Project GLOW proves an impactful addition to East Coast electronic events circuit [Review]
It was a welcome development in a news cycle that had become littered with festival postponements, cancellations, and foreboding statements about venues’ financial struggles. Moreover, it was a business move that made sense. Since its establishment in 1999, Club Glow had developed a reputation for producing well-oiled events of varying scales in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia (DMV) area. For the past two decades and then some, this has included club nights at DC dance sites Echostage and Soundcheck, as well as Moonrise Festival, hosted in August at Baltimore, Maryland’s Pimlico Race Course. The longest-running electronic music event promotions company on the East Coast, Club Glow naturally turned the head of Pasquale Rotella, who wanted to expand Insomniac’s footprint on the coast. When the acquisition was made public, the promise in the union was readily apparent—and the early foundations of the Insomniac East division, to be announced later that month, in place.
Expectations for a proprietary Club Glow festival mounted; it would be a logical next step for the Glow brand, and with Insomniac backing, the East Coast had the makings of what could be the first electronic music festival hosted in the nation’s capital. Moonrise Festival and Preakness InfieldFest, also produced by Club Glow, had operated on the fringes of DC, leaving large-scale dance gatherings limited to Echostage and its 3,000-person capacity. In late April, that would change.
From April 30 – May 1 at the RFK Festival Grounds in Southeast DC, Insomniac and Club Glow presented the first iteration of Project GLOW to 40,000-plus attendees. It was a benchmark for the Glow brand. But for Glow President & CEO Pete Kalamoutsos, Project GLOW represented more than just a business milestone; it was a dream realized after two decades of work towards its actualization.
“Project GLOW has been 20 years in the making. It’s been my dream as a native Washingtonian to do a festival in DC proper, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to continue to grow here,” Kalamoutsos said.
These sentiments were echoed by Heather Church, VP of Talent & Marketing, who’s been with Glow since she joined the company as a Talent Buyer in 2014. “It’s been our dream to bring a festival to DC for a long time, and it’s finally become a reality,” Church told Dancing Astronaut.
Insomniac’s establishment of its Insomniac East division was thought by many to facilitate the return of Electronic Daisy Carnival New York, discontinued in 2017. But events were largely directed to the Florida market. Indeed, in 2021, Insomniac brought two dance-focused festivals to Orlando: Abduction 2021 and the house and techo-centered Skyline festival. Both augmented Insomniac’s presence in Florida’s festival market amid the company’s other dealings in the live arena (i.e., Space Park). Prior to this point, Insomniac’s impact in the state’s festival market was owed mostly to EDC Orlando, which became Insomniac’s flagship East Coast festival by default after EDC New York went defunct.
As the DMV, Tri-State area, and other parts of the East Coast further removed from Florida looked on as Insomniac amplified its activity therein, Insomniac and Club Glow were working behind the scenes to put the pieces of the first Project GLOW in place—and it won’t be the last.
In the hours leading up to Project GLOW’s inaugural run, Insomniac touted “big festival news coming soon” to the East Coast. A trip to Project GLOW’s porta potties elucidated the nature of this “big festival news”; posters advertising an October 1 – 2 follow-up in Chester, Pennsylvania were plastered on porta potty doors, underscoring GLOW’s next steps early into the weekend.
Throughout its two days of production, it became incontrovertibly clear that Project GLOW is poised to become one of the most in-demand dance festivals on the East Coast. This potential is owed to the diversity and the caliber of the event’s lineup, which emerged as one of the least-recycled rosters of talent in the 2022 electronic festival market. Although Project GLOW attracted no shortage of “big” names, such as Diplo, Martin Garrix, Seven Lions, and SLANDER, it also boasted a strong undercard, granting deserved decks-tending time to rising talents like Westend and Nostalgix. Project GLOW’s inclusion of James Hype, an English DJ/producer esteemed for his live mixing and mashups, was another booking bright spot.
Some hiccups are to be expected of any first-year festival, but Project GLOW noticeably defied this expectation. Sets proceeded on time, without delays, and neither the restrooms nor the water refill stations nor the vendor booths were belabored by long wait times. The RFK Festival Grounds also proved an appropriate choice of location for Project GLOW; there was a surplus of space across both General Admission and VIP viewing areas for the festival’s nearly 50,000 attendees.
From a production standpoint, Insomniac’s touches were clear. The festival’s Pulse and Eternal stages celebrated drops with grand pyrotechnics displays that took cues from Electric Daisy Carnival Las Vegas (see video below). Sound—known to be of varying volume and quality across festivals—also earned the first-time event high marks. The sound was crisp, clear, and notably carried all the way to the back of the crowd, rendering the choice to listen on the outskirts one that did not come at a compromise.
It’s not presently known whether Project GLOW will continue to host two separate installments in different cities (DC and Chester) as it evolves, or if Insomniac and Glow are testing both locations to find the better fit. Information about GLOW’s follow-up in Subaru Park is currently limited to its dates and location, though the lineup is presumably soon to come.
Altogether, Insomniac and Club Glow’s immediate announcement of a secondary GLOW installment bodes well for the development of the East Coast festival market’s Mid-Atlantic region, where dance-exclusive festival options have stagnated in recent years. The Mid-Atlantic region, comprising New York (NY), New Jersey, Pennsylvania (PA), Delaware, Maryland (MD), Virginia, and West Virginia, is known for Camp Bisco (PA), Moonrise Festival (MD), Infield Festival (MD), Electric Zoo (NY), HiJinx Festival (PA), and Elements Music & Arts Festival (PA). Although these annual events have been embraced by the region’s electronic dance community, new dance-specific festivals have been few and far in between in this market, rending Project GLOW a welcome addition. And with Insomniac and Club Glow plotting Moonrise Festival’s return from August 6 – 7, the value in the Insomniac/Glow collaboration is poised to materialize not only in the advent of new festivals, but also in the elevation of an existing East Coast event.
Featured image: Ivan Meneses