Music Festivals

Full Moon Is the Original Colorado EDM Festival

Mother Earth Sound System is not a typical promotional entity. MESS, as it is referred to, puts on one of the longest-running Colorado music festivals devoted entirely to dance music: Full Moon Festival.

What started in April 1993 at Berkeley Marina in San Francisco, with Scott Everett and Whitsitt Goodson meeting the demands of a hungry rave scene, has evolved into a full-blown techno-purists festival. The event was originally referred to as the Full Moon Gathering and was held three times per year, sometimes in guerrilla fashion on national park property, other times on private property (thereby reducing the possibility of attracting unwanted attention). Eventually, the founders decided it would be best to bring everyone together for one big yearly celebration.
“It showed us that if we spend this much effort dragging a sound system to the mountains and do this whole campout thing, it’s easier to concentrate on one weekend being awesome versus three months in a row,” Everett said. It wasn’t until 2014 that MESS decided to change the title to include “festival” rather than “gathering.”

The festival this year will include two stages, Moon and Earth, with each one providing a very specific sonic backdrop for attendees. The Moon Stage would classify as the main stage, with headlining acts leaning more toward the techno, breakbeats and jungle genres (to name a few) contained under the far-reaching umbrella of dance music. The Earth Stage is the equivalent of the “chill-out room,” playing to the more soothing end of the spectrum that contains ambient, experimental and down-tempo styles.

Wally Winfrey has been working with MESS off and on since he moved to Colorado in 1997. In speaking about the lineup for Friday, he says that it’s all about priming everyone for the weekend on opening night.

“Some of the curation direction is just, like, we want to hear some bass, some breakbeats, and get people loose, so we offer up a real diverse palette,” he said.
Friday night’s lineup includes Appleblim, whose work with the Skull Disco dubstep label in the early 2000s Winfrey spoke about with admiration, explaining how it really opened up the door for the once-underground genre.

Although Everett, who has been doing events and parties such as this for more than twenty years, has seen and experienced just about all facets of the dance music community, he specifically nodded to Jeno and Markie. These two artists helped form Wicked Sound System, a San Francisco-based collective that were some of the original promoters of Full Moon parties in the early '90s.

“There is some special significance with [Jeno and Markie],” Everett said. “Wicked was the first crew in San Francisco to do free outdoor full moon gatherings back in ’91. That was how we realized what we could do.”

But there is no specific headliner here that sits at the top of the musical hierarchy, like those billed on the more mainstream EDM festivals, which Full Moon Festival couldn’t be further separated from. And although this is the first year that MESS will be bringing talent from out of the state, rather than culling from the local talent pool and those contained within the MESS family, Everett fervently insists that the community that helped develop MESS is what keeps everything running smoothly. Brad and Dela of Moontribe Collective based out of Los Angeles, two more artists on the bill, are some of the original MESS members, with Brad lending his sound system for the very first gathering ever held.
The event is expected to draw somewhere between 500 to 800 people, which Everett believes to be the perfect amount.

“There is something to be said for having a dance floor that is only 200-300 people. You feel more a part of the crowd versus being in a sea – lost in a mass of people,” he said.

Winfrey echoed this sentiment. “What I’ve always loved about Full Moon is that it’s always felt to me that it was a place where people can come and be a part of it from the get-go. We need more spaces like that.”

Full Moon Festival begins August 28 at Aspen Canyon Ranch. Silent Servant, Terrence Parker, Appleblim, Habersham, Jeno and Markie, and Brad & Dela are scheduled to perform. Ticket are on sale now.
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Britt Chester is a writer and video producer living in Denver, Colorado. He's covered breaking news, music, arts and cannabis for Westword since 2010. His work has appeared in GQ Magazine, Village Voice, YES! Weekly, Inman News and the Winston-Salem Journal. He likes running, cycling, and interviewing people.
Contact: Britt Chester