The end of anything is always bittersweet. When I awoke on Sunday morning, I was torn between the excitement of the day ahead, a burning desire to take a real shower, and sadness that those four days of freedom were coming to a close, and I would soon have to return to the real world.
When you get right down to it, the most essential part of the festival isn’t necessarily the music, but the people. I’m living proof of this, in a way: if it hadn’t been for the friendly environment, I wouldn’t have given much of Firefly’s music a second glance. There are a good number of festivals that are more suited to my semi-reformed emo kid taste, but I had to begrudgingly admit that it was good to experience something outside my comfort zone.
I had spoken to so many people, and it was amazing—though not surprising—that no one had anything bad to say about Firefly (well, except about Fetty Wap and the food lines). The night before I had sat down with John, a junior at Temple University, who looked like he was having a good time, and I mean a really good time, the whole time we talked, he had the biggest smile on his face. John was camping at Firefly with a pledge brother from his fraternity and their group of friends, and it was his first music festival.
Is this your first time at Firefly?
“First time at Firefly.”
What do you think?
“It’s… amazing. It’s my first time rolling. When it hit me, it felt like I was in a steamy spring in Iceland or something.”
So what’s been your favorite part of Firefly so far?
“This night. The light show—oh, my god, the light show.”
Are you going to come back next year?
“Oh, most definitely.”
So are you a festival kid now?
“I’m a festival kid now!”
That same night, I had also spoken to Gabe, a laidback Delco resident and festival veteran with a light brown beard and a Hawaiian shirt. Sitting by the Main Stage between sets, I asked him about his experience this weekend.
What is your favorite part of Firefly so far?
“My favorite part of Firefly is going to a show and being surprised by each individual performers’ own way of bringing things to the table. Like Tame Impala, they brought their psychedelic rock to the table and then they did solos. And then Fetty Wap did his own thing with the crowd, and A$AP just blew everybody away, playing a Nirvana song for no reason. It was just amazing.”
What was your favorite set?
“Probably Disclosure, because what we did was just have fun and stand on top of trash cans and ‘let the fire burn,’ so to speak. It’s such a good time. Firefly is the most beautiful thing. You will not have a bad time.”
Now I’m not going to get all corny and spout some clichés about music “bringing people together,” because that’s not always the case. (I saw a good number of arguments and also witnessed one loud, very public breakup.) Maybe it’s Stockholm Syndrome, like you’re stuck in this huge festival and can’t really leave so you just acclimate to the situation and roll with it. I don’t know. All I can say for sure is that a music festival is as good a place as any to make new friends.
For first-time festivalgoers, or anyone who’s as bad at packing as I am, I’ve put together some definitive dos and don’ts so that you can avoid spending all your savings on festival food or having to wear damp clothes for five days. Whether at Firefly or any other event, there are some things you should definitely, definitely do:
- Bring a heavy-duty cooler and a camp stove or grill. Pack that cooler to the brim with ice and perishable foods—hot dogs, burgers, chicken, veggies, cheese. You can’t bring food into the festival, but you can make some great lunches before you head in. One day this weekend I waited in line for half an hour just to pay $14 for two slices of pizza. Never again.
- Check your bag and/or pockets before you head inside the festival—I ended up getting a full bottle of Advil seized by the security lady because I hadn’t seen it at the bottom of my bag. She was pretty rude about it, too.
- Take your sunscreen into the festival.
- Charge up all your devices and battery packs as often as necessary. Take full advantage of the charging stations that are scattered throughout the festival. If you get lost and can’t find your friends, your phone is your lifeline, so hang onto it.
- Use the bathrooms early in the day. Trust me on this one.
- Most importantly of all, keep tabs yourself and your friends. The combination of heat, substances, traffic, and huge crowds can be dangerous, so keep an eye on your crew and make sure everyone gets home safe at the end of the night. See a friend (or even a stranger) doing something unnecessarily risky? Speak up. Don’t be afraid to be the Debbie Downer of the group if it means staying safe.
And, well, I have to admit that I’ve learned from my mistakes as well as the mistakes of others. Don’t:
- Lose your toothpaste after two days. I was lucky that my fellow campers were willing to share.
- Leave your tent fly at home. Seriously, waking up to a soaking wet sleeping bag is incredibly unpleasant, and everything you own will be damp for days afterwards. Don’t know how to use a tent fly? Bring a tarp. While you’re at it, bring a rain jacket. It’s ten times better to have it and not need it than to be stuck in a thunderstorm without one.
- Rely too heavily on dry shampoo. It works for a day or two, and then it just becomes a sticky, tangled mess that’s much more of a bitch to deal with than greasy hair is. I just dumped some water on my head each morning, shampooed, and then rinsed, and everything was fine.
- Try to leave immediately after the last set on Sunday night. Everyone thinks it’s a good idea, and then everyone gets stuck in the massive traffic jam that winds its way throughout the entire campsite. It was actually pretty funny to watch hundreds of angry people sitting at a standstill while we partied ten feet from the road. If you really need to leave on Sunday, leave either before the last set of the day or way later (like, 4 AM later).
- Get too drunk/coked out/generally fucked up and fall all over other people when you’re dancing. It’s fine to have a good time, you do you, but try not to be the drunkest girl at the party. If nothing else, don’t be that one friend who everyone else has to babysit all night.
It’s sad that what feels like such a long event has come to a close already. But fear not—this is just the beginning of festival season, and as the summer gets into full swing, there will be plenty of time to get drunk, see some bands, and party like it’s Firefly 2016.
In memory of Hunter Watson