I’m standing in line waiting to buy a sweatshirt on the last night of the 2014 Firefly Music Festival when all of a sudden I start having an asthma attack.
The grounds of the festival that I have been living in for the past four days have continuously produced enough dust to make the Dirty Thirties proud – not the ideal habitat for someone asthmatic and allergic to dust like me.
I must have been too hyped up on adrenaline, enjoying the remainder of my youth at my adult playground, to let anything as pesky as asthma and allergies get in the way.
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This is my second year at the camping and music festival, now in its third year. It’s held during the month of June in Dover, Delaware, which many city folk would probably define as the middle of nowhere. This year the lineup included the Local Natives, Amos Lee, Artic Monkeys, Foo Fighters, Grouplove, Imagine Dragons, Outkast, the Lumineers, Jack Johnson and Chidlish Gambino, among others.
I wasn’t always a festival person – believe me, four days with no showering and living in a tent is usually not my jam – but last year I had just graduated college and I needed an adventure. When my friend suggested we volunteer at the 2013 Firefly Music Festival I took her up on the offer immediately.
And we had the best time! I cried while watching Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, danced my butt off during Foster the People and met some pretty awesome people volunteering, who have since become friends.
This year was more of the same, good music, good friends and good vibes – except for the asthma attack, of course.
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In case you have never been to a music festival with overnight camping, the usual daily routine is as follows: wake up around 7 a.m. with the sun, hang out at the campsite until about noon, spend the rest of the day listening to good music until till around 2 a.m.
There are no deadlines, no cell phone reception and no worries.
>>>>DAY 1: THURSDAY<<<<<<
The first day, Thursday, was pretty calm. The music did not begin until the early evening so my friends and I had a lot of time to get to know our neighbors and hang out with old festival friends. That night we went to see Kodaline, Amos Lee and the Local Natives. They were all great.
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>>>>> DAY 2: FRIDAY<<<<<<
Friday was the first big day. There were so many bands that I felt I needed to see, but as is how music festivals usually go, we didn’t end up seeing most of them.
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After the Foo Fighters we were too hyped up to go “home” to the campsite , but too tired to walk over to the other side of the festival grounds to see Girl Talk. So instead, we sat underneath the glittery trees in the middle of the festival and had a good long talk about life, the kind of conversation you can only have while at a music festival in the middle of nowhere in your early 20s.
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>>>>>DAY 3: SATURDAY<<<<<
You have a lot of alone time at these festivals.
It’s strange, you tell people this who have never been to one and they don’t really get it. “There’s 80,000 people there,” they say. But no one ever wants to see all of the same bands as you do so sometimes you’ll find yourself watching a band or chilling in a hammock in the woods alone.
Some may think this sounds like the loneliest sounding activity in the world, but it is actually quite the opposite.
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I spent a lot of time on Saturday roaming around the festival and checking out bands by myself. It was so relaxing and calming, with new music ringing in my ear and dirt massaging my feet. Kind of like a spa, but less stuffy.
But I wasn’t alone the whole day. I spent some time in the afternoon with friends I met while volunteering last year.
One of them was Page, my volunteer friend who looks exactly like a Ken doll. He is 19 and thus is up on all the latest cool music.
When I told Page that I wanted to see Third Eye Blind that afternoon at Firefly, he completely vetoed that idea.
“Come see Lucius instead,” he commanded.
So I followed him like a little puppy dog and went to see them. Turns out Lucius is fantastic.
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After Lucius’s set on Saturday afternoon I had planned to see Grouplove and then Imagine Dragons.
Grouplove was ok. Not bad, it was just hard to get into their performance because it was still sunny outside and you didn’t have all the cool lights and stuff.
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Then it was time for Imagine Dragons. I was really looking forward to them, but it turned out they were just not my jam.
So I wandered around the forest awhile, trying to find something to do and I just so happened to run into Page.
“Oh Page, thank God I found you. Imagine Dragons were terrible. It’s not that they were bad, they just sound like every other band in that genre,” I said.
“High Five Ali,” he said.
“What do I do now?” I said.
“What about Grouplove? They are playing a smaller intimate set in the Coffeehouse in a few minutes,” he said.
“Hmmm….. I just saw Grouplove an hour ago, but I’ll give them another go,” I said.
And off I went to the coffeehouse to see Grouplove again. I found a pretty good spot near the front and then I spotted someone familiar. I jimmied my booty through the crowd and tapped this creature on the shoulder. It was Steven, another volunteer friend.
That’s one of the cool things about these festivals – you never know who you are going to run into – it’s kind of like summer camp.
Grouplove came on about 15 minutes late, but no one seemed to mind. They apologized for the delay, blaming it on a quick drinking and smoking session. For the most part it seemed everyone in the crowd had already seen Grouplove perform earlier so the band decided to just play their popular songs and requests from the audience.
They played “Tongue Tied” and “Shark Attack” and “Ways To Go.” And we danced and danced and danced while taking in the colorful lights in the cozy atmosphere. It didn’t feel like we were at a festival at all, more like a basement in a frat house.
We also got to enjoy a rare performance of the much under hyped song, “Beans on my Pizza.” Christian, the lead singer, said he felt like this crowd could “understand it.”
“Alone on an acid trip
On the sunset strip
Gimme that dip, gimme gimme that dip
Why you puttin’ beans on my pizza?
Why you puttin’ beans on my pizza, yeah
Why you gonna kill the mosquitoes?”
Before the last song of their set, they said they had to stop playing sooner or later and urged us to go check out some other bands. But I don’t think anyone wanted it to end. We tried to savor every second of the last song, an extended version of “Colours.”
Afterwards Steven and I continued the party at Sleigh Bells. I left early to try to find my friends who were already staking out spots for Outkast.
I pushed my way through the crowd to the front while trying to search for them, yes I was that girl, but of course I didn’t find them.
So I stuck it out right near the front and whooped it up all by myself.
>>>>DAY 4: SUNDAY <<<<<
After Saturday night’s shenanigans, Sunday was super calm. More sun, more music, more fun. It’s like the last day of camp. Sad for it to end, but happy to be getting a shower soon.
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And then there was the asthma attack. But, I took a few puffs from my inhaler and sat down and watched DJ Martin Gartix’s set from afar and was OK .
My friends waited for a couple hours to be front row to watch the final performer of the night, Jack Johnson, but I wasn’t feeling very well. I’m also not exactly a fan of his music so I went to see Childish Gambino, who was performing at the same time, instead.
I had a good time at Childish Gambino, but I was also ready to go home.
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On the one mile walk back to the campsite, I thought a lot about why people go to music festivals. The music is the obvious answer. How often can you see over 100 bands in a weekend for about $275?
Then, I was taking one last selfie in the forest when a big burly man with a large grin ran up behind me and photobombed it.
That’s when I figured it out. It’s not about the music, it’s about the people.
Even when I was alone that weekend, I wasn’t really alone. I had friendly neighbors to talk to about life and new friends from the cell phone charging station. I had great conversations waiting for the port-of-pottys and Outkast. There were people everywhere and everyone was so friendly. I didn’t meet one person with whom I didn’t at least exchange a high five.
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That doesn’t usually happen in real life, but for four days at the Firefly Music Festival it did.