All photos and article by Rita Plante

The lineup or the experience, what is most important when choosing a festival to attend? Most people would say the lineup, if you’re going to drop hundreds of dollars, take time off of work or school and travel for hours or more, you’d want to see some of your favorite artists right? I’d argue against this logic and this year’s Firefly is the perfect example that the experience is just as important, if not more important, than the artists booked to perform. 

As a primarily indie rock and EDM listener, the headliners of Halsey, My Chemical Romance, Green Day and Dua Lipa were not immediately securing my decision to attend the festival. While I know and love songs by each act, it would be harder to justify the expense in my mind than headliners of previous years. Firefly 2021 was my first festival, and without the experience and knowledge of what makes a good festival that I have now, I purchased passes, because the headliners of Billie Eilish, The Killers, Tame Impala and Lizzo, in addition to the dozens of solid undercards, won me over without question. I did everything I needed to in order to attend the festival, solely because of the lineup, including camping with strangers I met on the internet. 

While the 2021 lineup was nearly perfect in my mind at the time, I had no idea how the festival experience would compare. Luckily, it was better than I could’ve ever imagined. From arriving to the campsite, to stepping through the gates for the first time, to watching the final set, the festival created an incredibly welcoming and calming environment. Whether you wanted to rage under the pavillion or set up a hammock and watch the main stage from a distance, the festival had it. So when deciding whether or not to attend, I focused on how Firefly itself would rate as an experience and decided it was worth the trip.

Photo: Willow

Similarly to last year, I decided to camp with two new strangers from the internet and my friend that I met camping the year prior. The experience of camping with strangers who share a common love of music and the festival community is unlike anything else. You go from strangers to family so quickly and Firefly excels at drawing in the people who thrive in that environment, while also providing wonderful camping amenities. In North Camping you are set up with a 10’x30’ camping spot to make your own and become your new home for the weekend. North Camping also has a Hub filled with shops, showers and food to make sure you have everything you need.

 Me and my internet stranger turned best festival friend at our campsite.

Why would anyone camp at a music festival and subject themselves to sleeping outside for four days? Well it’s for the immersive experience. Camping at Firefly allows you to leave the real world behind for a long weekend and only worry about which set you’re going to get to next. You are able to come and go as you please, with a weekend pass, to eat, drink and relax at your campsite and walk right back in to see a set. You can build a community with your neighbors and really step away from the troubles in life, unlike a city festival. 

Now what if there’s no set you’re interested in seeing but you also don’t want to stay at your campsite? Well Firefly has several other activities to keep you occupied like silent disco in the woods, a hammock hideaway, a ferris wheel, tattoo shop and so much more. There truly is no shortage of activities to do at Firefly making it the best and most immersive music festival in the Northeast. 

Now onto this years music. As an avid consumer of music, there was never really a time I was struggling to find a set to attend. While the lineup wasn’t everything I’ve ever dreamed of, I had no trouble filling up my daily schedule. Many of the acts I would’ve never sought out or seen outside of a music festival experience, but thoroughly enjoyed like Charli XCX, Bleachers and The Head and The Heart.

I was also able to see some iconic artists I grew up listening to like My Chemical Romance, Green Day and Avril Lavigne. However, I’d say my favorite part of this lineup was the ability to discover new acts like Zingara, Matt Maeson and Loud Luxury.

Photo: Avril Lavigne

My favorite sets of the weekend were Zingara, Spill Tab and Briston Maroney. However my favorite moment of the festival was Green Day’s set. Standing in the photo pit at Firefly Music Festival, photographing one of the most iconic pop punk bands of my time had me standing there, fully in awe of what I’ve been able to accomplish as a photographer since I started only 3 years ago. I felt this immense joy for what I’ve chosen to pursue in my life and career and felt so happy to be there in that moment. I was so happy that I chose experience over lineup. 

In the past year, I have attended 5 other music festivals and Firefly continues to be my favorite. No other festival has been able to be as immersive or have that perfect balance of relaxation and fun. I will continue to come back every year for Firefly the festival, not for the headliners.