Independent Philly traveled down I-95 on Saturday, June 9th for the 14th annual Starscape Festival in Baltimore. Located in scenic Ft. Armistead Park, the festival (presented by Steez Promo) featured 16 hours of continuous music on five stages.
The weather was beautiful when the gates opened at 2pm and stayed that way until the party came to an end at 6am on Sunday morning.
The theme of this year’s Starscape was “The Garden of Eden” and many of the stages, VIP areas, and beyond were adorned accordingly with stunning visuals. Aside from the decorations, the backdrop of the park itself provided gorgeous views of the water, trees, and the stark contrast of the graffiti on the ruins of Ft. Armistead (which held the Fort Stage).
Thousands of fans, decked out in crazy outfits (and a surprising number of people nobbling on crutches) packed into the park, occupying every square inch of decent real estate from the water to the front gates.
We spoke to many party goers that had nothing but good things to say about Starscape. One girl (we assume her name was Kelly because she had it painted on her chest) told us she would find a way to buy a ticket every single weekend if they held 52 Starscapes a year. That seemed a little excessive, but we liked her enthusiasm.
We were also interested in what the DJs thought of the event so we had a chat with two guys who have been staples of EDM for decades. Up first is DJ Dan (who played the Dance Stage at Starscape). Dan has been at the forefront of House Music for over 20 years. He has released countless House gems, played all over the world, and in 2006, he was named as one of the top 5 DJ’s on the planet by DJ Magazine. He’s definitely one of our favorite DJ/Producers year in and year out.
Independent Philly: What did you think of this year’s Starscape Festival (the music and overall experience)?
DJ Dan: I had a great time, I was very impressed to see the big numbers this year. There were some technical issues with power outages during mine and Kill The Noise sets but it was great to see the crowd totally cool and understanding the fact that it was out of our control. Overall I thought the event was a big success and look forward to seeing it grow bigger next year.
IP: If you had the chance to check out some other sets, whose did you most enjoy?
DJD: I absolutely loved Beats Antique. They put on an amazing show and I was really impressed with their vibe and the way they took many musical influences and made it their own. They really had the crowd mesmerized!
IP: You learned the DJ basics from Donald Glaude, do you guys still have a good relationship today?
DJD: Yes we are still great friends. As busy as things get we still catch up with each other regularly if we’re not playing together.
IP: You’ve been working as a DJ for over 20 years now. DJs have moved from the DJ booths at clubs to huge stage productions in the past few years. Do you think the quality of music is being sacrificed for bigger production value?
DJD: I think production quality has improved over the years on the bigger events. I do see DJ’s playing cheesier stuff because they feel like they need to do the obvious thing for instant crowd gratification and I think it comes off cheap because it’s the easy and most obvious thing to do. I believe that people come out because they want to be inspired, not patronized. Sure, there are many who love the familiar tune here and there but to throw the whole candy bowl at them is just offensive on all levels. There’s a lot of cool music out there, the crowd deserves to hear the best of the best!
IP: Overall, what do you think of the state of EDM in 2012?
DJD: Numbers wise, it’s great. Commercially it’s crossed over and it’s a good thing that we are getting more support from the mainstream. However, now it’s time to educate. If you have the audience in front of you, play some underground shit along with some dope classics….then throw a familiar tune in. That’s my feeling on it.
IP: What current projects are you working on for the second half of 2012?
DJD: I have had an amazing year of releases so far. I have had 8 tracks in the House Top 100 and I am almost finished with my new artist album for Guesthouse Recordings. Many of the previous releases will be on it as well as a bunch of new tunes. I am also working on a new track with my good friend TJR, as well as a new project with DJ Sneak.
IP: What other big festivals can fans catch you playing this year?
DJD: Burning Man is the one I am really looking forward to but I really wouldn’t call it a festival. There are many club dates coming up as well so just check my tour schedule on my Facebook page.
IP: Are there any up and coming DJs or producers that (perhaps) we haven’t heard of that deserve some attention?
DJD: Check out J Paul Getto, Dj Mes, David Glass, and Dimitri Max. These guys are all making tracks I really love right now.
IP: Would you like to give a shout-out to your fans?
DJD: Thank you guys for hangin’ with me on Saturday with power outage issues and all. I was really impressed with how passionate and supportive everyone was. The coolest thing was seeing how many people stayed in the tent patiently waiting for Kill The Noise to come on while the sound was getting sorted. Very cool to see the loyalty from the crowd. Respect!
IP: Tell us something that would surprise, or even shock our readers…
DJD: My studio is in the basement of my house and it was an old speakeasy during the 20’s. Then an Italian family bought the house and turned it into a pasta production room and sold the pasta to the first Trader Joe’s here in L.A. Now it’s my studio and the vibe is still hearty. Gotta love the Italians!
