Music Festival Travel Journal — Firefly 2017

firefly 2017 bishop briggs

The last two years, I’ve hit a bunch of festivals in the months of April, May and June as my NFL job has ended prior to festival season kicking off. This year, the plan is to hit 11 festivals in 11 weeks starting with Coachella weekend one all the way until Arroyo Seco back in southern California at the end of June. I’ve decided to do something a little different with my blog and do a bit of a journal detailing my travels to go along with the regular festival coverage I usually do. Follow my journey below!

Festivals I’m hitting: Coachella weekend 1, Coachella weekend 2, Fortress Fest, Middlelands, Shaky Knees, Hangout, Boston Calling, Governors Ball, Bonnaroo, Firefly, and Arroyo Seco. Also, please follow the blog on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram!

This was my second straight year at The Woodlands in Dover, Delaware for Firefly 2017, read up on how my experience went!

FIREFLY (DOVER, DE)

THURSDAY, JUNE 15

Firefly 2017 was my 10th of 11 festivals in 11 weeks, and I had nearly emptied my bank account. So I booked my flight back home to LA (Arroyo Seco Weekend takes place in nearby Pasadena) for the following Monday, and had enough cash left over to buy a $50 bus from Nashville to Washington DC, where I’d hopefully find a ride to Firefly a few hours away from.

The bus ride was something like 16 or 17 hours. I was planning on purchasing a $40 shuttle from DC direct to the festival that Firefly had a link for, but when I went to purchase it, it had been cancelled due to lack of interest. Fuck, I thought. So I hit the Reddit boards for Firefly pretty hard, posting in this thread where people were looking for camping buddies and rides.

By this time I had found at least a campsite to crash at, with this guy Matt I had met briefly at Boston Calling via the GroupMe app. He was this guy who also attended a fair amount of festivals each year and was pretty great at connecting with strangers at them, and he basically took in a couple of us stragglers, which was extremely nice.

I tried rounding up a couple other DC peeps to split an Uber (three people would be about $40 each) but some of the other DC people I hit up weren’t able to leave until late afternoon Thursday and I wasn’t trying to wait around at Union Station all day. I reached out to this dude who had said he was leaving Thursday morning and could probably give me a ride, but I thought I was going to just miss him leaving as my bus didn’t get in until 10:30. Luckily he got a later start and I was able to catch a ride with him to Dover and pick up my media wristband from nearby. (Check out my recap for QRO Mag)

I got in just in time to drop off my bags and relax a bit. I met the other people camping in our group Gavin and Tanya, and there were a few others that weren’t around at that time. We were camping next to some 18-year-old kids that rode one of their mom’s hippie wagons to the fest. By the time I got there, they were all already tripping on acid for the first time ever. I saw one girl open a banana from the middle. I ended up chatting them up and these are some of the funniest things they said while on psychedelics between Thursday and Friday:

One girl picks up a pair of sunglasses and says: “Ooh, I wonder what the world looks like.”

They’re taking hits out of a gravity bong (which they call a “grav”) and when explaining why this is the way they choose to smoke their pot: “This is what happens when you don’t have financial stability.”

A tangent one of them made about how music festivals promote good things: “This is what Firefly’s all about, right? Not hurting the animals?”


I wanted to get there Thursday in time to see Maggie Rogers, whose show at the Troubadour a few month back was impossible to get a ticket to. It was her first ever festival appearance, a mere 40 miles from her Easton, Maryland hometown. When she came out on stage, she had this look on her face of disbelief because her crowd was so big, and her smile was so infectious it immediately kicked the show off in this really positive place. Her show was spectacular, she even brought out FLETCHER to perform “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

I was in the VIP section, and directly in front of me on the other side of the rail were SOFI TUKKER. They were watching Maggie’s set and in between songs I told them how dope I thought they were at Coachella and I later got a picture with them, they were unbelievably nice. Next, I went and caught some of Elohim, who had a pretty sizable crowd in the Pavilion tent. I finally got to see K. Flay for the first time, who was solid — and I also got to see O.A.R. for the first time.

