Moonrise Festival roils restive Mount Washington residents

By most accounts the Moonrise Festival at Pimlico—the city's unlikely new hub of EDM—was a resounding success: solid reviews, no deaths, no major incidents, all good. But the event, held on Aug. 11 and 12, wasn't universally appreciated by the residents of leafy Mount Washington, the suburblike neighborhood on the other side of Northern Parkway, many of whom objected to the strange sounds disrupting the relatively quiet environs.

A spirited discussion on the neighborhood Google group began with a post at 10:04 the first night of the festival: "This music is awful, it is past 10pm - when will it end?" Another responded, "'Music' is such a polite word for this awful noise."

These were followed by a round of amens and it was noted the concert was scheduled to end at 11 p.m. on Saturday night and 9:30 p.m. on Sunday night. But some commenters defended concert-goers.

"I appreciate that the festival goers that parked in front of my house and on the 2400 block of Ken Oak were thoughtful and didn't leave trash and relieve themselves in my yard - unlike the Preakness crowd," Lorrie Jakubik said in a post to the group (everyone quoted by name here agreed to be quoted on the record). "The young folks I spoke with were very polite."

In fact, in the weeks prior to the event, organizers had offered 500 free tickets to neighborhood residents—an offer that had been advertised on the Google group—as a gesture of goodwill. Some residents, clearly not traditional EDM fans, took them up on the offer and chimed in on the discussion.

"I went to the festival with my husband's granddaughter (17 y.o.) and we had a great time," Pat Allen posted to the group Sunday morning. "It wasn't my kind of music (The Stones!!!) but there were some good bands and electronic music. The kids we saw were dressed wildly, but were friendly and enjoying themselves. I thought of Woodstock and how the people were dressed then. I guess every generation has it's own look and music. We had a great time and are heading back again today. I really appreciate the tickets! Thank you!!"

Clark Shah-Nelson (disclosure: a friend of this writer) also posted about his experience. "My four year old and I rode my bike over and attended for a couple hours. (Apparently we were the only ones to ride a bike there? They seemed dumbfounded when asked about a bike rack or bike parking...) I was probably close to one of the oldest and he one of the youngest attendees. :)  I bet the view of the moon and skyline from the ferris wheel was spectacular, but we didn't wait it out. He was pretty popular among the ravers, er, EDM-enthusiasts: several attendees gave him glow sticks, and one kid from a group that drove from Atlanta gave him a friendship bracelet. Not all concerts are going to attract such a relatively peaceful and conscientious group, but he and I agree that having these loud yet infrequent events provide free tickets to the neighboring community is a great idea. Thank you to the MWIA and promoters for sharing."

Veteran neighborhood activist Mac Nachlas objected to organizers and Pimlico violating a standing planned unit development (PUD) stating that events there had to end at 10 p.m. He encouraged neighbors to contact their city councilmember Rikki Spector.

"I didn't mind the music and am happy that the organizers provided a 'perk' for the community, but am worried by the precedent set by this event," he wrote. "The Law that governs Pimlico allows them to hold up to 5 concerts per year and requires that those concerts end by 10pm. The City issued a permit for this concert to run to 11pm without community input and, apparently, with disregard to the law. I want to see Pimlico be successful... but I think they should be required to adhere to the law."Other posters objected to the Mount Washington Improvement Association (MWIA) facilitating the ticket giveaway, describing it as a bribe to get the organization to get behind the later concert time. This prompted MWIA president Bryce Butler to respond.

"At no point was there any quid pro quo," he wrote. "I was contacted only two weeks before the Moonrise Festival by one of the promoters. I complained in that first conversation about being brought into the process so late and about the PUD violation. I was told the festival and the hours had already been approved by the city, and that publicity has already circulated nationwide. I then called the mayor's office twice and talked with her community relations representative, Rona Ivey, about my concerns about the concert violating the PUD. I was told they would call me back. I never received a call back. I called Rikki Spector's office, asking how the city could violate its own law in this fashion. I was told that I shouldn't accept this violation, but nothing beyond that. I am unaware of any intervention by Rikki's office. I talked with Karin DeFrancis at Pimlico, and was told Pimlico needed the extended hour to make the event work and that it had been approved by the city. During ongoing talks with the promoters, I asked for the 500 tickets for the Mount Washington neighborhood and for their traffic plan and security for the Mount Washington streets across from Pimlico. These were provided to me and posted on the MWIA website. They are still up for anyone to examine. I spent hours making these calls to no effect save for the tickets."

City Paper has reached out to Rikki Spector's office, but has not yet heard back. We will update the story when we do.

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