June 23, 2015 at 7:09 pm #73938
Hello music festival lovers. Typically I’m not one to speak up much, but there are some cases when I feel strongly enough about something that I can’t help it. This year’s Firefly fest is one of those cases.
Although I may be new to this experience, my girlfriend is not. She is a seasoned vet of the big and small: Boston Calling, Bonnaroo, etc. In fact, she is so in love with the culture of music fests that we were supposed to attend both of those this year, but for various reasons it just wasn’t going to work out. I knew she’d be disappointed so in order to not miss out on festivals completely and still share that positive experience, we decided to give Firefly a try….and could not have been more disappointed.
I’m going to do my best to be fair here, and start with the parts they got right, but you will quickly see that the parts they got wrong far outweigh this list.
What they got right:
1.) The lineup – Still young in the music fest world, I was very impressed with the acts they pulled in. And Paul McCartney’s show may have been the sole savior of the weekend for us.
2.) The production quality – I come from a family that has worked behind the scenes in theater for over 40 years so I am very critical of an event’s production values and I was very pleased with everything here. The sound for every stage was fantastic; great equipment, great volume, great quality. Whether you were 5 ft or 1,000 ft away from the stage (and sometimes we were) everything was crystal clear. Trust me, that is hard to accomplish.
And that’s about where the positives stop. Here’s everywhere else where they got it wrong:
1.) The arrival – The literature from the fest told you to stop using your phone or GPS directions slightly before getting to the grounds because their directions were better and there would be signage to tell you where to go. Sure, there were a couple electronic construction signs saying Festival Check-in Ahead. But there were no signs or indicators telling you exactly where to turn. Tons of cops and transportation people directing traffic but nothing actually informing you “Here’s where you turn.” So naturally we missed the turn to the campground and went half a mile out of the way only to make another turn where a cop told us this entrance is full and we had to turn around and now wait in the 1/2 mile long line for 40 minutes to take a turn we could have an hour before. Not a good start.
2.) The water – There were exactly 3 water refill stations for your Camelback on the entire grounds, for over 80,000 people. Do the math, it doesn’t add up. So your choices were: wait 45 minutes and miss your band; go spend $4 on a bottle that pollutes and is $1.29 at any gas station just outside the grounds; or have no water and be dangerously dehydrated in 91 degree heat. Bonnaroo doesn’t even sell water. All the water is free because they want you to be safe and healthy, not make a buck off you. Very money hungry move.
3.) The heat – Again, on the whole grounds, there were maybe 5 or 6 spots of shade and only 2 with air conditioning. What do you think your chances are of finding any room in those 2 spots?
4.) The mud – uhh, it’s Delaware, not Arizona or Texas. It’s going to rain, or at least have a good chance. Have more mulch or hay on standby. Throw pallets or plywood down. Put cones on the worst parts so people avoid them. Just do SOMEthing. And it’s not like you didn’t know until it was too late. Very first day I heard dozens of people saying the same thing, and some of them even went to talk to workers. Still plenty of time to call in the mulch/hay. At least people would have seen you making an effort. But no, nothing was done.
5.) The showers – If you’re going to charge for showers, at least have enough of them where everyone has a chance to use them. If there were 33 hours in a day they still wouldn’t have been able to accommodate each person taking a shower.
6.) The food – all the vendors in the festival itself (I say this because there were some mom-and-pop, independent ones out in the Hub, separate from the grounds) were hand-picked, offered cookie-cutter options and charged $8 or more for a small portion. I wouldn’t even be surprised if the markup was so that Red Frog/Firefly could take a cut.
7.) The band scheduling – this one almost made the positive list if it had not been for the end of the festival when the Killers went on over half an hour late. For the most part everyone started right on time, but that last one just killed it (ha, get it?). If you were miserably hot after a 90 degree day and packed in with 40,000 people to see a band would you want to stand around for another 30 minutes?
8.) The evacuation – now don’t read this one wrong. I actually supported that they evacuated the grounds before the severe weather. We got back to our car before the worst hit and I’m very appreciative of that, but it was the WAY they went about it that was a major party foul. We were at the Sublime show and they literally cut the mic off in the middle of the song to announce the evacuation. Like you couldn’t even wait for the song to finish?! Not only does that kill a mood, you now left a real bad taste in the mouth of that band with such a bonehead move. I would highly doubt they come back.
