Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

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moogfest 260x260 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011There’s a lot of pork in Asheville, NC. Like, tons. Everywhere you go, they’re advertising beef, BBQ, and, well, pork. It’s sort of funny because there’s also a lot of tofu. (Hey, vegans gotta eat something.) And yet it’s this polarizing, yet mutual, relationship that exemplifies the town’s unique persona. Oh, delightful food.

But food bonds us. It’s the one thing that anyone can agree upon (anorexics, religious fanatics excluded): We gotta eat. And with a weekend party like Moogfest, which essentially strangles the town for three long nights, the overall community of food is an integral facet of the experience. Thousands of festivalgoers wander from bar to club, pub to grill, food truck to kiosk, all with hungry hearts and a myriad of stories.

Similar to SXSW, Moogfest is a community experience. You’re not trapped in one area; you’re wandering around at free will. However, unlike the Austin clusterfuck of entertainment, Moogfest hardly gets chaotic. The walks between the Asheville Civic Center and the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium slightly mirror scenes in Titanic, but you never feel like a flood’s coming. It’s so lax. For a festival awash in electronica, the crowd is sensibly tame. “Do you know where my friend Lucy is?” sounds far less jarring than  ”Yo, you got any blow?”

People are good here. That’s never the case. Anywhere. Through cultural elements like food and music, Moogfest continues to champion the finer things of Asheville, while cultivating this sense that creation can still be possible through strictly the mind. Even if you’re running your fingers over dozens of plastic nobs that make woo woo noises.

-Michael Roffman
President/Editor-in-Chief

Thursday, October 27th

Prior to the weekend’s festivities, Tobacco played host to hundreds of festivalgoers at the newly minted Asheville Music Hall – which remained at capacity throughout the festival. As part of Consequence of Sound‘s 2nd Annual Moogfest Pre-Party, those in attendance made it no secret that they were primed for a weekend heavy in electronic music. Starved were the fans of the delightful east coast town.

Gallery by Cap Blackard

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Friday, October 28th

Matthew Dear – Animoog Playground – 5:15 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

Due to some hotel snafus, I arrived at Moogfest’s first show of the weekend when Matthew Dear and his band were already in full swing – leather pants and all. With a bassist, a drummer, and a trumpet player for support, Dear was repeatedly belting out, “I don’t care ‘bout you anymore” – from his song “Tide” – and it was the kind of line that sucks you in even if you’ve never heard the song before. “Slowdance” was next, bringing down the mood from the fast-paced techno of the song before, but then the heavy beats picked right back up with “You Put a Smell on Me”. Dear & his gang did everything they could to get the crowd moving on a cold and rainy afternoon, an impossible task for some, but in spite of it all, there was dancing abound. Closing out the set with “Little People (Black City)”, I walked away from the set thinking that even under less than ideal conditions, this was the perfect kickoff to a fantastic weekend. -Carson O’Shoney

Beak> – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

There’s a moment in college, sometime after you first drop your shit off in your dorm, when you meet “the cool music guys.” Usually there are like two or three of ’em, holed up in the corner room of the hall, typically fucking around with some guitar, keyboard, four-track players, etc. One of ’em passionately aches to be experimental; you lick it up. UK trio Beak> echoes this to a tee. During their early set at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, Geoff Barrow (yes, the Geoff Barrow), Billy Fuller, and Matt Williams acted less like professional musicians and more like casual music scholars. They sat, they strummed, they fiddled, and they kept to themselves. At one point in the set, Barrow tripped on the beat for the paranoid walker “Pill”, to which he tossed his drumsticks behind him and shrugged it off. So nonchalant, so chill. At that moment, one had to think, Damn, I wonder if they wanna get drinks after this. -Michael Roffman

Mayer Hawthorne & County – Animoog Playground – 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

How adorbs is Mayer Hawthorne? Hawthorne champions his underdog hometown of Detroit seemingly every chance he gets, paying tribute to its classic soul sound with his band The County, kicking out the Motown jams (a dash of Stax in there too) with ease and poise. He can even get a party going in a rainy, cold parking lot, which is what the Animoog Playground was reduced to early Friday evening. “Don’t laugh if any one of us falls onstage, man,” he said. “Shit is treacherous.” Mayer also made sure to specifically mention, again, that he was from Detroit and rainy parking lots were kind of the norm for him. Fair enough. But by the time he directed the audience to make raindrop hand motions on “I Wish It Would Rain”, it felt kind of magical. How can you not love this guy? -Paul de Revere

The Antlers - Asheville Civic Center Arena – 7:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

Somebody only familiar with Hospice may have thought The Antlers to be a bit out of place at Moogfest, but the expansive sound of sophomore follow-up Burst Apart and the even more elaborate live show certainly converted any skeptics. Somber “Atrophy” from Hospice snuck its way into the set list, but the rest of their time was spent creating completely mesmerizing renditions of Burst Apart‘s highlights – including a stunning version of “Rolled Together” and the one-two punch of closers “Coriscana” and “Putting the Dog to Sleep”. Peter Silberman’s soaring falsetto was pitch-perfect, complimented phenomenally by a tight performance from the rest of the band, a surprising vocal triumph by their touring keyboardist, and a dazzling light show, all adding up to an incredible way to pull down the night. -Caitlin Meyer

Atlas Sound – Orange Peel – 7:30 p.m.

