Back in the Swing: Moogfest & More

Editor’s Note: Just as we returned to NYC from Moogfest in Asheville, N.C., the big Sandy storm hit us. Obviously, it wreaked plenty of havoc, especially here on Long Island, as it knocked out power at the DJ Times office.

We’re happy to be up and running again. But more importantly, we’d like to draw attention to those in need, so we encourage you to contribute to the American Red Cross: Any token of generosity will be greatly appreciated.   

Back in the “toy department,” we have a few items “in the can” to report on—Moogfest and the Sensation event at Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, both of which ran this past Oct. 26-27.

First up, our weekend in the Land of Analog Heaven—enjoy.

Asheville, N.C. — Celebrating electronic-music instruments, the wide range of sounds made with them, and the legacy of synth pioneer Robert Moog, Moogfest 2012 once again distinguished itself as one of America’s most vital musical gatherings.

Running this past Oct. 26-27 in Asheville, N.C., Moogfest presented 36 artists in five different area venues. Additionally, the event presented three engaging seminars at the Diana Wortham Theatre, featuring pioneering practitioners like Morton Subotnick and Nine Inch Nails’ Alessandro Cortini. Synth-nerd heaven, to be sure.

The artist lineup—featuring deeply respected DJs, electronic-leaning bands and avant-gardists alike—was as varied as you’ll ever see. Accordingly, the venues sounded great and were well-equipped for the steady stream of festival-goers. Costumed for the pre-Halloween weekend, most let their freak flag fly. Editor Jim Tremayne was there with DJ Times contributor Phil Moffa, himself an admitted analog freak who runs Manhattan’s Butcha Sound Studios. It went like this:

On Friday, we arrived early and, after downing a few racks of ribs from the legendary 12 Bones BBQ, we hit the Moog factory in downtown Asheville. We caught an introductory press conference featuring reps from Moog Music, AC Entertainment and Google, including the guys who made the supercool Robert Moog birthday doodle. Then, thanks to Moog Music’s Emmy Parker, we were given a factory tour. Once inside, we got a close-up view of Moog’s assembly lines and then we sat in on a recording session from hip-hop MC/producer El-P and his band, as they dropped a stinging version of “Drones Over BKLYN” in the Moog studio.

“This really is like getting to step inside Willy Wonka’s factory,” said El-P of his Moog experience. “It’s always something special to come down here for this event and visit this place.”

Heading out to the venues, we were overrun with musical options. While there were plenty of honorable mentions—including Gza at Orange Peel and Nas, Primus 3D, Santigold and Richie Hawtin at the arena—here are our picks from the weekend:

Zing! Squarepusher at Moogfest. Mike Plymale

Squarepusher at Thomas Wolf Auditorium. Wearing a Daft Punk-like helmet rigged with LED lights and playing in a booth and against a backdrop both similarly outfitted, Mr. Tom Jenkinson simply blasted the intimate theater. His nervy broken-beat tracks like “Dark Steering” melted minds, while more melodic offerings like the skittering “Stadium Ice” soothed them.

What was perhaps most surprising was that the entire hall was up for it. Rewind a couple years before America’s current fascination with dubstep, and it’s hard to imagine these kids digging something as challenging as Squarepusher. But fast-forward a few years from now and you may hear tales of this show. Of course, it’ll sound as odd as a ’60s fratboy recalling, “Oh, yeah, I saw Captain Beefheart.”

Techno Tunes: Carl Craig at Orange Peel. David McNamera

Carl Craig at The Orange Peel. Though initially beset with sound and monitor issues at a venue generally known for rock music, Craig finally hit his groove with rolling beats on tunes like his pumping mix for Tom Trago’s “Use Me Again” and, of course, Rhythim Is Rhythim’s evergreen “Strings of Life.” (Full Disclosure: This event was co-presented by DJ Times.)

The Residents: Costumed fans at Moogfest. Scott W. Lee

Orbital at Arena. As great as it was to see Brothers Hartnoll playing again in front of a crowd of crazies, it was even better to see these fans go nuts for the rave-classic “Chime,” a track made before many of them were even born.

Of course, another Moogfest couldn’t go by without noticing the weekend of fantastic costumes. While the crew that represented various fast-food-chain mascots—Ronald McDonald, Jack in the Box, The Burger King, etc.—may have earned marks for junk-culture solidarity, we had to go another way for the prize winner.

Who was it? The guy who came dressed as one of The Residents—the eyeball-helmeted art collective responsible for some of America’s most oddball electronica and multi-media. It’s only in keeping with the spirit of Moogfest. See you next year!

 – Phil Moffa & Jim Tremayne

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