Moon Hooch, Antibalas, And Porches Perform At Destination Moon

The solar-powered festival you need to know about.

By Elizabeth Smith - Jun 23, 2016
Photo by Becky Yee
The first multi-day festival Destination Moon in Camp Lakota at Wurtsboro, New York featuring Antibalas, Moon Hooch, and Porches. The solar-powered festival you need to know about.

Just two hours outside of New York City (but it felt like a world away), lies Camp Lakota, the chosen festival grounds for this year’s Destination Moon, and it’s exactly what you think it is—a summer camp. But for the weekend of June 17-19, the site was occupied by only adults recapturing their favorite memories from kayaking on the lake to joining new friends and old in the mess hall to falling asleep on one of those infamous bunk beds. This festival is an adult camper’s dream, especially if you love discovering emerging artists.

2016 marked the first year that the music and art gathering became a two-day festival and relocated out of the city. It all started in basement parties in Brooklyn, NY where it grew organically to become a one-day festival in Manhattan (more on that below). Destination Moon, in its new location, still boasted an impressive lineup of indie artists that represented the soul of New York City—diverse, eclectic, future-forward, and full of groove.

On Friday night, Porches got the party going with their special brand of ethereal, spacey, and instantly infectious pop music. Afterwards, Delicate Steve cranked it up to eleven with rock’n’roll swag and a set that had the crowd both dancing and laughing. Lip Talk brought back the out-of-this-world vibes that sounded like they would make the perfect addition to an indie film score. Finally, You Bred Raptors? rounded out the night with face masks and their own brand of post-rock music.

During the rising heat of Saturday, festival-goers could meander the grounds getting to know each other, taking in great works of art, or cooling off in the lake. They could also sit down by the Sun Stage and listen to some awesome bands with unique sounds. Pavo Pavo was the first to kick off the music in the midday heat with three-part harmonies laid over heavy synths and groovy bass beats. The rest of the afternoon brought sets by TippWerk, Tigue, Sam Evian, and Mrs. Adam Schatz; all of whom rocked the stage with groovy, danceable, and experimental music without ever sounding the same.

 

By the time Saturday night rolled around we were all ready to party and the lineup was set up to do just that. Buke & Gase (named after their handmade-hybrid instruments) opened the night with a little rock’n’roll. But soon we were all dancing the night away to the crazy sounds of Moon Hooch and their dueling wind instruments (seriously, I got tired just watching them).

Emefe, however, opted to start their set outside of the Moon Stage doors with acoustic instruments, and like moths to a flame we all followed them into the stage area to catch their charismatic and infectiously fun show. Finally, Antibalas (fresh off the final edition of their residency at Brooklyn Bowl) took to the Moon Stage with a whopping 12 members to blow us all away with their special fuse of afrobeat, jazz, and funk.

Surrounding all of this amazing music, were a vast array of art installations that only enhanced the overall experience. Trust me, I wasn’t the only one who became fascinated by the video game installations at the canteen or the shell sculptures that emitted an array of calming sounds. Most impressive of all: everything was run on solar power. With two solar generators on site, the stages, music, and art installations were all run on clean power straight from the sun.

No, I’m not making any of this up. I even caught up with two of the co-founders, Walker Esner and Jonah Levy, to discuss how the festival maintains its small ecological footprint, why they picked the artists they did, and where you can expect to find the name Destination Moon in the future.

Why is Camp Lakota the perfect spot for the festival? Do you think you’ll stay in this location for future years?

Jonah: This is our first year at Camp Lakota. We know it from a couple of other events that have happened here and the reason we’re here is kind of a fluke. We were looking into like a big giant warehouse party somewhere in Brooklyn. And we were looking at sites and looking at real estate and looking at rents and it just seemed ridiculous, and we came back to the idea of what we wanted three years ago. Three years ago we wanted to have a big weekend festival at a beautiful place out in nature upstate. It didn’t workout a couple years ago but Camp Lakota set us up and it’s been pretty good so far.

How did the focus on a low ecological footprint come about and why is it important to you to run the festival 100-percent on solar-power?

Jonah: The ecological footprint is really important to us because we live in a completely new era than our parents, even people who were born in the ‘60s or ‘70s. We think that we have a huge responsibility to the planet, we have a huge responsibility to our local communities, our global communities, and we just think that we can pull off a really good party. A really good time without gas generators and without massive amounts of waste. We partnered with Zero to Go, who is a waste management service to help bring compostable, disposable materials and sort the waste in order to just leave a smaller footprint.

Now that the festival is bigger, how have you scaled up the way that you’re keeping it sustainable?

Walker: We started this project in a Crown Heights basement, where we did just some underground shows, with our friends performing, selling drinks and charging five bucks. We started there and people liked it, people liked our taste in music to some degree and kept coming back. We realized we could probably scale up a bit and then simultaneously I was sort of reintroduced to one of my mother’s old friends. This guy Jody Rael, who runs a solar installation company in upstate Chatham, New York. We got this idea to use his land and do a solar festival—didn’t work out. It was kind of a wild ride and a crazy learning experience, so we reined in our expectations and we did this day-long festival in Harlem, in a big outdoor space, with just one of these trailers and it was successful. It was a lot of fun, I think after 12 hours of music, we were down to like 90-percent on just one of these generators, so we wanted to push it.

So far how has everything been going with the solar power installations?

Walker: Yea, it’s been awesome, the really exciting thing about using solar power to run music, to have a concert running from [solar power], is that you don’t need to overpower generator noise. You don’t have to use quite as much power and it actually sounds kind of better too.

The lineup for Destination Moon is definitely unique. What vibe were you going for with this year’s band selections?

Walker: We booked the bands that we were excited about, and we could afford. It’s kind of the best part about about all of this for me. I can be really into a band and now I can book them. I’m sure it’s the same for Jonah, who’s doing all of the art curation. It’s what’s cool, and as we scale up slowly, figuring out what we can afford. We’re all big Antibalas fans, and we’re finally at a point where we can get them.

Jonah: So the art installations, the visual arts here, I really wanted to focus on upcycling materials. I wanted to focus obviously on renewable energy. I wanted to focus on our relationship with the planet and how we affect it. Not a sense of let’s revere the earth, let’s praise it, but let’s adapt with it and adapt to it and show how our technologies can participate and facilitate a lot of the natural elements of the world because we’re in it together and I think that the only way we’re going to get to where we need to go is utilizing our technology and utilizing our engineering skills, our design skills. But also making things beautiful—maintaining our personal aesthetics.

 

What do you hope people experience with this festival, what do you hope people will take away?

Jonah: I would love for people when they come away from Destination Moon to feel like they danced a lot. I want them to feel nourished, both between the amazing food, the people around them, and the Vitamin D. And I want people to come away looking forward to the next event that we throw.

How do you see Destination Moon evolving in the coming years?

Jonah: So for Destination Moon’s future—we’re not just one festival that you just go to once a year, we’re a production company. We don’t want to be an island, we want to fan it out and connect with all sorts of different people that we’ve worked with in the past that want to work with us in the future. So I think there’s a lot of possibilities, it’s not just one hard date, it’s year round.

Elizabeth Smith

The first concert I ever went to was Christina Aguilera. Now, I’m equally at home at a country concert in cowboy boots or a rock concert in combat boots. Either way, I have a love affair with boots and live music. I speak fluent pop culture, yell at the TV when I watch football, and always have time for a dance session.

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