Firefly Festival 2017

Concerts are highly enjoyable experiences. It’s one of my many recreational hobbies. I love listening music like everyone else. But we all have our favorite artists/bands we’d love to see live in concert someday. I’ve gone to my fair share of Christian and secular artist/band concerts.

In July 2009, I attended my first secular concert. mtvU Sunblock music festival. The co-headliners were Boys Like Girls and Gym Class Heroes with supporting acts of The Academy Is, The Veronicas, and Never Shout Never. I paid somewhere between $25-$30 for my ticket. That’s ridiculously cheap for a music festival! In preparation for Sunblock music festival, I formed an appreciation for Boys Like Girls and The Academy Is. I’d been a fan of The Veronicas since 2006.

In general, there is only one music festival which I attended devoted three years back-to-back. Creation Festival Northeast in Mount Union, PA. I attended this four-day Christian music festival with my church youth group from 9th to 11th grade. I absolutely hate camping. Nature and I are not usually one with each other. But I made one exception for Creation Fest. The camping experience is not part of the fond memories of this music festival. Yet the opportunity to see my favorite Christian rock bands overshadowed the misery of camping. The summer of 2010 was the last time I attended Creation Fest.

Firefly Festival 2017 Lineup

Firefly Festival in Dover Woodlands was my first music festival in seven years! Also, it was my first secular music festival since mtvU’s Sunblock music festival. I had a day pass ticket for Sunday. I would have loved to see AFI and Franz Ferdinand on the main stage on Friday. Yet, I wasn’t going to pay another $109 for a General Admission day pass. It was more important I see Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse on Sunday.

Musical festival requires lots of mental and physical preparation. I can deal with regular concerts as they’re no longer than 5 hours. But music festivals are an entirely different thing. You will be walking around music festival grounds for at least 7 hours if you want to get your money’s worth of the GA day pass. The best thing about music festivals how you can meander around the massive grounds and casually listen to other artists or bands on the non-main stages. You might just discover new artists or band that sparks your interest. Always approach music festivals with an open-mind. I’m aware people come to music festivals to see certain artists. But you’ll regret approaching such a music event with a narrow-minded attitude. Soak in the whole musical festival experience! It will certainly push you out of your comfort zone.

Firefly Festival 2017 MapFirefly Festival was held this year between June 15th to June 18th. I don’t like going to music festival alone. It isn’t as fun to be honest. One of my college friends, Kaitlyn, and I headed Firefly Festival on June 18, 2017 in Dover, Delaware.

It only took a little over 2 hours to arrive here. Festival goers walk 15-20 minutes from the parking lot at Dover International Speedway to get to Dover Woodlands area. You’re basically walking right on the highway that has been blocked off entirely for this music festival. The actual festival grounds cover approximately 105 acres of Dover Woodlands.

The wooded area surrounding most of this music festival venue provides lovely breeze throughout the humid day. Even if you were in the open area near the multiple stages. It’s essential you remain hydrated with enough water throughout the day at any music festival! Firefly festival had multiple water re-filling stations located throughout the Woodlands area.

Surprising, this music festival had a wide array of food stalls. Food will cost on average of $8 to $10 depending on the food vendor. All types of ethnic foods. Sweet and savory foods. You certainly didn’t have to worry about limited food selection here.

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My friend and I finally got to Firefly festival grounds around 12 noon. Thirty Seconds to Mars wasn’t performing on Firefly main stage until 6:45 pm. That’s almost 6 hours to kill before main stage performances. Walking from one end to the other, we explored the expansive festival grounds. So many fascinating nooks and food stands. Comfortable walking shoes are must for any music festival as you’ll do extensive amounts of walking throughout the day. I personally rather not sacrifice practicality just to look cute. I could care less. Sneakers are the best way to go for comfort. Walking around festival grounds, it was surprising how two or three hours fly by.

