Though there were more people at Moonrise this year than one could ever make friends with in a lifetime, attendees left with a distinct bond that you just had to be there to be a part of.
I must admit, I’ve never been to an EDM festival before. I mean, I’ve been to a ton of festivals before, but never one specifically oriented to electronic dance music. Other festivals, the ones I’ve been to, typically dedicate a single stage to the PLUR scene. Even at that, I’d usually be attending these festivals with people who didn’t have much of a taste for dance music, making my attendance at an EDM show something rare and special for me throughout the past years.
You know that scene that was in the first new Star Wars trailer when Han Solo says, “It’s true. All of it?” That pretty much sums up what was going through my mind after finally making my way through the intense security and past the festival gates. The people in over-the-top rave gear were there. The stage dancers and the massive LED panels were there. Bass, in all its glory, was there. Electronic music culture was thriving everywhere you could turn, something of total bliss for me.
The first day of the festival was a rollercoaster which, in the end, bonded the crowd together. Everything was going great until around 6 p.m., where it became apparent that a brutal storm was on its way and an evacuation would be inevitable. In most cases, this would pretty much be the worst-case scenario. Not at Moonrise. Rather than sulking in the rain after being guided to the grandstand of the Pimlico Race Course, attendees embraced the PLUR that brought them together. Some chanted anthems like “Seven Nation Army,” and “Kernkraft 400.” Some participated in a festival-wide execution of the wave. Some even raced along the track of the raceway, despite facing whopping amounts of mud.
After a few hours, the festival announced that it would start back up. Flux Pavilion, Madeon, REZZ, and Big Gigantic were the first acts to perform, and wow, what a resurrection that was. The crowd was absolutely ready to go, as reflected through sheer energy. Once the bass came to an end at 11 p.m. and festivalgoers made their ways to their cars, it almost felt like the evacuation from earlier never even happened.
The next (and final) day of Moonrise, for me, was pretty much a dream come true. From Dillstradamus, Porter Robinson, Ookay, JOYRYDE, Lil Uzi Vert, Getter, Malaa, and a list of acts so long that I’d never be able to get to all of them, the lineup for the day was as premium as it gets. Despite the fact that the mud from the day before was still all over the place, the weather was ideal for mid-August.
Though the final day of festivals tend to be more tame as people typically exhaust themselves, I thought that the total opposite happened at Moonrise. Headbangers headbanged in the tent, ravers raved at the Stellar Stage, die-hard fans lost it at the Lunar Stage, and the underground fans danced the day away at the Celestial Stage like there was no tomorrow. In the final hours of the festival came a win-win schedule conflict: Pretty Lights, Dillstradamus, Borgeous, and Malaa were playing all at the same time. How could anyone possibly decide between these acts? Though it was a tough decision, any of these performances would’ve been a great choice.
Despite a little bit of inevitable sound bleeding, the layout of the festival was intuitive and well-calculated. Each stage had its own distinct vibe, though none could live without the other.
The first stage you could see once you enter, to the left, was the Lunar Stage. Host to Porter Robinson, Pretty Lights, Zeds Dead, and what would have been Migos in a bad weather-free world, this acted as the stage for acts that would easily fit at any lineup: the portal to the outside world, if you will.
Not far off in the distance from the entrance, smack dab in the center of the field, was the massive Solar Tent. You could call this the dubstep tent, or, well, simply the tent, but what was truly remarkable about this stage was the energy. Energy is something that really can’t be described without seeing it in real life, and in levels of this magnitude, no words would be able to do it justice. Between the next-level sets from Flux Pavilion, Getter, Seven Lions, Zomboy, Slander, Carnage, and so many more, it was like some sort of intangible zone of intensity swept over everyone within the tent.
If you were to walk just to the right of the tent, you’d find yourself at the Celestial Stage. Housing acts like Malaa, REZZ, Shiba San, Elephante, and Jai Wolf, one might be surprised that this was the smallest stage out of the four. This, of course, meant nothing to the many ravers who came out to watch these rather intimate sets.
Finally, the Stellar Stage. In my opinion, this was what truly showcased the magic of Moonrise festival. The DJ booth, elevated at least 20 feet, was surrounded by sets of symmetrical pillars covered in LED panels. The stage was beautiful in aesthetic as acts like Ookay, ARMNHMR, Excision, Yellow Claw, and Morgan Page graced the crowd in sound. In addition, this was where the rare set from Dillstradamus was held on Sunday night.
From the bottom of my heart, I’ve never seen a more energetic crowd in my entire life than at Moonrise. The most prominent highlight of this (and the entire festival at large), in my opinion, would have been at Getter’s mid-day set on Sunday at the tent. Originally scheduled for Saturday evening, the ex-Viner played everything from experimental bass music to the face-melting dubstep that he’s known for, all in his signature aesthetic.
Another highlight of the weekend for me was Zomboy’s sunset set at the Solar Tent. I was invited by Bok Nero to watch his guest appearance for “Rotten,” from which we stayed on stage to watch the rest of the show. I’ve always wanted to get on stage at a festival, and this was something even greater than I could’ve expected: there were people dancing for as far as the eye would let you see. Not only was this something I could cross off of my bucket list, but it was a set that took everyone in attendance on a rollercoaster of rage, euphoria, and a rare flavor of unity.
Of course, Dillstradamus’ headlining set on Sunday night blew my mind. Though I’m highly acquainted with the music of both Dillon Francis & Flosstradamus, I didn’t really know what to expect going into that set. Even if I did have high expectations, they still would have been blown away. Not only did songs from each half of the duo cause the crowds to go crazy, but so did tracks we’d never expect to hear. At one point, Flosstradamus grabbed the mic and said “I never get to play house music,” as a four-to-the-floor beat shook everything. No one would have expected to hear Jax Jones’ “House Work” thrown into the mix, for example, but somehow it was, and it worked perfectly. With a set from Dillstradamus, you never know what to expect. What you receive, however, is probably better than what you would have expected, anyway.
Yes, there were thousands of us at Moonrise this year, but we all shared an exclusive experience that we’d never forget. Through thick and thin, though rain and mud, the distinct happenings of the day fraternized attendees who would otherwise be strangers into something more than that.
See all of our photos from Moonrise Festival 2017 here.