Shoeclack’s Guide to Firefly 2017
A breakdown of Firefly 2017 including a guide to the stages, food trucks, campgrounds, and tips from an experience Firefly attendee.
A Breakdown of the Firefly Experience:
With a top line featuring Muse, Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd, Twenty One Pilots, and Bob Dylan, the 2017 edition of Firefly included an exciting mix of modern and classic artists across a variety of genres including rock, R&B, pop, EDM, and folk. As a result, the crowd of 90 000 people was a diverse mix of virtually all demographics. While young children danced in the grass wearing their over-sized headphones, ‘60s kids anxiously waited to see Bob Dylan for a chance to relive their glorious youth. As well, teenage pop fans gathered to sing along with Kesha, while hardcore alt-rock fans waited hours to experience the electric guitar skills and stage presence of Muse. With such a diverse crowd living in harmony together for five days, the atmosphere was full of energy, and it was easy for anyone to find a new friend who shared the same taste in music.
Firefly 2017 was unique in that it was one of the first major festivals to be entirely curated by its fans and attendees. From the scenery themes to the late night schedule, fans were included in the planning process via surveys completed in the months leading up to the festival. The result was a fantastic, collaborative effort that truly gave the fans what they wanted. Although many of these surveys came out fairly late in the festival planning process, expect many of the ideas (and artist suggestions) sparked by this method to continue to shape the festival in the next few years, both regarding its lineup and its commitment to visual arts on the festival grounds.
As a Canadian venturing South of the border for Firefly, I was (once again) shocked and excited by the portion sizes from food trucks. While most large meals came to about $10-12 USD, the portion sizes were big enough for two people to share, making it well worth the cash to experience some of the nation’s best food trucks. From pulled pork tacos to fried chicken and waffle sandwiches, each truck offered its own take on delicious, hearty festival grub. For any foodie, a healthy budget for food trucks has to be a top priority for next year’s festival.
Music & Stages
Firefly boasts seven stages, varying in size from headliner capacity to the Coffee House and Treehouse stages, which showcased smaller acts in intimate – often acoustic – settings. Although hiking from stage to stage (especially during the later acts in the day) was a bit of a trek, the space between stages eliminated a great deal of sound-bleed, and the quality of sound production was top-notch considering the massive size of the grounds.
Firefly also supports unopposed headliners, which brings the entire crowd together for the better part of two hours to experience the same show. The only problem with unopposed headliners is that it creates a logjam of conflicts in the preheadliner slot – something that was difficult for even the most seasoned festival veteran to navigate.
The beauty of Firefly is in its natural, forested scenery. The fan-curated path connecting two sides of the festival was decorated with giant, glowing jellyfish hanging from the trees. As well, The Nook featured dozens of hammocks nestled in a peaceful forest between the Backyard and Firefly stages, allowing for fans to relax in hammocks while listening to some of the weekend’s biggest acts in the distance. The Treehouse stage was tucked within the forest trail, allowing for the ambiance of nature to surround the crowd and center around the act playing at any given time. For later acts, the light shows and lasers reflected of the canopy of the trees, creating a glow that was simply mesmerizing. Without a doubt, Firefly’s unique qualities come from its beautiful scenery and exceptional visual artistry.
With some 90 000 people in attendance, the campgrounds were a huge aspect of the weekend. From the Wednesday pre-party to the Sunday night campsite jams with the small percentage of attendees who stayed the entire weekend, there was always some kind of excitement bustling just a few cars away. The laughter from afternoon drinking games with newfound festival pals echoed through the afternoons and late night. As well, everyone banded together to help each other withstand the vicious wind, rain, and sun, forming a community that was built and torn down within just a few short days. Like any major camping festival, this communal experience was simply inspiring, and is reason enough to attend next year.
Tips from a Festival Veteran:
Prepare for all kinds of weather
Although this goes for virtually every festival, preparation for weather is especially important at Firefly because the festival grounds are so close to the East Coast, making the weather sporadic and unpredictable. The blistering heat was cause for many sunburns and bouts of heat stroke, while the relentless wind and rain pounded the campgrounds into what became a canopy graveyard by Monday morning.
For your packing checklist, be sure to include: sunscreen, water bottles, hats, bandanas, sunglasses, umbrellas, ponchos, extra tarps, extra tent spikes and pegs, and clothing for various types of weather. Nothing ruins a great festival experience like being unprepared for weather conditions, so it’s better to over-pack.
Show up on Wednesday night
Firefly’s Wednesday night camping has become one of the biggest parties of the weekend. With a few small acts playing on the North Hub Stage, the campgrounds were alive with excitement and energy as everyone set up camp and met their neighbours. For anyone looking to capture the full experience of Firefly, Wednesday camping is a must.
Go with the flow
Simply put: Firefly is a massive festival. Even the most dedicated fan isn’t going to be able to experience everything. With seven stages, conflicts in the schedule are inevitable, so be flexible. Some of the best moments at Firefly are the ones you don’t plan or expect, so be open to the idea of missing something you intended to see because you’re having too much fun elsewhere.
Bring extra equipment and goodies
One of the best ways to meet your neighbours and strike up a newfound festival friendship is to use goodies as an icebreaker. These simple gifts can be practical, fun, or even nonsensical, but they always help spark conversation and spread good vibes. From extra water bottles and beer to canopy shade or homemade jewellery, anything can be used to make a new friend or help out a fellow attendee. The community experience of Firefly is what makes the festival great, so interact with your fellow music fans as much as possible.