Live review: Starscape 2009


By some guesstimates over 6,000 revelers from as far as Michigan, New York and North Carolina gathered under a luminous full moon to the 11th Annual Starscape Festival on June 6th at Ft. Armistead Park for 18 hours of music on five stages on ten acres of beautiful Baltimore park land on the Chesapeake Bay. Despite torrential rains that plagued the area for days before, Starscape enjoyed partly cloudy but starlit skies.

Had it rained, as it did in 2006 when rains of Biblical proportions all but flooded the early part of that year’s Starscape, Steez Promo & Ultraworld were prepared this time with tents for the dance areas. Despite scattered obstacles (technical and mud-related) which were overcome, production-wise they triumphed with a top-notch experience for the record turnout which was taken in by hundreds of bright-eyed first-timers who came to see for themselves if the stories they’d heard lived up to the legend.

The big news was the Steez Promo Bass Arena featuring the Monsters of Jungle, the Human Imprint drum ‘n’ bass super showcase conceived and designed by DJ Dieselboy and Steez Promo head Steve Gordon.

A four-minute video appeared on two stage screens was also reflected on the tent’s ceiling; it featured a hand holding a transistor radio, switching station to station before landing on hard metal. The radio exploded into flames. The MOJ logo emerged on the screens, also exploding as the Human DJ/producers and MC’s appeared onstage.

“We’re watching drum ‘n’ bass history being made,” exclaimed one stoked fan at front.

Describing the scene afterward, Steve Gordon said, “The crowd went crazy with their hands up all the way down the beach. People were so much in disbelief they couldn’t even dance.” (He added that the Denver and Los Angeles Electric Daisy Carnivals will be treated to a larger scale live MOJ stage production.)

“We’re trying to bring something that’s fun but at the same time span all the d’n’b genres,” said MC Messinian. “Hard rock, that hip-hop breakdown glitch shit, that crazy old school throwback to what d’n’b started at—jungle—that raw energy, original vibe, having a good fucking time and making people remember what it is to hear it for the first time.”

“Starscape is epic, monumental. It has such a strong heartfelt history
which is magic.”

Evol Intent Live, playing between two MOJ sets, aimed three laptops at the massive and fired a delirious eclectic frenzied mashup from tweaked out old-school jungle classics including Ganja Kru’s “Super Sharp Shooter” and Roni Size’s “Brown Paper Bag” to their trademark glitch-rich stuttering tech-step.

Other MOJ highlights included Mayhem dropping Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle,” taking turns with Messinian and MC Dino on the mic, and pouring a bottle of whiskey over a happy junglist’s head, and other special tour sound bytes contributed by Dieselboy, Demo, SPKTRM, Infiltrata, Ewun, and New Zealanders the Upbeats.

A year from concept to launch, Gordon was thrilled with the MOJ response. “I’m so fucking tired. It’s been the longest day of my life and I’ve never been so happy in my entire life. D’n’b will never be the same!”

Highlights elsewhere: David 1 of Montreal’s Chromeo called out from the main stage between songs, “Everybody put your fingers in the air!” Holding two fingers high, he instantly conjured a sea of peace signs waving skyward. The Disco Biscuits, Starscape’s perennial favorite jam band, spun a mesmerizing spell from 1 am till sunrise

Said Patrick of Pittsburgh, “Bassnectar played all his new music, got really into the show, got into the crowd, made everybody dance a lot, it was really nice. Jen Lasher was amazing. I love Jen Lasher. That’s why we’re here!”

At the beach stage by the endless span of the Key Bridge free spirits frolicked on the sand, blowing shiny clouds of soap bubbles floating on the soft breeze, and chilled along the ledge overlooking the sparkling bay. Electronic dance music jam band Lotus was a huge draw invoking shouts of “We love you!” from its crowd between songs. Baltimore blues jam band the Bridge later infused pre-dawn with funk and soul, and Eoto brought up the sun with an exotic blend of breakbeat, downtempo, glitch-hop and dubstep.

Dubstep turned up so frequently—including many d’n’b sets—that some Starscape veterans voiced fears that it was overrunning the event. But according to Lisa Suit, Baltimore Music Conference founder, at her booth, “Dubstep itself is just taking off completely in this area. Went down to see Dubwar. I’ve met those guys—Joe Nice—they’re really great. They had people dancing like crazy down there, they were totally into it.” In fact, 12th Planet, aka Infiltrata, celebrated his birthday bringing up the sun with a tent packed with dubstep heads.

Stanton Warriors were a heavy dance tent favorite in exit polls, as was Baby Anne, whose authoritative set reminded all she’s still the funky breaks queen. Charles Feelgood, Micro, Oh Snap! with ex-local Jen Lasher gave a big shout out to old buddies Proxxy & Lantern, and the inimitable Donald Glaude with his exuberant sunrise set to an ecstatic crowd.

Photographer Kathy Vitkus reports a sing along at daybreak. “One of the last songs heard was a bit comical and maybe a pun—Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400.” It might have been played by Donald Glaude. Everyone around me oohed and ahhed watching the final stages of sunrise. Hearing the song they chuckled, then proceeded to sing along and dance to it, before security started asking everyone to clear the premises.”

“Starscape is epic, monumental. It has such a strong heartfelt history
which is magic,” said Messinian. Old schoolers enjoyed serendipitous encounters with long lost friends, and exhausted but happy newbies left with their own tales to tell of becoming part of the legend.

Now recovered, Gordon says, “Evan (Weinstein) and I are amazed and so happy it went so well. For next year we have even bigger surprises in store. We always try to one up ourselves.”

Words: Mary Morris
Images: Kathy Vitkus


Darren Ressler


  1. What a great time, I’m so glad I got to see the awesomeness that is the Monsters of Jungle.

  2. I have been to Starscape every year since 2001 & every year it gets better & better. This year was no different. The music was so good I couldn’t stop dancing all night. When I wasn’t dancing I was down by the water enjoying the sunrise. Thank you Steve & Evan for all of the hard work you put into this it really showed. Until next year….

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