9.) The fallout following the evacuation – after everything I’ve said people went through that weekend, after they stuck with you through an absolutely miserable and borderline unsafe night of severe weather in their tents/cars, after cutting a night short, don’t you think you would try pretty hard to make it up to your festival goers? Yah, not so much. All but 2 of the bands that had been affected they just canceled completely and never played. Even if it were the band that chose to leave, maybe try a little harder to convince them to stay and somehow rework them in to reward your crowds? We were so disappointed by that point, we packed up, grabbed a hotel and completely forfeited the entire last day of the fest. A good meal, a real shower, a bed and a well run establishment were far more valuable to us than the money we gave up.
10.) The wifi – And lastly, they did advertise free Wifi at many spots throughout the grounds but over 3 days I found only 1 that my phone picked up that was free and it was a weak signal even though I was standing directly in the middle of the supposed “hot spot.”
So, there you have it. From one unbiased, honest festival goer to another, if you’re going to spend the money on a fest, DO NOT spend it here. Even if they improved half of these things next year, that’s still half they’ll get wrong. Why settle? There’s lots of other options out there and you’ll be way more satisfied.
June 23, 2015 at 8:25 pm #74378
You are certainly entitled to your opinion. I have never been to ‘Roo, so I can’t make a comparison there, but I have attended many festivals, big and small, other than FF. I know people will think I’m biased because I’m a mod, but I have always been free with constructive cristism.
– I agree that the arrival is an area they seem not to be able to improve – it’s been a mess every year.
– Every festival I attend has lines for water as the day goes on. Do they need more, yes. But I come prepared and never have to wait in a line because we fill up our camelbaks early in the day.
– Heat… it’s an outdoor fest. I was fine.
– The mud. see above. The worst day was Thursday and even that wasn’t that bad. They made adjustments everyday.
– The Showers. Again, as a festival veteran, I come prepared and bring my own shower. I also like to shower at night, so when I used the festivals showers in the past at night, never a problem.
– The food. Firefly takes 40% (this is pretty standard at fests of this size ‘Roo takes 30%). I fill up at my site (again, festival veteran), and grab a snack here or there. Some was good, some not. And I eat vegetarian at fests, so my options are even more limited.
– Band scheduling. Acts sometimes come on late. Saw Snoop headline at Osheaga, was over 1/2 hr late. Jack White was late too. You can’t force them up there.
– Evacuation. When you make the call at one stage, I guess you have to make it all the stages. If you had gotten caught in it, maybe you’d have another view.
– Post-evac. Act of god. Can’t force people to show up the next day. KOL said they always planned on leaving after the show – there was nowhere for them (and their crew of 40 pp) to stay. I’m sorry you didn’t stay. Sunday was my favorite overall day, with a bunch of my “must see” acts.
– Wifi. I had fine regular service, I didn’t need wifi, so I never even tried to connect. Drains the battery anyway. But I’ll take your word for it.
I will just say this – a festival (any festival) will never be a perfect event. There will always be something that doesn’t meet your expectations, some reason to be annoyed or outright pissed.
I have attended FF for the past three years and there have always been things I was disappointed with, but my overall experience has been great, and in my list, the good far outweighs the bad.
My good list –
– The line-up for this festival is always my favorite. I love alt/indie and I have bands all day that I want to see.
– the smaller stages (forest, coffee house, porch) are intimate and often reward with the best shows.
– The grounds are well laid out and the flow is well executed.
– Dogfish Head
– The staff is friendly and helpful
– The crowd is friendly and helpful
– The attractions are fun and while I don’t partake in them too much because I focus on music, people seem to really like them (hammock hangout, beercade, thicket, marketplace).
But honestly, for me, it’s a music festival and it comes down to the music. Which was fantastic, as usual.
June 24, 2015 at 7:50 am #74643
I agree with Newbie. I’ve gone to firefly since the first year and Bonaroo. Each year we end up in traffic pointed in the wrong direction bc the staff and the police have no idea what’s going on. Last year we had an rv and were told to turn around so we did after we got back to the traffic line I realized that guy had no clue what he was talking about and we waited for another hour just to go in the direction we were already going in.
