It was only 6:45 on a Saturday evening, but Fetty Wap already had a gigantic crowd waiting by the Backyard Stage. Keep in mind, this was a full half hour before he was set to go on. It was a muggy, humid day, skimming the high 80s, and packed between the fences of Firefly it seemed much warmer. It didn’t help that many of the fans there had been waiting for hours in that very spot just to see him, and more people streamed in each minute.
When 7:15 rolled around, the DJ appeared onstage and began dropping hit after hit, everything from Rihanna’s “Work” to Big Sean’s “IDFWY,” and at first everyone was gyrating enthusiastically. But soon another half hour had passed, there was still no sign of Fetty, and even with the DJ killing it, the audience was getting restless. I actually felt bad for the DJ—he was trying his best, but no matter how good he was, the crowd only wanted one thing, and it wasn’t him.
A resounding cheer went up when the rapper finally bounded on stage; unfortunately, his entrance was the most enthusiastic moment in his entire performance. Every song was just a track played back with Fetty Wap occasionally shouting a word or two (usually his own name) into the mic, but not making much of an effort to, you know, actually sing. I mean, I get that some performers lip synch, but come on—you have to at least mouth the words. Lip-synching may be a cop out, but not even bothering to lip synch is just plain lazy, and the crowd knew it. As we were walking away, I could hear more than one disgruntled fan complaining about the boring, lackluster performance; one dude cracked a (very accurate) joke about “Fetty Flop.”
A$AP Rocky came on just an hour afterwards, and it was immediately obvious who the better performer was—not only was the show ten times better, but Rocky himself was infinitely more personable, more engaging. He gave a touching tribute to A$AP Yams, then ended his set with a cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and a shout out to the ladies in the crowd, plus a final declaration that he was going to “go get drunk and fuck somebody’s girlfriend.” Maybe not classy, but entertaining nonetheless.
Florence Welch’s voice was as amazing (not to mention instantly recognizable) in person as it is on tape, but it was deadmau5 who completely shut down the night with an hour and fifteen minutes of intense bass drops, trippy visuals and crazy lights. On the ground next to me, a glover was performing a light show for a long-haired hippie in a tie-dye shirt who looked like he was on a different planet, and next to him a huge muscled guy spun slowly in circles, arms straight above his head, staring out into the crowd.
Just a year or so back, deadmau5 played a local arena and was quite vocal about how he felt slighted by the shit sound system and the poor turnout. (Not that I blame him; the rural northeast isn’t exactly known for being up-to-date on popular music.) This time, though, he had nothing bad to say about the set; the light rigs took up so much of the massive stage that he was almost dwarfed beneath it, and just his ears were visible peeking above his booth, but the huge scale only made him appear even more spectacular. Beneath the colorful drum-saturated house of “FML” and “The Veldt,” tens of thousands of fans danced, tossed glowsticks (leading deadmau5 to proclaim Delaware “the glow stick capital of the world”), and sang along before he went for the kill and finished with “Strobe,” a lovely bittersweet tune that slowly grows to an incredible oscillating trance rhythm.
Despite previously being on the fence about EDM, I’ve found that it ignites a sense of fun and freedom that few other genres do. Of course, as a Semi-Reformed Emo Kid, I could never renounce my diehard allegiance to metalcore. Even so, over the years I’ve had to admit to myself that each genre has its own appeal and its own vibrance—sometimes you need something light and carefree, the way you’ll sneak a piece of cake when you’re on a diet—a cheat day of sorts. And even if you rarely pay any mind to that type of music, it can ignite something different in you, too. I guess that’s the point of festivals like this: not to see the bands you already know, but to see something new that can change you for the better.