Kaitlyn and I ventured through the various stages. Firefly Festival has seven music stages. The Porch stage. The Lawn stage. The Backyard stage. The Treehouse stage. The Backyard stage. The Coffee House. The Pavilion. Firefly main stage.  Even the “smallest” stage is still sizable.

We did check out some of the lesser known artists before meandering back to main stage area. I really enjoyed the 888’s music. This alternative indie band from Denver performed on The Porch stage. During certain times of the day, you can even hear music coming from different stages at the same time. All vying for your attention.

I anticipated a huge crowd for Thirty Seconds to Mars who were performing on main stage at 6:45 pm. My prior music festival experience taught me many valuable lessons. Most of all, you must arrive one to two hours early to get a good spot within 20 feet of the main stage. In a previous blog post, I expressed that I’ve been longtime fan of Thirty Seconds to Mar’s music. So I finally fulfilled my dream of seeing them live in concert. It only took 8 years. There was no way I was getting a crappy spot for this concert at Firefly main stage. Luckily, my friend and I squeezed into a good viewing spot about 15 feet away from stage. There were no tall dudes blocking our view either. That’s 50/50 chance when you’re at any concert. When Thirty Seconds to Mars kicked off their setlist, there was a pretty sizable crowd behind us. I had no idea where it even ended. There was hardly one pace step of space around me. Over time, I’ve learned to deal with cramped space in a large crowd situation at concerts.

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One hour quickly turned into less than 30 minutes. My body was buzzing with excitement. When Thirty Seconds to Mars members walked on stage, I broke out in a huge grin. I almost cried tears of joy too. I’ve waited a long time for this dream to become a reality.

Thirty Seconds to Mars delivered an incredible setlist. There was a good balance of songs from their older and more recent albums. (Side note: Jared always plays one acoustic song during the set. I like the song “The Kill” but I would have preferred to hear “Hurricane” as the acoustic song.) Their setlist only consisted of 9 songs in total. Yet, they delivered energetic and dynamic 75 minutes set. Thirty Seconds to Mars performed on Firefly main stage from 6:45 to 8:00 pm.

Thirty Seconds to Mars Firefly Festival 2017 setlist

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Jared Leto wore an eccentric ensemble yet surprisingly pulled off this ensemble. He also provided entertaining commentary between the songs as well. In the earlier part of the set, Jared threw packaged popsicles into the crowd. It was so damn hot standing in that crowd. There’s truly never a dull moment with Thirty Seconds to Mars.

My friend and I had great views of the entire stage. I only had one slight annoyance about being 15-20 feet away from main stage. We were situated in the area where crowd surfers passed over us. You’ll always get the occasional crowd surfer at music festivals. But Jared definitely encouraged and instigated a higher influx of crowd surfers during their set. Dealing with back-to-back crowd surfers, my friend and I basically couldn’t enjoy the last song in Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set. Otherwise, I had an absolute blast during Thirty Second to Mars’s set on the main stage. It was everything I imagined it would be…and even more mind-blowingly incredible.

(Random note: Kaitlyn and I were leisurely having an early dinner around 4-ish pm. Suddenly there’s a loud sound a helicopter. We’re sitting in the vicinity near the entrance of the festival grounds. The helicopter circulates around this vicinity for almost 20 minutes. It descends to the ground then takes flight into the skies again. My friend and I thought it was possibly a local news channel filming a segment about Firefly Festival. Nope. I had forgot about this entirely until I checked my Snapchat stories within that hour. It turns out Thirty Seconds to Mars flew in to Firefly Festival via helicopter. They were in New York City the day before to fit in some time to work on recording songs for their upcoming fifth album. Thirty Seconds to Mars decided to make a grand entrance onto the woodland festival grounds. They’re so extra. It’s one of the many reasons I love those three adorkably awesome guys.)