At O.A.R. I was in the VIP section and it was probably the densest crowd of thirty- and fortysomethings at the fest I saw all weekend. Some guy came into the crowd with pizza after pizza, handed slices off to what I thought were random people in the crowd. By the fourth box of pizza I reached to grab one and some dude stopped me, “Hey, what are you doing?” It turns out it was actually a group of like 25 fucking people all together and I thought it was just random pizza, so I felt pretty foolish. Still, the show itself was fun, and I finally got to hear “Crazy Game of Poker” live.

I caught a little bit of Anna Lunoe before catching Kaleo as one of the final acts of the first day. I met up with my campmates in the crowd and we were pretty close. Every time I saw them the past few months, they had a bigger and bigger crowd. It was comparable to what Glass Animals would pull as a crowd right after that.

After watching some of Gryffin, I went back to camp and hungout for a minute before passing out. I had been on a bus for two-thirds of a whole day and the only sleep I got in that stretch was upright, so I was fucking BEAT. I passed out pretty quick and since the weather in Dover isn’t Bonnaroo-level hot, I actually slept until 10 AM. By this time, a guy I hadn’t met Christian had shown up at camp and he had apparently left his phone on a bus earlier that day and spent all day tracking it down in Dover. He also had done something like five festivals in six weeks, which made me feel a bit more secure that I’m not some lunatic for spending my time this way.

FRIDAY, JUNE 16

I went into the festival in time to catch some of SHAED before seeing Klangstof play the Toyota Music Den. One of the coolest things about Firefly is the amount of secondary stages they have and how you can see some bands more than once. Klangstof was playing this 30-minute set before later playing one of the other small stages. It was cool to be a few feet away from them while some goofy host made jokes while they setup. Their set was pretty great, and I can’t get over the derp faces the lead singer makes. They also sound like if Radiohead was fronted by the Aqualung (remember him?) dude.

I caught DREAMERS at the Coffee House stage after missing their earlier set that day. I ate a Coolhaus ice cream sandwich, spilled it all over myself, and basked in the sun. It wasn’t as hot temperature-wise as Bonnaroo but it was humid as hell. I drank eight bottles of water a day easily and didn’t even drink any alcohol. It’s no wonder people were stumbling around all day, dehydrated and drunk as fuck.

I caught AFI on the main stage in the VIP area, and my favorite part was when some people older than me were rocking out and one of them lamented how he wished he could mosh but couldn’t handle the physical ramifications. I caught up with my campmates at Barns Courtney, who always delivers a high-energy show. He had apparently partired with some kids from ECU who were in the audience — I can imagine Barns would be a fun dude to grab a drink and party with.

Next I ran over to watch some of Bob Moses. Their crowd wasn’t that big but I think it was because it was so hot in the sun and Big Wild was in the tent where it was probably much cooler. Next I caught SOFI TUKKER on the Porch Stage. I saw a Tampa Bay Buccaneers flag flying in the air and I’m a Bucs fan, so I made friends with the dudes. Randomly, they were posters on Reddit and when I said I ran Pass The Aux they mentioned that they had seen my posts, which was pretty unexpected but cool. I had a couple extra bottles of water from the press area so I gave them one. I looked for the flag the rest of the weekend but only saw it once and the dudes weren’t the ones holding it.

SOFI TUKKER’s set was awesome — and they brought out Maggie Rogers to perform the song “Awoo”. Sophie and Maggie went into the crowd for part of the song, and SOFI TUKKER just have some really fun energy and know how to fire up a crowd. I’m stoked that they got that opening slot for ODESZA, that’s a good pairing.

Next I got a spot right up close for BANKS, who I’ve seen a number of times already. Her dancers and their choreography is really fun and I like the way she mixes up her set between old and new songs. It’s crazy, but some of my favorites in her set aren’t the ones that I love the recording of the most, like “Drowning”. I was also surrounded by some people that were really into the show, which made it that much more enjoyable.