This year we were Premium RV- No signs telling you were to go in. A police car at the turn with an officer who told us we couldnt’ make the turn. Then we wait in the traffic lines for an hour asking every person we drove by where to go– all of which had no clue one of which said “well, if you want just go to regular RV and stay there” sure– I paid $700 to just park in regular RV. Finally after driving into the downs up to a gate we got the correct directions, turned around then were stopped at the correct gate because Redfrog didn’t give the dover employees enough wristbands so we sat and waited. The crew there avoided your questions by repeatedly saying “my walkie is dead sorry” After an hour+ of that we finally got inside (And I missed a few acts I wanted to see)
Water was SEVERELY lacking. Besides the fact that there was nothing even remotely close to the mainstage it was trickling out. We’re all aware this is a ploy to get you to buy water and I won’t have it. I’ll never attend firefly again because of this money hungry bs. You made PLENTY of money making it 4 day passes only. Today there’s a music festival every other week in every other state, I did firefly bc it’s close and I loved the simplicity of it.. but it’s no longer what it used to be.
peace out firefly— see y’all at roo/sasquatch/hangoutfest/and god forbid Coachella.
June 24, 2015 at 10:39 am #74661
This was my 2nd year doing Firefly, 1st year camping though… and honestly, I had an unbelievably good time. Lets keep in mind that this is only year 4 for Firefly, compared to Roo going on Year 15 (I think). I’ve never been to Roo, but its definitely on my bucket list.
– Arrival was smooth for us, but we were in Premier Camping, not RV.
– Water – agreed, it sucked.
– Heat – I was fine, and really, there’s not a lot Firefly can do about that.
– Mud – honestly, I didn’t think it was that bad either, and it made it a bit more memorable stomping through the mud pits in the forests.
– Showers – I did a make-shift shower with a water jug and was pretty happy with that decision. Still, I know a lot of people that don’t shower the entire weekend. Its a music festival that includes camping in a field… Being positive and just going with the flow will make it a way better experience.
– Food – didn’t have a bad meal. The prices are about the same as what I pay for lunch at a work cafeteria.
– Band Scheduling – if the Killers wanted to play until the sun came up Monday morning, I would’ve been there. Plus, I thought you said you guys packed up after the evacuation and forfeited the last day. The Killers played Sunday night so I’m not sure how you knew they went over 30 mins lol seems a little fishy to me.
– WIFI – come on, its a music festival, do you really need to be on the internet the entire time.
I had a blast and can’t wait to go back!
June 24, 2015 at 1:19 pm #74668
I agree with a couple of Newbie’s points:
Water – Only two water stations were on the festival map, website and app, and one was in the wrong location. There was a third between FYE and Coffeehouse that wasn’t on any map. They were all underequipped and the water stream was feeble, taking forever to fill each bottle. Previous years weren’t a problem. At Governor’s Ball, I walked right up and got filled in about 3 seconds, each time I needed water. Firefly’s water situation this year was unacceptable, and smelled of a big money grab. This is my biggest gripe.
Mud – GovBall also saw heavy rain leading into the fest, but they layed down portable sidewalks made of heavy, snap-together plastic sections which worked well. Firefly should look at those, or get mulch like in ’13. Still, Firefly’s mud could have been worse- I got by on one pair of shoes.
I respectfully disagree on a couple other points:
Food – I liked the variety, including healthier choices (even Morrisey must’ve been pleased with the vegetarian choices), and the lines were never a problem when we needed food. GovBall prices were a few dollars more, and the lines were hopelessly long at the dinner hours.
Beer – GovBall offered Miller Lite cans for $11. I’d rather drink water. Firefly offered a variety of $8 Dogfish Head Ales. You won’t find better craft-brewed ales, nor will you find better prices at too many Philly or NY area concerts or sporting events.
Arrivals – We didn’t camp, but we had no problems getting into or out of the free daily parking each day.
I agree with Festy that the good far outweighed the bad. Our decision to go next year will be based primarily on the lineup, which will hopefully contain more established rock and alternative bands that have not been to Firefly before.
June 25, 2015 at 10:47 am #77699
3.) Ok, it’s an outdoor festival. I didn’t expect them to provide shade for me. But w/ the Beercade, The Hammock Hangout, etc, I think there were places to go if you wanted shade. There were trees, canopies, etc.
