The smell of pancakes was permeating the campsite.
I stood, sweating profusely, trying to cook chocolate chip pancakes on a hot skillet in the blistering sun. There were eighteen hungry and tired Firefliers, each waiting their turn to eat the delicious sustenance and regain their strength.
I couldn’t cook them fast enough. I hoped I had enough batter.
“Soup’s on!” I yelled, slapping the most recent pancake onto a paper plate and shunting it forward to whoevers dirty fingers could grab it first.
We had sat in traffic for eight hours during the previous day just to get into this fucking festival. As bitter as I was about the traffic jam, all was forgiven the moment I walked under the entrance and spotted the sign that read Firefly Music Festival.
We had forgotten about our cares, our frustrations and aggravations, our near hatred for one another, and our lives at home. Walking under those gates instills in you warmth, joy, and a sense of camaraderie. It’s a sense that doesn’t exist outside of war veterans, POW’s, the homeless and the insane. It’s like going to war, except the combatants are your mind, and your body.
My foot hurt. The night before, I had been standing, walking, dancing, and raving at the Silent Disco. Gravity had taken its toll. I was worn out. As the had night come to a close, I assisted in getting a Little Person home after getting him far too inebriated for his size. He was ready to pass out on the concrete. I told him that was no place for anyone to sleep. I threw him on my back and stoically carried him, piggy-back style, for the entire mile long walk from festival entrance to campsite. I ripped my pants picking him up and we lost his flip-flops, but you never leave a man behind.
When I awoke the second morning, my left foot was swollen and purple. It hurt immensely to walk on it. Yet there I was, standing in pain, sweating my figurative dick off making pancakes for the other victims of war that were my camp-mates. We needed nutrition and munitions before we could go and do it all again.
Later on, all eighteen of us were somehow able to rendezvous at a single meeting point. We traversed the festival grounds together from set to set for a few hours.
It was about 6pm, and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes were starting up. Sweet T and I were approached by one of our fellow campers.
“Hey, take this.” my friend, The Fortress, handed us each a small piece of toilet paper rolled into a ball.
Before I could ask what it was, I saw Sweet T already downing hers with a big gulp of cold water. She made a face that said “that was bitter”.
“Fuck it” I said, and down the rabbit hole I went.
“Welcome to Firefly,” The Fortress said.
Edward Sharpe and his crew opened with “40 Day Dream”, which was adequately describing my whole experience currently.
It was now closer to 7pm, and we needed to get a move on towards the main stage if we were going to get decent seats for The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
But there was eighteen of us, all of us stoned, half of us hanging out with Lucy or Molly, nearly all of us partially drunk. How could we get from one end of the Festival grounds to the other without losing each other?
We had a system.
As we continued to walk, we encountered thousands of Firefliers who were also attempting to get good seats to see Karen O. I could tell that we were being interspersed with people, and our group was getting separated. I needed a way to keep track of us all.
So, every couple hundred feet, like a drill sergeant, I would scream, “HAAAAAAAAAAAAANDS UP!” and everyone in our little army would throw their palms to sky. At the same time, my friend Keef would scream “HEYO RIVER” with the expectation of an echoed response. It worked like a charm; we got all eighteen members of our group within a pretty close distance to the stage. We still even had enough room to set down a blanket and unwind.
I needed a beer. I ran to a stand tent and grabbed six tall boy pounders. It seemed like a good idea. I would worry about money later. For now it was all about quenching the thirst of my chemically induced brethren. Thank god we had almost a gallon of water between us too. I kept thrusting beer into the arms of whoever wanted it.
It was then that my girl Karen O. jumped on stage. She led us right into their set with “Zero,” which had me dancing and twirling. It set the precedent for the rest of their show.
I knew I would have to get closer. Sweet T and I followed our friends K-Ry and Dee closer to the stage, and there, in the slowly dying glow of the sunlight they played “Maps”. There was just this… ocean of people singing. People with their hands up, reaching for the idols that they had gone through so much just to see, even though they knew that they’d never get a real chance to be close. That didn’t matter. We were partaking in the ancient pastime of “Standing around in awe of those we deem to be more worthy of attention than us” and that was good enough for all of us.
But she was just so close. I felt like I could touch her. That’s how the Firefly experience makes you feel; like you’re part of something important. For a single weekend, we put our physical bodies and mental states through hell so we could live our dreams in the presence of gods among men. You feel a little like a god yourself. Standing there as the sun began to leave the horizon (and darkness crept in) I knew that even if we were only renting the fire, we would always remember the sight of the flame.
The bottom line:
Firefly was incredible, but there were some growing pains. The traffic was unbearable and discouraging. With more than triple the amount of people that showed up for the inaugural year, it was hard for them to accommodate us all on the roadways and inside the festival. Red Frog events, however, has signed a ten year contract with the people at Dover Speedway. Because of this, I’m confident that the issues that were present this year will cease to be an issue next year, as the concert heads out of puberty and into early adulthood. By the time the weekend was over, we were beaten, we were dirty, we were exhausted and tired and we hardly wanted to even look at each other anymore. But god dammit we had one of the best times of our lives. You can count on me being there next year, ready to put myself through hell again for a little taste of the glory that is the modern music festival.