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Photo by Catherine Watkins

“Welcome to Moogfest! I mean… Mougefest,” Atlas Sound‘s Bradford Cox exclaimed while taking the stage at the Orange Peel. Apparently everyone gets confused with the name of the festival. However, there was no confusion about how humbled Cox was to be there. Claiming Bob Moog as a personal hero, the Deerhunter frontman spared no time crafting a series of loops that lead straight to an adhesive wall of sound. From there, he transitioned from one cut to the next, with most of the material stripped from Atlas Sound’s forthcoming LP, Parallax.

Amidst the set, Cox performed his more acoustic material, sometimes at risk of the crowd’s interest, who were only interested in the louder material, at least judging from all the chatter over slower songs like “Terra Incognito” and “Amplifiers”. Despite this, Cox mastered Parallax’s lush sound live – especially during highlights like “Te Amo” and “Parallax”. That same ethos held up even when he played tracks off Logos. “Walkabout” became an acoustic song complete with harmonica. All in all, a solid performance that proved Cox doesn’t need the rest of his Deerhunter bandmates to enthrall a live audience. -Carson O’Shoney

Tangerine Dream – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 8:00 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

It’s probably a good start (to the weekend, the year, your brand, what have you) when legendary electronic music pioneer Edgar Froese calls your weekend getaway “one of the best prog fests on the planet right now.” Sort of a big deal. But, then again, so was an appearance by Tangerine Dream. One of a few exclusives at Moogfest this year, the German electronic outfit were allotted a whopping two hours, which they bled dry with an endless stream of synth puzzles. Their stage setup shared many qualities with the flight deck of the USS Enterprise; Froese and Thorsten Quaeschning fiddled about at their stations, while guitarist Bernhard Beibl spun an intricate web of guitar nearby, supported by multi-instrumentalist Linda Spa and drummer Iris Camaa.

Given that the electronic prodigies have 116 studio and live albums to date, it’s a little more than difficult to pinpoint any specific tracks. However, a few did come to mind: the dueling synths of “Carmel Calif”, the running ambiance of “Serpent Magique”, and the blushing fretwork on “Hunter Shot by a Yellow Rabbit”. Precise is too loose a term to ascribe to the band, though it’s accurate. Not once in the two hours did they falter, quake, or shuffle. Slumped over their work, Froese and Quaeschning unplugged from reality and escaped into, hell, who knows where. Adjacent to them, Beibl successfully culled all the right sounds out of the guitar, always with a smile, while Spa switched between a mellotron, tenor sax, alto sax, and more. Not be left out, Camaa beat the hell out of the drums… and with neon drumsticks to boot. Very cool.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

Yet also classy. In addition to his support for the festival, Froese also reminded the audience to never forget Bob Moog, a man who “wasn’t just a technician, but a philosopher and visionary.” Admittedly, not everyone made it ’til the end of their exhausting journey to hear that, but those who stuck around applauded soundly. Now, Tangerine Dream didn’t necessarily set a high watermark performance-wise, but what they did do was further underline the unique ideology behind Moogfest. That’s just priceless. -Michael Roffman

Chromeo – Animoog Playground – 9:30 p.m.

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Photo by Caitlin Meyer

If there’s one thing that Chromeo is better at than creating baby-making, electro-funk bliss, it’s performing it live. Despite the stage being outside, with heavy rain and temperatures in the 40’s, Dave 1 and P-Thugg were on their A-game. From the onset of “Fancy Footwork” to the banging rendition of “When the Night Falls” and everybody’s favorite, “Needy Girl”, the set flew by in flashes of strobe lights and grooving bass lines. Fighting numb fingers and wet equipment, Dave 1’s vocal and guitar performances were spot-on, and he made sure to keep a positive attitude, with corny jokes (“If today were Halloween, I’d be Business Casual“) and outbursts such as “Dancing will keep you warm!” in the middle of “Momma’s Boy”. The crowd more than heeded his advice – leading to a myriad of demonstrations of fancy footwork and, more likely than not, some “Bonafied Lovin'”. -Caitlin Meyer

The Field – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 10:30 p.m.

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Photo by Catherine Watkins

Anyone who didn’t sneak a nap in during The Field‘s set at the cozy Thomas Wolfe Auditorium is crazy. Those seats are so comfortable! And The Field is so lulling and repetitive, even with its human touches on drum kit and bass guitar with the Swedish, Kompakt-endorsed producer Axel Willner. Willner and company mined grooves for essentially as long as humanly possible, upwards of 10 or 12 minutes, before doling out a serious payoff groove for anyone who stuck with them. And for real, those killer grooves will wake you up. Sure, The Field is best as background music, but Willner and company’s massaging bass and light show (one of the best of the weekend, btw) should keep you interested. If not, stick with it. It’s worth it. -Paul de Revere

Moby – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 10:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

“She is really good,” a cute, Teletubby-dressed festivalgoer remarked, while singer Inyang Bassey belted out the main vocals on a reworked, stripped-down version of Moby‘s “In This World”. She’s right: Bassey is really good; in fact, she’s downright invigorating. Stomping about the stage with police-like authority, Bassey doesn’t just sing on Moby’s tracks, she owns them. Whether it’s the soulful surf on “In My Heart” or the corner blues crooning on “Flower”, Bassey has ingrained herself into the eclectic vegan’s work.