4.) The mud- I agree the mud was annoying, but I feel they made a good effort. I saw things blocked off, hay, boards, etc. Sure they could have done more, but there were literally acres to take care of. Festival goers themselves needed to stop being so prissy. You’re spending four days outside, you’re going to get dirty! I worked at one of the food tents that had a lot of mud in front of it. The most frustrating thing by far were the people who refused to get close to the window because they would get muddy. It was hard enough to hear people’s orders (we were right by the lawn stage/porch stage) but then when they insisted on standing five feet away, it was impossible to hear. I finally started telling people that if they wanted to order, they had to come closer.
9.) I think I have a right to have an opinion on this because I waited nearly 11 hours for King’s Of Leon before they announced that we had to evacuate the festival. Maybe they interrupted in the middle of the set, but I didn’t even get to see the artist I was waiting for at all. I’m just really curious how you have any idea at all of how hard they tried to convince certain bands to stay/reschedule? Do you have some inside knowledge? Kings of Leon is my favorite band in the world, but they are not exactly known for being fan friendly. As soon as they announced the evacuation, I knew I wouldn’t be seeing them because I knew they would not make an effort to play the next day (even though they didn’t have concerts for days). And I was right, they flew out immediately. I don’t think you can really speak on how much effort was made to make certain bands stay.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by morgofly12.
June 25, 2015 at 1:09 pm #77713
ughhhhhhhhhhhh I feared some people waited all day for Kings of Leon.. I feel for you Morgofly that’s heartbreaking!
June 25, 2015 at 2:37 pm #77715
I agree with most comments here as well, however, I’m not too happy about the “Premier” camping experience this year. We did it last year and I really didn’t have many complaints at all past the dust. This year was different.
1) No more Glamper Golf carts ripping through camp and kicking up dust.
2) Stage placement was actually better than last year.
3) Televised. Watched it off my DVR and started wondering if it was better than being there.
1) The Premier Camping Hub had 1/3 the amount of bathrooms as last year. That’s almost 70% less. I couldn’t believe it when we got there. Some things can’t be unseen.
2) The showers were strategically placed in front of a lake of mud and more expensive. What’s the point? We opted for poking holes in water bottle caps and squeezing.
3) Just pave the entrance. You’re pulling in well over $70 million a year. Raise it and pave it or build a wood ramp. Our shoes shouldn’t get sucked off 20 feet past the gate.
4) More trash bins on camping roads. There was about one every 20 campsites at best. We saw constant trash pickups last year, maybe two this year.
5) Water. We planned ahead and brought tons. You couldn’t get free water without an hour wait. The stands selling water were saying they were out. I asked them what the giant mountain of cases of water behind them were for. They acted like they didn’t know it was there and just kept saying, “no more water, we’re out!” I’m begging to give them $4 for water and I still can’t get any.
5) The Storm. We prepped our camp all day for it and even planned on in-festival shelter as it approached on radar. Did Red Frog not have these modern tools? You should have gone to the bands before they went on and told them they had to do a 20/30 minute set and tell everyone the gates would close in 40 minutes. You had all day! We all saw it coming. They acted like it was a surprise and cut off acts that didn’t get to play their best songs. Plus, don’t get me started on the mid-storm, 10:30pm message that said “take down your tents and pop-ups.” Yeah, let me take down my tent in the middle of a massive lightning storm. Great idea. Was that message from their lawyers or public safety officials?
6) The rashes. Lots of people (fellow campers) had leg rashes. Nasty stuff. Hope it heals and I don’t want to know what it came from but I have ideas.
Last year of Premier Camping for sure. Not sure if I’ll look into something else, but right now I need some recovery time.
June 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm #77719
@smuni21 thank you!!! Yes I did wait all day. I did get to see great bands while waiting at the main stage (foster, Matt & Kim, Gary Clarke Jr, etc) and my favorite set, Andrew McMahon ITW. But I was still there for Kings, all day. It was the main reason I got a job at the festival & why I worked my schedule around Saturday. But, there wasn’t anything I could do about it, and I realize others were let down too.
