The debut edition of Project GLOW Festival lived up to its hype and delivered a weekend of unforgettable memories in Washington DC.
While Washington DC is the heart of the nation’s capital, it’s also a prime location for fans to enjoy some of the best talents in the electronic music sphere. With Club GLOW calling DC home, it only made sense for the brand to team up with Insomniac Events to bring together fans for a festival to call their own this year at Project GLOW Festival.
As one of the newest festivals to surface in the scene, all eyes were on what it had to offer. From the get-go, entering the festival was a smooth process. Signs and security were posted everywhere around RFK Stadium. With separate lots for attendees using rideshares and people who drove, and signage for anyone who took the metro, it was impossible to get lost on the way – and traffic was non-existent. With VIP access, the entire process of checking IDs, scanning tickets, and getting my water pack checked took no time at all.
Entering the festival grounds, I was greeted with an open view of the many vendors available, both for assortments of festival gear and food, but I wanted to get in on the music action. I followed the sound of the bustling bass and found the famed Boombox Art Car situated next to the Ferris Wheel. Westend was directing the small crowd that had gathered beneath the tent for his set. The Boombox Art Car specifically offered a unique experience with DJs actually performing inside the car, giving attendees the opportunity to watch the DJs’ magic up close.
While Westend swayed the attendees with his infectious beats and mesmerizing thumps, the sound of the Boombox Art Car was ultimately lacking, and parts of his set grew noticeably quieter or fluctuated in sound. This fluctuation was noticeable at every stage. At multiple points during multiple sets, the bass would distinctly overwhelm any sound of melodies, making it difficult to appreciate the full extent of some of the acts with more vocals in their sets.
With Project GLOW being a smaller festival and with signs posted at every corner, navigating the event grounds was an easy task and made finding friends manageable.
Even though Insomniac’s in-app maps were unavailable for the duration of the festival, it ultimately wasn’t a necessity. Following Westend’s set, I quickly made my way to the Pulse stage, where Higher Ground was hosting its takeover for Saturday. Instantly, the bass from the stage filled my chest. Mat.joe was playing their set when I arrived and the duo pulled in the crowd with their progressive house. It was easy to get lost in the atmosphere and admire the festival’s landscape against the beaming sun and shimmering waves reflected from people’s colorful outfits.
After staying to enjoy Mat.joe’s set, I headed towards the water station that was situated halfway between the Pulse and Eternal stages. While many had voiced their concerns on Project GLOW’s social media about the festival only having one water station, the concerns were quickly alleviated. Throughout the entire weekend, the water lines were extremely short. During the multiple trips there, I waited no longer than three minutes.
Lines across most vendors appeared to be the same way. On Saturday, my food order at Caliburger was quickly fulfilled, and I was able to enjoy a set playing while waiting in line. Likewise, when I ordered my food from a vendor, purchased a locker, and stopped by the General Store after forgetting my earplugs on Sunday, I experienced no wait time and was able to quickly return to enjoy the music.
The Higher Ground Pulse stage takeover on Saturday was packed with hypnotic performances.
Following Mat.joe, I remained for Westend, Qrion, and a part of Luttrell’s set. As I anticipated, each DJ delivered a full-throttle of enthralling music for house fans. While Westend worked his magic at the Boombox Art Car, it was entirely different being able to hear it on the Pulse stage. His set was filled with a blend of tech house, Afro-house, and funk – and multiple shuffle circles erupted throughout the crowd, with the local shuffle group, DMV Shuffle Circle, also making an appearance with their flag.
As Qrion took her turn at the decks, a slight hiccup occurred with the sound cutting off and skipping, but it was resolved within a matter of moments, fading quickly as she dropped quelling deep house to ease the crowd in. Her set was a beautiful reminder of what it felt like to let loose and relish in the moment of being among people and enjoying music after a long hiatus of festivals. As much as she is known for her calming music, Qrion also threw in a touch of funk for energizing moments, including her own song “Proud.” Luttrell followed up with his own doses of pure ecstasy, playing uplifting music fitting for a sunset set.
