Last year, promotion for the Moonrise Festival began with high hopes. The successor to Baltimore’s long-running Starscape event, which the city banned after the 2012 show resulted overcrowding and multiple drug arrests, appeared to be better organized, but was canceled three days before it was about to start. With EDM so entrenched with social media, it was only inevitable for fans to go on social media to voice their dissatisfaction.
However, even with 2013’s non-start, Moonrise has been resurrected for 2014. Early June brought the lineup’s first phase, including a diverse group of mainstream and underground performers not only spanning multiple dance music subgenres but also live and DJ acts. Kaskade headlines on August 9, and Bassnectar takes over on Sunday, August 10.
That’s a rather auspicious distinction, especially for a festival that has to be the phoenix of dance music for Baltimore. For some background, Starscape occurred yearly in the city from 1999 to 2012, attracting the same caliber of performers scheduled for 2013 and now for 2014. However, according to a report from the Baltimore Sun, drugs, heat, and overcrowding at the 2012 event, held at Fort Armistead Park, resulted in city officials telling promoter Lonnie Fisher that the event could no longer receive a permit.
Specifically, 14,000 attendees overwhelmed a venue suited for 7,500, while emergency crews had to be on alert for 12 hours, in order to address regular cases related to drug overdoses or heat exhaustion. As well, the newspaper reported seven drug-related arrests, and interviewed a source who claimed to have easily snuck in through a fence.
But with the event less than two months away, we spoke with Evan Weinstein, the President and Talent Buyer for Steez Promo, the company, along with Washington, D.C.-based Glow D.C., that’s behind this year’s Moonrise. Previous reports claim that last year’s event fell through because Steez didn’t obtain the proper permits, but Weinstein states Steez took a different approach this year. “We started our conversations with the city way earlier,” Weinstein told Crossfadr by email. “We got the right people on our team and went out and got the right things done in order to achieve the ultimate goal of bringing this festival back.”
But Weinstein resists direct comparisons to Ultra. For one thing, the event – at the Pimlico Race Course, designed for 30,000 attendees – is predicted to draw just a fraction of the crowd, and two, the lineup for 2014 veers away from DJs and EDM in particular.
However, what makes the Mid-Atlantic in need of such an event like Moonrise is the lack of cross-subgenre festivals. Over the past few years, there has been Trillectro – for the hip-hop-leaning dance music – and Philadelphia has its annual Mad Decent block party, but the lineup for Moonrise 2014 encompasses a wide range of tastes – someone seeking out the hit-makers, someone looking a bit indie, and others who don’t shun instrumental-based electronic music.
Considering the variety and scope proved to be a challenge. “Booking a lineup is probably the hardest part,” Weinstein explained. “There is no exact science to it and you try to go and mix it up the best you can while still creating or preserving an identity for your event.”
Even if Moonrise aims for more diversity than its similar competitors just a few hours north, like Electric Zoo and New York’s Electric Daisy Carnival, the venue issue remains a hurdle. Steez selected a more appropriately-sized spot this time around – one significantly larger than Fort Armistead Park and last year’s Sun Park. Pimlico, as well, has stricter regulations, such as a definite end and decibel limit, to avoid discord between the race track and the surrounding neighborhood.
Weinstein touched on this concern, saying. “It wasn’t so much a larger venue as much as a dynamic venue. Pimlico is one of the best event venues I’ve ever been to and at the same time one of the most underutilized. I’m excited to take on the challenge of making it a premiere festival venue.”
Based on what has been presented so far, Moonrise could be the event that bridges the growing gap between mainstream, underground, and subgenre-driven festivals, but ultimately, we’ll have to wait and see. Phase 2 of the lineup is scheduled to be revealed on June 20.