Next I caught up with my roommate Jordan’s sister Sierra and her friends for a bit at Weezer. I was originally going to ride with them to the festival, but am instead catching a ride back to Baltimore with them afterwards. I stayed for about half of Weezer, I’d already seen them twice, and then went to lock up a spot for Miike Snow up close.

Pretty savage #festival #totem at #firefly2017… #fireflyfestival #musicfestivals

A post shared by Mark Ortega (@markeortega) on

This was the only festival Miike Snow was playing of the ones I attended during my trip. It was dope to get a really good spot, they put on a helluva show. I rocked out with some superfans and instead of leaving to get a good spot for Twenty-one pilots (meh), I just waited around for Flume. I chatted up a lot of people around me during the hour wait and realized very quickly I was the only person born in the ’80s within a 20-yard radius of myself. Teens everywhere, many of which were still in high school. Still, Flume put on a really good set and it was a great way to end the night. Flume also brought out Andrew Wyatt from Miike Snow for their song “Some Minds”, for the first time ever I believe. Afterwards I got to camp and pretty much passed out immediately.

SATURDAY, JUNE 17

On Saturday, the sun woke me up much earlier than the day before. I had a tent I had left at my friend’s the previous year for Bonnaroo, but didn’t bring much else. Matt had an extra air mattress, which came in handy. The funny thing is the air mattress had a larger floor space than my tent, so I slept on it like I was the meat in a taco. My bag and all my other stuff was in the corner underneath the air mattress so I was sleeping with my feet above my head. It wasn’t hard to get comfortable despite this.

I woke up, came out, and Tanya was making breakfast for everyone. I really hit the jackpot on camping with people I barely knew. I rallied pretty quickly and went in earlier than the rest of us to catch the end of Mondo Cozmo‘s set, since he really blew me away at Boston Calling 2017 earlier in my trip. I caught the last few songs, including “Shine,” which has been in heavy rotation on my Spotify since I got back.

Next, I caught some of Handsome Ghost at the Porch Stage. He’s got interesting vocals to give a unique spin on his brand of music. Next, I went to the Treehouse Stage and caught a glimpse of a band that had won a competition to perform at the fest. It was a very small crowd, and the band sounded like ’90s Fuel meets Our Lady Peace — dated, but sounded solid. Next, I caught some of MUNA, including a killer cover of Evanescence’s “Bring Me to Life”. Later I saw the band taking pictures and gave them props and they told me they loved my shirt I was wearing, which had a picture of Hanson under the NIRVANA font.

Next I went to the main stage and sat in the shade for T-Pain. I had seen T-Pain once before open for Dillon Francis and actually busted my nose thrusting my head forward into the back of someone’s head. This time I just chilled, but enjoyed the show nonetheless. T-Pain went from giving an impassioned speech about how awesome it was we were all together and not fighting, to playing a song, to then talking about how he was going to sign some women’s breasts with his…well you know. He was a great hype man and the nostalgia booking is something Firefly has become known for.

I caught some Magic Giant and then Sunflower Bean before getting my free SUBWAY sandwich for probably the 15th time of my trip (they were at a lot of festivals). Sunflower Bean has a very Thin Lizzy vibe to them. Next, I locked up a really good spot for Francis and the Lights in the VIP area and ended up singing and dancing with one of the dudes from Rainbow Kitten Surprise during the show. Francis was on point as usual, climbing the rafters and running into the crowd to dance.

I loaded up on some waters and then got a front row spot for The Naked and Famous, who were going on before Kesha. There were Kesha superfans all around me that I talked to. Most of them were cool, but some of them were really disappointing once TNAF took the stage. The bass was really heavy and they were plugging their ears like toddlers, which is pretty disrespectful. I hadn’t seen The Naked and Famous in years — I had a ticket to their Troubadour show last year that I bought off StubHub but had already been used, so it had been at least since 2015. They lamented the fact they were all pretty sick but they still delivered a fun show. Singing along to “Punching in a Dream” and “Girls Like You” from their awesome debut album were highlights of the weekend.

