Firefly 2023 bucket list: Metallica, more stages, more shade

Firefly Music Festival 2022 is already over, but that hasn’t stopped fans from dreaming up which headliners they’d like to see in The Woodlands in 2023.

“Headliners I’d love to see are Greta Van Fleet, Twenty One Pilots and Yung Gravy,” said fan Taylor McCracken of Albuquerque, New Mexico, who’s fresh off her second Firefly appearance.

Last week marked the 10th anniversary of the Dover festival, which featured new amenities including a Ferris wheel, a tattoo vendor and a ginormous statue near the Main Stage.

But this year's event also had a few shortcomings that fans would like to see improved for next year, changes they feel might help drive attendance.

Here’s the lowdown on some things fans loved about this year’s Firefly, along with improvements they’d like to see made for the next festival.

Who's on fans' headliner wish list?

There’s a laundry list of headliners and other acts fans want to see booked for Firefly 2023.

A few of the names that popped up most often among fans chatting on social media include Metallica, Harry Styles, Gorillaz, Miley Cyrus, Rage Against the Machine, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Billie Eilish, Yung Gravy, Twenty One Pilots, Snoop Dogg, Artic Monkeys, Greta Van Fleet and Odesza, Jack Harlow and Lil Nas X.

Other big names that fans on social mentioned include Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Bad Bunny, Blink-182 and Madonna.

Some fans said they’d love to see more rock bands and hip-hop acts from the '80s and ‘90s. Firefly has a history of bringing in legacy rap acts such as Snoop Dogg, Warren G, Busta Rhymes, Ludacris and Nelly. There were no such artists at last week's festival.

Anna Grimm of Salisbury, Maryland, wants to see Miley Cyrus and Greta Van Fleet next year. Although Miley is a pop artist, Grimm said she wants to see the festival switch things up a bit in 2023.

"I’d also like to see Firefly go back towards its roots with more indie/alt music and less pop," she explained.

What Firefly concerns did fans have about this year?

Low attendance

This year it looked like the crowds at Firefly were a little smaller than last year. Before last year’s event, festival organizers AEG announced they were capping the 2021 festival at 50,000 people.

Firefly organizers have been pretty shy about releasing attendance stats for their festival since their 2015 event, which attracted 90,000 fans. That year, when Paul McCartney headlined, remains the biggest year in attendance in Firefly history to date.

Happy participants form a line to re-enter the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2022. The threat of severe weather conditions forced a temporary evacuation of all participants from the venue.
Happy participants form a line to re-enter the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 26, 2022. The threat of severe weather conditions forced a temporary evacuation of all participants from the venue.

But nine-time Firefly fan Jon Steward of West Deptford, New Jersey, said last week he noticed “attendance seemed a lot lower than in previous years.”

Firefly organizers have not yet responded to requests for this year’s attendance.

Higher food prices

One issue this year was the high price of food, fans said. A slice of pizza was $10, which is also what lemonade cost. A bowl of mac and cheese was $12. Bottled water was $4.

Fans also noted a shortage of vegetarian/vegan options this year.

“There needs to be a better variety of healthier food options,” said Tyler Klein of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “I'm sensitive to greasy and fried foods. It makes me tired, and after a few days of eating it can trigger depression.”

Parking wars

The parking situation was a little messy this year, too. Fans who previously parked overnight at Dover Mall were relocated to a field that may have previously been used for camping.

Overnight parking was $20, which was double the cost from last year. That new area was poorly lit and had minimal attendants, which made it difficult to find vehicles after dark.

Some fans had issues finding the lot to begin with because there wasn’t a lot of signage, they said.

Fewer stages

There were five stages this year, one fewer than in 2021. Most of the action, however, took place across three stages (Main Stage, Pavilion and Backyard).

By comparison, there were eight stages in 2018 (Main, Pavilion, Backyard, Lawn, Porch, Tree House, Coffee House and Toyota Music Den).

