Asheville, N.C.—As expected, the inaugural MoogFest properly and sufficiently celebrated all aspects of electronic music—current trends, evolving technologies and rich history, including memories of industry pioneer Bob Moog. But being Halloween weekend, the three-day event morphed into a full-on freak-a-thon, with thousands of costumed crazies filling the streets of downtown Asheville.
From early Friday evening through late Sunday night/Monday morning, MoogFest presented 66 acts in five downtown venues, all within relative walking distance from each other. One of the intriguing aspects of attending a festival like this is going from venue to venue and stumbling onto acts you’ve never seen before. Will the artists connect? Will they transport you? This weekend, plenty did.
The DJs? So many, but I gotta give it up for Girl Talk. OK, his mash-ups are music for the ADD Generation, but he did have the Civic Center in a tizzy. With a good 25 people onstage dancing the whole time, the man knows how to throw a party—even if he did drop the inevitable “Don’t Stop Believin’.”
Chillwave mainstay Bonobo spread out a bit for his Moogaplex set. “He was all over the place,” according to our photographer Nicole Cussell. “Bouncy, dancey, jazzy, Latin funk, drum-n-bass, tech-house—and all mixed nearly flawless.”
Ikonika, a British female jock, dropped some deep, dark, dubby vibes, perfect for some late-night action at the Moogaplex.
Also impressive: Alex B’s set of crushing, room-shaking beats and ethereal vocals; Jon Hopkins’ irresistibly melodic sensibilities; Two Fresh’s whopping trip-hop grooves with a live drummer; Michael Menart’s tight set of tough and punchy head-bobbers; and Gramatic’s mixture of throbby beats and cinematic swirls.
Big shout outs to everyone involved with the DJ Times-sponsored “Last Gasp” party at Stella Blue Sunday night. Walloping dubstep was the order of the evening with local talents Thump (from Asheville via Parsippany, N.J.) and Mindelixir (Charlotte) keeping it hot. South African electronic musician Marty Party closed out MoogFest to a packed room swaying to his last throbbing beat. (Big ups to Stella Blue’s Josh and Nick for all their efforts.)
Best Big Act: Big Boi. Just a tremendous show. With another MC, a 5-piece band, DJ Cutmaster Swiff and a team of step dancers, he mixed Outkast hits with some stomping new material from Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. The Asheville Civic Center was up for grabs the whole time.
Close Second: Massive Attack. Really surprised that they could pull it off live this well, especially in a bigger venue, but their huge, throbby trip-hop pulses and grooves definitely connected. Having singers Horace Andy, whose quavering voice was in top form, and Martina Topley-Bird really made it work.
Most Surprising Acts: Jónsi (from Iceland’s Sigur Rós)—arresting voice, incredible soundscapes. Also, Clare & The Reasons—all-over-the-map chamber pop with a vocalist who put chillbumps on my arms.
On Saturday and Sunday afternoon at the “Moogaplex” (aka the Haywood Park Complex), MoogFest offered tech panels featuring all-star teams of industry mavens. On Saturday’s “Advanced Application & Synthesis” panel, Cyril Lance, head engineer for Moog Music, offered a deep and thoughtful explanation of product development. Then, he was posed a very basic question from the audience—“What’s the difference between analog and digital?”
Short Answer: “Everything is analog. Digital is ones and zeros that replicate everything. At this point, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. They both have great instruments that make great music. They all have their own magic. We happen to make analog magic.”
Indeed, but we can’t go through this weekend without rating the costumes. Best Halloween outfits? Friday night would be the two guys dressed up as Daft Punk—somebody had to do it, right? Saturday found a festivalgoer done up as the late (and relatively obscure) German electronic artist Klaus Nomi. Sunday saw my restaurant server going as Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” garb. (“Well, all my friends use Halloween as an excuse to dress like a tramp,” she explained, “so I figured I’d do the opposite and go classy.”) Well played, people—and we gotta give the nod to Nomi for originality and maintaining a Moog-inspired message.
At the clubs, all the wackball outfits could make for some disorienting moments. Try to get your groove on when the guy next to you is a hotdog and his girlfriend is a flapping slice of pepperoni pizza.
Thanks, MoogFest for putting on such a promising first show. Hopefully, this will become a tradition, and DJ Times was proud to participate. Let’s do it again in 2011.
– Jim Tremayne