Afterwards I met up with my camp buddies at Bob Dylan. It’s so funny to me he doesn’t let himself be videotaped or photographed, and the crowd really thinned out as time went on. After Bob finished, we went over to Galantis, which was probably the most fun dance party of the weekend. All of us were drenched in sweat by the end of it and Christian had about 500 glowsticks that we threw into the air by the end of the show.

The Weeknd was headlining that night, but we all decided to go check out the Silent Disco instead. That ended up being a really great choice and we kept the dance party going pretty strong. Afterwards we went and caught a mellower Chance the Rapper set than I remember seeing the previous few weekends. My legs were pretty toast by then so I had no complaints sitting on the grass far back watching Chance. I passed out before everyone else that night.

SUNDAY, JUNE 18

(tweet above from Christian of our camping group)

I couldn’t believe it, but it was the last festival day before I flew home back to Los Angeles for the first time since April 28. It was going to be a long one — Busta Rhymes had a 1 PM start time and I didn’t want to miss him the way I missed Ludacris that early the previous Firefly. Busta ended up coming out 25 to 30 minutes late, but still brought the house down.

Afterwards I went and chilled where the hammocks were and then went and watched The Strumbellas. A mom and her daughter noticed all my wristbands from all the festivals and chatted me up, asking what my favorites were. I think the mom said her daughter was 12 or something and it was her fourth Firefly. When I told them I had been to a music festival every weekend since mid-April, the girl said that was her dream. Even though this is just a side hobby of mine, I told her I never foresaw myself being able to go to all these festivals when I was in high school, so anything is possible.

I met up with the group again for a bit of Bleachers before seeing some of Illenium. Afterwards I bounced over to where Bishop Briggs was performing on the Treehouse stage. It was the kind of set that was awesome to see because I think she is going to be a massive star pretty soon and to see her play for a few hundred people was pretty memorable. I met a couple of girls from Pittsburgh and we went over to see Sir Sly instead of Thirty Seconds to Mars.

Sir Sly really impressed me. They played the small Porch Stage like it was the main stage. After one new song, the lead singer broke down a bit and the song apparently had a lot of meaning related to his mom. He later crowdsurfed and everyone seemed to really enjoy their show, it was definitely one of my favorites of the weekend.

Afterwards, I caught the first 20 minutes of The Shins from really close in the VIP section before walking over to Phantogram. I went into the GA for Phantogram and got pretty much right to the rail on the right side. Anytime the lead singer Sarah Barthel would walk over to our side of the stage she would vibe out in my direction — I was clearly one of the few that wasn’t waiting for Dillon Francis. Phantogram’s show is really top notch and I thought their charisma on stage was masterful.

I had never seen Muse before. I skipped them at my first Coachella in 2014 — and boy did I regret it after seeing their Firefly 2017 set. They brought the house down and I didn’t realize how many Muse songs I knew. Their production was stellar, the sound was impeccable, and everyone seemed to really dig it. I was with Matt and Tanya for the end of the set and these big balls came across the crowd and knocked Matt’s new beer all over the ground. I had to take off a few songs early to take apart my tent because I was catching a ride with Sierra and her roommate that night rather than the next morning. I said thanks for the hospitality and I’m very sure it won’t be the last festival I see them at. More lifelong music festival friends!

I took apart my tent, said goodbye to my teenage hippie neighbors, and caught the shuttle to civilization where I waited for a ride in front of a Marriott. I got picked up and fell asleep while Sierra and her friend sang along to musical and Disney songs. I got to sleep in a real bed and the next day had to deal with some bullshit airline stuff, finally making it home to Los Angeles on Monday night at about 11:30 PM. HOME SWEET HOME!

OTHER FESTIVAL TRAVEL JOURNAL RECAPS:

Music Festival Travel Journal: Bonnaroo 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Governors Ball 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Boston Calling 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Hangout 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Shaky Knees 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Middlelands 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Fortress Festival 2017

Music Festival Travel Journal — Coachella 2017 weekend 2

Music Festival Travel Journal — Coachella 2017 weekend 1