There are literally hundreds of festivals that now endlessly populate the summer months with a uniformity of vision that is frankly startling. Amidst all this oppressive sameness sits Moogfest, a small festival that sets itself apart from the pack with nuanced programming and staggering lineup that draws from a variety of talent pools. Visual artists, legendary musicians, and tech sector speakers came together for a weekend in Durham that was full of thought provoking dialogue and cross population. Here are some highlights from the iconic festival. Day One, Thursday
Floating Points set at the Motorco Park set the tone for the weekend's often incredible synthesis of art, technology, and performance. Sam Shepherd's group of touring musicians seamlessly blended jazz, jam band, and electronic influences for an engaging and timeless spectacle.
The highlight of day one's festivities, though was an impeccable showing by Blood Orange. The DevHynes vehicle cycled through songs from 2013's Cupid Deluxe and debuted several songs from a forthcoming album. Hynes also performed "Sorry We Lied" from 2011's Coastal Groove. His captivating stage presence demanded complicity from an audience that was happy to oblige him. Those in attendance belted out lyrics and danced with abandon. Hynes' band was in finest form with two killer female vocalists and an enthusiastic saxophonist on hand.
Gary Numan's first showing was also of note. After beginning around an hour late, Numan delivered a punk rock rendition of Replicas, the 1979 breakout that paved the way for virtually every electronic release that followed it. Though Numan has outspokenly despaired of demands for his older material, his legacy was the focus for the event. A packed Motorco Hall hung on Numan's every lyric and reveled in his passionate onstage antics. Though Numan had less Moog action than in previous years, his display was finely tuned and the legendary musician was endlessly grateful to the slavish crowd when his performance came to a close well after 1:00 AM.
Ryan Hemsworth closed out the night at The Armory, playing even after the lights came up at nearly 2:00AM. His signature, fresh sound was a welcome antidote to the evening's gritty weather. Scholastic visuals of construction paper and crayon doodling accompanied the playful producer's lively set.
Day Two, Friday
Moogfest's Modular Marketplace and Pop Up Factory were incredible supplements to the festival's daytime programming. Visitors were encouraged to try their hand at circuit bending and view the history of the franchise through the musical and technological innovations Moog has fostered. As a group of technicians worked at actually making the machines, festival attendees
wandered through the space touching various synths and music boxes. Various wares from Roland, Moog, AKAI, and Arturia were laid out for experimentation. The factory even had multiple theremins on display for the bravest souls and one of the highly coveted MiniMoog Model D synthesizers which are now being re-released.
Grimes brought her best to the Motorco Park on Friday night, representing the poppier end of Moogfest's offerings. As her lineup undulated between the gratingly dark and euphorically
ecstatic, her stage presence remained electric. Also of note, was the songstress' interactive art installation. Realiti: Inside The Music of Grimes, a partnership with Microsoft, allowed viewers to manipulate the titular song and installation experience by physically interacting with a series of netted sensors in a pitch black exhibition space.
The Black Madonna kept the party running until the early hours of the morning with an unrelenting set at the Armory. The Chicago based DJ is known for her cool house grooves and did not disappoint a hungry crowd that simply wasn't ready for the night to end.
Day Three, Saturday
Laurie Anderson's performance stole the show for Moogfest's Saturday daytime programming. The storied visual artist presented a series of memorial tales that ranged from deeply moving to laugh out loud hilarious. Anderson entwined accounts of an emotionally defunct Amish family, a stay at a nunnery, and a Buddhist meditation retreat together with violin solos and pleasant piano work. The performance, dubbed "The Language of the Future," was at once hilarious
and moving and held the packed house at the Carolina Theatre captive for a full 90 minutes.
Certainly the most misunderstood moment of the weekend came during Sunn O)))'s Saturday evening performance at the Motorco Park. The group's dark and deathly heavy performance had a ritualistic tenor and their relentless drone bewildered many attendees who were clearly uninformed of the band's doom-oriented sound. Much of the set involved single notes,
quivering in the abundant fog as enshrouded band members passed liquor around the stage and held up their guitars. After more than half the group's set, vocalist Attila Cishar appeared like a demonic disco ball to croak out the brutal and undecipherable "lyrics." The totality of Sunn O)))'s vision and their stage presence was enough to capture even the staunchest of viewers
Lastly, Gary Numan's performance of 1980's Telekon was the perfect way to close out the event. The final piece of his "Machine Trilogy," this album contains a broader range of emotion than the previous two albums performed during the weekend. Fluctuating between emotional soliloquies and Telekon's darker numbers, Numan was in fine form. The highlight of this show was undoubtedly the singer's heartfelt gratitude to those in attendance. Even in the tweets following the show Numan showed a genuine and humble attitude toward performing.
Moogfest has set itself apart from the pack with a first year in Durham that was largely a success. By any standard, the nuanced lineups dazzled and largely interactive programming allowed those in attendance to be more complicit in the festivities than a traditional set up. Moogfest is defining the future of creativity by placing itself in parlance with actual creatives. By eschewing the conventional celebrity-oriented festival outlook, Moogfest has opened the door for behind-the-scene effort to be realized and celebrated. With such a fantastic future-oriented display, we just can't wait to see what Moogfest has in store.