"Shoes off!" and "I need you to lift up your hair so I can see behind your ears" are two things I have rarely, if ever, heard when going through a security check to enter a festival. Additionally, sealed water bottles had to be emptied but were permitted to be refilled inside. It is with good reason that staff security at Moonrise Festival, held Aug. 9-10 at Pimlico Race Course, was enforcing extra measures, in light of the two deaths and several hospitalizations that stemmed from the recent Mad Decent Block Party at Merriweather Post Pavilion.
The tragic news triggered many reactions about dangerous drug use—specifically MDMA, or "Molly"—at electronic dance festivals and a heavy concern for what may ensue at Moonrise. While some local anti-drug advocates were pushing for the festival to be cancelled, the show went on safely with no deaths or major incidents reported. Moonrise staffers were especially prepared to combat the seemingly unavoidable possibility of drug use, and implemented several safety measures to prevent dehydrated attendees.
When I walked into the festival—complete with four stages, a Ferris wheel, beer garden, frozen drink bar, several clothing, food and drink vendors (one which gave you the opportunity to drink a smoothie out of a pineapple all day), two free water stations, and three medical tents—I was surrounded by scantily clad ravers donning LED bras (or sometimes no bra at all), gloves, hula-hoops, flower crowns, fishnets, and beaded belly dancing tops all the while cheering, hugging, and spinning in circles with excitement.
The festival housed some of the biggest names in electronic dance music and hip-hop including Bassnectar, Kaskade, Adventure Club, Bro Safari, A$AP Ferg, Waka Flocka Flame, Carnage, Excision, Sander Van Doorn, and STS9, as well as some local artists like RaceCarBed and Kayoh. There was some crazy shit to see, which brings me to this year's Moonrise Festival superlatives.
Best place to drown in a pool of your own sweat: The Solar Dance tent.
Various artists like Ookay, Audien, GTA, Rusko, DJ Snake, Excision, Brillz, and Waka Flocka Flame performed high-energy sets here to a crowd that just wouldn’t quit moving. If the music wasn't getting you hyped, the people around you were. Girls climbed onto shoulders and waved flags in the air. One girl got rid of her shoes and tried to initiate a small mosh pit as everyone cheered. A fan or two would have been highly beneficial, but it didn't stop the crowds from showing up on foot, wheelchair, or crutches. I'm surprised the man on crutches wasn't knocked to the ground here when the crowd went into an especially ecstatic uproar as a member of Brillz's entourage began scaling a light fixture as he dropped Alvero/Mercer/Lil' Jon's "Welcome to the Jungle Bitch!"
Best place to find a middle finger in the air: A$AP Ferg's set on the Stellar Stage.
While everything was all in good fun at the beginning of A$AP Ferg's set, it was pretty clear after about 10 gunshot sound effects and the rapper pulling several girls onto the stage, letting three amateur rappers from the crowd have a moment to shine, pointing out that he could "make them famous right now," and asking all of the sexy ladies in the crowd if they wanted to have an orgy after his set, the crowd was ready for Bro Safari. A$AP mentioned that he didn't want to get off the stage until they kicked him off but when he asked the crowd, "Y'all want one more?" from where I was standing all I heard the crowd shout back at him in unison was "NO."
Best place to get a champagne shower: In the front row of Waka Flocka Flame's set in the Solar Dance tent.
Waka Flocka's energy seemed perfect for the Solar Dance tent, as he ended his 30-minute set by whipping his dreads back and forth as he shook bottle after bottle of champagne and let the bubbly spray over towards those in the front row.
Best place to feel the "PLUR," a rave mantra standing for peace, love, unity, and respect: Lady Casa’s meet and greet at the PLUR Warriors tent.
Lady Casa is a role model and spiritual guide to many people in the rave community, with over 71,000 Instagram followers supporting her mission to promote unconditional love and positivity. Everyone in line was waiting for their chance to exchange Kandi (personalized bracelets made with pony beads that ravers exchange with one another via a symbolic handshake that supports and enforces the PLUR mantra) with her, but for some, the meeting meant far more than that. I watched as one fan approached her, teary-eyed, exclaiming, "Oh my God! I’m going to cry! You seriously don’t know how much you've changed my life," before the two joined hands to make a heart and capture the moment.