The Eternal stage delivered massive acts, including SLANDER and Above & Beyond, with stunning production quality.
After Luttrell’s set, I headed towards the VIP area of the Eternal stage to find space for part of SLANDER’s set. I enjoyed the bursts of melodic mixed in with head banging moments, and after listening to house all day, I was thrilled with the change of pace. Fans emotionally sang along to their popular songs and SLANDER rewarded them with new music. Even towards the end of their set, I was singing along to their 2017 hit “Superhuman.”
One of the biggest highlights of the night was getting to witness Above & Beyond in their glory. It was the first time I had actually gotten the chance to stay for their full set. The chills that ran down my arms the entire duration were only a small indication of the emotional rollercoaster the group sent me on. The music was emotionally refreshing and they knew exactly how to shift from trance to heavier bass-focused sounds. The entire experience was a cinematic masterpiece and the trio also connected with fans through typed messages on the stage’s screen.
I ended the night with Diplo’s Higher Ground set back at the Pulse stage. This tonal shift to a house set was the perfect way to end the night. The music was just as energizing, and I was able to enjoy songs like a remix of “Thunderclouds,” “Turn Off the Lights,” Labrinth’s “Still Don’t Know My Name,” and more.
Sunday’s artists added more diversity to Project GLOW’s lineup.
With it having rained earlier in the day, I wasn’t in a rush to head to the festival. With the Boombox Art Car, Pulse stage and part of the Eternal stage placed on pavement, there was hardly any mud despite the prior heavy rainfall. As I arrived, I spent some time exploring the festival grounds beyond the stages and found the Electra art installation along with an installation that looked like a mini stage.
I caught the tale end of Joel Corry’s set and waited for Krewella to arrive. Once they did, the sisters took the crowd into another world. Their set heavily featured their newest album, The Body Never Lies, and the visuals accompanied it. Their set was packed with heavy bass, psytrance, and trap to get the body moving. While they didn’t give a vocal performance this time around, the two fully had me jumping around the entire time.
Seven Lions was another highlight of the night and added his incredible flavor to the main stage. His production was almost unreal, with lasers, pyrotechnics, strobes, and insane visuals filling every inch of the stage. His music brought just as much as the visual production paired with it. He played plenty of fan favorites, including “Strangers” and “Falling Away,” just to name a few. Whether it was to get us feeling emotional with his melodic songs or have us jumping in quick succession to psytrance, Seven Lions managed it all and spared no one from moving their bodies.
Lastly, I ended the night with MK b2b Sonny Fodera. Both DJs literally brought down the house. Visually, emotionally and with the pure energy emanating from MK, Sonny Fodera, and the crowd, it was the ideal way to end the night. The pair played a number of familiar songs from both of their discographies. Singing along to the music and getting to shuffle with others who took turns energizing the people around them, showed that their set was illustrative of the tight-knit community that emerges from sharing a love of music.
As a first-time festival, there are still opportunities for improvement.
While I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Project GLOW, there are still areas for improvement. As a massive house music fan, I enjoyed the lineup and artists playing each day, but it was easy to see that the lineup lacked diversity for fans of other genres. At multiple points during Saturday, I would wander to each stage and find that the sounds felt incredibly similar. While it wasn’t an issue for me, I could imagine attendees who weren’t interested in house would find it repetitive.
As I mentioned earlier, the sound production fluctuated at each stage throughout the day. At certain points, the Eternal stage would blast bass with little room for vocals or melodic portions to be heard. The Pulse stage remained bass-heavy, and without earplugs, it would have been almost deafening. Lastly, leaving the venue was a challenge – to enter and exit the festival, attendees had to walk through a small tunnel, which caused the crowd to get stuck in a bottleneck.
Despite these challenges, the festival was a wonderful experience, especially considering it was the debut edition as well. With its navigable grounds, gorgeous art installations, and excellent lineup, it made for an unforgettable weekend. Stay tuned for its return and if you’re on the hunt for another Project GLOW experience, they just announced an edition this fall in Philadelphia. Check out their website for more details.