After Thirty Seconds to Mars finished their set, Kaitlyn and I decided to take a water refill break for some fresh air. The air was so stuffy around us. Yet, it was worth being getting that close to main stage. Muse’s set would only start at 9:15 pm. We had still had a little over an hour before their set. This gave us the opportunity to meander around close to the main stage. I’d gotten the thrill of being less than 20 feet from main stage for Thirty Seconds to Mars. That was all I could handle for one day. We decided to stay close to main stage but not as close for Muse’s set. Muse would be playing on Firefly main stage from 9:15 to 10:45 pm. They were basically wrapping up Firefly Festival 2017.

In fact, it would be my second time to see Muse live in concert. Let’s rewind seven years back to May 2010. I saw them on The Resistance tour at First Mariner Bank Arena in Baltimore, MD. I knew they would blow away the Firefly Festival crowd with mind-blowing performances.

Thankfully the main stage has more than enough grassy areas. My friend and I needed to rest our feet before securing a good spot for Muse’s set. We weren’t going to stand for a whole hour again. The massive crowd from Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set had mostly dispersed to other parts of the festival grounds. Kaitlyn and I sat in the grassy area close the main stage. It wasn’t until 30-40 minutes before that we stood up to find a spot for Muse. Surprisingly we managed to get decent spots about 25 feet from the main stage. We weren’t going to deal with constant stream of crowd surfers again. In my opinion, crowd surfers just ruin the overall concert experience. Everything in moderation including crowd-surfing.

Muse walked onto the main stage on schedule at 9:15 pm. They delivered a kick-ass setlist consisting of 17 songs. A mixture of songs from older and more recent albums. Yet, there was slight emphasis on songs from their latest album. Drones album was released in June 2015. There was plenty of nostalgic throwbacks too. When you listen to their albums, you get an overall electronica hard rock vibe. Studio recorded versus live performance version of their songs are two entirely different things. Honestly, Muse’s live performances is way better than the studio recorded versions. I love when this is the case with my bias artist and bands.

Muse Firefly Festival 2017 setlist

I had no idea how many of the people in the massive crowd were actually Muse fans. Not including the obvious sign of people wearing Muse band merchandise. Muse not only delivered mind-blowingly performances. They kicked up the energy of the overall crowd to a whole new level. Even non-Muse fans were jamming out throughout their set. Kaitlyn and I managed to politely maneuver even closer to be 20-ish feet from the main stage. We still had a decent view of the stage. There were two large monitors in either side of the stage too. Muse had awesome pre-recorded special effects on the video of the band members projected onto the monitors throughout their performance. Sometimes, people are surprised by the overall loud volume level of Muse’s set when they see them live.

Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse both have three band members. Yet, they know how utilize every square inch of gigantic stages. That’s proof of their explosive charisma. Plus, they aren’t known to play in small to medium size music venues. They usually come to bigger music venues that are nowhere close to me. That’s why I’m thankful to have seen them live in concert at least once.

There’s one main difference between Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set versus Muse’s set. Thirty Seconds to Mars lead singer, Jared Leto, is known to provide amusing commentary between songs. Muse lead singer, Matt Bellamy, barely speaks during the entire set. They have more songs in their setlist so the time is already very tight. Matt will tersely talk at most three times when Muse performs on stage. Every artist/band approach live performances in different ways.

Honestly, Jared Leto and Matt Bellamy are the full embodiment of the phrase “extra AF” in the most endearing way. Yet, their musical talent is very evident when they perform live. Jared is “extra AF” in terms of his eccentric wardrobe choices. Matt is “extra AF” in terms of extending each song in the setlist. Extraneous yet awesome guitar riffs at the end of each song. Thirty Second to Mars and Muse delivered spectacularly energetic performances. They know how to pump up the crowd even when it includes those who aren’t fans of their music.

