By Sam Parvin and Eileen Tilson; photo by John Thelan
Four decades ago, before digital synthesizers, laptop computers, and smart phones put the tools for electronic music on desks and in pockets, there was the Minimoog, the pioneering, suitcase-sized synthesizer introduced in 1970. The nonprofit, Bob Moog Foundation is raising money to build a “Moogseum” in Asheville, based around Mr. Moog’s extensive archives, and these were presented during the daytime panel discussions on the history of the synth.
On Day Two in sunny, chilly, Asheville, the air was amidst with even more of a mixture of misfits than the city is already known for. Beyond the multitudes of dogs in costumes, hoards of hippies, and total tech geeks in the Moog gear. Walking through the streets, the air is filled with burning leaves, great food, and billowing clouds of the five fingered plants.
Samantha and I decided to start our day with some educational panels – well, what we thought was educational panels. We sat down to “Tara Busch – Artist Performance & Discussion about Remixing with Moogerfoogers.” The only way to completely comprehend Tara Busch, is to picture Sarah Goldfrapp as Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music. Wearing a striped suit worthy of any Willy Wonka employee, Tara very much entranced the audience with her very whimsical voice, and command of her electronic sounds.
After a quick lunch, we went back to the panels, this time to “Theremin Performance & Lesson with Kevin Kissinger,” which was definitely the most interesting of the panels. Kevin went through the basics of a theremin, and mesmerized the audience with his ability to make slight hand movements and create sound loops. His song “The Lonely Ghost” emphasized the Theremin ability to create whimsical surrealistic sounds.
The only show that I was the most excited about seeing was Jonsi, but unfortunately the show was over packed, and even my press pass would not let me in. Not to worry though, I shuffled my way over to the ACC just in time to catch the last bit of Thievery Corporation who were on stage with a slew of around the world influences turning the show into a super sexy dance party. Highlights included “Facing East,” “Sound the Alarm” and “Warning Shots,” with the 12-member collective layering tablas, sitars and horns over deep dancehall-reggae grooves that had the hilariously costumed masses shaking it in all of our Halloween-inspired glory.
After the sort of worldly cerebral celebration put on by Thievery Corporation, the audience was on an electronic high. Massive Attack came on stage for one of the best shows of the entire weekend. Similar to shows they have put on before, with the exception of some new tracks off their Heligoland, the music was true to their sub tempo mood, but definitely got the crowd jumping. Their scrolling light show was a dark commentary on modern news and stock tickers, with its pulsing corporate logos and symbols. Interspersed were messages such as this one from Howard Zinn: “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.”
Late into the night we finally made our way over to Disco Biscuits, who were already deep into their trippy light show, and hippy beats, turning the entire room into a “Bisco Inferno.” Definitely the grooviest funk of the festival, the band played for three hours into the night!
The festival drew 7,000 to 7,500 people a day and offered five stages at places in downtown Asheville that ranged from clubs to arenas. MoogFest was a festival of strange sounds and lights, drones and loops, synthetic tones all set to the very “herbal” air of Asheville, N.C., decorated by the extra oddity of the audience wearing Halloween costumes all weekend. This provided the environment of out of the box thinking, that I am sure would have made Bob Moog proud.
Check out more pictures in our MoogFest Picture Book above.