As the summer comes to an end, festival season is in full swing with events such as Camp Bisco, Big Dub, HARD Red Rocks, and Moonrise Festival already behind us, and still Mad Decent, Mysteryland, and Nocturnal Wonderland (to name a few) to look forward to. The past weekend brought the residence of Baltimore, Maryland, as well as the hundreds of people such as myself who traveled across the America to Moonrise Festival at the Pimlico Race Course. Being an avid rave-goer, but having never attended a serious festival before and only ever witnessing through social media the realm of festival life, I was mentally preparing myself. The images and news of festivals, fair to argue that electronic music based events are especially targeted, inaccurately portray a culture of selfish inebriated hordes of shirtless muscular “bros” and girls confused thinking that stickers and “pasties” are the foundations of an outfit. After my weekend at Moonrise, I can admit that these stereotypes do have foundations in legitimacy; however, rave culture does not seem to be well understood from those on the outside. Let me explain:
To begin broad and with an issue afflicting electronic music in general, the popular criticism exists that electronic artists are not true musicians because they do not play organic instruments. To avoid a huge portion of debate here, I will lead with an example of a group that we saw on the first day of Moonrise, Bunk Buddha, who at the Lunar Stage performed a psychedelic set of wobbling synthetic bass sounds and atmospheric synthesizers accompanied not only by live vocals, but bongos, as well as saxophone and flute (played impressively by the same member).
Other performances such as the Floozies, an act based on disco-electronic fusion, performed the Lunar Stage with a live drummer and live vocals rendered with vocoder (a synthesizer based super auto-tune). Acts such as Porter Robinson, famous now for his revolutionary “Worlds” tour, feature actual (electronic) piano playing, drum machine utilization, and live vocals as well. Sunday evening’s Lunar Stage was closed by the Glitch Mob, who alongside a live drummer, have a setup for electronic touch screen controllers angled downward for audience visibility that are utilized in such an artful manner they themselves could be argued to be legitimate instruments.
One of the easiest observations of the electronic dance music industry to make is that there is a scarcity of female DJs or producers. Certainly there’s Robyn, Mija, TOKiMONSTA, and Reidspeed who are all women who either have already and continue, or currently are making a place for women in the electronic industry. Jen Lasher, the only female electronic artist at Moonrise that I saw, truly captivated her audience; to be more colloquial: she dropped some of the illest beats. Between the massive bass drops, high energy pounding beats, and Lasher’s own very personal interactions with the crowd (dedicating a bass drop to an individual in the crowd holding a sign for her) Jen Lasher left a lasting impression on any who witnessed her set.
Moonrise Festival was beautiful because it brought together an enormous diversity of people. The image of dance culture however is unfair in that it illustrates the notion that it is a culture only for the young. This is incorrect. Music as a whole is evolving, and of course, becoming more electronic, say what you will of this, but in response, the festival (Moonrise, HARD Red Rock, et cetera) exist as a modern Woodstock. People of all ages are drawn into the music, the environment, and love it. I would also like to mention that the Pimlico Race Course featured paved walkways in many areas that accommodated handicapped patrons as well.
A music festival is a trip to an entirely different world. The only thing that you know for certain is that there is no knowing what you are going to see. Electronic music is growing in every way imaginable, and its important to understand that there is no way to define what creates the audience, nor can we hold any expectation of who is going to be making the music. Electronic music is written on computers, but let’s not forget its people who write it, and people who will listen to it.