We also had the opportunity to throw some questions out to Drum & Bass legend Dieselboy (who played a B2B set with Bare on the Beach Stage at Starscape). Damian Higgin’s music has been featured in video games, television shows, and charted on Billboard. He helped champion some of the biggest Drum & Bass nights and tours in history.
Independent Philly: What was your overall impression of this year’s Starscape Festival (music, overall experience, crowd, etc)?
Dieselboy: It was packed to the gills. Crazy high energy. Lots of friendly faces. I had a blast!
IP: If you managed to catch any of the other performers sets, which ones did you most enjoy?
DB: I showed up fairly late because I was at a friend’s wedding in Philadelphia earlier in the night. but I did see half of Noisia and all of Zomboy. Musically they both were quite entertaining.
IP: You have a strong connection to the city of Philadelphia, what are some of your fondest memories of your time here? What do you miss the most about not living in Philly?
DB: My fondest memory is for my 6.5 year drum and bass weekly PLATINUM that was held at Fluid nightclub. I had some of the best shows of my career there. It felt very family-like with the owner, the security, bartenders, staff, regulars, etc. I miss not having that around anymore. Also, I miss my friends that are still living there.
IP: You’ve ventured out from Drum & Bass (recently) to include forays into Electro and Dubstep. Is that based on your own personal musical preferences or do you see EDM trending more towards these genres these days?
DB: A combination of both. I like all kinds of music but always felt like I could just play Drum & Bass and that was fine. As I saw EDM trending towards more diverse sets, I felt this opened the door for me to get a little more experimental and try to diversify my own (sets).
IP: EDM culture has exploded in the last few years. In many cases DJ’s have gone from the DJ booth to giant stage set-ups. Do you think that the music overall is suffering as DJ skills are being overlooked in many cases for production value?
DB: Absolutely. A lot of it has become style over substance. It is starting to feel like kids care more about seeing a crazy light and stage show then whether or not the guy on stage is actually doing anything live at all. I feel like it is getting to the point where promoters are going to put a Chuck E. Cheese style animatronic “DJ” on stage with a huge visual setup and then just hit play on a pre-recorded mix. I am joking…but seeing how things are now it is not impossible to imagine this could happen. I like knowing that an artist on stage is sweating a little bit and working for his paycheck, not trying to use anything and everything possible to make sure he never fucks up his “DJing”.
IP: We couldn’t agree more. What is your take on the current state of EDM culture?
DB: It is mainstream at this point and there is a lot of focus on it. I am curious to see how it rides it out and weathers the storm. I feel that the huge influx of new kids who don’t have roots in the EDM scene is unfortunately helping to dumb down what I just discussed with regards to performing. Hopefully things change.
IP: What projects are you currently working on?
DB: I have two singles ready to be released and two more on the way. I am currently running two record labels (Human Imprint and Subhuman) and we are on a release schedule of about every 2 weeks. I am also working on fleshing out our merch line into something more like a “lifestyle brand” of cool clothing; something beyond having a record label logo t-shirt.
IP: We had a chance to catch you recently at both EDC NYC and Starscape (both great sets by the way). What other festivals will you be taking part in this year?
DB: I just did EDC Vegas this past weekend. I know I have the GNARNIA Festival later this summer. I am doing some international stuff over the next few months including Belgium, Holland, Russia, Taiwan and Japan. I am also currently on tour with my Subhuman label artists and that is continuing through until July.
IP: Is there another DJ or producer that you’re dying to collaborate with?
DB: I would love to sit in the studio with Original Sin and bang out some hard ass jump-up. Also would be nice to do some work with the Rottun Crew (Excision/Datsik/Downlink).
IP: Tell us something that would surprise, or even shock our readers…
DB: When I am not at a club I never listen to electronic music. I listen to obscure/sad indie rock stuff or metal. Also, I am as obsessed with food and cooking about as much as I am obsessed with drum and bass.
We loved the insight from both DJ Dan and Dieselboy about Starscape, the state of the EDM scene, and their own lives.
From House to Drum & Bass, Dubstep to Trance, and several live acts, there was something for every EDM lover at Starscape. There was food, alcohol, and a slew of vendors selling their wares.
Once the sun set, out came the glow hoops, the lasers, and a silly amount of glow-sticks and light up toys. Eat your heart out Duracell.
With the moon hanging over the water, the party raged on all night long. Things came to an end shortly after sunrise, and then it was time for some well deserved sleep for those who had run the 16 hour gauntlet of EDM. Starscape 14 is in the books. We can wait to see what Starscape 15 has in store for us.
While we heard many excellent sets at this year’s Starscape (and missed others that we heard we’re amazing), the following ones really stuck out in our minds as some of the best of the festival: Dillon Francis, Zedd, Beats Antique, Dada Life, Bro Safari, TwoFresh, Dieselboy & Bare, DJ Dan, Donald Glaude, Alex English, Papadosio, J Rabbit, and Shpongle.
You can view a full photo gallery of the event below: