Firefly Festival Artists, Planners Speak Out on the Importance of Pride

70

The 2019 Firefly Music Festival took place over the June 21 weekend in Dover, Delaware, with tens of thousands of fans flocking to what remains the largest open-air festival in the Northeast. Friday not only marked the first official day of summer, but June is LGBTQ Pride Month, and thus a celebratory air was felt around the festival all weekend in more ways than one.

There was no shortage of shout-outs at the festival, with performers from all walks of life paying tribute to the LGBTQ+ community in one way or another. Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco, who headlined on Friday, wished the crowd a happy Pride Month, and was backed by rainbow visuals for his bisexual anthem “Girls/Girls/Boys,” while X Ambassadors frontman Sam Harrris -- a longtime supporter of LGBTQ+ rights -- promised the band would keep fighting for their LGBTQIA fans. “It’s Pride Month, baby!” Morris yelled before performing their hit “Renegade.”

Pop singer Max also told his crowd, “Love is what we preach every night, whether you are gay, straight, bisexual, transgender,” and Lovelytheband’s Mitchy Collins expressed the group's support for the community. "I don’t think it should be a pride month, I think it needs to be a pride year," Collins said over the roar of the main stage audience.

Meanwhile, at a Teva activation on site, festivalgoers were able to purchase limited edition Flatform Universal Pride sandals, a collaboration with the Tegan and Sara Foundation. For every pair of the rainbow sandals sold, $15 (up to $30,000) will be donated by Teva towards scholarships to send LGBTQ+ youth to summer camp. (Elsewhere, artists like Lights and celebs such as Debby Ryan have been showing off their rainbow footwear.) “Nothing but pride” read a colorful chalkboard sign planted in the field.

At the end of the day, though, it’s really about the music. In addition to their allies, queer acts like King Princess, Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos and Brockhampton’s Kevin Abstract also drew large crowds.

“We create diverse lineups because that’s what represents our community,” says Alicia Karlin, Firefly Music Festival talent buyer and 2018 Women in Music honoree.

SHAED's Max Ernst also tells Billboard that seeing an artist like King Princess (aka Mikaela Straus) -- who speaks “openly and fearlessly about her sexuality in her lyrics” -- on a lineup for a major festival like Firefly is invaluable. “For pop music, [that’s] very rare,” says Ernst, who performed with SHAED on Friday (June 21) and was named one of The Advocate’s 2019 Champions of Pride, of Straus’ outspokenness. “She’s connecting with fans on such a massive level, that she’s opening up a larger space for queer artists to exist in pop music.”

Before performing her queer love song “Pussy Is God” during her June 22 main stage set, Straus yelled, “You want the big pussy song? The big one?” The answer was a resounding “yes,” and she launched into the fan favorite.

“I hope our fans see a part of themselves in our lineup,” Karlin adds, “and that they also leave Firefly having discovered something new."

Firefly Festival Artists, Planners Speak Out on the Importance of Pride