But, Moby’s no slouch, either. Having performed as a DJ for the past year and having convinced everyone on record that he was Destroyed, the descendant of Herman Melville let the costumed souls in Asheville know one thing: He’s a headliner, goddammit. From the start, he breathlessly knocked out hit after hit – excusing himself of any recent material, save for a remix of the always-depressing-yet-hey-it’s-also-hard-hitting “Shot in the Back of the Head” – cutting his fingers (he’s a pretty sweet guitarist, folks) on favorites like “Natural Blues”, “We Are All Made of Stars”, “Bodyrock”, and “Southside”. Thousands of spectators responded with delight when he dedicated “Porcelain” to the city, while others went all Matt Damon during “Extreme Ways”.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

Towards the end, following a dance-friendly cut of “Raining Again” into club-ready anthem “Feeling So Real”, Moby took off his shirt, stood on an amplifier, and ran through an early performance piece of his he hadn’t done in the U.S. for over 12 years (“Thousand”). For a moment, it felt like he was going to dive right into the crowd. He could have. He drew one of the most dedicated and powerful audiences of the night. But, much like the performance itself, he surprised us and stepped down, offering an ample thanks. Always modest, he probably didn’t realize he just finished one of the most-talked-about sets of the weekend. -Michael Roffman

Zomby - Orange Peel – 11:00 p.m.

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Photo by Caitlin Meyer

Taking the stage a few minutes late to a capable crowd at the Orange Peel, Zomby accomplished the impossible: making dancing to Soulja Boy fun.The crowd who started the night nearly hypothermic from the pouring rain outside quickly warmed up to the entrancing beats and visuals. It’s a shame the man behind the mask wasn’t as enjoyable as his music. The producer, in the course of his set, threw a miniature tantrum at the light crew for not blacking out the stage, blatantly walked away from his computer to smoke, and never uttered a word to the audience. But, hey, at least unlike the ATP show, he actually showed up this time. The music nearly redeemed the attitude, fortunately, as his genre-bending tunes created a solid, hour-long set that included some brief, dirty dubstep, highlights from Where Were U in ’92?, and a particularly well-received version of Dedication’s “Natalia’s Song”. -Caitlin Meyer

Flying Lotus – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 12:00 a.m.

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Photo by Caitlin Meyer

After Moby, everybody had the same idea: Let’s run to Flying Lotus. Unfortunately, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium had already hit capacity to the dismay of hundreds of costumed fans, but for those who did make it in, Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, made a solid case for show of the weekend… and it was only Friday. Seamlessly intertwining everything from Tyler, The Creator’s “Yonkers” to Erykah Badu to a comprehensive sampling of his discography, Ellison’s 75-minute set went by with a blink of an eye. The music paired alongside an impeccable light show and frequent, friendly crowd interaction left even the harshest critic with no option but to love the show – and a show it was, definitively proving that a DJ set does not have to, and should not, be limited to a guy standing behind a computer. -Caitlin Meyer

TV on the Radio – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 12:30 a.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

It’s always hard to pin down exactly what makes a band like TV on the Radio a) a future timeless act, a crown jewel of the Williamsburg-era indie scene that spawned it and b) able to fit in at Pitchfork Festival, Virgin Mobile Free Fest, and at Moogfest without seeming at all out of place. You’re only left with the conclusion that TVotR is a band for all seasons and pretty much all crowds. The band is on a major label but made of serious artists with side projects (even a minor acting career, with regards to Tunde Adebimpe). It’s a fairly large band with more than a few members, but they sound like a lean unit together.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

It’s why roaring set opener “Halfway Home” seems grand (it’s ostensibly about longing and distance) but sounds precise and fierce like a charging dragon. It’s why TV on the Radio can rock it with horns and guitar/bass arrangements on “Red Dress” and then get down, dirty, and friendly with EDM heads with squats and squirts of bassy noise on “New Cannonball Blues”. Adebimpe can croon, Kyp Malone can wail, and Dave Sitek can make noise, and it all just blends into a perfect song, but you’re still missing something: the band’s X factor. Let’s venture to say the band has a humanity and an adaptive dynamism, switching gears and pumping out tunes like no one’s business, churning out one of the best sets of the weekend. -Paul de Revere

Araabmuzik – Asheville Music Hall – 01:30 a.m.

Here’s a bit of irony that mostly gear nerds will chuckle at: Araabmuzik is known (rightfully so) as a giant on the Music Production Center sample and drum pads. “The MVP of the MPC,” if you will. But the MPC is made by AKAI and not Moog. Oh, that’s rich! Go on! It’s all love, though, because the talents of Araab (one Abraham Orellana) cannot be denied and were among the finest of the Moogfest weekend. To gawk at the diminutive, blinged-out Orellana play live (that watch, those earrings!), it’s dubious that a guy stuck behind an EQ board for Dipset for years could have a successful niche solo career pressing buttons really fast. That’s reductive, but it’s kind of Moogfest in a nutshell. It’s about craft and sheer talent at this festival.

So, maybe that’s why Orellana’s set late Friday/early Saturday only brushed up against his killer “Electronic Dream” material, his vamping on subtle sounds of dubstep wobble and dark witch house rumble, all played on the MPC manually. It looked like the machine was going to explode. Unfortunately, the crowd lined up almost around the block from Asheville Music Hall trying to get a look at Araab’s fast fingers had no such consolation, just rainy, wet streets that night. But they could at least take consolation that Araab provided them a perfect soundtrack for wet, dark city streets, like a Burial for American rap: distant, echoed, and just a little melancholy. But bangin’, dude. Just bangin’. -Paul de Revere

Saturday, October 29th

Brian Eno – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 2:00 p.m.

