Moogfest descended on Durham like an octopus engulfing its prey; its ambient, electronic tentacles grabbed a hold of almost every part of the city. The streets were filled with people, and not just people, but a community of human beings all experiencing the same thing together. I have never felt that sense of community in a city or at a festival before, and I am still trying to figure out why that feeling lingers. Maybe it’s the fact that we all had wrist bands, designating us part of the Moogfest tribe and therefore recognizably familiar to one another, or maybe it was the 6 hour song played at the 21C hotel that lulled me into a state of hypnosis, or the overnight Sleep Concert performed by Robert Rich, sleeping on a mattress in a room while he performed eight hours of synthy-dreamscape sound.
For Roundup #1, here’s a breakdown of our Moogfest Top 8.
People from all walks of life congregated in Durham, NC to enjoy electronic music and contemplate the nature of technology and existence. Everyone was community oriented and courteous to one another, which only allowed you feel safe enough to bust out your favorite dance moves. One thing that really stood out to me was that felt so inclusive for everyone. Aside from the open statements and speech about how wrong HB2 is (which was refreshing to see so much dialogue and a dedicated keynote speech on the matter instead of another blanket band cancellation), there was a cool ambiance from being at a show that had all ethnicities and all ages (a twenty one year old to my left and a sixty five year old to my right) appreciating the same music.
Whatever it was, it felt real to everyone there and having a Moogfest pass was like having a teleporter to another dimension. Local businesses where highly involved, with almost every building in the downtown area becoming a performance space. You could walk into an art gallery and see a trip-hop dance party or slink into an old warehouse to see a moog “pop up factory” where you can build your own Moog instrument to take home and enjoy. One of the best things about Moogfest was that there was something for everyone and the music played at the performances was just the background track to the experience. There were many guest speakers speculating on the future of music, man, machine and technology. All in all, the city was buzzing with excitement.
We really enjoyed sitting in on the podcast Song Exploder in the Carolina Theatre. Song Exploder is created, recorded and produced by Hrishikesh Hirway who resides in Los Angeles. Song Exploder takes one song from a musician and breaks it apart piece by piece, analyzing each layer of sound. It is so incredible to hear from the performer how they created it and what it meant to them. Odesza, a Seattle duo made up of Harrison Mills and Clayton Night, was featured in the episode we sat in on. The song featured was “Kusanagi”, an ambient low key passion piece, which they described as a much needed antidote to the EDM bangers that they were hearing at every show/festival. It was a intimate and natural conversation that allowed us to really see what the creative process of a electronic musician really is, from tearing paper in front of a microphone to dropping quarters and then through the power of sound engineering creating a beautiful art pieces that we all enjoyed listening to. The episode won’t be out for several weeks yet, but I can already tell that it’s not one to miss.
We later attended the live performance of Odesza in the outside amphitheater built outside of Motorco just for Moogfest. The duo took the stage and began to play their music while drumming live to the beat; it was amazing. Its no wonder Odezsa was a headliner; they were more than able to match the previous headliners in the likes of Massive Attack and MGMT. The crowd reveled in the upbeat, tribal, and humanistic sound that shot across the speakers to our ears. We left feeling upbeat and relaxed rather then jazzed up and beat down which shows the balance in Odesza’s sound. (Isaac S.)
Pulled there, the synth took over. Fast forward to Friday night, Grimes took the stage for her headlining performance. She held her audience captive as she sang, screamed, and rapped in Russian on Friday night at Motorco’s outdoor stage. With three backup singer/dancers who bounced between choreography, ribbon twirling, and throwing roses into the audience, the show was probably a little more poppy than you would expect. However, it was an incredibly infectious show that had most of the audience dancing in the intermittent rain. Sidetone: I want her dancers to make a workout tape and/or teach me to dance just like them. I’m kind of obsessed.
MIIKE SNOW AND THE DANCING BEAR
Of course, there are going to be pop up dance parties and feelings of love at a festival. But I will say that the energy was so great here. One of my favorite moments was jus outside of Fullsteam on Thursday night where people who didn’t have official Moogfest passes were hanging out trying to listen to Miike Snow and catch glimpses if they were able. On our way out, we noticed a crowd that was starting to come together in dance. I stopped to take pictures, but before I knew it, the dance became infectious and it turned into a full blown scene. Dancing Bear and all.
There were a variety of free installations and performances that really made the festival more than just a string of concerts. There was an interactive Realiti installation outside of The Carolina Theater where the attendee could interact with Grimes’ music in the form of gauze curtains. Powered by Microsoft these curtains changed the quality of the music whenever you touched them. Pushed here, the sound grew louder. There were so many free and kid friendly exhibits. From the Aloft Musical Playground where you got to mix and loop your own beats to the Beach Ball Synthesizer where you could make music by hitting around giant beach ball spheres you felt like you got to play a part in creating your own sound. There were a few reggae music parties at Bull McCabe’s (the official pub of Moogfest) and a free performance by the hilarious comedian, Reggie Watts.
THE IMPACT OF MOOGFEST AND THE FUTURE
Excitingly, Moogfest has already announced that they will be returning to Durham next year May 18-22 and has already sold over 1200 early bird special tickets for 2017 meaning that their inaugural year in Bull City was a success. Not that there weren’t takeaways however. Our friends at Moogfest have already stated that they are working to make sure that the VIP workshop fiasco doesn’t happen again next year. The only other big issues I forsee are the capacity ones. Lines for Motorco and The Carolina Theater were wrapped around the corner at times, leading people to wonder if they would ever get in. Overall though, the economic impact to the city was much needed as it was anticipated to bring in over $5 million dollars of direct visitor spending. It is amazing to see the boost that the festival gave to all of the local businesses and venues. (Liane S.)
Overall, we loved Moogfest and can’t wait for next year. Stay tuned for a gallery and some artist interviews coming up soon.