It’s not surprising when a festival has a slight misstep – they’re expected. However, it is nevertheless disappointing when that happens. Moonrise Festival is still a veritable baby in the grand scheme of festival history, so it’s not surprising that they would have a few hiccups.
Moonrise had two consecutive successful festivals, so it is not fair to condemn them based on this one less than perfect execution. However, if they do not take the notes that their fans and others give them, and make some significant changes, we may see the potential of Baltimore’s premier summer festival fizzle and fade.
Those hiccups, however, prevented me from enjoying Moonrise Festival 2016. As with any event, there is the good, the bad, and the ugly.
1) The Star Team
By far, the highlight of Moonrise (besides the music, obviously), was the incredibly helpful and attentive Star Team. Temperatures were well into the 90’s, with barely any cloud cover despite rain in the forecast, and I never had to search for water.
A member of the Star Team was always readily available with fresh, cold water bottles, some of which they handed out for people to drink, some of which had holes poked into the lids so they could spray down passers-by, ensuring that everyone was well hydrated and stayed cool.
2) The Vendors
One of my favorite parts of any festival are the wonderful vendors who keep us supplied with our favorite festival gear. I purchased a beautiful black and pink snapback from Billy from Rage Nation, a hat I have been eyeing at each festival I’ve been to recently.
Rage Nation takes care of your festi gear worries with gorgeous, high quality t-shirts, hoodies, hats, and scarves; each person manning the tent throughout the day was friendly, personable, and a treat to talk to.
3) The Food
The most underrated piece of a festival is the food. The munchie struggle is real, and it doesn’t take long for attendees to get hangry. Moonrise picked their food vendors perfectly this year, my favorite being the Gouda Boys Mac & Cheese.
There were also delicious beef and chicken gyros, soft pretzels, funnel cakes; basically everything you could ever want to satisfy those set-break snack cravings.
4) The Layout
Moonrise laid out their stages precisely, and the attention to detail was pristine. There was little to no sound overlap between stages; one set didn’t drown out the next, one light show didn’t distract from any of the others.
In addition to a streamlined layout, each stage was equipped with their own food and drink tents, which helped keep lines short, so I never waited more than a few minutes before I made it to the counter.
5) The Music
Obviously the best part of any festival is the music; it’s the main reason that we travel, camp, sweat, wait in lines. The artists were amazing, as always. Even the artists in the early part of the day dropped their sets like they were headlining the main stages. The lineup for Moonrise this year was stacked, and picking a favorite is nearly impossible.
GriZ gave us an eclectic set list, ranging from old school rap to a souped up bluesy sound. Anna Lunoe dropped those classic beats we’ve come to expect from her, even playing tracks from her very first Moonrise appearance. She wandered to the lower parts of the stage to interact with the crowd, connecting the way we wish every artist would.
Flosstradamus, Excision, and Bassnectar were the highlights of the festival for me, with Bassnectar running away with best set for me. With his trademark heavy hitting bass tracks, he reminded us why we love him; the crescendos and drops shook loose the dust from our lives, vibrating up from the ground, through our feet.
Flosstradamus wasted no time putting their recap video on their Facebook page. Click here to relive their energetic set.
And then, there was the bad….
Check-in was an absolute nightmare. I arrived early, hoping to check in and head to snag a breakfast snack with a friend before gates opened at 11 am. After being sent to 4 separate gates, and walking around the entirety of Pimlico Race Course twice (I wasn’t allowed to cut through the venue without an escort or a wristband, neither of which I was able to acquire), and I was finally settled at the correct gate, 45 minutes after arriving and parking.
Check-in for VIPs and media was scheduled to begin at 10 am, and at 10:30, the line continued to grow while the windows stayed closed. When finally real people were spotted in the building, I thought the wheels would finally begin to turn and this minor annoyance of a hiccup would be forgotten. Unfortunately for everyone in line, the list seemed to be incomplete, with several people in front of me told they couldn’t be found.
Gates were scheduled to open at 11 am. At 11:15, those of us in line had the exciting privilege of watching the security staffing the gates get their first round of training for the day. We were told at 10:45 to empty our water bottles, as we would not be let through security with full bottles.
Nearly 30 minutes later, standing in the hot sun without any shade or water to speak of, it is not surprising that the growing crowd grew irritable and antsy. They finally began allowing people in after 11:20.
The security staff is supposed to be the most important piece of the festival puzzle, as they help keep the public safe and allow everyone to have a good time. Passing through security was inconsistent at best. Some men were completely patted down, asked to remove their shoes and turn out their pockets. My small clutch bag was checked, and my pens were taken, despite my insistence that they were not on the prohibited list.
When I inquired what I was supposed to do as a journalist to take notes, the response I received was a rather snarky, “you have a phone, don’t you?” The female coming in behind me, however, carried a Camel-back that was not checked; they did not ask her to remove it, or unzip the main compartment.
There have been several claims on the official Moonrise Festival Facebook page that security was extorting people for drugs and/or money, ejecting people who did comply; so many claims, in fact, that they posted the following status update:
The breakdown and lack of communication was astounding. Besides being redirected so many times prior to check-in, when no one seemed to know where to go, once I finally made it into the festival, nearly 2 hours after my original arrival time, no one could tell me where the media tent was located.
There was no signage, and after asking 10 different people who continued to send me to different sections of the festival, I gave up and took to wandering around, talking to the stellar Star Team, different vendors, and enjoying the opening acts. At 1 pm, I miraculously found the media director, who escorted myself and a fellow confused photographer to the tent that suddenly had a sign.
Festivals are supposed to be fun and exciting, not wrought with frustrations and confusion. We attend these events to forget about the stress in our lives, to connect with people and enjoy our favorite music.