381290 253252898060614 102637876455451 774874 2061191502 n Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011Even with all the dancing, partying, and debauchery, Moogfest remains a more intellectually minded festival. Case in point: For two hours, Brian Eno took us to school. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium hosted Eno’s “Illustrated Talk”, a separately ticketed event within Moogfest, in which the renaissance artist delivered a lecture the equivalent of seven or so TED Talks smashed into one another. Or, as he put it, “a circuitous look” at things he’d been thinking about over the years as told by “Rambling Jack Eno” – everything from Copernicus, to cybernetics, to how choosing a haircut is the equivalent of choosing a point in a multidimensional space.

With an uncanny itinerary of points to touch on, Eno started at the most approachable point possible: music. He discussed the beginnings of his fascination with experimental music, starting with fellow Moogfest ’11 alum Terry Riley and Steve Reich. Though the subject matter often turned lofty, Eno kept things consistently light with self-aware anecdotes and hilarious asides, including his shamefully ugly debut image of 77 Million Paintings in Sidney and how adult online image galleries are a window into human creativity. Ultimately, Eno’s talk was a message on how art and music have changed culture and how human culture hinges on the dichotomy between control and surrender. Eno’s latest piece, 77 Million Paintings (now actually 100 million³ paintings), is an ever-changing audio-visual installation all about surrendering – both surrendering control as an artist and the viewer surrendering to the experience. To say that there’s a lot on the man’s mind would be an understatement.

Everyone left the auditorium heads buzzing with new ideas, new information, and hopefully some inspiration. One thing’s for sure. If every college seminar was this engrossing, we’d have never missed a class.

77 Million Paintings is open to the public at the YMI Cultural Center in Asheville, NC, November 2nd-30th. -Cap Blackard

Photo by Joseph F. Carney III // Courtesy of Moogfest

Hans-Joachim Roedelius - Diana Wortham Theatre – 5:00 p.m.

hansroemoogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011“Brian Eno is celebrating his 77 Million Paintings… but today, I’m celebrating my 77th birthday,” Hans-Joachim Roedelius stated prior to performing. The crowd, who were already giving him a big applause for walking onstage, cheered louder at the news. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see a legendary 77-year-old German experimentalist.

He didn’t blow out any candles; instead, he flicked on the sounds of a radio blaring Jimi Hendrix’s “Star Spangled Banner”, followed by a couple minutes of classical music. When the radio dimmed down, all that was left was Roedelius and his ambient music. Falling somewhere between Eno and Basinski, his music was so quiet and subtle that you could hear any and every noise being made in the audience – from camera shutters to simply movement in one’s seat.

Thankfully, the audience was cordial – especially for a festival – and no one spoke a word. The air in the Diana Wortham Theatre remained still and silent. With the opening composition lasting around 45 minutes, it finally ended with the radio once again blaring – this time with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. As soon as everything stopped, Roedelius shouted, “It was my birthday gift to you!” He received a standing ovation for which he seemed genuinely humbled and delighted. As he sat down to play his last song,“One more, a lullaby”, the crowd sang happy birthday to him. It was as cute a moment as you’ll ever see at a festival, and Roedelius looked overjoyed. And so, he played his final lullaby, a gorgeous piano piece, and got another standing O as he walked offstage. It was one of the most respectful and grateful crowds a festival could ever get, and the set was that much better for it. -Carson O’Shoney

Photo by Catherine Watkins.

Dan Deacon – Animoog Playground – 5:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

It’s hard to watch a Dan Deacon gig, but it’s easy to experience. Does that make sense? In other words, you’re not really paying much attention to the music. You’re not. Watching the electronic guru – or, at least trying to (he moves around a bunch) – recalls the hyper intensive Saturday mornings spent absorbing cartoons and commercials. You’re frantically moving about, you’re looking around wildly, and you’re flailing your hands in the air. (Okay, so maybe your Saturday mornings were different. Whatever.) For his second performance at Moogfest – he performed last year at the Asheville Civic Center Arena – Deacon brought his comedic antics outside to the Animoog Playground. It was pretty chilly outdoors, an irritating condition Deacon humorously blamed on the government. He offered plenty of cuts from his back catalogue, including those off 2009’s Bromst, all of which sound-tracked a variety of activities, including a chaotic dance-off which took place within a giant circle amongst the crowd (orchestrated by Deacon, no less). What we learned: Deacon knows no limits. Someone should hug him for that – again and again. -Michael Roffman

SBTRKT – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 6:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

SBTRKT didn’t deliver the day’s most devastating bass in the Asheville Civic Center (that would belong to Amon Tobin’s intense ISAM experience later on), but damn if it didn’t shake a few dozen folks’ guts in front. The British duo had the responsibility of kicking off Saturday at the Civic Center Arena after YACHT’s cancellation hours before. So SBTRKT responded with sleek beats and, well, awesome-looking tribal masks. It’s a cool but inconsequential look, hardly the craziest one on a stage that weekend, not mattering much to the danceable melancholy of “Hold On”, featuring vocalist Sampha, who’s paired with SBTRKT for his current tour. “You’re giving me the coldest stare,” he sang. “Like you don’t even know I’m there.” Things got more upbeat quickly, with the commercial-licensing-in-waiting instrumental “Ready Set Loop”, with an enchanting, constant winding of trebled-out synth, with a tone not out of place in a Basement Jaxx banger. Only SBTRKT uses it in an almost down-tempo format. Oh, you wanted a hit? Well, SBTRKT kind of really does hits: “Wildfire”. It bears out its lean groove in a live setting as well as it does on record. It’s a strong contender for one of the best songs of the year and one of the best drops/crowd reactions of the weekend. Like its bass, SBTRKT’s music was strong throughout but not imposing. It was just right to start off the evening. -Paul de Revere

Crystal Castles - Animoog Playground – 7:00 p.m.