Headliner Dua Lipa performs during her set on the Firefly main stage on Day 4, the final day of the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. Lipa's performance was nearly cancelled when the threat of severe weather conditions forced a temporary evacuation of all participants from the venue.
Headliner Dua Lipa performs during her set on the Firefly main stage on Day 4, the final day of the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022. Lipa's performance was nearly cancelled when the threat of severe weather conditions forced a temporary evacuation of all participants from the venue.

In pre-pandemic times, you’d see popular artists performing on the Lawn stage. Also, popular acts and rising stars would sometimes play two sets, with one being on a smaller stage, giving fans an extra bang for their buck.

Tricia Witkins of Monroeville, New Jersey, wants the festival to bring back the Lawn stage, which featured acts like Portugal. The Man and Vance Joy.

“They removed Lawn stage, which was the best mid-day stage. This is where I saw Lord Huron for the first time,” Witkins said. “[They] got rid of the Coffee [House, too], the coolest, chill stage where you could catch Rainbow Kitten Surprise and take a break.”

Casting shade on the situation

Firefly traditionally was held in the summer before the pandemic and has been held in September since 2021, which has allowed fans to beat the scorching heat.

At the same time, Witkins pointed out that there were few places to hide from the sun last weekend.

“Shade is nowhere to be found this year,” she said.

Tougher security measures

Festival security at the gate seemed stricter this year, fans said.

Depending on which line you stood in, some members of security required fans to take off their baseball caps in order to check the inside of their hats for weapons. Some fans were denied entry into the festival if they wore bandanas.

The measures did not seem to be evenly applied among fans, they said.

“I watched a guy bring in a bat and Goldfish box while I watched a lady have to throw away her belt because it was considered a weapon,'' Witkins said.

... but there were plenty of positives about Firefly 2022

Still plenty of good vibes

Fans watch Philadelphia band Snacktime perform at the Treehouse stage on Day 4, the final day of the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022.
Fans watch Philadelphia band Snacktime perform at the Treehouse stage on Day 4, the final day of the 2022 Firefly Music Festival in Dover, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2022.

Music is the excuse a number of fans use to hang out at Firefly every year. But the real stars of the festival are “the people.”

Lyndsay Mercier of Philadelphia has been to Firefly twice. Although she said she expected more pizazz for this year’s 10th anniversary, she still had a “magical” time.

“Whether it's someone handing you a free delicious kiwi, placing a deli sticker on your arm that says ‘hot,’ handing you a tiny rubber ducky just because, or asking to take your photo because they love your outfit – the people in attendance are what makes Firefly stand out from other music festivals,” Mercier said.

Lori Jones of Dover has been to every Firefly and is happy that fans are still kindhearted and thoughtful to one another.

“I like the freedom to express yourself without judgment. Everyone is coming together to enjoy music and art,” said Jones, who added she would love to see big names like Metallica, Calvin Harris, The Cure and Pearl Jam play Firefly in 2023.

Strong Wi-Fi connection

Phone signals and Wi-Fi connections were strong this year, much better than in pre-pandemic times. That’s maybe because it looked like there were fewer people in attendance this year. But it was still appreciated by fans.

Faster lines, less walking

To piggyback off the previous point about attendance, the lines for getting inside the festival were arguably the fastest in Firefly history.

The reduction in stages was looked at as a blow for some, others said they relished the fact that fewer stages shrunk the festival grounds a bit, making it easier on your feet with a lot less queueing up along the way.

Andrew Stead of Perkasie, Pennsylvania, has been to eight Fireflies, but this year was extra special.

“This was the first year I got to bring my daughter, and it was the best one so far.”

Delaware Online/The News Journal will keep you updated on new developments for Firefly 2023. For more information on Firefly, visit fireflyfestival.com.

Andre Lamar is the features/lifestyle reporter. If you have an interesting story idea, email Andre Lamar at alamar@gannett.com.

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This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Metallica and Red Hot Chili Peppers on Firefly 2023 wish list