The pursuit of obtaining insightful knowledge should always be a never ending quest. From its starting point of 2004, the Moogfest experience can be summed up with enriching discussions, provocative art installations, state of the art technological interactions, and thoughtfully curated musical performances that all highlight the impact of the culture of creativity. The former New York City and Asheville located festival breathes new air to Durham, North Carolina. The roots, however, haven’t changed of celebrating humans and machines working collectively for a more transhuman future. Here are a selection of pinnacle musical acts that were nothing short of captivating:
The ensemble that Sam Shepherd assembled at Motorco was a breathtaking sight. The band consisting of five other members playing live instruments carefully joined forces to orchestrate the warm, suspenseful and spacious focal points that Floating Points delivered with their debut album Elaenia. Accompanied with a synchronized shapeshifting light show, Floating Points demonstrated that their jazzy, post-rock and electronic sound needs to be heard in a louder live setting. Someone in the audience commented that he wished the set would last forever because of the state of euphoria he was induced in, and there’s no denying that his statement rings oh so true.
Dev Hayes is the definition of cool. Everything seemed to fall to place when it came to Dev Hayes dancing routine, back up vocals and other live instrumentation. All the grooves kicked in with all the familiar hits, but he also played new material that sounded more grand in scheme. Blood Orange was dynamic and scattered, no one knew what would come next. The guitar solos were like candy to the ears with how rich and epic it was. Completely irresistible and soulful.
Ferociously intense, Jlin’s artful footwork pushed forward and left her viewers with a memorable boundary pushing set. The craft of footwork seems to be harnessed by a true master with Jlin sequencing her tracks remarkably in a 160-190 bpm fashion. Track after track, she was always grinning like the way a pet owner comes home to their loved one after a long day of work. Jlin was completely feeling her music more than anyone, and the energy from that flooded the atmosphere of the Armory.
Explosive rap verses, melodic hooks and familiar arsenal of samples were readily available when Ryan Hemsworth took the stage. Being one of the closers of day one placed lots of expectations to how things could end with a bang, but Hemsworth pulled through with staggering visuals and flawless flow. His take on hip-hop and R&B is certainly refreshing as he also jumbles so many other various genres to a melting pot that bangs. The majority of the crowd, too, seemed to know how unique sounding Hemsworth is by the sheer glee that fills up the room when he plays one of his original tracks. No one left disappointed, in fact, they were more excited to what the festival had to offer in the upcoming days.
HEALTH are always a treat with their abrasive noisy sets. Playing a bigger chunk of their new album, it was odd that a band that would entice viewers to lose their sense of hearing would be placed to play during the early evening. Nevertheless, even with the sun out HEALTH dominated with their coldly caustic vocals with their notorious noise pop. Although a feast on the ears, their awkwardly in sync and deadpan movements were also a plus to experience. The assault from HEALTH was brutal, but well worth enduring for.
There’s a soothing, nostalgic component within the pain stricken melodies of Grouper. This bittersweet feeling translated so well live with Liz Harris (Grouper) and her guitar in the dark. Juxtaposed with the audio were visuals that appeared to be of home footage that was every so often looped. The lineage of these visuals ranged from cold and calculated to warm and blissful, which perfectly articulates the sound Harris was trying to convey. Her singing was almost attune to a hum or mumble, but even then her voice uplifted you to feel like you were levitating. After her performance, she walked out without saying goodbye. It seemed abrupt to some viewers, but it made so much end in the sense. It wasn’t a dismissed farewell, but a welcome back to reality.
A hidden gem that blasts exceedingly fun techno, Patricia cascaded complete euphoria to the small stage of the Pinhook. Part of the label Opal Tapes, Patricia’s lo-fi grooves won the hearts of his audience with shouts of joy and ecstasy of how damn catchy these melodies are. The lights glitched and blinded while mixing in with the throbbing bass of those sweet harmonies. Playing some of his own tracks from Body Issues and Bem Inventory, Patricia swooped up everyone to party like there was no tomorrow. His music was born to be translated in a live setting, and rightfully so it delivered without ease.
One of the major founders of minimal techno, Robert Hood executed an objectively perfect set. From start to finish, not a moment was wasted as Hood captured everyone’s attention with dazzling futuristic, abstract visuals and crucial build ups that bring everyone down to their knees with monumental climaxes. Scanning through the room, everyone was in motion one way or another. Hood’s transitions were seamless, and the crowd was an eclectic bunch that collectively did whatever they wanted to have their best time of their lives. Hood was feeling the high energy from the audience and matching that with the loud booming bass was all nothing short of a sweaty, transfixing dance fest.
