every second of their set. Add to that the sheer power and breath taking ability that their usual set closer ‘Transatlanticism’ has and it would be a crime for any to miss Death Cab for Cutie’s performance.

THE BLACK KEYS
Set info: 9:30, Firefly Stage

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’ve got to know who The Black Keys are. If there’s any band that has worked long and hard to get where they are, it’s them. The overwhelming praise (both from critics and fans) behind their latest effort, El Camino, has helped propel the band into further heights of popularity. Launching their first ever arena tour just a short while ago, many doubted whether or not the band had bitten off more than they could chew. They answered it by selling out Madison Square Garden immediately and adding another date that quickly sold out as well. Taking the unique set-up of a just drum and guitar (though they bring along some extra members on tour) they’re able to make a lot of noise for the music of just two men. The lyrics for songs like ‘Howlin’ for You’ and ‘Tighten Up’ will no doubt be echoed on the lips of everyone in attendance. The Black Keys are a perfect choice to close out the festival, as any other band would be hard pressed to follow up what’s sure to be the highlight of the entire weekend.

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