January 21, 2016 at 2:02 pm #88846
I know I’m late to this party, but I just thought I’d pop in to point out your lie. You complained about the wait for the Killers, and then later–when complaining about the evacuation–you said you packed up and didn’t attend the festival at all Sunday. The Killers were one of the last acts on Sunday. Good luck putting out that fire on your pants.
January 21, 2016 at 3:16 pm #88847
Ooo, great job! Except that I never said I stood in line for the Killers, just that they went on half an hour late…which I learned from all the posts and tweets from other disgruntled patrons that day.
If you’re going to take time out of your day to “pop in” and call someone a liar 8 months later, you might want to make sure you have an airtight case.
Have fun at the show next year. You and Firefly deserve each other.
- This reply was modified 1 year, 1 month ago by newbie2015.
January 23, 2016 at 2:07 pm #88875
Oh I see. Well my mistake. I assumed the “definitive unbiased” review was based on your experience, not things you read about other people’s experiences on the internet. My apologies, genuinely, for calling you a liar. At the very least, your pants are safe.
January 27, 2016 at 1:46 pm #88914
The OP lost all credibility when he listed “the heat” as a con. Name any other festival who can control the weather. Also, the mud came as a result of GHASTLY amounts of rain. If you’re going to tell me you know how to get rid of emergency levels of mud better than they did last year overnight Thurs into Friday, then I’d love to hear it. As for the evacuation, that’s laughable that you actually have a critique of it. Evacuations are to protect the entire 90k crowd of people. If you’re an expert on emergency services and evacuation, then maybe you have a leg to stand on, but evacuations are not designed to protect your precious convenience. This is hysterical, sorry…..
January 27, 2016 at 2:09 pm #88915
@mike G I been doing a ton of reading this past month since I got my first ever Firefly tickets with a couple of friends on mine who live in MD…I live in Los Angeles…im flying out to them….but I been absorbing so much info including seeing a ton of your posts and I agree on alot of the things you say which like in this case…for anyone to complain about the weather especially if its hot…i mean its an outdoor festival….if you didnt bring a hat or sunblock or shades or cant handle the heat thats one thing but cant blame the festival people for it… also I read alot about water lack of situation from a “free” standpoint… the fact that there are stations to fill up for free is awesome…sure no one likes to pay a ginormous markup on things but again…ive paid much more out here iN LA at sporting events and concert venues… or the wifi situation….im sure the festival actually really wants people to post as much about it during the festival as its great to put it out there and for the world to see whats happening….from what I been reading going back years…looks like each year they have done great strides to continually making the lack of prior years less of a lack….i can truly see the efforts put to making this better and smoother each year….I have gotten so many laughs from what people post as complaints or unbiased (even this word makes me laugh) but I have also learned a great deal and picked up a ton of great advice and i am totally looking forward to firefly and hopefully being able to post my own experiences!!
January 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm #88916
Thanks @Mr.Alex I guess my only point really was that if the only things that should be included in a true “review” are things that can be controlled. I saw another such review that listed “spiders” as part of their review. Yes, spiders. Sorry, I just can’t take that seriously. The water situation can be improved. That’s an example. If someone had a bad experience at check in? That’s valuable feedback. But for the most part, people who post their so called reviews of festivals and such are really only doing it to make themselves feel important.
Next year I will be selling t shirts in the parking lot at Firefly:
FRONT: “That’s not how they do it at Bonnaroo…”
BACK: “Did I mention I went to Bonnaroo? Because I totally went to Bonnaroo…”
Listen, the festival has come a long way and evolved in 5 short years and it will continue to get better. I’v watched it grow up from it’s infancy in 2012, watched the Woodlands become a field that was never intended for use as a festival ground, to an infrastructure that now hosts 90k people per day. Most people have no idea the amount of work that has gone into getting this festival where it is now. The biggest mistake people make is that they think if they encounter something less than perfect that everyone is encountering it and the fact is no on ever posts reviews of how awesome their experience is, only negative. It’s the way of the world.
January 27, 2016 at 2:23 pm #88917
Go to Firefly, then go to Bonnaroo and you’ll see how a music festival is supposed to be run.
If you actually read my post, I wasn’t complaining THAT it was hot or THAT they evacuated everyone. It was HOW they handled it, or didn’t handle it.