Following the spectacle that is Dan Deacon is no easy task, but Toronto’s Crystal Castles were more than up to it. Storming the stage to an onslaught of strobes and red lights, vocalist Alice Glass proved to be the real show of the evening – with an ever-present handle of Jack Daniels inspiring ridiculous things like spitting whiskey on the crowd and frequent stage diving. Though the stage presence was unparalleled, the mixing fully washed out Glass’s vocals by the middle of the almost uncomfortably loud set. “Not in Love” and “Crimewave” were still discernible in the messy mix of synth and bass, to great crowd reception of continued violent dancing. At the end of the day, with the mix of lights, throbbing bass, and Glass’s ridiculous antics, it didn’t really end up mattering if the sound wasn’t perfect because both the band and the audience were on a completely different plane. -Caitlin Meyer

Adrian Belew Power Trio – Diana Wortham Theatre – 8:00 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

Here’s how forward-thinking Moogfest is: A progressive rock hero like Adrian Belew had among the most conventional performances at the festival, all things considered. Keep in mind that Belew used loop pedals, processed his guitar through a MacBook to make it sound like a percussively clipped baby grand piano, and soloed using his whammy bar more than ever thought possible (especially on the King Crimson selection he unsheathed, “Neurotica”). His rotating cast of trio members (cumulatively, it was more of a quin- or sextet) kept things fresh, providing some much-needed fresh arms (wrists, fingers) in the midst of what can only be described as stamina-testing, spastic rock. But, man, it was funky! Even if it was long-winded. Belew has still got it, and as backlit stage lights projected his drummers’ movements onto the Diana Wortham Theater wall, he casts a large shadow. -Paul de Revere

The Flaming Lips – Animoog Playground – 8:30 p.m.

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Photo by Catherine Watkins

By now, you know what you’re getting with a Flaming Lips show. Even if you’ve never seen them, Wayne Coyne goes ahead and tells you before the show that he’s going to “get in the space bubble.” He shoots off a precautionary blast of streamers and confetti. They start pumping the balloons side stage. The video screens start flashing. When they finally take the stage, you’re fully aware of being bombarded with an overload of confetti, giant balloons, lights, lasers, dancers and smoke. And yet, it’s easy to get swept up in the spectacle as soon as you see Coyne walking over the crowd in his space bubble. Moogfest was the latest stop on their quest to play every festival ever known to man, and Coyne was acutely aware of his surroundings. “This is the coolest festival we’ve ever played,” he observed, and having seen them at multiple festivals, I can attest to the fact that he doesn’t just say that wherever he is. He seemed genuinely gleeful about playing Moogfest – he said that if this was someone’s first festival they might as well not bother with any others because nothing could top this.

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Photo by Catherine Watkins

Where the Flaming Lips used make an entrance out of a spaceship, they now enter the stage through a door in the video screens. Of course, they set the video up so that they’re walking out of a glowing vagina – about par for the course when it comes to the Lips. The entirety of the first two or three songs was supplemented by videos of various naked women prancing about – a treat for the dozens of people watching from their windows in the hotel behind the stage I’m sure. On the cusp of releasing a 24-hour long song, the Lips played a mostly standard set, filled with mainstays like “She Don’t Use Jelly” & “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song”. The giant hands that Coyne has been busting out for years now have lasers in them, which made for an extraordinary display when he shone them on the giant disco ball above the stage. Perhaps inspired by the spirit of Robert Moog (which Coyne said they were trying to conjure during their set), Steven Drozd broke out his iPad for a solo played on Moog’s new app. All in all, the Lips’ set at Moogfest wasn’t much different than any other, and that’s perfectly fine with them. They always say their shows are for people who have never seen them before – and for them, surely there wasn’t a more delightful and joyous set all weekend. -Carson O’Shoney

Toro y Moi – Orange Peel – 9:30 p.m.

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Photo by Cap Blackard

With an hour and some change to work with, Toro y Moi‘s Chazwick Bundick evolved the energy left behind by Twin Shadow an hour earlier and kept Saturday night alive. Maybe it’s just the songs off his latest LP, Underneath the Pine, or possibly his taut, fiesta-ready EP, Freaking Out, but Bundick feels more assured these days. Gone is the quiet electrician who stood alone tweaking the “chillwave” anthems that hipsters pined for everywhere in early 2010. Instead, there’s a courageous auteur of electronic pop, surrounded by an engaging live band. It’s made all the difference, too. Tracks like the disco fusion clambake “New Beat” or the playful and decadent “All Alone” served as inviting ringers that attracted more and more fans at the Orange Peel. It took awhile for the crowd to really start dancing – then again, it doesn’t help when there’s someone checking your wristband every five minutes – but a third of the way through, you’d be remiss to call it anything but a swingin’ party. Boys got drunk, girls got flirty, and one scandalous couple treated the wooden dance floor like their bedroom. It’s okay, though: Bundick’s from South Carolina. He’s quite familiar with his northern neighbors. Nothing but love, baby. -Michael Roffman

Amon Tobin – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 10:15 p.m.

amontobinmoogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011As I walked into the Asheville Civic Center a few minutes before Amon Tobin was to go on, I was expecting to see his big setup already there and waiting. Yet the stage was empty, and the curtains in the back were deep into the stage. They eventually opened to reveal Tobin’s crazy ISAM setup, but it was so far back in the stage that it felt disconnected from the audience. Regardless, the setup was impressive, and there’s no way words can do justice to its visuals.

