For a festival goer, there are few things worse than dancing to the set of your favorite DJ, only to suddenly hear the music lowered, see the lights turned off and read bright red texts on a screen that ask, “Please Evacuate.” But a few moons ago in Baltimore, storms came and went, and the Mooncrew prevailed. It quickly became clear what the motto of this year’s festival would be — the rain can’t keep us down.
Presented by Steez Promo and Glow, Moonrise Festival has become one of the largest summer events to take place on the east coast. Since its inception, the festival has entertained over 30,000 attendees at the Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore each year, known famously for hosting the annual Preakness Stakes horse race. The 2017 edition saw new stages, new layouts, and more offerings for attendees, upgrades we were once again treated to at this year’s throwdown. The team at Moonrise went above and beyond to make the experience a great one, despite a particular unforeseen challenge. This year’s Preakness race left the site in terrible shape, presenting event organizers with the daunting task of giving the space a last minute makeover. The team hired one of the top grass experts in the world to perform a 7-acre sod installation in order for the site to be suitable for attendees to hit the ground running come show time. The blood, sweat, and tears that went into this massive project were noted, and much appreciate, as the race course field appeared in mint condition.
Sprawling over the fresh faced sod stood four illuminating stages, the Stellar stage, Celestial stage, Lunar stage, and Solar Tent. Attendees head banged, grooved, and got down and dirty on the dance floors to artists like Diplo, Kaskade, Joyryde, 3lau, Galantis, Excision, MK, Chris Lake, Mark Knight, Griz, Rezz, Liquid Stranger, Timmy Trumpet, Ganja White Night, Illenium, Sacha Robotti, Justin Jay, and Lane 8. Fuel options felt endless, from dynamite cold brew to lobster poke to black bean burgers and more. Water stations, cocktails, and brews were as plentiful as the thousands of smiles seen across all Mooncrew’s faces (the official name given to Moonrise fans).
Each day began with clear blue skies and a beating sun, leaving tank top marks and face paint tan lines on all those who basked in its rays. We were thankful for the clouds that eventually crept in both afternoons, until one of our worst festival nightmares arised, not once, but twice. On Saturday, we found ourselves vibing hard at the Celestial stage to see Will Clarke. As one of our must-see artists, you could imagine our reaction when he was asked to stop playing and the crowd was told to evacuate. On Sunday, this daunting occurrence happened once again, this time as we were stomping to the beats of 3lau at the Stellar stage. Disbelief was seen throughout the eyes of the crowd as flashing red lights on the screen alerted us to seek shelter.
Throughout the weekend, lightening, thunder, some rain showers, and even a rainbow came to join the party. But instead of cancelling the event, the star team at Moonrise had us wait out the delays inside the stadium, with snacks and drinks to keep our spirits rolling. On both days, the party resumed. While some artist’s sets were cut short, the unwanted weather spurred a number of unforgettable impromptu b2b sets that would have never happened otherwise. As 3lau later stated on his Instagram: Festival vs. Rain – 1:0.
Day 1 began hot and heavy at Pimlico. As we made our way through the gates, Elephante was commanding the crowd at the Stellar stage, which later played host to a classic feel-good set from Kaskade and massive billboard beats from DJ Snake to close down the first night. It didn’t take much time lingering around this area to know that most people traveled to the race course this day to see Diplo. Sadly, the weather Gods weren’t feeling in favor of the LA-based producer; evacuations caused his set to be cut down to about fifteen minutes or so to many attendees’ disappointment. Although it was shorter than most preferred, it was definitely still sweet for certain.
Across the way, past the tight-knit community of bass die-hards headbanging the day away under the Solar tent, Sacha Robotti and one half of Walker & Royce were in control of the Celestial stage. The dirty tech house beats felt like a breath of fresh air. After the weather delays, Anna Lunoe came in with guns blazing to Celestial, ready to make the most of her shortened set. Explosive house beats backed by the flickering lights from the disco ball hung atop center stage set the tone for an unexpected b2b set by MK and Chris Lake. Festival goers lost their minds as these two industry mavens threw down b2b2b crowd favorites like Chris Lake’s “Turn Off The Lights,” “Crowd Control,” and “Operator (Ring, Ring)” and MK’s “17” and “Piece of Me.” Meanwhile, in the distance to the right, you could see a sea of bodies rocking to the sweet and funky sax sounds of Griz at the Lunar stage. It was a whirlwind of a day and one hell of a night.
Day 2 started off promising as we continued to ride our highs from the previous night’s impromptu b2b showings. Dozens of white helmets with Xed out eyes reminded us that the Mello Gang was out and read to play. Sunday would see another massive variety of artists like Manic Focus and Excision at the Lunar stage, LSDREAM and Snails at the Solar Tent, Mark Knight and Lane 8 at the Celestial Stage, and Illenium and Marshmello closing out the Stellar stage.
Determined to explore more of the festival’s offerings, we began our dance at the Stellar stage with SNBRN and Habstrakt, followed by future house feels from Joyryde. As 3lau blew in, we were urged to seek shelter yet again for another party in the Pimlico stands. Once more, the bad weather passed and the festival forged ahead to deliver round two of impromptu b2b sets, like Justin Jay b2b Mija, and explosive headlining performances from Marshmello, Galantis, and Timmy Trumpet. Unable to fight the feels at the Celestial stage, we succumbed to its pull and released our last ounces of energy with the melodic house sounds of Lane 8 – the perfect ending to one mental weekend.