The walk between Moogfest’s U.S. Cellular Center and the much more intimate Orange Peel is approximately 18 minutes. Not too bad in festival terms, and instead of battling the hoard during that time, the hike is better spent grabbing a handmade crepe, petting some puppies, watching a few buskers, indulging in some fine chocolates, and/or sharing some stories over a microbrew with a local. Okay, so maybe the walk can end up taking closer to an hour.
That is part of the charm around Asheville. Void of the chains that clutter most downtown skylines, Asheville runs at its own comfortable pace. Unlike major metropolis like Chicago, New York, Miami, and L.A. that seem to frown on the influx of visitors for music festivals, Asheville locals are inordinately helpful; always down to give directions and even offer a few recommendations based on the route. Major streets remain barricaded yet the city acts over-joyed to host thousands of wandering, costumed miscreants. The actual performances don’t start until after 7 p.m., but attendees converge on the downtown area early to grab lunch, check the work of the city’s many artisans, pick up a few extra essentials for a Halloween outfit, or peruse the Moog Factory and the multiple nearby record shops. All of this brings valuable funds to the area, which helps maintain the beauty and public art spaces.
Bob Moog may be best known for the technological advances he made to music, but like the city which houses his factory, it is based in a simplified beauty. Take a moment to examine the Minimoog Voyager Old School; it has dozens of knobs and is capable of making thousands of sounds, yet it does so much within a handsome, compact casing. This aesthetic is also the base for the type of artists that perform each year to celebrate Bob Moog. The lineup is diverse, but all of the talent is humble in their boundary defying abilities. Not all of the artists in the 2012 installment employ synthesizers as a major live tool, but there is a shared appreciation for the crossroads of art, technology, artistic freedom, and the subsequent synergistic beauty.
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, October 26th
Killer Mike – The Orange Peel – 7:30 p.m.
Two things were for certain upon walking into the Orange Peel Friday night: the venue was not big enough for the talent of Moogfest weekend and Killer Mike hates Ronald Reagan. Whether offering up his political philosophy with “Reagan” or threatening to “Burn” the entire venue down, Killer Mike maintains a level of energy that is inspiring for a man of his size. As expected, the affable frontman invited R.A.P. Music collaborator El-P on stage. Unexpectedly the duo broke into “Butane”, which received a boisterous “yeah, yeah, yeah” from the audience at the drop of the beat.
Miike Snow – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 8:45 p.m.
This set exemplified the power of the analog synthesizer. Behind the continuous haze of smoke and strobe lights, sat the massive control panels utilized by Miike Snow’s production duo of Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg. Accompanied by an additional two live musicians, frontman Andrew Wyatt could attack yet another synthesizer, a custom built table, or more regularly pace the stage like a caged jackalope. Designed as a classical music auditorium, the acoustics kept Wyatt’s vocals hovering just over the frantic instrumentation of tracks like “Burial”, “Silvia”, “Black and Blue”, “Paddling Out”, and “Devil’s Work”. In utter showmanship, the outfit left the audience waiting until the end to hear breakout hit “Animal”, which was best left to the packed crowd for singing.
Squarepusher – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 10:30 p.m.
Aside from witnessing Kraftwerk at this year’s Ultra, never have I heard so many dedicated fans talking about how long they have waited to watch a particular artist. And I am not referring to a few years, but over a decade for many of the fans that lined the security gate in hopes of getting the full-force of Squarepusher’s multi-sensory live assault. One could expect a touch of disorienting acid to pulse through the set, what magnified the energy of the audience was just how dance-y the entirety of the set proved to be.
The bass dissonance alone could shock the brain with a natural serotonin; when combined with the massive synchronized wall of LEDs, the performance became a towering light for the swarm of acid-techno loving gnats. Squarepusher’s hands nearly hit as rapidly, and violently, as the lights. When not busy tapping through multiple controllers, he was orchestrating tempo shifts to the audience. No matter the expectations, fans left fulfilled after the 75-minute exploration of IDM.
Black Moth Super Rainbow – The Orange Peel – 11:30 p.m.
Amid a backdrop of a decaying playground, Black Moth Super Rainbow blended the psychedelia of nostalgic analog electronic instruments with the power of guitar-led rock music. Outfit leader Tobacco added yet another element of psych depth with other-wordly vocoder vocals. The set was a demonstration on the longevity of synthesizers. At the fingertips of the right group of individuals, the sounds of dated analog technology are timeless when attacked with a densely layered groove. The five-piece fit right into the experimental focus of Asheville, which is possibly why the line to experience their show stretched for a city block.
Explosions in the Sky – Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 12:30 a.m.
