Moogfest is an annual, multi-day festival now held in Asheville, North Carolina that consists of daytime panels and nighttime concerts, with programming for both reflecting the ideals of inventor Bob Moog and representing the synthesis of music, art, and technology. Radio UTD covered this year’s festival, which took place between Wednesday, April 23rd – Sunday, April 27th, 2014.
Our Moogfest experience began slowly, with a 15-hour drive from Dallas to Asheville along I-40. The road trip mostly consisted of tunes being jammed, gas station pit stops, and a particularly unsavory 5-hour Energy Shot, so I’ll skip most of that and we’ll start the story with me waking up from a neck-straining backseat nap to the sight of blue sky, bright sun, and verdant mountains surrounding our car on a winding pass. We were in the Blue Ridge Mountains, which serve as a gateway to Asheville. It was beautiful even through bleary eyes, and even better set to a compulsory playing of a very fitting Fleet Foxes song.
We got into town early on Wednesday, checked in to our hotel, and promptly picked up our credentials — wait, no, we promptly took a nap (it was a long drive, c’mon). Then, we picked up our credentials at one hotel and headed to another for a Moogfest kick-off party DJed by Brainfeeder’s Thundercat. It was our first taste of Moogfest, and I immediately took note of the professionalism of the staff, politeness of the crowd, and that rad Moogfest logo on everything from massive banners to engraved wooden drink tokens.
One of the most impressive themes that permeated Moogfest was the connection between pure entertainment and a genuine, geeky interest in technology, music, and art. The video jockey and multimedia artist responsible for the amazing visuals at FlyLo’s show explained the process later in the week in a panel on the future of music visuals; at a different panel, Claire Evans spoke passionately about how music would sound in the future merely a night after melting faces in a performance with her outfit YACHT. Interactive exhibits with playable theremins, synths, and software abounded. It really, truly felt like an opportunity to learn as much as it did an opportunity to experience phenomenal live performances.
I wondered how a band could follow his energetic set successfully. I wondered it again when YACHT took the stage with the bright white stage lights on, no other visual accompaniment, and a fairly traditional stage set up. Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans showed me exactly how: the dual spirits of punk and funk. The two leads got the crowd hyped with very punk attitudes, complete with mic-swinging, powerful singing, and jumping into and onto the crowd; their music achieved the same effect with groovy, disco-inspired jams. There was a certain religiosity to their all-in performance. In truth, I wasn’t very familiar with YACHT before their set. Now, I’m still not sure whether I became a fan because of the great live show, or if I’d been spiritually converted when Claire Evans grabbed me by the collar and sang the chorus of their hit “Dystopia (The Earth Is on Fire)”.
As we walked all across the small downtown area of Asheville on this night especially, we alternatively got vibes of culture-loving Austin and the toned-down nature of downtown Ft. Worth. The town is certainly small, but it didn’t necessarily feel that way, as there was plenty of excellent restaurants and little shops and a surprisingly large number of well-run music venues. It felt like Texas, really.
In fact, now that I think about it, no one else bothered them either. The crowd was too busy dancing. It summed up what I think was my favorite thing about Moogfest: the attitude. The festival didn’t have the same draw as the more well-known SXSW nor did it take place in an on-the-map city such as Austin. As a result, the people attending the fest were die-hard music, arts, and technology fans that showed more patience, kindness, attentiveness, and reverence than I was used to seeing at music festivals. It was refreshing and it was contagious. This festival wasn’t about “the scene” and it wasn’t about money (I was grateful I didn’t have to attend any shows in a Taco Bell Doritos Locos Tacos Auditorium or a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 Stage); it was about dancing to music. Specifically, music made my contemporary visionaries. More specifically, music made by contemporary visionaries whom have taken a device over 50-years-old and let their imaginations run wild with it. Moogfest is about never letting innovation or passion die out as we bridge the past with the future.
(Seriously, though, a hell of a lot of fun, too.)
Stay tuned for a continuation of our coverage of Moogfest. All photos by Trang Nguyen