Moonrise: In Review .. The Props, Slops and Everything In-Between
Happy Hump Day to all our faithful Moon Landing followers. This past weekend I attended my first Moonrise Festival, so here I am shouting words at my computer to share my experience with you all. Keep in mind these are my opinions, and if you feel differently I would like to hear about it in the comment section below.
Firstly, transportation and logistics for the festival were easy to plan and navigate. My group of three decided to get in early each day to catch some of the artists I profiled in my Moonrise previews for Saturday and Sunday, so traffic was never an issue. It only took us about 15 minutes to drive to the Pimlico Racetrack from a Sleep Inn hotel in downtown Baltimore, which was easy walking distance to the after-parties at Soundstage.
Parking was also a breeze, despite forgetting to purchase an official 2-day parking pass through Moonrise directly. For the same price less fees, we parked at a private home across from the racetrack and conveniently next to Camprise, a small complementary event with artists and camping space for those looking for a cheaper EDM option or some supplementary late night entertainment.
The walk from parking was a short 10 minutes to security check. We passed several street meat food vendors, knock-off Moonrise festival t-shirts, a sweet gentleman selling a variety of “Fuck Trump” buttons, and a wonderful woman offering pre-rolls and custom-weighed party-favor capsules. I fully support Baltimore’s ‘Let It Be’ approach, letting the locals get that bread from the festival attendees on their way inside.
Security itself was also quick to pass through, I assume mostly because we arrived so friggin early. Because Moonrise is an all ages event, there was no need for an initial ID check. This also sped things up since there was one less hurdle to jump before scanning the RFID wristband. Once inside, there were multiple places to show an ID for a 21+ drinking bracelet.
The map and layout for Moonrise worked well and were easy to navigate. The vendors were centrally located with lots of good-looking gear, while the bathrooms and water stations were scattered around the four sides of the festival grounds, which meant nearly no wait time for relief or rehydration. Several art installations near the stages provided shaded areas to hang out and enjoy the music, and a ferris wheel occupied the center of the grounds giving its riders an excellent view of the entire facility. Moonrise also supplied a wide variety of food options, with food trucks and local cooks offering simple fried festival food to vegan street eats, gourmet noodle bowls, slow-smoked BBQ and more.
We were lucky to have almost perfect weather, with midday temps in the high 80s and dropping to the high 60s at night. The cloud cover was thin and thankfully the humidity was unseasonably low for Maryland. This year’s “Mooncrew” was definitely living its best life!
The stage production and organization made a lot of sense. Stellar, which was the main stage sitting on the North side of the racetrack, featured many of the biggest headlining acts like Tiesto and Illenium. Lunar, the other large stage set at the South end, supported the artists who incorporated musical instruments into their sets like Zhu and Big Gigantic. The newly expanded Solar tent on the East side in the middle of the grounds successfully kept most of the bass insulated from bleeding to the other stages, which was important with heavy hitters like Rusko and Svdden Death. The fourth performance area on the West side, Celestial Grounds, was also an open-air stage, and the simple production suited many of its house music producers like AC Slater and Nora en Pure.
Denm - A successful first festival performance for this new reggae artist, he sang and played guitar with another guitarist and drummer backing him up.
Bonnie x Clyde - My first time seeing them perform and I was impressed. I didn’t realize she sang live vocals, which I always appreciate, and they debuted a few new tracks.
Sullivan King b2b Wooli - Finally warmed up for one of the heavier sets I saw all weekend. The tent was packed for this one at 3:20 pm and their chemistry together was evident in their set.
Party Favor - Sadly some technical issues at the start interrupted his set, but he bounced back in a very professional way and came thru with some enjoyable remixes.
Robotaki - My one and only visit to the Celestial Garden was a success and Robotaki did not disappoint, playing some classy old-school 90s EDM edits.
Rusko - One of my all-time faves, I got right up near the rails for this one. He played so many of his classics like Woo Burst and Hold On with 2019 edits to keep them fresh. I’m still a little salty he stopped playing Dirty Sexy at shows, it has been over 5 years since I heard it live.