And as far as the Internet, no, I don’t go to these events because of the “precious conveniences” they have. But if you’re going to advertise it as a benefit and included, then call me crazy, but I guess I expect it to work.
I give kudos to Firefly for trying. Any event of 90,000 people is tough to organize, and I love the idea of music festivals in general. How else can you see that much music for the price? It’s all just a matter of execution and they didn’t do a great job of it, all it comes down to.
January 27, 2016 at 2:28 pm #88918
Cool, well, if your shirts are as sweet as your hat then enjoy all 3 of your sales. At least you’ll feel important.
January 27, 2016 at 2:32 pm #88919
I think the point someone made earlier was also that Firefly is only coming up on it’s 5th year. Bonnaroo is an institution in the festival game, there’s no denying that, but if you think everything went off without a hitch in years 1-5, I’d contest that. Large festival logistics take YEARS to work out. With Roo in it’s 15th year, how old would you say the average poster on here was when they started? Maybe 10? That’s my point. You don’t know what it takes to build a festival from the ground up, so why compare an infant to a grown up. It’s even in your profile name. See my point? 😉
January 27, 2016 at 2:34 pm #88920
I’m crushed you don’t like my hat.
January 27, 2016 at 2:47 pm #88921
Exactly… when you put on a huge event no matter what kind especially when it first starts out…its never perfect! in fact one can do easy searches online for places like Bonnaroo and read sad stories like this published in 2011… Thankfully that has not happened here but I would say the #1 concern for people putting on big shows has to be from a liability standpoint and no one wants people to get hurt or die or even have a horrible experience …agreed on people can put constructive criticisms that really do help as a suggestion but yeah if spiders or dirt is an issue lol oh man!
“Since the festival’s launch in 2002, ten people have died at Bonnaroo. The first reported deaths, of a 22-year-old Kentucky woman and 20-year-old Michigan man, occurred in 2004 when temperatures reached nearly 100 degrees. Toxicology reports indicated that both had cocaine and marijuana in their systems.
That year, a spokesman for the Bonnaroo production organization Superfly Entertainment, Rick Farman, told the Middle State Tennessee University student newspaper that the deaths were unfortunate, but the concert was a success overall.
“Both [deaths] are sad occurrences,” he said in June 2004. “Our goal is to provide a safe and fun environment for everybody out here, and I think that we have the proper policies and procedures in place, and you know, like anything else, we’ll review those.”
January 27, 2016 at 2:48 pm #88922
Look, I wasn’t trying to be condescending in my response, but like anyone else I’m just trying to make a point. Maybe I didn’t do it as well as possible. Building a festival from the ground up while simultaneously growing it each year doesn’t happen overnight. That was my only point. Here are a couple articles that may illustrate it better than I did. 🙂
January 27, 2016 at 3:11 pm #88923
@MikeG this board needs to have some like buttons lol…lets also not forget about the issues that spiderman broadway show had even PRIOR to opening…hahaa
February 10, 2016 at 7:35 pm #89079
Try Burning man if you think Firefly is hot! XP
June 22, 2016 at 11:11 am #100820
I went to two Fireflys and that was enough for me. This festival has zero personality and puts no effort into giving you a unique experience. The lack of water refill stations is unacceptable especially since they won’t let you in with a sealed water bottle, who wants to miss the beginning of a show they want to see waiting in line for water. Storms and acts of nature cannot be controlled but the evacuation in 2015 was a total shit show and they were lucky no one got seriously injured from being trampled. And those saying bonnaroo is older and that is why it is better, and want to cut Firefly slack bc it’s only 5yrs old, the first bonnaroo’s were amazing, and someone would argue while faculties and infrastructure improved over the years, those early years are still some of their favorite. Bonnaroo puts forth effort to make every year different, and is constantly investing in improving the experience, that’s why so many bonnaroo attendants are repeat customers. 5yrs is more than enough time to address and rectify all the above complaints, the fact is they aren’t going to do it because they are still making their $$ without it.
June 22, 2016 at 7:07 pm #100830
This post was from last year, but 2016, tons of water refills, wait time about a minute(and it was cold). You are allowed to bring in one sealed water bottle too. yea last year I spent 20 mins or more at water refills cutting into my viewing time.