[FESTIVAL RECAP] Moonrise Festival Satisfies East Coast Bass Fiends
I recently admitted to a friend I have a weakness for heavy bass music. You know the kind—the trembling basslines, the guttural screeches, the “predictable” drops that somehow shock you every time. The kind that resonates with that part of you that truly doesn’t give a fuck.
For those who get me, you know that something unabashed like heavy bass music tends to garner polarized opinions: the response to my confession had to be either a) passionate agreement followed by an eager recitation of their favorite artists or b) complaint that “brostep” is the absolute demise of our generation.
Haters will hate, but the fans rage on. Moonrise Festival, set in Baltimore’s Pilmico Racetrack, has always been an ally of the wilder half of the divide. Though they’ve only been running for 3 years, the insanity that erupted his past weekend was proof that when it comes to shamelessly dirty EDM, few can satisfy our hunger the way Moonrise Festival can.
Photos by Kyle Cummins
As always, Day 1’s festivities started with long lines and intense security checks under the beating midday sun. This came as no surprise, since Saturday’s was sold out with 35,000 people in attendance. But fortunately overcrowding was not an issue this year. There was plenty of room to dance at all four stages and, if anything, being surrounded by a swarm of glittering, positive-minded fans was more of a comfort than a concern.
We decided to cut to the chase and jumped right into Bear Grillz at the Solar stage. Even though Solar was the only stage with shade in the grounds, the pure movement of the crowd made it the hottest one to be in. Despite the heat, Bear Grillz performed the whole set in a fuzzy, head-to-toe bear suit—dedication at its finest. He threw down his signature mix of dubstep including aptly named tracks like “Rozay” and “It’s Fucking Dubstep,” spliced in with some bro-anthems like “Chop Suey.”
Emancipator smoothed things out with their chill set at the Lunar stage. Their set brought in old time tracks from Soon it Will Be Cold Enough as well as ones from their latest 2015 album, Seven Seas. The high ended strokes from Illya Goldberg’s violin contrasted incredibly well with Doug Appling’s downtempo beats.
One thing that bothered me about this year’s lineup was the clear lack of female artists on the bill; Anna Lunoe was one of 2 women scheduled to play for the entire weekend—further evidence that female producers are still stigmatized within the American EDM community. Regardless, Anna Lunoe orchestrated an amazing set at the main stage, featuring deep house and Beyoncé remixes all tied together with her clear vocals and high energy. Hopefully the success of her performance will encourage organizers to break free of that “boys club” mentality that’s so prevalent in the electronic music scene.
The Lunar stage was packed and ready to go for Griz’s long awaited performance. As always, Griz expertly incorporated live sax, funk, dubstep, and even a lil’ bit of Fresh Prince of Belair during his sunset performance. All Good labelmate Muzzy Bear chipped in with his guitar throughout the performance, which included a rendition of their laid back track Summer 97.
Back at the Solar stage, Bro Safari was stirring up mosh pits with their booty poppin’ trap and dubstep. We give them props to reading the crowd well—every track seemed to be exactly what we were waiting for. Drum and bass icon Andy C quickly followed with heart racing BPMs that perfectly matched the restless crowd.
Drawing a smaller, sophisticated (yet v hype) crowd, the Celestial Garden stage seemed to be the best kept secret of the weekend. Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaur’s disco and deep house DJ set provided the perfect change of pace from the some of the heavier sets that day.
While your pop-loving kids swarmed towards The Chainsmokers at the Stellar stage, the vast majority of us were up and ready for Bassnectar at the Lunar stage. Though there was no Bassnectar curated stage as rumors promised, he still managed to exceed expectations. After opening with his rendition of “Playing the Villain” by Son of Kick, he mixed in sounds from his latest album Unlimited, a bit of daft punk, trippy transitions, and demonic vocals. Lorin was generous enough to attempt playing past the curfew, but you know the authorities—they get a real kick out of pulling the plug on the bass (because god forbid someone might report another earthquake).
Day 2 started off with Monstercat’s San Holo. Though his recorded album and mixes are slightly more towards the chill end of the spectrum, he incorporated an unexpected amount of hardstyle into his live performance. But the crowd certainly didn’t seem to mind—there was even a group of kids who started chanting “San Holo” while throwing their shoes off. At one point in the set Jauz joined in on the fun and collaborated on stage.
Following Vanic, NGHMRE commanded the Solar tent with what sounded like the loudest set of the day. Though he’s relatively new to the scene, NGHMRE has gathered a huge following with his crisp production and ability to tweak boundaries of the dubstep/trap scene without scaring everyone away. In addition to his career defining track Street (those heady, cascading chimes—how do you come up with a sound like that!?), he incorporated crowd favorites like his remix of Keys N Krates’ Dum Dee Dum and his collab track with Pegboard Nerds and Krewella, Superstar.
Moonrise made a huge step forward this year by bringing back jam bands into the lineup. And what better band to get back on track with than Sound Tribe? Starting with Allan Watt’s words: “There’s no way you’re supposed to be…There’s nowhere you’re supposed to go…No more playing games with me, I want to see you” from their track Totem, STS9 blew away their sunset slot with groovy progressions and happy vibes. They later continued into World Go Round, and ended with a crowd’s favorite, When the Dust Settles.
The Celestial Garden was on point this year with their deep house and techno on Sunday night. Lee Foss and Dirtybird’s founder Claude Vonstroke panned out steady yet progressive beats, well-timed high notes and, at one point, some cowbell. The thing with techno is that, once you’re into it, it’s hard to get out; we were so captured by the beats at the Garden that we almost missed out on Excision’s closing set. Thank god we didn’t though, because the Excision pulled all stops and literally shook the ground with gargantuan tracks like Harambe—a perfectly loud conclusion to an unforgettably loud weekend.
Check out the full photo recap below!
Photos by Kyle Cummins