The legendary Laurie Anderson graced the public with her savvy violin skills. Every time she would play her violin, it was all criminally short but majestically gorgeous. However, what really stood out was Anderson’s storytelling. These intimate narratives were loaded with sensible humor, dramatic twins and turns but most of all had a hint of wisdom to the end that really made you think. It felt like Anderson has seen and done everything, and that we were living in her own strange world.
Julia Holter stunned everyone at the First Presbyterian Church. She resembled an angelic figure with an all ivory attire, and a grand piano was provided by the church for her to do her magic. It would be a complete understatement to say that what went down was momentary bliss. Holter’s voice sounded crystal clear, passionately warm, and eloquently commanding. It was a mesmerizing set of new material mixed in with older works, and people couldn’t help but just be in awe. Holter, at one point, stopped to monitor the time and pointed out that the church’s clock was off. She additionally affirmed that she was right in this case, noting that she’s usually wrong in most cases. Here, no one saw anything wrong with her epic performance as it ended with a standing ovation that echoed to the heavens.
For those who didn’t attend our Spring concert featuring Empress Of, you missed out on a spectacular show. Here, Lorely Rodriguez of Empress Of did a solo set that was all the rage. Lorely spoke of her nerves, but nothing in her set showed hesitation from this performer who was ready to shine. It was a DJ set mixed in of an Empress Of performance that you would see if she had her full band, as in it samples of popular music were cut into the intermissions of her songs to which got the crowd more hyped song after song. Even in the drizzles of the rain, everyone was enjoying the cerebral vibes with smiles, dancing and non stop fun.
Steering away from the traditional rhythms and structures of dance music, Laurel Halo dazzled with immaculately asymmetrical beats that were pounded near the end of each track. These builds up were all bass that made up an airy atmosphere to the Pinhook. The venue was completely packed, which didn’t startle the bonafide Detroit techno artist to does best: deconstruct. Her sound always vary as her discography is all over the place but consistently has always been growing in this process. No vocals were heard that would have ring up memories of her debut, Quarantine, but instead the process was a hypnotic one that was rhythmically playful.
For sure the loudest presence, no one could miss the presence of Sunn O))). People from the balconies of the bars near Motorco Park alongside random people on the street curious over what kind of havoc that was ensuing was exactly was going on when Sunn O))) completed their first riff. The band sounded like they were transported from the bounds of Hell to play for the brave crowd. Screechy, nasty growls with heavy hitting drone were all lined up to be an endurance test for their viewers. Those who
Entering a Tim Hecker show coincided with a haze of fog to where nothing could be seen except a small row of LED lights to the back of the Carolina Theater. Hecker displayed an intriguing deconstruction of how one would conventionally enjoy a show. It was dark, there was a surplus of fog, the volume of the noise Hecker blasted was cranked up as high as he could, and so many other factors to where Hecker deliberately confused his audience of finding pleasure through his act. Nonetheless, the layering done of the noisy ambient Hecker is infamously known for was all but strikingly beautiful. One person described the poetry in this performance as similar as the beauty of watching a ballet show, and that statement couldn’t ring anymore true.
Oneohtrix Point Never
A person muttered during one of the intermissions of Oneohtrix Point Never’s mind blowing rampage was, “This is the future of music”. The tone of this individual, as I would have interpreted it, was a genuine one that was ecstatic to what five, ten or beyond whatever years would roll around to what music could sound like. Spliced up visuals found via Youtube projected on two rectangular boards, lights that could spark a seizure and noisy production that makes your pulse go up really could wrap up what the future could be like, but during this night Oneohtrix Point Never presented the potential capabilities in the mere present. With his distorted vocals, he would command in a hellish voice to what almost felt like an artificial, computerized orchestra. Alongside him was a guitarist (that looked like a good friend of his and a performer earlier that day, which would be Tim Hecker) that shredded ear piercing atonal riffs that perfectly complimented the electronics. It was all enticing futuristic synergy, indeed.
Moogfest had astounding musicians give fantastic performances, but there were also insightful lectures and workshops from people of all types of different industries. The rich synthesis of auditory, kinesthetic and visual learning programs were implemented throughout downtown Durham. From engaging discussions to the founders of RVNG, intimate sit downs with Laurie Anderson and innovative collaborations like Microsoft x Listen partnering up with Moogfest to making a unique interactive exhibition of Grime’s “REALiTi”, and many more daytime activities that separates Moogfest to curating an experience like no other.
Moogfest 2016 was all brilliantly strategized in its new home of Durham. For aspiring musicians, Moogfest is a one stop shop to sample all types of different mechanisms and techniques from other musicians, or people who just love to geek out over technology in general. Moogfest explores the past, present and future to further enrich its participants to critically ponder how they can rightfully contribute to society: whether it be the next person thinking of inventing the next big thing, the empowering fight for humans rights like opposing the HB2 bill, or even just being a regular concert/festival go-er that wants to help propel someone’s music career, Moogfest has you all covered.