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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?”

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    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

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    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

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    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

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    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.

    thefieldmoogfest Festival Review: CoS at Moogfest 2011

    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.

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    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

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    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

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    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

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