Obviously, word had leaked of this insane ISAM experience, and people arrived in droves. The spectacle packed more attendees than any other show of the weekend. The visuals were perfectly in tune to the music, sometimes adding a whole different layer to the beats; at times it seemed like the visuals came first and he made the music to match what was happening. Whether it was metal pistons firing or a spaceship seemingly being constructed, it made for a delicious visual treat. Astral memories aside, no festivalgoer will listen to the album the same ever again – and that’s the mark of a great performance. -Carson O’Shoney

Photo by Catherine Watkins

St. Vincent - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 10:45 p.m.

stvincent1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

The last time I saw Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, was an accident – when she opened at a small club show in 2007. The set consisted of her juggling about four instruments, coyly singing, and shyly disappearing after the set. Needless to say, as she skipped to the front of the huge stage with a full band, seeing the progression was magical. The set blasted through Strange Mercy with “Cheerleader”, “Cruel”, and “Chloe in the Afternoon” and made sure not to forget favorites from Actor like “Save Me From What I Want” and “Actor Out of Work”. Clark’s guitar work and vocals were pitch-perfect, and her personality was just as mesmerizing as her musical talent. She doled out funny pop culture lessons (requiring a viewing of Chloe in the Afternoon), detailed her new music video, and responded graciously to all of the “Annie! Marry me!” yells, making for a truly memorable show. -Caitlin Meyer

Suicide – Orange Peel – 11:30 p.m.

suicidemoogfest1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Cap Blackard

A rare opportunity. Pretty much all the convincing one needed to catch New York City’s cult No Wave outfit Suicide. Performing their landmark 1977 self-titled debut, vocalist Alan Vega and Martin Rev had only seven tracks to deliver. Seven tracks! Granted, one of those said tracks oozes past the 10-minute mark (“Frankie Teardrop”), but still…

At first glance, Vega and Rev offer plenty of fodder for cynics and futurists or those who feel the past belongs in the past. For one, Vega is 72 years old, and he looks it. Despite the black hat and thick shades, he couldn’t hide what time’s done to him physically – or vocally, for that matter. While Rev assembled the warbled fuzz behind tracks like “Ghost Rider” and “Johnny” (and to perfection, no less), Vega barked and squealed in a manner not quite akin to that of the classic LP. Sure, the group’s work has always been an erratic landscape, but gone was the haunting finesse. Instead, it felt like musical Tourette’s.

suicidemoogfest2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Cap Blackard

There’s a fitting passage in Simon Reynold’s exceptional book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past where reunions are discussed at great length. He cites Blast First label head Paul Smith, writing, “For Smith, reunions are valid both in terms of doing justice to a band’s importance in the history of music, and as a reward for an artist who most likely laboured hard for minimal financial payback. He feels that reformations can be done well or done badly.” Well, given that Smith had a hand in bringing back Suicide to the spotlight, he’d probably argue the reunion was done well. He’d be right – sort of. There’s no denying that hearing “Frankie Teardrop” in all its paranoid glory will stick in many a festivalgoer’s head for years and years to come. However, there are a slew of images now associated with the music that were never there before. A slumped over Rev, for one. In addition to a restless, bitter-looking Vega, who at one point shouted, “For Christ’s sake, what the fuck is happening…?” Good question, though not quite sure on the answer yet. -Michael Roffman

STS9 - Asheville Civic Center Arena – 12:00 a.m.

sts94 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

After a demanding day spent in the cold outside, the idea of intense dancing for two hours was less than appealing. Fortunately for what was one of the biggest crowds of the weekend, quintet STS9 was a second burst of life. Focusing the majority of the time on newer material, namely the When the Dust Settles EP, extended versions of “Scheme” and “When the Dust Settles” were early highlights. As the light boxes shifted from wild patterns to swirling green smoke and lights (not to mention the scandalous silhouettes of the ribbon dancers in the upper deck), even if somebody didn’t want to dance, the multi-sensory experience was completely captivating. Though the middle of the show got a little repetitive for the casual fan, STS9’s time onstage felt prematurely truncated at two and cries for extended playing were left unanswered. -Caitlin Meyer

Battles – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 12:45 a.m.

battles1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

Despite a lukewarm start and an entertaining lack of people skills, Battles grew into one of the weekend’s undeniably best sets. As the trio settled in, the songs so meticulously recorded came to life and a previously unseen depth. Pair the incessant flashes of orange and yellow light with the hour-plus long onslaught of the best hybrid of experimental and math rock imaginable, artfully filmed videos of the featured vocalists singing their parts incorporated accordingly and a set list full to the brim of crowd favorites (namely, “Ice Cream”, “Atlas”, “Futura”) and that maybe adds up to about half of the unbelievable energy in the room. The experience was unparalleled, their live show as tight, dance-inducing and hypnotic as some of the weekend’s best DJs. -Caitlin Meyer

Kode9  - Orange Peel – 1:00 a.m.

