[FESTIVAL/PHOTO RECAP] Moonrise Festival 2015 Focuses On What Really Matters: The Music
Pimlico Racetrack was shaking with whomps and wubbles for the second installment of Moonrise Festival last weekend, August 8-9th in Baltimore, MD. This time around, organizers Steez Promo and Glow DC cleared all jam bands from the picture and decided to saturate the lineup with hard-hitting, bass-heavy electronic music.
One of the things I love about this festival is it’s undivided focus on music. From giant sculptures to forests filled with lasers, most festival organizers channel a good chunk of their resources on enhancing the aesthetics of an event. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing ― vibrant festival aesthetics serve to create a unique, other-worldly vibe for us. But have we come to the point where we need an elaborate atmosphere to enjoy a festival?
The success of Moonrise Festival 2015 proves that, no, our generation has not been reduced to a group of light-chasing moths. Moonrise ditched the superfluous decorations and concentrated on vamping the quality and quantity of the lineup—and that was more than enough to fuel the raging crowd for two, incredible days.
- The Saturday Experience
The M Machine kicked off Saturday at our favorite stage in the grounds: the Lunar Stage. They put on an energetic set that mostly followed the style of their new EP, Just Like, though they did sprinkle in some familiar tracks from their more familiar Metropolis Pt. II.
Israeli psytrance group Infected Mushroom returned to Moonrise this year, and this time they brought along a couple of metallic, red-eyed mushroom figures that spewed steam every once in a while during their performance. Frontman Eisen pranced around stage, revving up the crowd and chanting along the driving trance beats.
Australian DJ Thomas Jack played later at the Celestial Garden, accompanied by dancers on stage. His light-hearted tropical house was a refreshing break from all the heavy dubstep, but unfortunately there was a lot of sound leaking in from nearby stages—every so often there would be an unwanted bass drop or a monster growl digging into your ear.
Special guests Knife Party lived up to their hype with the hour-long performance at the Stellar Stage, which included their latest version of “Bonfire” featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine.
What seemed like the entire festival crowd flocked to the Lunar Stage for Bassnectar (sorrynotsorry, 3LAU). For an hour and a half, Lorin Ashton ignited the crowd with one of the most kinetic Bassnectar sets of this festival season. Though every Bassnectar show is nothing short of a miracle, this one was particularly special because it was 8/08. So in honor he played both “Don’t Hate the 808” and “The 808 Track”, with the latter sandwiched between “Speakerbox” and ODB’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”. After closing with his remix of “One Thing”, Lorin left Moonrise so impressed that the organizers asked him to curate his own stage at next year’s festival.
- The Sunday Experience
Sunday’s festivities starts with EOTO, a live-electronic group formed by two members of The String Cheese Incident. Using their collection of synths and instruments on stage, the duo put together a mind-warping, improvised performance. About 20 minutes in, their setup crashed due to the mid-day heat wave, but they bounced back quickly before the lost the crowd.
I was pleasantly surprised during Savoy’s set later at the Lunar Stage when I discovered that the act was not just one man behind decks, but a trio with a DJ, guitarist/DJ and a drummer. Their set featured their uplifting collaboration with Sound Remedy, “Leaving You” and ended with a piercing rendition of “Killing in the Name” by Rage Against the Machine.
After Yolandi and Ninja tore down the stage with Die Antwoord’s chaotic rave-rap, Porter Robinson graced Moonrise with his Worlds performance. The set was an emotional, tear-jerking conglomerate of songs from his latest concept album Worlds as well has his older EP’s and singles. The set was similar to most of the ones he played earlier in the festival season, but it was just as, if not more, breathtaking to hear it again.
With a lineup this massive, a few conflicts were expected. But the overlap everyone faced in the last two hours of Sunday was definitely brutal; Above and Beyond, Zeds Dead, The Glitch Mob, and Party Favor were all playing at the same. damn. time.
I went with my instincts and followed Zeds Dead at the Solar Tent, and within seconds I knew my decision was right. Everybody was dropping like flies as the duo scraped the floor with songs like “Adrenaline” and “Coffee Break.” In honor of Sean Price who passed away the day before, Zeds Dead included their eerily titled track “Dead Price” in the mix. They started to play an encore with their remix of Jack Ü’s “Take You There,” but before they reached the end their sound was cut off due to the festival’s strict 10:45 curfew.
Looking back, it’s amazing how Moonrise managed to pull off such a successful two days; despite the doubled crowd size and limited space, they were able to make this event even better than last one. We can’t wait to see how Moonrise develops in the coming years.
Photos by: Kyle Cummins & Ohan Ly