Best place to feel like a hamster standing in quick sand: Water refill stations, day two.
The water refill stations were conveniently placed, clearly identifiable, and most of the time without a line that was too long or annoying, which made it easier for festival-goers to stay hydrated during the long, hot afternoons. After day one, the water stations were understandably surrounded with puddles. In an attempt to fix the problem, mulch was placed where the puddles were come day two. This helped, for awhile, but by the end the sinking mud was unavoidable and the hamster cage smell was present. But who cares? It's free water. Moonrise staffers could also be seen squirting water bottles into the mouths of those in the crowd throughout the festival, especially during headliners. Kudos.
Best place to find people dancing in a rainbow: The on-site misting tents.
The two misting tents on festival grounds were just another precaution Moonrise implemented to make sure attendees were not overheated and could cool down via a light shower and some shade. One girl rejoiced by smiling and jumping up and down in a puddle, probably without realizing she was weaving in and out of a misty bow of colors, made somewhat blinding when the gleaming sun gleaming caught the metal on her combat boots.
Best place to feel like the music is getting you high: Kaskade's set on the Stellar stage after sun down.
Kaskade is well known for creating a unique atmosphere for his crowds with his ability to transition between deep, progressive, and electro house music for an energized, yet soulful set. Once the sun set, his colorful visuals—one I particularly liked of a deep purple cityscape—shone on the crowd as they swayed and danced at every break.
Best place to be for a good surprise: Adventure Club's set on the Stellar stage.
Adventure Club was granted the longest set on the festival's bill, closing out the last two hours of day one, mixing a few unexpected and fun songs into their set, including Destiny's Child's 'Say My Name' and Underoath's 'It’s Dangerous Business Walking Out Your Front Door.' as well as tying in a surprise guest appearance by a member of the duo Krewella that amped the crowd up even more.
Best pop culture-referencing mind fuck: DJ Carnage's visuals.
Maryland/D.C. native DJ Carnage closed out the Stellar stage on day two, shifting from heavy trap sets to more progressive house-infused ones. The use of smoke, confetti, and some fun yet trippy visuals (especially one that showed Macaulay Culkin's "Home Alone" face, melting into Carnage's face, melting into the "Scream" ghost face) got his fans, whom he calls the "Chipotle Gang," jumping to their feet.
Best place to catch someone having sex on the lawn: During DJ Carnage's set on the Stellar Stage.
I get it. Sex is fun. While this may have seemed like a good place to straddle your boyfriend and get it on (because over half of the other festival goers were dancing the night away at the Lunar stage), you really weren't fooling anyone. Let's keep it a little cleaner next time, guys.
Best place to spend $5: A ferris wheel ticket.
The view from the ferris wheel was undoubtedly the best view of the festival grounds. For only $5, you could go up and down and catch a good breeze. When I looked one way, I could see the Solar Dance tent overflowing with DJ Rusko's fans and when I looked another, I could feel the sense of urgency as people ran in groups towards the Lunar Stage with totems in hand to catch Paper Diamond. While these attractions are always more exciting with a nighttime view, the lines were short during the day, which made it an appealing option.
Best time to curse being a female: Any time you had to use the bathroom.
I really don't have much to complain about regarding this festival at all, and I think almost everything went according to plan, or better. But come on, being able to find toilet paper only 10 percent of the time you went into the portable restrooms is kind of ridiculous. Help the ladies out next time.
Best place to go if you were looking to be a part of the biggest, most energized crowd of the whole damn festival: Bassnectar's set closing out the Lunar stage on day two.
Bassnectar delivered what he's known for: a colorful and encompassing light show filled with trippy visuals and lasers to accompany and complement a sound that seems too unique and ever-changing to pigeonhole into a specific genre. The crowd of bassheads responded to the whimsical, yet high energy experience by throwing waves of glow sticks towards the stage, climbing onto shoulders, and one guy was even smiling, screaming and jumping up and down on one leg, holding one of his crutches in the air. Much to crowd's dismay, the show promptly ended at 11 p.m.