Firefly Festival 2017 PosterOverall, I had a fantastic experience at Firefly Festival 2017. The biggest takeaway was it made my dream of seeing Thirty Seconds to Mars live finally come true.  Plus, I have enough items to remember my Firefly Festival experience. Sunday General Admission wristband.  Firefly Festival bandanna. Official Firefly Festival tee. Pictures of festival grounds area, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s set, and Muses’s set. Also, I’m glad I got share this experience with my college friend. Kaitlyn and I had a blast exploring the woodland festival grounds and listening to awesome live music. Dover Woodlands area is a great venue for this outdoor music festival.

Yet, Firefly Festival will be a one-time thing for me. Music festival are fun yet extremely exhausting. It’s mentally and physically draining to be outdoors in humid temperatures for 10-12 hours. My friend and I were so fatigued by the time we got back from Firefly Festival between 1 and 2 am. I’ll stick to my usual concerts.

 

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Thirty Seconds To Mars

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Nowadays people associate Jared Leto from his acting roles in Dallas Buyers Club (2013) and Suicide Squad (2016). Some people aren’t aware Jared is very versatile.  Actor. Singer-songwriter. Director. Producer. Editor. Photographer. Investor. Painter.

I’ve always associated Jared Leto as the lead singer of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Actually Jared Leto and his older brother, Shannon Leto, are co-founders of Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their mother, Constance, encouraged her boys to get involved in the creative arts at a young age. Since childhood, music played an integral role in the Leto brothers’ lives.

I’ll give some background history about this rock band. In 1998, Leto brothers formed Thirty Seconds to Mars in Los Angeles. Jared did some acting roles prior to pursing his passion for music. People magazine named Jared Leto one of the 50 Most Beautiful People in the World in 1996 and 1997. Jared refused to promote the band by flaunting his Hollywood fame. This speaks volumes about his humility. In fact, he has never leveraged his Hollywood fame to garner more attention for the band. Jared has intentionally maintained his acting and music careers as distinct entities. In 1998, Thirty Seconds to Mars sign with Immortal Records. Then, Virgin Records joined this contract in 1999. Their self-titled debut album was released in August 2002.

Since 2006, Jared Leto has directed all of Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music videos. He goes under the pseudonyms of Bartholomew Cubbins and Angakok Panipaq. His directorial filmography includes A Beautiful Lie, From Yesterday, The KillKings and QueensHurricaneCloser to the Edge,  City of AngelsDo or Die, and Up in the Air. Each music video is basically a short film or documentary. Beautiful works of cinematography! [WARNING: Hurricane music video contains some mature content!]

Also, Jared Leto is a savvy business man. He founded an on-demand streaming platform called VyRT. This media company has diversified their services to include digital distribution, social networking, and online shopping. Artists can provide their fans unique virtual social experience through VrYT. Musicians can offer live experiences and broadcast it in real-time on the Internet. This is not his only technology investment. He was an early investor stakeholder in many companies. Nest, Uber, Airbnb, Reddit, and Slack to name a few. Jared has diversified his streams of revenue. But it is safe to say majority of money comes from his music career.

One thing differentiates Thirty Seconds to Mars from other artists or bands in the music industry. All of the band’s music videos and documentaries were produced in collaboration with producing partner, Emma Ludbrook, under their Sisyphus Corporation. They even have their own teams that address the business and marketing functions. They don’t have heavy reliance on their record label. Majority of artists/ bands aren’t quite as self-sufficient as this alternative rock band. My appreciation for Thirty Seconds to Marks keeps exponentially growing.

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[Tomo Milicevic (left), Jared Leto (middle), Shannon Leto (right)]

Thirty Seconds to Mars has consisted of three members since 2006. Jared is the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Tomo is the lead guitarist but also plays the keyboard and violin as needed. Also, he is responsible for backing vocals. Shannon is the drummer. Yet, he can play other percussion instruments as well. There’s fluidity in the roles within the band. All three members equally contribute to the creative music writing process.

Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music incorporates philosophical and spiritual elements in combination with Leto’s life experiences. All of their songs have deep lyrical content. By the way, Jared Leto is the main songwriter for the band. They certainly aren’t afraid to experiment with different musical styles. Electronica vibes are injected into the band’s alternative rock sound. Each Thirty Seconds to Mars album revolves around a specific concept theme.