Big Gigantic - I just love, love, love the live saxophone in their performances. They brought the bass harder than I’ve heard them play in the past and I really enjoyed their lyric videos and graphics.
NGHTMRE + Slander present: Gud Vibrations - I didn’t catch all of this set, but the combo of NGTHMRE and Slander kind of let me down. The high point of the set saw them bring out Subtronics and Boogie T for some insanely heavy drops. However, the set finished with the Dabin collab First Time and the Slander song Love is Gone, both played in their entirety without any remixes or edits. I expect more from a festival headliner than just playing the studio track.
Zhu - Simply outstanding! From the dark visuals to the live saxophone and guitar, everything about this set was a success, especially the vibes from the crowd. With Illenium playing the main stage, there was plenty of room to get around in the crowd and fully express yourself.
Decadon - I hadn’t seen him perform in nearly five years and boy was I blown away. His original dubstep tracks and pop rock remixes sounded great, and he finished his set with five minutes of guitar jamming over Post Malone’s I Fall Apart.
Lick - Something about a less packed main stage with an up and coming artist playing awesome new music hits so right. His dark dubstep really got the crowd moving for an early set.
Ricky Retro - Another one of the artists I previewed, he delivered with Southern-style house music all his own. While he did hold back a little with his outspoken stage antics, Rick’s charisma and attitude still stood out.
Taska Black - Also my first time hearing him perform, I really wanted to check out his set because of Bit Bird's reputation for backing progressive European artists. His future bass was fresh and fun, although I spent much of this set enjoying some midday shade.
Whipped Cream - She came out strong and played a very bass heavy set. Not only did she feature live female vocalist for one of her tracks, she also brought Lick back out on stage when she played their killer collab, The Greatest.
Jai Wolf - I'm such a huge fan of his work and his character. The bass was a little louder than normal, but still loved every moment of this set. Felt nice to head across to the Lunar stage after four straight sets at Stellar.
** It was right about the end of Jai Wolf's when the unfortunate news about Seven Lion's cancellation. Forever the optimist, it just meant that I would finally be seeing Ganja White Night for the first time. Now I can understand people being upset that an artist they wanted to see had to cancel, but there was way too much great music getting played to let it bring them down. **
San Holo - Since Slushii got pushed back I decided to stay put with my posse and check out San Holo again. I was worried I wouldn't hear anything new after going to his album tour and his mainstage festival at EDCLV, but I should have feared not. With his trusty guitar in tow, San Holo played a remarkable set with edits, remixes, and mashups galore, leaving me quite impressed!
Space Jesus - The visuals at the Solar tent for this set were on a whole other level of awesome, as this was another new artist to me. The vibes matched the music as it was heady and heavy set of wubs and dubs.
Ganja White Night - And the wild visuals kept coming with this next set, as this group continued with the stony sound of the set before. While it would have been nice to see Seven Lions, I'm glad I had the chance to catch this set because these two hours in the solar tent might have been the best feels of the weekend.
Excision - I'll be the first to admit I didn't pace myself properly to go full force for the eighty minutes of this set, but Excision sure did! His on stage production was massive with fire and lasers aplenty and his adoring fans did their best to break their necks to his beloved bass drops.
Before I bolt, some props and slops from the weekend.
Props to: The Beet Box, for their awesome vegan burger patty and pan-fried blinis; Sleep Inn for a clean, affordable suite walking distance to Soundstage; the Camprise crew; and my peeps from Brooklyn and Boston who tried to keep up with me in the crowds.
Slops to: the Moonrise rules committee for banning sealed packs of gum; people complaining about Seven Lions missing his set like it was the end of the world; totems joking about blocking the view of the stage; and me for moving too quickly through a crowd when friends are following.
Thanks for following along until the end. As always, I’d love to hear what you think about my review, so comment below or find me on my socials @SamWolloch. Check back next week as I get ready to cover my home festival here in New York City, the 11th annual Electric Zoo.