7.05.17 / New York / New York

Why Full Moon Is The Preeminent ‘New York’ Festival

A boutique festival experience with downtown New York in mind

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It’s hard to decide whether MATTE Projects’ Full Moon Festival is actually a festival, or just a great party. Though it possesses all the features you would expect at a NYC festival—three music stages, food vendors, a ferry ride—Full Moon has always felt more like a party, bringing together downtown New York to hang out on an island for one Saturday, while incredible music happens to be performed in the background. Despite all the competing festivals and parties that come with the season, Full Moon has emerged as one of the best events of the year, with this Saturday’s event looking to be the most entertaining one yet.

Brett Kincaid and Max Pollack had backgrounds as concert producers before starting MATTE Projects, a multi-faceted creative company. “It’s an entertainment company and a creative agency. It started more on the motion side of things, but that was because it started as an events company,” Kincaid explains. They began working with Kitsuné, before creating Full Moon and Black, their other famous party series. By the second Full Moon, Rowean began working with the duo. With his background in advertising, he began helping with the design and creative direction, helping flesh out the company beyond events. As Pollack recalls, “The concerts really created the culture, and created the name and the brand, but we didn’t just want to be concert promotors. We had more creative aspirations than that.”

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Full Moon quickly became MATTE Projects’ signature event, and it proved to be as valuable to their brand identity as it was to the fans that attended it. “It taught us a lot of things that are also valuable to how we service the agency and how we think about things as an agency,” Rowean says, “because it is our own client in a lot of ways and it’s the place where we have to sell the tickets and market to people and create audiences. Which is very different, but you can apply all that thinking to the work we do for brands creatively.”

“It touches every single thing we do,” continues Pollack. “You come up with a brand, you design it, you come up with experiential ideas, you’re figuring out content to market it, you’re figuring out marketing strategy. It’s everything we do encapsulated.” This year in particular, their creative vision is on full display. “We’ve always wanted to do every single thing. Design, the stage, the staff, the drinks, every aesthetic touch,” says Kincaid. “This is really the first year that we’ve been able to do every single component. Even last year, to be totally candid, we did as much as we could, by veneering something that was already existing. But it was definitely a veneering of something that was already existing. This year the staff, the drinks, the food, the venue, every single component is brought in.”

However it isn’t just Kincaid, Pollack, and Rowean’s individual visions. It’s the perspective of MATTE Projects, embodying ideas from the entire staff—half of whom joined MATTE after attending one of the events according to Kincaid. “Everyone who works for us has an opportunity to voice their ideas in different ways to make everything interesting,” Rowean says, “and so different people at the company come to the table with different connections or ideas that come to life through this. It’s probably the most collectively hands-on thing that we as an agency do. Every single person in the office works on it in some capacity.”

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What that has resulted in is their most robust, and most anticipated event yet. Aside from one summer when they hosted Full Moon at the Brooklyn Mirage—bringing in sand and palm trees to complete the look—it has always been a beachside party with Governor’s Island being the ideal location. This year, MATTE Projects has moved further south on the island where it’s more grassy and big enough for a new third stage, while still possessing the unencumbered views of the Statue of Liberty and downtown Manhattan. The food offerings include a tight list of downtown favorites like The Flower Shop, Loosie Rouge, Wisefish, Mile End, and Van Leeuwen. Through a collaboration with The Arrivals, they were able to design limited merchandise that will be sold exclusively at the event. Illustrators and artists have been commissioned to create installations, stage graphics, and branding. Nothing was overlooked; for those in the know, there’s even an after-party on a boat to complete the night.

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The music selection is also the most refined to date; it’s always straddled the line between indie, underground acts with popular musicians (popular being a relative term), but the lineup has grown with their tastes. “It’s definitely an aggregate of our office and our world,” says Pollack. Rapper Vic Mensa headlines, with some AHL favorites like Kelela, DJ Harvey, Awesome Tapes From Africa, Axel Boman, and Larry Heard all on the ticket. With an emphasis on disco, hip-hop, R&B, and indie, Matte Projects can create a niche lineup unlike the often bloated and overlapping choices at major festivals. “People come to Full Moon and they learn about different bands,” Pollack emphasizes. “It’s cool that you are excited about the lineup, but I think a lot of people also don’t really know who a lot of these people are.”

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Full Moon has never been about appealing to the largest crowd or competing with the majors. It feels like a festival made for Downtown, and in many ways it’s become the ‘New York’ festival, the way Governor’s Ball felt back when it was a 1 or 2 day affair. “I think Governor’s Ball is this idea of what New York is, and it’s kind of promoted to people not from New York, for people outside to come in and have a New York weekend, which is cool,” says Pollack. “I think what we try to do is create more of an escape for New Yorkers who are here, to actually be in the city and be inspired, and I think Full Moon is supposed to be inspired by the city. It’s definitely in the spirit of the city, but an escape. To be on an island and be able to see the Freedom Tower, but you’re in a different world.”

“I think people know us, they know it’s independent, they know it’s real,” Kincaid adds. “It feels like a mom and pop operation…we make emotional decisions on how the event is actually going to go. We probably should make a little more analytical, mechanical decisions. But it’s driven by emotional decisions, and that has translated to people.”

Full Moon Festival takes place on Governor’s Island on July 8th; tickets can be purchased HERE

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