Compared to my other bias rock bands, Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music is relatively mellow. But nonetheless their music delivers deep lyrical content. Jared Leto’s vocal tone is rather clean cut. But not too polished.  It still conveys a wide spectrum of raw emotions. Jared Leto is technically a high baritone/low tenor. Until recently, I’ve never heard of this vocal classification.  In my opinion, the only other lead singer with a similar vocal tone is Muse’s Matt Bellamy.

Jared delivers clean cut vocals with sporadic bursts of intense screaming. There was more screaming outburst in the songs on their debut and sophomore albums. Hardly any screaming outbursts featured in the songs on the third and fourth albums. This explains how Jared has maintained his singing vocals over 18 years. Also, he doesn’t smoke or drink which definitely preserved his clean cut vocal tone.

There are some artists or bands I’ve been listening to many years…yet I cannot exactly recall when I discovered their music. Thirty Seconds to Mars falls into this category. I didn’t even know about this alternative rock band until my sophomore or junior year of high school.

Back in 2008 or 2009, I vaguely recall a friend of a friend obsessively ranting about a music video one day in class. The music video in reference was “A Beautiful Lie” by Thirty Seconds to Mars. Lauryn randomly stumbled across that while browsing YouTube. It left a memorable first impression on her. Also, she emphasized the lead singer was stunningly gorgeous. She didn’t have to work too hard to persuade me to check them out.  Thirty Seconds to Mars is an alternative rock band. My music preference usually leans towards the rock genre anyway.

During one of my free weekends, I decided to check out “A Beautiful Lie” music video. Rock genre has varying types of musical styles. I honestly had no idea what to expect with Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. “A Beautiful Lie” music video concept was quite simple. It addresses the importance of global warming.  Also, the band shot the music video on location in Greenland. 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. It left a lasting impression on me. I wanted to listen to more of their music. So I checked out Thirty Seconds to Mars’s A Beautiful Lie album from my local library. This album was released back in August 2005…but I only discovered it three or four years later.

One of my all-time favorite Thirty Seconds to Mars music video is “From Yesterday”. This was the third single off of their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie. To current date, it is the band’s most elaborate music video concept. It was shot on location at the Forbidden City. Thirty Seconds to Mars is the only American artist/ band to shoot an entire music video in the People’s Republic of China. This music video pays tribute to the 1987 film The Last Emperor. More than 300 extras were used in this music video shoot. There are two versions of “From Yesterday” music video. 13 minute short film and edited 7 minute versions. The cinematography and story concept immerses you into China’s rich history and culture.

For the longest time, A Beautiful Lie was the only Thirty Seconds to Mars album I had ever listened to. It wasn’t until a few years ago I checked out their two recent albums. This is War. Love Lust Faith + Dreams. Drastically different music styles from A Beautiful Lie album. There was definitely more experimentation with music styles on those two albums. It took a few listens before I acclimated to this new sound. I’d grown accustomed to darker undercurrents of A Beautiful Lie album.

Also, I recently listened to the band’s debut album for the first time. I thought their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, was pretty intense in regards to the sound. Nope. Their debut album is way heavier.

Their sophomore album, A Beautiful Lie, helped the band finally gain mainstream popularity. In March 2006, this album’s second single “The Kill” immensely launched Thirty Seconds to Mar’s music career. Ten years of working their asses off had finally paid off! But the victory was very short-lived. The band was informed they owed $2,500,000 of debt to Virgin Records. Despite selling millions of albums, they hadn’t made any money from the album sales up to this point. Of course this news would be very disheartening to any artist. Thirty Seconds to Mars made the decision to leave Virgin record label in mid-2008.

