Sneaking Into the Firefly Music Festival: Day 1
I made my date sneak into Prom with me. I've snuck into almost every movie I have seen in the theater in the last ten years. Once, in 2002 when the winter Olympics were being held in Utah, my friend Justin and I snuck into a banquet for the Olympic speed skaters and ate dinner with a bunch of other peoples heroes. I started doing all this before I saw or read Catch Me if You Can, so I can't blame my relentless need to tip-toe past security on that, I would personally blame it more on Oliver Twist and wishing I could be Jack Dawson (A.K.A. The Artful Dodger).
When Milk Made was first invited to the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, I was filled with nostalgic excitement at the thought of seeing bands from my wonder years. Cake, The Wallflowers and Modest Mouse are all bands that have made their way onto teenage mix tapes I gave to girls, but I never had the chance to see any of them live. Now that I was being given a chance to not only see all of them at once, but also shoot all of them from the photo pit, the 15-year-old boy inside me got weak in the knees. I needed a wing man to document this experience and the most qualified candidate for the job was Chloe Rice, a blue-haired ball of energy that's as quick witted as she is talented. Chloe also shares my love for candy, Jack Daniels, and googly eye stickers, so of course she was my first choice for a long weekend in Delaware. Firefly Day 1.
We arrived in a rented Mini Cooper (just like everyone else at the festival) and began drinking as much a we could as fast as we could in the parking lot (just like everyone else at the festival). We got to the stage just in time for The Wallflowers to play us into a drunken lull. We ran up to the photo pit only to find out that our "media" credentials were not the same as "photo" credentials. Our passes gave us access to watch, but not to shoot. This was obviously a mistake, but it was going to cost us photos of The Wallflowers. No fucking way did we just drive to Delaware to not shoot the resurrection of The Wallflowers.
There is always two entrances to a photo pit, one on each side of the stage. While Chloe stuffed all her camera gear into my bag, we rushed through a crowd of what appeared to be clones of my 11th grade math teacher singing "1-2-3 Marlenas…" Now that the blue haired photographer was cameraless and standing in front of a new security guard on the opposite side of the stage, she was politely waved into the photo pit while I made my way into the crowd.
Something I never thought I would see myself doing: Throwing elbows at a Wallflowers concert to push my way to the front of the crowd.
After a million "excuse me's" and countless dirty looks, I discretely delivered the backpack into Chloe's waiting arms, giving her enough time to shoot for a half of a song before she was asked to leave the photo pit. The Wallflowers have a strict "First three songs only" rule for photographers (artists do this a lot so that there aren't slews of photographs published of them sweating harder than Richard Simmons at a black tie convention). This would have been a great time to locate the press tent and talk to whoever was in charge about getting the right credentials, which is exactly what we were going to do, until we saw the catering being carried into the VIP tent. Sadly, we had not been given access to the VIP tent, which was filled with free food, jars of candy, complimentary massages and the only video game Chloe is good at, Street Fighter. The tent was located just to the right of a main stage and had three security guards watching the entrance. Lucky for us, what passes for security is three high school girls who volunteered in hopes they could catch a glimpse of Jack White walking to and from his tour bus.
I quickly learned an important lesson for sneaking into anywhere at the Firefly Music Festival: It's not what you know, but what you can convince a high school girl into believing you know.
Chloe and I walked up to the entrance of the VIP section laughing and joking with each other as if this festival in the middle of a grove of trees was our living room and didn't effect us at all. We kept up our same speed and tone as we gently pushed passed the three confused girls who look back and forth at one another before calling out to us,
"Excuse Me, you can't go back there, it's for VIP only".
"Oh, we aren't going to the VIP tent, we have to go take this backpack to The Killers tour bus. We were just trying to cut through so we didn't have to walk all the way around."
One of the young girls took the lead, "You guys don't have artists passes, you need those to go back there".
"I know – it's so annoying, the tour manager of The Killers has our passes and is making us run stupid errands for him before he will give us our passes." This is a story that had been told to me once when I was a teenage volunteer at a Utah Jazz game. It wasn't until I reworded the lines to lie to this girl that I finally realized that I had been lied to myself. The girls looked a bit more confused. I huffed and stepped in closer to let the girls in on a secret. "He made me get him this…" I whispered as I unzipped my bag to reveal the remainder of our bottle of Jack Daniels that I had placed in the hidden compartment of my backpack.
The three girls snickered. "I know, right? Rock stars." I rolled my eyes. "The cell phone reception here in the woods is the worst and I don't want to miss another band while I wait to help this dude get drunk. Is there a better way for me to go to get to where the tour buses park? They are just right past those trees over there." I wasn't lying about this, I had seen the buses parked there earlier when we had arrived. The more truth that you can weave into your made up story, the more legit you'll sound.
"No, that's probably the fastest way. Just go ahead and cut through, but can I get your names please?"
"You're such a doll. I'm Kalvin and this is Chloe. We are actually writers for [insert name of one of the largest rock and roll magazines of all time here], which is how we know the bands so well, so I am sure we will be seeing lots of each other." I gave the girl a wink and Chloe and I left the young ladies there smiling.
As we disappeared behind the trees, we made a bee line towards the VIP tent. Inside the tent it was all caviar and champagne – if you replace the caviar with skittles and the champagne with beer. Aside from our excursions to go see OK Go, Silversun Pickups and John Legend, we spent most of our day lounging in the air conditioned tent, living the life of the Delaware elite. We never had any problems getting past the high school girls security for the rest of the night, even though we never came back wearing artist passes and we later realized that The Killers wouldn't even be playing until the next day. Later that night when we got back to our motel, I received an email from the Firefly team letting me know that our photo passes would be waiting for us at the press tent in the morning. Photos By: Chloe Rice