Last year’s inauguration of Moonrise immediately established Pimlico Race Course as the home for one of the best kept festival secrets. After this rousing success, word spread like wildfire and Moonrise’s attendance nearly doubled. The combination of word of mouth and this year’s star studded lineup set the bar pretty high for Moonrise Festival 2015. Although the festival’s sketchy Baltimore location is far from ideal (our car got broken into the first night), the venue does an excellent job creating an immersive wonderland that is a distinct break from reality. This creates a magical, paradoxical pocket of inner city Baltimore that is packed with good people, great music and the best vibes.
Moonrise was special not only for the music, but how the festival was ran and organized. Below are five highlights in the festival’s planning, followed by my five favorite sets.
1) The Venue
Pimlico Race Course is a phenomenal separation from the dangerous surrounding neighborhood. This creates an astonishing contrast, as the construction of such a beautiful and picturesque safe haven is truly an impressive feat. Since Moonrise is not a camping festival, some may have expected more rough terrain, in the vein of EDC New York’s parking lot. Instead, the venue is an open, grassy area with ample room to sit and relax. Trippy artwork is everywhere, whether on Heineken’s Live Art Pyramid or as an overhang in a great spot to lie down. There was even a ferris wheel attendees could ride which further illuminated Moonrise’s beautiful nighttime sky.
Free water refill stations are (rightfully) becoming expected at music festivals. Moonrise met this standard, but they vastly exceeded it and went above and beyond. In addition to countless shaded areas, there were also incredibly refreshing misting tents to help combat the heat. While these tents were a lifesaver after some midday raging, the biggest factor in hydration was Moonrise’s Star Team. This was a 130 person volunteer team that went around the festival handing out water, bags of ice and any other assistance they could. In the midst of non-stop dancing, sweltering heat and heavy bass, it felt like God himself sent these angelic volunteers to keep us cool and replenished. The Star Team was a huge reason that there were substantially less medical transports this year, even with attendance almost doubling. These statistics only add to the overwhelming evidence that volunteer programs such as this are an important contributing factor in minimizing risk at music festivals.
3) Celestial Garden
Last year’s Celestial Garden stage seemed like an after thought, the fourth forgotten stage of Moonrise. It was small and poorly located, situated in the middle of festival traffic. This made the festival seem much smaller, effectively decreasing its number of stages from four to more like three and a half. When I looked at the schedule for Moonrise this year, I saw that big name acts like What So Not, Thomas Jack, Dr. Fresch and AC Slater were scheduled for Celestial Garden. At first this was worrisome, but Celestial Garden turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The stage increased dramatically in size and space, playing a fine host to some excellent established acts.
4) Line Adjustment
The first day of Moonrise brought countless horror stories about endless time spent waiting in line. Some people waited for hours to get past security and into the festival. In addition to this being incredibly inconvenient, it was also a safety hazard and caused multiple people to pass out from overheating. After the complaints piled up, Moonrise stepped up to the plate and made serious on the fly adjustments. By day two, the line was much more organized and the process was expedited significantly.
5) Genre Clusters
As much as everyone loves touting lineup diversity, there is something to be said for catering to certain genres. This allows for a celebration of a specific style where avid fans can get a concentrated dose of their favorite music. Moonrise was noticeably stacked in heavy bass and live acts. This helped cultivate a weird and trippy vibe where people felt comfortable going off the beaten path. Bass certainly reigned supreme at Moonrise, where the Bass God himself Lorin Ashton led the pack along with Datsik, Zeds Dead, Zomboy and a legendary b2b2b of Doctor P, Funtcase and Cookie Monsta. Live music was equally popular at Moonrise, where fans were treated to shows from huge names such as The Glitch Mob, Porter Robinson, Big Gigantic, EOTO, Infected Mushroom and The Floozies.[Read on for our Top 5 Sets]