kode9moogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Catherine Watkins

These days, most people become aware of Kode9 through Burial. While he doesn’t ever appear in public, he’s arguably the most prominent figure on Hyperdub, the UK label run by Kode9 himself. So, after Suicide performed at the Orange Peel, it wasn’t surprising that plenty of people who stuck around were asking: “So, who’s this next guy?” It didn’t matter, though. Minutes into the performance, the entire crowd was dancing. With ease, Kode9 made Hyperdub’s presence known at Moogfest, wearing a shirt with the label’s distinctive “HD” logo on it and having surrounding visuals revolve around the same logo. Whether it was the spectacle or the music, he did what a good DJ does best: He disappeared. Everyone was too busy dancing their asses off, and if they needed something to look at, Kode9 provided some hilarious, mostly trippy visuals, where everything from That 70’s Show to Chuck Norris shared some screen time. Anywhere else, a show at one in the morning could be a drag, but at Moogfest, the energy stays high till the wee hours of the morning, and Kode9’s set was a perfect example of just how crazy the crowds can get in Asheville. –Carson O’Shoney

Sunday, October 30th

Active Child – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 5:30 p.m.

activechild2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

How many people were onstage with Active Child’s Pat Grossi? Grossi is, and seems to serenely pride himself on being, a one-man band. And maybe there were two others on stage with him. Can’t be sure. (There were.) It seemed like most everyone getting into the music in the Asheville Civic Center Arena had their eyes closed to the serene, womb-like calm that Grossi and company emitted sonically, pulling heavily from this year’s wonderful You Are All I See with “Playing House” (Grossi took on How to Dress Well’s record verse) and the finisher, “Johnny Belinda”, which started easy and then came down like an avalanche, leveling everything.. On Twitter, Grossi said before he went onstage that his Moogfest performance was in the biggest venue he’s ever played. He may have seen a lot in front of him, but all most saw was the back of their eyelids, lost in the music. In other words, he is all we see. –Paul de Revere

M83 – Asheville Civic Center Arena – 6:30 p.m.

m83moogfest1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Have you ever experienced a concert with your entire body, thrashing around to pulsing bass and synthesizers, as if conducting live music via some sloppy form of judo? That’s what being possessed by M83 live is like: You will cry, you will be sore, and your soul might lift out of your fucking body. If the opening arpeggiations and whispers of “Intro” (“We didn’t need a story, we didn’t need a real world…”) aren’t enough to get you worked up into a spiritual ecstasy (or at least get a few chills up and down your neck), try a quick onstage appearance by the gentle, furry creature on the cover of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. This is the kind of theatrical adrenaline rush that M83 offers. You are not ready. Surrender yourself.

m83moogfest2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Cap Blackard

Anthony Gonzalez and company (which included the lovely vocalist Morgan Kibby, who takes lead on more songs live than M83’s studio work might suggest) followed with the first three tracks of Dreaming: “Intro” (where Kibby did an eerily accurate mimicry of Zola Jesus), the maybe-single-of-the-year “Midnight City”, and the Rush-circa-“Subdivisions” rocker “Wait”. A greatest hits set list followed: “Teen Angst”, “We Own the Sky”, and Dreaming’s stellar “Steve McQueen”. It was one helluva first half of the set. Seriously, can anybody fuck with M83 when it comes to pure sonic majesty live? Maybe Sigur Ros, but it’d be foolish to pretend that Gonzalez and Jonsi Birgsson aren’t passively in a pretty-as-fuck music contest right now. And since Sigur Ros isn’t touring right now, M83 is winning. No joke, though, if you don’t see this band when they come through your city, you’re a goddamn fool. -Paul de Revere

Childish Gambino – Animoog Playground – 7:15 p.m.

childishgambinomoogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

For better or for worse, depending on your taste, rap was barely represented at Moogfest 2011. Sure, shades of the genre’s aggressive bass sound were everywhere, even being played as pre-show PA music at times. But only two acts that could be comfortably grouped as “rap” performed at Moogfest weekend: Araabmuzik, who had a hypeman, and the festival’s only actual rapper, Childish Gambino, who didn’t have one. Hell, he didn’t need one. #Swag was Gambino’s wingman, and he was the closest thing Moogfest got to an honest-to-goodness rap show.

There’s an indigence that must come with that: being American top 40’s most sonically progressive genre but having minimal representation at one of the world’s most progressive music festivals. If anyone was beset with that indigence on Moogfest weekend, it was Childish Gambino, actor Donald Glover’s rapper alter ego. And Gambino couldn’t have handled that swag better. The nerdy-voiced rapper smacked ‘em down (“‘em” being haters, white people, girls who broke his heart, and the nameless “you”) and was, needless to say, funny. Righteously funny.

childishgambinomoogfest1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Catherine Watkins

But mostly, Glover was swaggerific, presenting new material from the forthcoming Camp (“Bonfire,” “Do Ya Like”) with confidence and heart. “Why does everyone have a problem with talking stupid shit?/Or is it real shit?/‘Cause sometimes that stupid shit is real shit,” Glover rapped on “All the Shine”. As meta-conscious, self-examining, and self-deprecating as Gambino can be, his swag is unflappable. Dude’s got all the shine, and he killed the Animoog Playground’s penultimate set of the weekend. -Paul de Revere

Neon Indian – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 8:00 p.m.

neonindianmoogfest1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Cap Blackard

