Moogfest 2017 – A collection of performances, discussions, installations and workshops

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Honestly when the Moogfest 2017 line up was announced i felt underwhelmed.  The line up wasn’t as interesting or rare when taken at face value.  Some of the headliners of this event scheduled between May 18th to May 21st have played in the Southeast US a couple of times over the last five years like Flying Lotus and Animal Collective.  I suppose that’s good if youre a big fan of theirs and in the case of Flying Lotus it was a welcome surprise to be around at the right time as i didn’t see him live at other sizable venues in the past.  I am also aware the Moog Festival likes to invite back those artists that played in the past.   Personally to me that’s great if they’re playing in a smaller venue, but not so good if they’re headlining the big stage but thats just me.  Of course Moogfest is more than just the performances.  Its the discussions, the installation booths and if youre higher than VIP participation in workshops.  Unfortunately  i ended up fighting the flu and as a result ended up not showing up to half of the performances and other events scheduled at Moogfest…and the biggest regret about that was missing the Saturday afternoon performances at the First Presbyterian Church.   I made it to see Colleen, but the line up before her was promising to say the least.

Another big disappointment was the weather.  Last year it was near perfect in the 70s. Look at the dates between May 18 to 22, 2016.  This year the humidity was no help as those were the only days in the month of May North Carolina hit the 90s.  What can you say?  Its coincidence it happened that way.

First off i wanted to start off by saying Zola Jesus on Friday evening May 19th performance was powerful.   Although she did play in Florida a couple of years and my opinion of her was lukewarm which is why i didn’t see her then, i penciled her in as one of the interests.  Read more about it here.

After Zola ended, made it over to my first Moogfest 2017 appearance at First Presbyterian Church for Circuit Des Yeux – a last minute substitution for Ry X who actually cancelled this leg of his tour for personal reasons.  Except for the fans who wanted to see him, this really was more than adequate a back up you can get.  Plus its apparently an easy choice since they were already touring with Animal Collective.   That said one can argue its a step down from an up and coming media celebrated artist to another thats supporting a band on a limited tour.  Personally the substitution intrigued me more.  I never really could connect with Ry X and besides the hype would’ve made access to the church uneasy.  It was already unpredictable entering the Church throughout the event anyways – another story together.   This was like substituting one artist who writes emotional music for the dilettante for another who might possibly be swayed to do the same a couple of years later.   Fortunately the substitute is still experimenting with emotions unfriendly to the household rather than selling their talent to the highest bidder.  Thats what i took away from the substitute and the performance lived up to that.

Listening to Visible Cloaks has always been a struggle for me.  Even adding them to my podcast (chill #24) to promote Moogfest i had a difficult time connecting with their brand of electronic music…at times PC sounds on steroids until i realize their ode to vaporwave…but they got to play in a church and much excitement was made by others.  Keep in mind my illness.  By about the middle of their show, listening to tracks like Neume and Terrazo in the First Presbyterian Church was satisfying enough.

Afterwards i walked over to Pinhook to catch a little bit of Silent Servant.  His minimal hard techno/industrial performance was solid, had good energy but nothing memorable.  I was out in 15 minutes headed for the Surf Club to see Baltra.

Baltra at the Surf Club

During the anticipation for Moogfest 2017, one of the artists i became really interested in  was Baltra and his deep/lo-fi house set Friday night/early Saturday morning – well technically there was other performances happening but its where i ended up.   So interested in fact, it started an entire fascination in related lo-fi artists like DJ Boring and Ross From Friends and reading articles about whether underground house has finally run out of ideas.   While it didn’t utterly disappoint and switch up like Heathered Pearls did the year before, i can’t recall if he played any of his “hits” like “Never Let Go of Me” and “Fade Away”, plus his chilly and stoic set gave way to textbook DJ by the time closing time came around.

I will say one of the priorities i made to myself was to attend as much of the Durational Sound Installations as i can and i did despite how i felt.  Plus it was in the same building and right below the media room.  Moor Mother and Jas Shaw was part of the good line up.  Moor Mother didn’t divert from what i previewed about her in this article, but the performance that stood out was the droney collaboration of the Haxan Cloak with the hazy guitar sounds of  Hans Zinner.  At one point, you’re in a room where they were recreating Stars of the Lid recreating the Twin Peaks soundtrack.  If the Haxan Cloak didn’t live up to be a chilly performance to look forward to, it was memorable for other albeit equally good reasons.

Colleen on Saturday afternoon was a great show, but symbolic of the bittersweet experience i had at this years Moogfest due to illness.

As Saturday evening approached,  i was able to latch on to a couple of good performances.  As with the nature of a festival like this, even if i wasn’t ill a couple of artists were going to be missed. (Octo Octa, S U R V I V E, the performance of the Stranger Things soundtrack, Talib Kweli, David Graham and the nature of media during the Trump administration, Michael Stipe discussion, KING and the 808 State general performance from Thursday are good examples)

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Noveller at Pinhook courtesy of EricWaters_ericwatersphotography

Although Colleen ended hours ago, moving on to Noveller at the Pinhook was a slow transition and that was disappointing for me.  One of the better performances last year was from Grouper. Noveller which is similar in ways should have been no different.   Maybe Grouper had the cozy advantage of the Carolina Theater but regardless.   Towards the end the droney, drifting and echoing sounds won me over despite her issue with the tremolo from an earlier appearance, but the performance of Colleen beforehand combined with my illness were reasons it started off slow for me.  I would be open to seeing her again without all the distractions.

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Pharmakon credit – Caleb Smallwood at ig@calebbsmallwood

In previewing Pharmakon, i compared her energy to Japanese noise artist Masonna. Perhaps she’s a level below when it comes to matching mayhem, but her intensity couldn’t be denied during her 30 minute set.   She stormed around the Motorco Music Hall focused on whatever compelled her convictions.  Militant distorted drum beats and random sounds fluctuated from chaos to steady like a power electronics act from a Cold Meat Industry label.  She tested the audience that stood in her way, jumping from the stage, marching across the floor, emitting a bellowing rage, flipping the chord of her microphone like an endless cape.  The audience was not bothered by it.  There would be no fight with it.  They wanted to hear what she had to say, despite her voice buried in maddening distortion and fury, despite the chord’s incessant contact with whoever cared to be in proximity.

Flying Lotus was a last minute watch.  Pharmakon’s performance went less than 30 mins and by coincidence he was running late.  The last couple of times Flying Lotus played it was in bigger venues than what i believed was more appropriate.   I was thinking to myself is it because he collabed with Kendrick Lamar?  Has it been this way all this time?  The park was flooded from front to back as i witnessed from the VIP area above.  It was a far distance but better than dealing with the crowd like i did last year with Grimes and Odesza fans from Moogfest 2016.  I was expecting more of a power performance with singer/collaboraters commanding the stage.  Oddly it didnt happen as much.  I thought to myself are his followers comparable to Grateful Dead fans?  with music combed from hip hop to psychedelic and jazz influences modernized by electronic while flirting with radio accessible songs in between?  The verdict is out on this one.

The overall theme was my struggle to make it through the event because of illness.  There’s other interviews, installations and performances i checked but i either didn’t enjoy it or was in no mood to even try.     It hasn’t dampened my opinion of the concept and layout of Moogfest though.  To me its more than a festival set up in the middle of nowhere.  Here’s to many more of them in the future.  Oh yeah did i tell you that Hannibal Buress interviewed Syrinx and Animal Collective?  I didnt watch the whole discussion but whatever i caught was fun. #moogfest2017


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