[Festival Review] Moonrise 2023 Reasserts Itself as a Mid-Atlantic Powerhouse

MoonriseCourtesy of Insomniac Events // Tania Hauyon

A staple in the East Coast festival scene since its inception in 2014, Baltimore's Moonrise Festival curated another fantastic experience this year. The 2023 edition was once again hosted by Club Glow and held in the infield at Pimlico Race Course.

The two-day outer space-themed festival featured three main stages. The good-vibes Stellar Stage and the dubstep-heavy Lunar Stage served as bookends for the festival grounds, while the genre-diverse Solar Tent occupied much of the space between the two. A small Satellite Stage nestled between the Lunar and Solar stages offered festival-goers a more intimate vibe while moon-walking between sets. 

Moonrise 2023's star-studded lineup boasted a variety of dance music subgenres, with plenty of dubstep, trap, progressive house, bass house, and a smattering of trance and tech house as well. Headline sets included GRiZ, John Summit, Above & Beyond, Slander, Louis The Child, and Kaskade Redux.

Purple and Green Moonrise LightsCourtesy of Insomniac Events // Preet Madavia

2022 was the first iteration of the festival since Moonrise organizer Club Glow was acquired by powerhouse festival promoter Insomniac. While there were a few growing pains last year (primarily not enough shady areas and insufficient room in the Solar Tent), the hosts clearly listened to the feedback and delivered improvements across the board.

Shade StructureCourtesy of Insomniac Events // Jose Murga

With both Saturday and Sunday's temperatures reaching into the upper 80s/lower 90s, this year's new shade structures proved to be vitally important. With plenty of water refill stations and other concession stands featuring frozen lemonade and ice pops, cosmic explorers always had the option to hydrate and cool down. The Solar Tent was built with open sides this year, allowing for better air circulation and foot traffic in and out. The crowd vibes were palpably better than last year in the wake of these upgrades.

Saturday afternoon was a great time to be a dubstep fan, with Kai Wachi holding down the Lunar Stage before ARMNHMR delivered their patented mix of feel-good melodies with heavy drops at the Stellar Stage. Meanwhile, Riot Ten and Jessica Audiffred were going berserk in the Solar Tent, throwing down some of the heaviest riddim a festival-goer could ever dream of. Their mix of Riot Ten's “Mawlee” into SVDDEN DEATH's “Shallow Land Burial” sent the afternoon crowd into a frenzy. 

Sullivan King b2b Wooli was another heavy daytime set, combining Sullivan King's famous screamo rocktronic vibes with Wooli's do-it-all dubstep prowess. Wooli's bone-rattling remix of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's “The Next Episode” was featured here, as well as by several other artists throughout the festival. Special shoutout to the Hairitage remix of Gorillaz “Feel Good Inc.” which also garnered a handful of plays in different sets.

Big Gigantic's performance as the sun set at the Stellar Stage was undoubtedly one of the highlights of the weekend. The duo showcased their unrivaled versatility, beginning their set with an array of thumping bass house bangers – including a crazy new ID with Jantsen – before working live instruments like saxophone and drums into their performance. The production was top-tier and the energy was even better. It was the perfect way to transition into the evening. 

As night fell, Ganja White Night was dropping their famous, mind-bending wobbles and some tantalizing new IDs while Malaa ripped up the tent with his well-known brand of dark, bass-forward house. While those performances were great in their own right, everything seemed to pale in comparison to the set that GRiZ put together to close night one.

GrizCourtesy of Insomniac Events // Christopher Lazarro

Funky grooves, boppin' bass house, heavy dubstep, live vocals and of course GRiZ's famous saxophone all came out to play during this banger of a set. The Michigan-based, genre-bending performer recently announced that he will be taking an indefinite break from producing and performing beginning this autumn. With this in mind, he ramped up the production value of his already breathtaking shows.

Moonrise guests were spoiled by his ad-libbed saxophone freestyles during the performance. In a beautiful moment at the end of the set, GRiZ shouted out John Summit – who was closing out the Solar Tent – while the two simultaneously played their mixes of Summit's hit song “Where You Are”. 

