Moogfest feels like a Philip Dick fan convention soundtracked by a heavy, relentless bass line. The weird and wired festival kicked off in Asheville on Wednesday afternoon with perhaps its least exciting event: a panel with Moog Music CEO Mike Adams, the Mayor of Asheville and others, focusing on economic development and fostering a “cool factor” in Asheville to attract and retain top tech talent.
The very first crowd of attendees at the panel ranged from government officials in suits to local college students in dreads, and was immediately followed by a zany theremin performance by Dorit Chrysler in the lobby outside.
At the VIP opening night party on the rooftop of the Aloft hotel, Thundercat DJed to a crowd including both North Carolina Governor Pat McCory and human cyborg Neil Harbisson. In a tent to the side of the party, a few Cal State grads gleefully explained their Sand Noise Device, an installation sponsored by the Aloft hotel, to a curious Dan Deacon.
Later that night, El-P played a solo set at the Orange Peel, where he described Asheville as a “weird liberal pocket surrounded by angry sharks,” adding later, “I’ll keep on coming back as long as they keep inviting me and making cool synths.” After an awkward two hour break between sets, the venue was totally at capacity by the time Flying Lotus went on stage. He played a face-melting set between two walls of projections, creating a 3D effect. For a few songs, he was joined by labelmate and collaborator Thundercat.
On Thursday morning, Claire Evans of YACHT interviewed the electric lady, Janelle Monae, and her Wondaland collaborators, Nate Rocket Wonder and Chuck Lightning, on their dystopic narrative and the future of music. Everyone on stage happened to be dressed in matching black and white tuxedo-inspired outfits, Monae’s signature look. Why always the tux? “Quite frankly it has been a silent protest,” says Monae. “I wanted to redefine what is means to be sexy.” Evans asked the group what message, musical or otherwise, they would send from humans to extraterrestrials, and Rocket Wonder picked Stevie Wonder’s “Songs in the Key of Life.
That afternoon, Bradford Cox of Deerhunter and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs produced a Moog petal-fueled drone for four hours, during which Zinner took occasional pauses to photograph the audience. Most people drifted in and out, but a few faithfuls stayed sat on the floor for the whole four hours. After the performance, Cox chatted with lingering fans for a few minutes and compared Asheville to his hometown of Athens, Georgia except with less of a “Chiptole-vibe.”
Kraftwerk played the first of three 3D performances scheduled for the festival on Thursday night to a packed house at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, but about an hour into the set, the show had to pause because of technical difficulties (perhaps they needed to recharge their batteries).
In the huge basement underneath the theater where Kraftwerk performed, dubbed the “rave cave” by attendees, Ataxia, Tiga and Sasha played to a nearly empty crowd. An event staff employee of the auditorium commented to Billboard that at one point, there was only one person in the audience.
At the Ghostly showcase downtown, Shigeto just barely made his set after a delayed flight but went straight onto stage from his cab, pouring mountains of sweat during his signature live drumming. After a set by ADULT., a giant white orb was unveiled for Ghostly co-founder Mathew Dear’s performance as his alter-ego Audion.
On Friday morning, Dave Tompkins, author of How To Wreck a Nice Beach, interviewed a very happy Giorgio Moroder in front of a packed and laughing theater where they talked Diana Summer, mustaches and his legendary career.
At the MIT Media lab, a local junior high school band filed in as Eric Rosenbaum did a demo of Makey Makey, an invention kit that allows anyone to turn an every day object, from a banana to a painting, into a keyboard. Rosenbaum brought a few kids on stage to demonstrate a human drum kit, triggered by high fives.
A great lineup for the Warp showcase including Clark and Moderat was unfortunatly placed in the Diana Worthem Theater, an ill-fitting, seated venue. Across town at the rave cave, Riff Raff played to a strange crowd of spectarotrs more than fans that barely filled a third of the room. Durring Dillon Francis‘ set, a man set up an eisle in the middle of the basement and painted durring the show.
The combination of science, synths and sound continues through Sunday afternoon.