“This band ain’t got nothin’ but gee-tars,” I overheard in the stereotypical Southern draw. The statement was fairly accurate, but quite shortsighted in respect to both Explosions in the Sky and Bob Moog himself. Moog helped revolutionize sound, and while Explosions doesn’t utilize table-top synthesizers, they push the sound of their equipment to the furthest reaches with the help of various effects pedals. At times during their set, if was difficult to even see Munaf Rayani, Mark Smith, and Michael James in action as they were constantly reaching downward to adjust the sonic output of their equipment. After a day highlighted by the anger of Killer Mike and the bombastic energy of Squarepusher, the post-rock ambiance of Explosions in the Sky was a much needed mental vacation. As the four-piece worked through their instrumental epics, I slowly melted into my seat, and simply allowed the waves of interwoven strings wash the stresses of “real-life” away into the darkness of the brisk Asheville evening.
Saturday, October 27th
The Magnetic Fields - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 7:30 p.m.
This is the one band that felt out of place within the festival. However, The Magnetic Fields’ folk whimsy was a great way to start the second day of Moogfest 2012. The deep vocals of Stephin Merritt may be the de facto focal point, but it was the quirky delivery by ukuleleist Shirley Simms that brought me the most joy during the performance. The recent LP Love At The Bottom Of The Sea, and its minimal synthesizer riffs, was prominent during the performance, with “I’ve Run Away to Join the Fairies”, 21st century jig “The Horrible Party”, and the revenge-fantasy ”My Husband’s Pied-a-Terre” all being performed live.
Cold Cave – The Orange Peel – 8:30 p.m.
Nothing says “Hey we’re a rock band!” like matching leather jackets. We got the message, Cold Cave. The cramped, liquor-soaked floors of the Orange Peel was the perfect setting for Wesley Eisold’s darkwave. With Eisold attached to his mic stand most of the evening, often turning his back on a large portion of the audience, much of the energy was the result of bassist Hunter Burgan (formetly of AFI). The group concluded about 15 minutes early, but they did so with Cherish The Light Years scorcher “The Great Pan is Dead”. Fun fact: The first song Eisold wrote on his Voyager was I.C.D.K..
Trust – Asheville Music Hall – 9:30 p.m.
No matter how well you plan for a festival, there is always that moment when you realize that you could have dug deeper. For me, that was the first few moments of Trust’s pogo-worthy performance. Based out of Toronto, the live three-piece take a slightly more danceable approach to Cold Cave’s dark wave. After getting off to a heavy start, the set came to a brief halt due to a minor technical issue that was resolved by founding member Robert Alfons. Serving primarily as singer, Alfons was backed on synthesizers by a pair of beautiful ladies that stayed in the darkness of the dimly-lit stage. Now I must pick up their debut TRST so I can understand as bit better just what Alfons was yelling as he was hoping across the stage.
Orbital – ExploreAsheville.com Arena – 10:30 p.m.
The set-up was stripped down, but Orbital delivered with all the energy that fans have been accustomed to since the ’90s. The performance was still centered around analog-driven acid-house, but the brothers Hartnoll pulled much more content from recent release Wonky compared to that of their earlier M25 heyday. The brothers did perform the legendary slow-burner “Halcyon +On +On”, but primarily kept the tempo at an all-out rave pace. Every time I see Orbital I am reminded to respect my elders, because these balding English gentlemen still produce progressive club bangers with the best of the young EDM upstarts.
Four Tet - Thomas Wolfe Auditorium – 11:30 p.m.
It’s not easy following up a legendary outfit, but Four Tet (real name Kieran Hebden) crafted an experimental electronic adventure that resulted in one of the most fulfilling four-hours of live music that I have ever experienced. Whereas Orbital wanted to pin the audience against the wall, Hebden mixed elements of acid, ambient drone, and post-dub to keep brains churning around their respective craniums. Basked in a red hue, Hebden took on a larger than life vibe as his shadows dominated the walls and his tones transfixed the costumed masses. The aural elements pulse in a seamless stream, but watching Hebden perform from a bird’s eye view, it is difficult to understand the intricacies as he worked across two laptops, a mixer, and no fewer than three controllers. Then again, much of the enjoyment is in the mystery of his compositions.
with Teebs – Asheville Music Hall – 12:30 a.m.
Prefuse 73 was a little late breaking into his beat-driven ambiance, but that was only because the producer was forced to augment his set when Teebs was unable to make the journey to Asheville. Even with the confusion, P73 was undaunted, creating spiked urban soundscapes through an innumerable amount of samples. Like many of his Warp colleagues, P73’s Moog set defied all categories, but was in-line with the cyborganic beauty and decay that artists like Amon Tobin and Flying Lotus continually try and perfect. As one of the festival’s closing sets, P73 made sure to add a bit of bass energy to the conclusion of the set to ensure the capacity crowd had enough left to stumble home safely.
Photographer: Derek Staples