 John SummitCourtesy of Insomniac Events // Jordan Sabillo

Official shuttles were available to and from Downtown Baltimore, strategically dropping ravers off within walking distance of Moonrise's official afterparty locations, Power Plant Live and Soundstage. Saturday night's afterparties were a dubstep fan's dream, with Ganja White Night and Sullivan King providing the late-night heat.

While day one was a tough act to follow, day two succeeded with flying colors. Those who arrived early enough were treated to an amazing set from up-and-coming dubstep artist Tape B in the Solar Tent. He mixes nostalgic pop and hip-hop tunes with old-school dubstep basslines in a way that brings a fresh feel to the modern bass scene.

The Rail Moonrise

Courtesy of Insomniac Events // Christopher Lazarro

The tent's vibes then got heavier with Ray Volpe, whose hit song “Laserbeam” has had the dubstep community in a vice grip since its release last summer. Those who were interested in a more uplifting daytime vibe were treated to a fun set from Sam Feldt at the Stellar Stage. Feldt brought euphoric progressive house vibes, dropping serotonin-inducing hits from artists like Martin Garrix and Retrovision. It seemed like the ideal daytime festival set.

As the sun began to hang lower in the sky, Alok took control of the Stellar Stage. Known primarily for his vibey, Brazilian-style house basslines, many ravers were pleasantly surprised when he emerged with an electric mashup of bass house heaters, getting the crowd energized for the intergalactic evening ahead.

Unfortunately for some Moonrise attendees, Alison Wonderland needed to pull out of her sunset slot on the Lunar Stage due to giving birth recently. However, a well-known Moonrise veteran and king of the headbangers decided to step in and save the day. That's right – the one and only Excision ripped a headliner-worthy performance as the sun set over Pimlico, inducing moshpits as far as the eye could see. While it was admittedly unusual to catch an 'X' set in broad daylight, the Baltimore crowd seemed content to say the least. 



Courtesy of Insomniac Events // Jordan Sabillo

Following that explosive set, the production at all three stages really began to blossom under nightfall. Alan Walker, San Holo, and SIDEPIECE held down the co-main event slots at each stage as lasers bathed the crowds from all directions. San Holo started his set off heavier than usual to appease the Excision holdovers at the Lunar Stage, before returning to his feel-good roots. Alan Walker rinsed all of his hits like “Faded” and “Alone Pt. II” to create a dance party atmosphere at the Stellar Stage, while SIDEPIECE captivated the Solar Tent crowd with characteristically sexually-provocative house beats like Mau P's “Your Mind Is Dirty”.

For the final set of the weekend, Los Angeles-based duo SLANDER threw down an enthralling set full of emotional melodies, heavy dubstep drops, and even some bass house and techno. No corners were cut on the lasers and fireworks, which seemed to be deployed at a rapid-fire pace. It was an exemplary way to end Moonrise 2023 for the bassheads, while Louis The Child and Kaskade closed the show at the Stellar Stage and Solar Tent respectively. 

Sunday night's afterparties offered an equally impressive but more tame atmosphere than Saturday's, with Kaskade ripping a melodic techno set while SLANDER played their new “Before Dawn” set, which they described as “weird” and techno-oriented.

All in all, Moonrise Festival 2023 was a roaring success. Insomniac and Club Glow clearly put a ton of effort into improving the experience. There were countless mesmerizing art installations, including floating orange astronauts and a moon-landing simulation that was perfect for photo ops.  

While the festival's lineup likely appealed to dubstep fans more than anyone else, it was evident that Moonrise provided good options for everyone, regardless of their personal taste. If the production team continues on their upward trajectory of improvement, then there is no doubt that Moonrise will remain a force to be reckoned with in the East Coast festival scene.

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| August 18, 2023
Harrison Goldstein


Born in New Jersey and living in NYC, Harrison loves two things more than anything else: telling stories and dancing to electronic music with his friends. He became fully immersed in the world of EDM after experiencing the magical atmosphere of live shows and festivals for the first time.

Harrison hopes that his passion inspires his readers to check out new artists and introduce new people to our beautiful little sub-culture. When he isn’t dancing, Harrison loves to ski and golf, on top of being an avid soccer and MMA fan.

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