Cover photo taken from Moonrise Festival Facebook
Photos taken by Evan Ford & Danny Smith
Two years in a row now weather delays have put a damper on the two day event known as Moonrise Festival. Apparently it is common for the Baltimore area to experience isolated thunderstorms in the month of August. However, lightning wasn’t the only flashes striking the skies of Pimlico Race Course. Ugly weather never stopped attendees from having a good time and once the music resumed everyone continued dancing the night away.
I thought hurricane season was over…
As mentioned earlier, it definitely stormed last year for the first day of Moonrise. The weird thing is it stormed on Saturday almost the exact same time to date. After visually scanning faces in the crowd and hearing passing conversations, I swear I was having deja vu moments as we all herded toward the grand stands. Although many people were upset because “It’s not even raining”, there was clearly lightning in sight. In case you ever played sports growing up or attended an event where lightning has been near (usually within 5 miles) then you should know activities are postponed for safety measures at least 30-45 minutes until lightning ceases or happens outside the given radius. Which was the case for both days of Moonrise this year. At least it didn’t completely shutdown like a particular festival I worked earlier this year.
Last year things were a little crazy in the grand stands. There were even rumors of attendees breaking into liquor rooms while we waited out the storm. Luckily the crowd occupied themselves with fun activities that didn’t include being a vandal. Saturday the stands erupted with cheers as a few people were racing down the track on their mock horses. A guy inside cut on a few Bud Light bar signs to try and brighten up the mood as we waited. Sunday a large group was hitting around a beach ball for entertainment also. These were just a few moments of fun activities that kept Mooncrew spirits high during the weather delays.
What’s the difference…
Major shoutout to the Moonrise staff for showing more preparedness dealing with the anxious crowd this year. Saturday just as we were sitting underneath the stands waiting for news I saw people walking with handfuls of waters and chips. Come to find out, the Moonrise staff had setup a table to distribute pallets of water and boxes of chips to dehydrated and hungry attendees as we waited. All of which was given out FREE of charge. Yes, FREE! Once the delay happened again Sunday, the Star Team and other staff were out there again providing life to the Mooncrew with water and snacks. Along with the chips and water Moonrise gave out other free things inside like pints of Vice Cream ice cream, Bai drinks, Rockstar energy drinks, and more. Mad props to the Moonrise staff for those minor but major improvements.
Other improvements this year involved the Pimlico grounds and stages. Although there was some mud on the infield, there was also plenty of fresh sod laid down. The sod allowed attendees to sit down and enjoy sets at any stage anytime throughout the day. Sitting down for a break during Nav‘s set at the Lunar Stage was life saving. Another major change was swapping the Lunar and Stellar Stage locations for specific reasons, predominantly sound related. The Celestial Garden even got more attention this year. It looked more like a stage instead of a hut for artists. I would say it was a knockout with the Mooncrew as people shuffled at the stage all day and night.
For the most part, vibes at Moonrise were absolutely amazing! Evan and I found out minutes after walking in with our totem as people quoted with laughter “HELL YEAH I SUCK TOES” and wanted pictures immediately. I had a strong feeling I’d run into this awesome couple I met that influenced me to attend Moonrise again, and sure enough I got to hangout with them at Moonrise! Watching sets from VIP was pretty awesome. Security appeared to be enjoying the sets in VIP also as one guy threw his hands up during Zeds Dead and another guard wanted to hold the totem momentarily before Excision. There was never a dull moment from the Star Team as they walked around the festival quenching people’s thirst, misting the crowd, all while enjoying the music and keeping the energy up. Stellar job Star Team!
It was cool to see pictures/videos and hear stories of artists interacting and showing fans their appreciation at the festival. Even seeing those Wobble guys walking around in their fly orange jackets Sunday seemed to be enjoying themselves. Something that still has me puzzled was a certain artist and his team (rhymes with Tampa) looked dumbfounded and failed to reply to a compliment of his set. I know plenty of artists are foreign (not American) so maybe he doesn’t understand English? Overall though, performing artists and Mooncrew members bled positive energy and seemed to be having a great festival.
The music is a MAJOR reason Moonrise has been successful during its tenure. This year’s lineup was just as stacked as previous years bringing returning artists as well as new faces to Moonrise. The music paired with the production value was phenomenal. They did a great job again with all the stages being completely different. Moonrise truly lit up the night sky with its production: fire, smoke blasts, lights, confetti, and fireworks. It was a bummer to miss artists or have sets shortened due to the weather delays. The sets after the delays all seemed rushed, especially Saturday. However, that did not stop them from putting on amazing shows.
I found it necessary to check out each of the four stages as each one had acts I wanted to see. A few notable Saturday daytime acts I saw: Elephante, Sullivan King b2b Dion Timmer, Walker & Royce, Nav, SQUNTO, Ookay, and Midnight Tyrannosaurus. Fun fact, Sullivan King dislocated his shoulder while performing Saturday, but it didn’t stop him from finishing his show and sticking around for the weekend; true DJ Rockstar! Another artist I overheard, Grandson, came highly recommended by Moonrise Promoter Evan Weinstein.
After delays, I made sure to run over to the Stellar Stage immediately when I saw the huge letters Diplo flashing across the screen from afar. I stayed at Stellar Stage from Diplo thru Zeds Dead. Diplo brought the party vibes back up real quick throwing down bangers with heavy bass. Diplo was followed up by Kaskade who made sure everyone had “Fun” with crazy visuals and upbeat House. Another fun fact I found out, Kaskade is actually Mormon. We finished the night with those weird REZZ vibes mixed with some funky GRiZ.
The Sunday finale was interesting. The overcast was in full affect. Moonrise was setup for a good day as we strolled thru the grounds hearing Born Dirty playing “Tootsie Roll”. It was funny to see people dancing along to the song commands, especially one guy who hit a slide to hard and fell to the ground. Stopped by Manic Focus for a bit to watch him and his drummer kill it for an early afternoon set. LSDream was another good daytime set, then BAM! Weather delay.
Cashmere Cat sounded awesome resuming the tunes. It was great to hear some hometown music as he dropped Migos‘ “Walk It, Talk It”; still no Migos at Moonrise though. Shortly after we found ourselves underneath the Solar Tent for a couple sets; G Jones and Ganja White Night. Two bomb sets for sure. G Jones always shows out with his heavy beats. Ganja White Night cranked up their set and I could hear fans around me dropping the wubs with them as if they were on stage. Ganja White Night had the whole crowd stepping hard with so many of their beat drops. Not that I needed to but I found myself wearing 3D glasses for their set to make the experience so much better as their storyline visuals engulfed my entire vision. Easily one of my favorite sets of the weekend.
Fast forward to our last set of the night, Excision. His set was more than I could have asked for, even without seeing Robo Kitty. He even brought out Sullivan King briefly! Excision truly made use of the whole Lunar Stage as his visuals stretched beyond my vision with dinosaurs, DNA, machines, morphing animals, etc. Excision truly is on some next level shit. Oops! I can see why he named his new album APEX; because as of right now he is arguably one of the top DJ’s on multiple levels. Excision‘s Moonrise set is hands down one of the best sets I’ve seen all year!
I still consider Moonrise a festival worth going to at least once to make your own assessment. The festival is not perfect, but it is a work in progress. After this year I could see the passion not only from the Moonrise staff but the Mooncrew as well. It’s great to see a community taking pride in having a successful festival on different accounts. Moonrise is taking notes and making improvements to make the festival stand out and be different (PS part of the wristbands glows in the dark!) from others every year. I think they’re definitely on the right track so hang in there Mooncrew!