After Sunday’s set in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, anybody who characterizes Neon Indian as “chillwave” is just plain wrong, as Alan Palomo and company’s live show is anything but. Watching Era Extrana come to life with the full band was phenomenal, made even better by Palomo’s extremely dynamic performance. Even on the more laid-back tunes, all eyes were on him. From the starting tune “Terminally Chill” through old favorite “Deadbeat Summer” and new staple “Polish Girl”, Neon Indian, although having the unfortunate task of following M83, played with an energy and fervor that took me completely by surprise. Throwing in a surprise encore of “Should Have Taken Acid With You” that sparked huge enthusiasm from the crowd was the perfect way to end what ended up being a raging dance party. -Caitlin Meyer

Special Disco Version - Asheville Civic Center Arena – 8:30 p.m.

specialdiscoversionmoogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Catherine Watkins

Last year, LCD Soundsystem was #1 on many a wish list for Moogfest. It didn’t end up coming to fruition, and now that LCD has played their last show ever, it never will. However, this year Moogfest did bring in two of its members – frontman James Murphy and drummer Pat Mahoney – for a set as their DJ sideshow Special Disco Version. The crowd wasn’t huge – then again, nothing was on Sunday – but the LCD faithful showed up to dance. Firing up the disco ball from the beginning, Mahoney & Murphy spun plenty of old, deep, and groovy disco cuts. Their set was an actual DJ set – no computer, just two turntables, not even a microphone. Murphy, being the anal performer that he is, left the stage for about five minutes to attend to some issues at the sound booth in the middle of the arena floor. Once everything got straightened out, Murphy and Mahoney looked like they were having fun onstage, even if it wasn’t much to look at. Mostly one would be on the decks while the other just stood and watched. But what they lacked in stage presence was made up for with visuals and eventually ribbon dancers hanging from the ceiling. The mood was light and fun, and the crowd danced the whole time. Sometimes that’s all you need after a long weekend of dynamite shows. -Carson O’Shoney

Passion Pit – Animoog Playground – 9:00 p.m.

passionpitmoogfest2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

It’s been two-and-a-half years since Passion Pit released its debut album, Manners. But, it’s still a) one of the best LPs for use at the gym, b) very addicting, and c) pretty relevant. In a year that’s seen new releases by just about every face worthy of a glance within the synthpop genre, it makes sense that Moogfest would book the Cambridge heart-charmers. And not just for some bullshit DJ appearance, either. No, the real deal.

This includes the always self-deprecating Michael Angelakos, who came out in full force Sunday night. Unlike too many frontman today, Angelakos isn’t afraid to be a human being onstage. At the outdoor Animoog Playground, he couldn’t thank the audience enough for braving the chilly weather or Moogfest for booking them. (Does he realize his band draws favorably well? Probably not.) About two songs in, he paid attention to the photographers below, asking them if they were going to make him look fat, to which he quickly added, “I gained a few pounds.” In an oddball moment, he even put on some cat ears, stating, “I like this headband shit. I’m gonna try and make this official Passion Pit merchandise.” Just a funny guy.

passionpitmoogfest1 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Sonically, Passion Pit continues to exceed its peers. They’re just solid songwriters – from the beginning until now. Older tracks like Chunk of Change favorite “Smile Upon Me” dazzles just as much as radio/commercial/Hype Machine/Skins/BBC Sounds scorcher “Sleepyhead” does. This music affects the fans. During a rousing rendition of “The Reeling”, almost every shoe visited the air, as hundreds of fans jumped up and down in unison for a solid four minutes. That’s powerful. It doesn’t look like they’ll lose that flair anytime soon, either. While plenty will eye their sophomore LP with trepidation, the group knocked out two new cuts to ease the tension: a syrupy “American Blood” and another yet-to-be-titled affair that sounds slightly like M83. Both worked. When they strolled back out for their encore, Angelakos remarked with a boyish grin, “I think we were having too much fun to leave.” So were we. That’s why you gotta get that LP out and hit the road again, bro. -Michael Roffman

Ghostland Observatory – Asheville Civic Center  - 10:30 p.m.

ghostland2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

Ghostland Observatory‘s Aaron Behrens and Thomas Turner were on an entirely other level for their time at the Civic Center. Between what was arguably the most intense (and difficult to photograph) light show of the weekend, the nearly schizophrenic onstage presence, and the impeccable technical performance, they were hard to beat. The audience almost had trouble keeping up with the demanding set list, touting “Piano Man”, “Miracle”, and a slamming rendition of “Sad, Sad City”, all of which added together to Bonnaroo-worthy amounts of sweat, the sweetest cathartic release, and guaranteed attendance at their next show in town. -Caitlin Meyer

Gold Panda – The Orange Peel – 11:30 p.m.

goldpanda2 Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

Photo by Caitlin Meyer

The Orange Peel hit capacity right before Gold Panda took the stage, the room abuzz with excitement for the last set of Moogfest. Nonchalantly taking his place at the center of the stage, he launched straight into an hour of eclectic dance bliss. Working in runaway crowd favorite “You” as the second song of the set raised the energy even more, complimented by appropriately mesmerizing visuals. Although at times it was hard to get into a groove, as the beats and tempos changed so erratically, extended versions of “Quitter’s Raga” and “Vanilla Minus” easily redeemed any shortcomings. The evening ended with a heavily British sincere thanks and the sad, sad realization that it was time for the drive home back to the real world – even more upsetting, coming down from such an enjoyable set. -Caitlin Meyer

The Culture of Moogfest 2011

Gallery by Cap Blackard, Caitlin Meyer, and Catherine Watkins

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