Moogfest is upon us, and it’s not messing around.
The first twenty-four hours of the five-day festival began at a slow crawl Wednesday, and finished at turbo-speed early Thursday morning. In the brief three hours I attended, there was no shortage of brain-pounding beats, blinding light displays or dedicated festival goers, all of which circled around Asheville in tribute to the city’s music pioneer, Bob Moog.
Gauging the feel of a festival can be difficult on the first day, especially when the biggest local buzz centers around a surprise appearance made by a politician. I wasn’t present for the VIP pool party at Aloft Hotel, where Gov. Pat McCrory was reported to be happily mingling among guests after having been asked by festival organizers to not attend an earlier panel discussion, but the governor’s party crashing seemed to set a tone for what is sure to be a weird and wild weekend downtown.
Moogfest is doing it different. While Pet Shop Boys had electronic dance-music lovers in a frenzy in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, the basement loading dock of the U.S. Cellular Center—which to my knowledge has never served as a music venue before—was booming with bass-heavy DJ sets put on by members of the Crew Love collaboration. Down the street, the line for Flying Lotus stretched from the Orange Peel to Mamacitas, with fans eager to hear new beats and witness an insane dual-screen light show put on by the ridiculously layered rapper and producer. There were plenty of other events happening simultaneously around the city too, and the range of offerings will only increase as the festival continues to build.
None of this mentions the daytime programming, which has the impression of being just as much a hallmark of Moogfest as any of the musical acts. The bulk of sessions and workshops kick off today.
It will be interesting to see how Moogfest evolves in the coming days. It’s a festival on overdrive—unlike its previous installments and absolutely overwhelming from the perspective of a casual fan. An article previewing the festival in The Guardian last weekend described the lineup as “so irreproachable it’s basically absurd,” and so far the assessment seems like a fair one. But five days is plenty of time for the festival to seal its identity as one of Asheville’s premier events, and initiate those who haven’t spent much time around synthesizers (and by that I mean me) to their unique world.