Recap: Starscape Festival 2012

Posted by on June 16, 2012

The school bus was hot and crowded. After a brief detour through unsavory bits of Baltimore that wove us through abandoned warehouses and stacks of shabby apartments, we shuddered to a halt at a nondescript patch of weeds in what appeared to be somebody’s driveway. “We’re here,” announced the bus driver. I peered out of the dingy window and saw a thin line of girls in glitter and spirit hoods picking their way forward. Yes. The early signs of a music festival are unmistakable. We had arrived.

From the back of the bus: “LET’s GOOOOO!!!!!” Someone had a DC flag draped out of the window. A heady, recognizable Flux Pavilion riff thundered from a nearby iPhone. I wiped the sweat from my arms and took a swig from a sticky handle of Smirnoff. My phone registered that Middy was inside, on stage, watching The M Machine roil the crowd. I had to get in there as quickly as possible.

Off the bus and onto the road. Phone check: 6:02 pm. Starscape 2012 would continue unabated for the next 12 hours. It would take no prisoners.

At this point, I’ve been to a fair number of concerts and festivals. I know what to expect and I know what my experience will be like. So I can safely say that Starscape was not a particularly well managed event. The lines to enter were endless and security was aggressively lax (not something I’m complaining about — like most people, I hate getting TSA-style patdowns — but let’s just say that no one there appeared to be running an especially tight ship). The speakers were broken in the “dance tent” for the majority of the night, meaning that Bro Safari (who played a rousing and objectively fantastic set) dropped tunes that could comfortably be spoken over. Kill the Noise and Zedd encountered technical difficulties that started a chain reaction of lateness for the entire second half of the night (when Zedd finally got on, it was an hour and a half past his scheduled time). Chicken bones and taco meat lined the walkways. A bellowing redneck tried to sell me bath salts (drugs at a music festival are pretty standard fare, but…bath salts? Yikes. I’m not trying to eat anyone’s face tonight ma!)

But that is neither here nor there. You don’t go to Starscape for top quality production. It’s not Ultra, it’s not EDC Vegas….you’re not about to get pyrotechnics and motion-capture Skrillex avatars and David Guetta. What you are about to get is a stupid good lineup, an epic view of the waterfront, and the opportunity to dance like a maniac until the sun comes up. And that is precisely what we did.

Middy here, I got there a little earlier having taken a delayed bus filled of Starscape goers from my native land of New Jersey down to Baltimore with some random kids from my high school, kids from Connecticut and Massachusetts and most importantly, kids dressed in clothing only acceptable for a festival. Someone had brought portable speakers on the bus and was playing a dubstep mix for the whole ride until we got it on the bus speakers, which was an interesting change of pace from the rap and latin music the bus driver was blaring. I finally arrived around 4:30pm and hopped around from tent to tent to scope out the scene, seeing guys like Schoolboy and J Rabbit at the Dub Nation tent on the beach, Two Fresh on the main stage who were killing it until their CDJs broke, and 2RIP and Lock Danan in the Dance Tent. One set that really was unexpectedly good was the set from DNB turned dubstep producer Ill Esha on the Sunsrise Stage, also on the beach. She not only was Djing, but was also was singing her own tracks at the same time and this is not a duo like NERVO, she has to do it all. My pick for the sleeper set of the festival. I then rolled over to the M Machine and his crazy mixing on traktor and ridiculous bootlegs that constantly had me wondering what was coming next. Back to Spice.

I managed to catch the last part of The M Machine’s set before we peeled off to the dance tent for Bro Safari and Tittsworth. If you haven’t heard of Tittsworth prior to this, get learned: he’s a local hero here in DC who is quietly putting out some of the funkiest moombahton around. Both dropped Alvin Risk’s crazy banger “Psychotic,” which whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy.

The crowd at Starscape was as grungy and heavy as the lineup. Raves always tend to bring out the crazy in people but this was on a different level. Numerous girls went completely topless. Masks and bandanas were prolific. The cyberpunk aesthetic was out in full.

From Tittsworth we meandered to Adventure Club, whose stirring set ranged from slow and emotional to rowdy and intense and brought a friend of mine to the brink of tears. After that came Wolfgang Gartner, quite possibly the best set of the night — the lightest set of the night and a welcomed breather, which is an indication of just how absurd the lineup was. His energetic anthems, ranging from the new (Redline) to the familiar (Illmerica, Space Junk), kept everyone moving. After that: Kill the Noise, Zedd, Dada Life. Epic. Epic. Epic.

By the time 4 a.m. rolled around we were justifiably battered and worn out. I broke off from the group and somehow found myself standing directly in front of Shpongle, deep in the throes of a bizarre and strung out crowd: bedazzled girls with hula hoops, bros rocking LED gloves, everyone sporting pupils the size of Jupiter. Shpongle. Shpongle’s mindblowing and otherwordly flute riffs transported everyone to another plane of existence as the sun began its slow rise over the Baltimore harbor.

By 6 am I was about ready to cash it in. Frankly, 6 am is a time that really, really isn’t kind to ravers. Song lyrics about dancing until dawn aside, morning is inherently incompatible with nighttime debauchery. It’s an instant reality check and thus an instant buzzkill. As Simon Posford left us with an eerie, robotic message – “Stay Shpongled! Stay Shpongled!” — we picked our way back to the bus and sheer exhaustion precluded me from ruminating on what I had just experienced.

Which is what you want when you leave a festival. You don’t want your head lingering in the strange, wonderful world you’re departing. Because that’s just effing depressing.

What you need is to crave your bed. On a visceral and instinctive level.

Thanks, Starscape. For making me dance until dawn, and for making us all crave our beds. We’ll be back next year.