EMI Records slapped the band with a $30 million lawsuit for breach of their 1999 contract with Virgin Records. EMI is the parent company of Virgin. Between 2008 and 2009, the band simultaneously recorded their third studio album, This is War, and fought their own legal battle with EMI. The band waged war against the music industry’s unethical business practices in their documentary, Artifact. It even includes  in-depth, behind-the-scenes footage of recording sessions and legal meetings. Also, it paints the harsh reality of modern music industry for upcoming and even established artists. Artifact was directed by Jared Leto under his Bartholomew Cubbins pseudonym.

30STM Guinness World RecordsDid you know Thirty Seconds to Mars made it into the Guinness World Records in 2011? Their third album, This is War, was released in December 2009. Into The Wild tour spanned over a two year period. The band traveled to 6 continents performing over 300 shows. In fact, the music video for “Closer to the Edge” features live concert footage from this tour. Thirty Seconds to Mars wanted to break the world record for most live shows during a single album promotion cycle. They made this a reality. Thirty Seconds to Mars set the world record for “Longest Concert Tour by a Rock Band” with a total of 309 live concerts on their Into the Wild worldwide tour.

It has been a little over a year since I last listened to Thirty Seconds to Mars’s albums. I go through various music phases. So I haven’t been in the mood to listen to their music. Within the past two weeks, I’ve seen Suicide Squad twice in theaters. I normally don’t like DC universe films. Yet, Suicide Squad piqued my curiosity. I had two main reasons to see this film. Panic! at the Disco and Jared Leto. There was much hype surrounding Jared Leto portraying a modern-day gangster interpretation of the Joker, the clown prince of Gotham. I was intrigued how Jared would bring this character to life on the big screen. The first DC universe movie I’ve gone to the theater to see. My curiosity paid off. I very much enjoyed this anti-hero summer blockbuster.

Suicide Squad convinced me to re-explore Thirty Seconds to Mars’s music. I’ve intensely binged all four of their albums over the past two weeks. Love Lust Faith + Dreams album has really grown on me. I love Thirty Seconds to Mars even more than I did. Jared, Shannon, and Tomo are all awesome people in their own way. Also, they are incredibly talented artists. Each of their albums demonstrates their growth and maturity as artists. Thirty Seconds to Mars have maintained their presence in the music industry over the past 18 years. Longevity in the constantly changing music industry isn’t easy to achieve.

Love Lust Faith + Dreams album was released back in May 2013. So they haven’t come out with new material in three years. Jared pursued some movie projects during this gap. The wait is finally over! Thirty Seconds to Mars will release their fifth studio album in 2017. There are plenty of YouTube videos verifying Thirty Seconds to Mars is a phenomenal live act.  I’d love to see them live in concert on their tour promoting the new album!

SS Joker[On a somewhat related side-note rant: It is frustrating how close-minded movie goers bashed Leto’s amazing performance as the infamous Joker. Jared Leto put his own unique spin on this multi-faceted villain. I’m pissed how majority of Joker scenes were cut from final theatrical version. I’m well-aware the Joker is only prevalent to Harley Quinn’s backstory arc. So he isn’t the main focus of the film’s plot arc. But the studio heavily emphasized the Joker in Suicide Squad’s promotional marketing campaign. This is extremely deceptive. Jared is disappointed how only few of his scenes actually ended up in the final version of Suicide Squad. There were some minor plot gaps because many Joker scenes were cut out. Most importantly, music is his main passion. So Jared is very selective of which movie projects he chooses to participate in. Any movie project means less time he can devote to working on new Thirty Seconds to Mars material. He won’t take time away from his music for just any movie role. It must be a truly worthy artistic film project. He joined Suicide Squad project because of the artistic premise. DC extended universe films are a major time commitment. So Jared has a valid reason to be angry the Joker only got 15-20 minutes of screen time. Warner Bro Studios were very misleading when bringing him onto this film project. I really hope we see more of Jared Leto’s Joker in future DC extended universe films. I love the charismatic bad-assery of the new Joker.]