As the sun set in front of the Firefly Stage on Saturday, June 16, a crescent moon had risen just beyond the tree line that which left a glistening light upon the Woodlands – the perfect setting for an unlikely surprise during the evening’s first headlining set.

The Killers frontman Brandon Flowers spotted a sign in the crowd, the owner of which was a lucky fan by the name of Brian who wished to play drums with the band on “For Reasons Unknown.” This was not the first time The Killers brought a fan onstage to perform with them, but to the surprise of many, Flowers gave Brian a shot and his drums were unrecognizably on par with the original.

“Not too shabby…” Flowers said, sending him off with a hug. “Make some noise for Brian, everybody!”

Although only one lucky fan’s experience onstage, that was what Firefly Music Festival was all about. It was more than a music festival. It was an experience.

Photo by Sean Reis

And as the crescent moon rose over the Woodlands in twilight, it was an experience we shared. The moment murmured echoes of an unlikely voice earlier that weekend:

“This is it… experience it, experience the universe.”

Read directly from a piece of paper by Philly-born musician Ron Gallo, I personally couldn’t have been at his set for more than 10 minutes, but in hindsight it feels a fitting fate that I just so happened to be there for those brief few words. It simply summarized the weekend. Indeed, it was a long and, honestly, exhausting five days (for a Wednesday camper), but it was – without a doubt – one hell of a weekend.

From an assortment of bands, DJs and other musicians across all definitions of genre to a smorgasbord of delicious food options, the cutest artist markets and the best beer on tap at the Dogfish Head brewery, Firefly offered everything. And the best part: It was all within only a short walk from the campground.

Firefly’s EDM Experience

Also within that short walk was “The Pavilion” tent, an aesthetically crafted stage that called for the electronic music fan’s heart. Among the performances here, from Kap Slap to Whethan, likely the biggest headlining DJ to spin was San Holo who took Firefly on a wonderful trip

Opening with “Light” and taking the tent by storm, the energy at San Holo’s set was easily one of the most memorable highlights from the entire weekend. DJ sets were not limited to the Pavilion, however, and I’m not just referring to “The Thicket” – Firefly’s silent disco.

Martin Garrix returns to Firefly after a five-year absence. (Photo by Kris Novak)

Martin Garrix closed out Saturday’s lineup, delivering some late evening euphoria after a long day, and Chet Porter also packed the Toyota Music Den with more people than that sponsored side stage was ready for. A rare Chet Porter DJ set called for a crowd though, as did the many Foreign Family live sets last weekend: From Shallou, Kasbo and Hotel Garuda to Chet Porter’s original live set, and of course, ODESZA themselves.

Following upwards of hundred of performances all weekend, from the likes of the Thursday night headlining Chromeo to the legendary Eminem on Saturday night, the last two acts to close out the weekend were well worth the wait.

ODESZA did not disappoint as Firefly’s closing pitchers, bringing their A Moment Apart concert to the festival stage. Their drumline, brass section and bowstring guitarist were all in attendance, as well as special guest appearances from Naomi Wild and WYNNE, all of whom came together to create an atmospheric adventure through live electronic music.

It was a breathtaking hour and 15 minutes that ultimately featured fireworks launched in time with “If Only” (sadly no Zyra guest appearance though); however, it was their setup man before them that won the weekend: The Greatest Of All Time.

G. O. A. T.

All the stars alas aligned for Firefly Music Festival on Sunday, June 17, when one man graced the main stage: Kendrick Lamar. Following an underwhelming rap performance from Eminem the night prior (apologies to the hardcore Marshall Mathers fans), Kendrick made his presence known.

Firefly was in the presence of greatness.

And let me preface this with saying that I’m young and unfortunately ignorant in the genre, but “Pulitzer Kenny” is – in my ignorant opinion – the greatest rapper of all time.

In all the concerts and festivals I’ve attended over the past few years, over an eclectic variety of genres, never have I seen an artist takeover the stage like Kendrick Lamar. Because when he performed, it wasn’t just Kendrick and us, nor was it even Kendrick and Firefly. It was bigger than that.

And when Firefly displayed the new night’s crescent moon on screen while we waited for Kendrick, we felt it. It was Kendrick, us and the universe.

Featured Image by Kris Novak