Let’s hear it for the moon! One final resounding cheer roared up from the crowd of thousands gathered at Moonrise Festival, the two-day EDM event held at Pimlico Race Course on August 9 and 10 of this year. The command was given by visionary DJ, Bassnectar (Lorin Ashton) after a mind-bending and exhilarating set beneath the massive supermoon, which had that night reached it’s full golden peak against the deep purple Baltimore night sky. The resulting howl was a moment of profound celebration, of respect and acknowledgement of what everyone there had just been apart of; what may have been the most successful EDM festival to happen in recent years.
Bassnectar, source: Facebook, DS Photography
Bassnectar never disappoints. He throws his entire soul to the audience and the music in every performance as he bends, twists, and lunges across his expansive arsenal of equipment, dancing like a maniac with his long, messy hair flying around him all the while. Moonrise was no exception. During the set, which included a variety of classics and new tracks off the album Noise Vs. Beauty such as “You and Me,” “Pink Elephants,” and “The 808 Track,” as well as some delicious remixes of Estelle (“Freak”) and The Beastie Boys (Sabotage), he expressed his love for the crowd repeatedly. Special respect and gratitude was given to the Hudson/Mudson Project family that had come, seeking revenge for the disaster that stole away Bassnectar and many other acts from the festival.
Being at a Bassnectar show is a special experience. The people there are some of the friendliest you could hope to have around. The “Bassnectar Family” is always in some form of coordinated attendance, spreading good vibes and caring for one another. It’s a beautifully mutual kind of respect to share in. If you need water, you will have it; if someone else needs water, you help him or her out; no matter if they’re a dirty hippy or the most kandi’d-out raver you’ve ever seen.
Lorin Ashton is fairly outspoken about his straight-edged approach to the EDM scene. Despite the beats being downright filthy sometimes, he takes a keep-it-clean philosophy to his music, hoping that the sound he creates will take away the need for the excessive amount of chemical enhancement strongly tied to the EDM fans; the root cause of just about all the bad press the scene has received in recent times.
Bassnectar shows are models for responsible raving, usually featuring a crew known as “Bass-sitters,” who make certain that water is flowing through the audience. This is where Moonrise set itself apart from other festivals. Organizers took this concept and applied it to every minute of every day, hiring teams of volunteers to patrol the grounds with what seemed like an endless supply of water. There was never a shortage; no matter what show was going on. In this sense, the whole festival took on the tone of a Bassnectar show, following religiously with the tenets of Peace, Love, Unity, and Respect (PLUR) throughout the weekend.
Moonrise showcased a supremely diverse collection of artists from al sectors of the electronic genre. From brand new artists, to old favorites, from heavy trap (more about that later), to deep house, to dub step, and transcendent jam bands, there was something for everyone. There was never a moment that a change of pace could be had if needed. Moonrise was a testament to the wide growth and expansion that EDM has undergone in the last few years since it made its clear infiltration of the greater popular consciousness.
The Supermoon, source: Facebook, DS Photography
And not only was there variety, but festivalgoers were more open to experiencing out for the first time new artists or genres with people they had never met in their life. There was a definite culture of sharing present, and it added to the overall atmosphere of the event a sense of friendship and understanding. There may be nothing more powerful than the elation a new friend exudes when they have just discovered a new favorite artist, had an experience that blew them away. Likewise, the discoveries you can make through these festy friends have just as much impact as they impart their own wisdom on you. Everything and everyone gets a chance.
The perspective of this article admittedly has a slight bias in favor of electronic jam bands. This genre, which has been present for quite some time (pretty much since the dawn of the synthesizer), holds strong roots in classic powerhouses of the scene such as Lotus and STS9, both of whom are long-standing staples at festivals across the country. The blend of traditional instruments with synths, turntables, drum machines, and other computerized elements makes for a listening experience and a variety in sound and style that is near impossible to match otherwise. It’s all done live, pushing the limits of experimentation, and interacting (and reacting) with the crowd in a way that sets a perfect mood at every moment of performance. Originals and covers blend together in endless combinations, often catching you off-guard. The same show never happens twice.
