Last weekend Moonrise Festival returned to Baltimore, Maryland for the second year. Electronic music fans from all over traveled to the Pimlico Race Course for a massive lineup curated by Steez Promo and Glow Washington DC. Home to the Preakness Stakes, the “Second Jewel of the Triple Crown”, festival goers headed to the infield of the 1-mile dirt track for what could be considered one of the biggest and most diverse lineups of the summer.
The weekend started with quite the downer as general admittance attendees waited upwards of 4 hours to enter venue. With no organized lines and poorly informed staff, it seemed like the weekend was destined for disaster. Slowly but surely fans pushed their way through one of the most stringent security checks worthy of an airport. As I sat by the end of the tunnel to the track infield, you could feel the tension melt away as music lovers emerged from the tunnel and started busting out their best dance moves. While waiting for friends to enter I enjoyed sets by the always impressive The M Machine and groovy tunes of The Floozies at the Lunar Stage. With my team finally together it was time to see what Moonrise had to offer.
We headed to the Solar Tent for one of the most anticipated dubstep sets of the weekend. Circus Records brought their A-game with a wild back to back to back set by Doctor P, Funtcase and Cookie Monsta. Looks of disgust from waiting in line turned to filthy bass faces as they dropped some of the biggest Circus Records. Tracks like Flux Pavilion’s “International Anthem” and Doctor P & Flux Pavilion’s legendary remix of DJ Fresh’s “Louder” rocked the packed dance tent sporting a surround sound style system. I got the chance to meet up with these three and ask them about their inspiration for making music. I was blow away when Doctor P said that a classic meme of dinosaurs with lasers inspired him to create dubstep.
From the tent it was an easy stroll to the Celestial Garden to get tropical with Thomas Jack. Playing in a more techno tropical style than I have heard from him before, he seamlessly mixed in good vibe classics like Bob Marley’s “Could You Be Loved” and Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’”. Fans took in the sun and the beautiful temperate weather while enjoying other tropical house favorites like Kygo’s “Stole the Show”. With a “wave out to the crowd” he took his final bow as What So Not prepared to take the stage.
What So Not has been an elusive act for me and fans alike after Flume’s departure from the group earlier this year. The sun began to set to the eclectic sounds of “Touched” and the massive trap collaboration with RL Grime, “Tell Me”, heard at festivals all over this summer. He closed it all out with raw experimental builds and melodic trap hooks of his own “Jaguar”.
With the sun down Bakermat took the stage showing that the Dutch can get jazzy too. A live saxophonist accompanied him that sounded so good it may have been Dominic Lalli of [emuze]Big Gigantic[/emuze] himself who had just finished their set on the Lunar Stage. Along with the sultry sounds of sax in the air, he sampled one of the most famous recordings of all time. Martin Luther King Jr. I have dream speech echoed through the venue as the majority of attendees made the mass exodus to the Lunar Stage for one of the most widely anticipated acts in the business.
[emuze]Bassnectar[/emuze] has become one of the biggest headliners on the festival circuit. Known for his raw live style where anything can happen, you’re always in for an epic experience when Lorin takes the stage. He began the performance with a tease of the elusive “Pink Elephants VIP” by Daladubz but instead dropped into his own track “Raw Charles” which, to the seasoned bass head, meant we were in for an extra wild set! In true [emuze]Bassnectar[/emuze] fashion he continued to build the energy with Joker’s “Midnight (Bassnectar Remix)” and even showed off some new visuals. As the 90 minute set approached its end he rocked the massive crowd with “Generate” by himself and Gnar Gnar and wrapped it up by wishing everyone a happy 8/08 with “The 808 Track”. It was truly a spectacular and well thought out performance to end everyone’s day.
After the poorly managed ticketing and security check on Saturday, the festival issued an apology to everyone who was stuck in line for hours waiting to get it. They promised they would resolve the situation for day two and boy did they deliver. With lines setup and staff being mindful of foot traffic, they were able to still perform their full security check without creating massive lines.
After the huge relief of easily walking into the venue, fans split in all directions as the incredible lineup continued on every stage. We headed to the Solar Tent to rage out with Getter. Staying slightly from his normal relentless dubstep sets, Getter mixed in tons of samples and shout outs to numerous other artists on the lineup including the Valentino Khan remix of [emuze]Dillon Francis[/emuze] “When We Were Young” and samples from Porter Robinson’s newest album “Worlds”. The tent would continue to rage with an incredibly creative set by Ookay. He got it started early with Skrillex’s remix of ‘Bad Man‘ by the Raga Twins which was heard all over the festival and worldwide this summer. He continued with a couple well received trolls including the “Cantina Theme” from Star Wars and Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” flawlessly into Soldier Boy’s “Crank That”. We wrapped up our stay in the Solar Tent with the absolutely insane sound design of the up and coming Snails, which is pretty hard to put into words.
The Lunar Stage boasted one of the most diverse lineups Sunday. With the sun high in the sky the Brooklyn based duo Break Science warmed up the stage for the groovy jamming of Eoto, whose laptop overheated causing a minor delay in what would have been a flawless performance. This was just the beginning though, as next the South African couple Die Antwoord rocked the stage with the craziest showmanship of the weekend. With their insane energy and raw hip hop style, they captivated the crowd complete with background dancers changing outfits for almost every track.
The Celestial Garden was also banging early as the TWONK team dropped heavy hitters left and right. LAXX dropped his trap classic “Step Two”, played by most trap artists. He even dropped what appeared to be an unreleased remix of Corona’s “Rhythm of the Night”. Although I missed them, many were singing the praises of sets by Dotcom and the TWONK man himself Brillz. I returned for one of my personal favorites NGHTMRE, with his incredible balance of heavy and melodic trap. Finally hearing one of my favorite tracks “Gud Vibrations” by NGHTMRE and Slander, we made our way to the Stellar Stage for one of the biggest personalities in the business.
[emuze]Dillon Francis[/emuze] brought the heat with tracks from his highly anticipated new album “This Mixtape is Fire”. Dillon always brings the fire at festivals with his low tempo blend of trap like noises and beautiful anthems. He played classics from his last album Money Sucks, Friends Rule like “Not Butter” and “Love In The Middle Of A Firefight”. Francis ended the set with his collaboration with Kygo “Coming Over” showing love for the massive crowd that was eagerly awaiting one of the best festival acts in history, Above and Beyond.
What better way to close out a festival than with dynamic and beautiful trance of Above and Beyond. With their flawless mixing between vocal anthems and heavy hitting trance, they always manage to have the crowds’ hands in the air and tears in their eyes. Continuing their tradition of having a fan “push the button”, I was amazed to find out it was actually one of my friends who had been given the privilege restarting the triumphant track “Blue Sky Action”. Mixing in some of their beautiful Oceanlab tracks like “On a Good Day” and “Sky Falls Down”, I couldn’t imagine any other way to end this beautiful experience with my friends and fellow music lovers.
Moonrise festival really does it right. Besides the lineup to get in the first day, the festival ran smoothly without any major incidents. The majority of the crowd was nice and respectful of one another as was the staff and medical teams. The grounds were simple and easy to navigate, and the stages sound great but not over the top. With a diverse lineup worthy of any major festival, Moonrise really makes it all about the music.
Article done by Rocky Shortlidge