Lotus raged a preposterous show right before Bassnectar, which even included a cover of Deadmau5’s “Ghosts n’ Stuff.” Their set was unbelievably complex and hell-bent on testing just how hard members of the band were willing to jam, peaking at the end with a wild reprise of “Greet the Mind.” Other standouts from their set were a lengthy jam on “Tip of the Tongue,” a down and dirty “Lead Pipe,” and a suprememly funky “128.” STS9 gave a stellar and intimate performance to cap off the first night featuring a seductively smooth take on “New Dawn, New Day,” as well as flawless versions of favorites including “Vapors,” “When the Dust Settles,” and “The Rabble.” STS9 was, as always, irresistible to dance to. Even with their new bass player, Alana Rocklin, who replaced David Murphy, their sound was on-point, promising a bright future for the band’s 2.0 phase.
Relative newcomers to the scene are Zoogma, a particularly hard-edged and filthy jam band from Memphis, who tested the bounds of just how wild a show in the middle of the afternoon can get. Their set included a cover of Rusko’s (also at Moonrise) “Everyday (Netsky Remix),” as well as maybe one of the heaviest versions of their massive track “M10” ever played. Zoogma have come a long way in the last year, making a serious climb from unfamiliar after-party rockers to sought-after electronic jam staple at festivals all over the place. It would be a surprise if their name were not seen rising up into higher tiers of lineup announcement by next summer. No longer will the question “What the fuck is Zoogma?” be asked, but “Where the fuck is Zoogma?”
The high quality of daytime performances at Moonrise was quite impressive. At a festival that begins at 11am and ends at 11pm, covering only two days, not every act that deserves an after dark set is going to get one. Very frequently, this “jip” can really sap the energy of the crowd and the band itself, negatively impacting everyone’s experience and leaving everything feeling ho-hum at the end. This was not the case at Moonrise. Every artist or band was on their A-game, putting down sets that left fans wanting for nothing but more time with them. At peak afternoon heat, Papadosio, Rusko (who couldn’t have played louder), GRiZ, and many others all raged their shows as hard ever.
Luke the Knife, of Lotus, got everyone’s boogie on despite the tiny crowd gathered for him, absolutely killing
Luke the Knife, source: Facebook, Vinyl Penetration
it as he spun some slick Nudisco mixes. EOTO, another jam band who completely improvise every show, threw down a gnarly and incomprehensible show, bending and melting the meaning of genre. Tritonal rocked a jump-crazy set worthy of an ice bath for the sore legs that ensued. Morgan Page brought the house. Djemba Djemba and Mr. Carmack got things turnt up with their ratchet trap sets.
Trap, it appears, has taken a strong grasp on the EDM scene at the moment. To the dismay of many, it has definitely won the title for most dominant sub-genre, making its way into almost every DJ’s repertoire. Festivalgoers will be hard-pressed to find a set that doesn’t have them – however briefly – feeling the desire to lean back and crank their hands in the air as they get rattled by hyper-speed tight snare samples. However you may feel about the trend, trap has made its mark… but something new can pop up at any moment.
Of course, one cannot go without mentioning Kaskade, who headlined the fist night. Kaskade, who is one of the masters of deep house in the United States, gave his massive crowd a blissful and hard dancing set with stunning visuals that were impossible not to feel good while looking at. The performance included, among others, his classic “Eyes,” which had the whole crowd singing along to the vocal parts and feeling rather elevated.
During Kaskade’s set, Infected Mushroom could be seen across the grounds getting absolutely weird with their heavy trance. Tradeoffs always have to happen at festivals; they are something that will remain a part of the experience no matter how well organized the even may be. Other overlaps at Moonrise were STS9/Adventure Club/DJ Snake, Bassnectar/Carnage, and Lotus/Excision. Given these provided clear choices for many at the festival, for someone with a more diverse taste in music, there were some tough calls to make.
Kaskade, source: Facebook
Moonrise was exactly what a festival should be; a safe environment for the sharing of music, arts, and ideas; a place where new friends are met and great memories are made. It was a true escape from reality during its hours of operation, and an indulgence in self-expression and experience. Everyone there let their freak flags fly knowing that they were surrounded by like-minded people all gathered to just go enjoy some music together. The weekend passed without a single drug-related medical incident, only reporting a few non life-threatening injuries. Whether attendees or organizers are to be praised (or both) for demonstrating responsibility at this event, the future looks bright for this festival, and there is no reason it shouldn’t be back in full force next year. Though the sun may go down, the moon never sets on Moonrise.