Asheville’s music scene had a big year in 2013, with the Robert Moog legacy still impacting Asheville eight years after the pioneer’s death. Also of note this year: local musicians receiving attention from Rolling Stone, Grammys for Asheville, and Asheville getting its own unofficial theme song from part-time Brevardian Steve Martin.
1. MOOGFEST REBORN
Moogfest first made a name in Asheville as a Halloween weekend extravaganza bringing world-class acts to Asheville including the Flaming Lips, Big Boi, Brian Eno and more. But in 2012 Moog Music and promoter AC Entertainment, the Knoxville company that built the original Moogfest, parted ways.
AC Entertainment had done the heavy lifting of the event for three years and held on to the festival concept and the Halloween weekend date, renaming the festival Mountain Oasis for 2013. Meanwhile, Moog Music revealed a completely new vision for a new event, reinventing Moogfest completely, from a three-day party in the fall to a SXSW-like five-day event in the spring with panels, a technology job fair, and a daytime presenter schedule including Laurie Anderson and Giorgio Moroder.
Look for the all-new Moogfest 2014 to debut in April, with a new promoter, Detroit-based Paxahau.
2. MOUNTAIN OASIS: FESTIVAL FORMERLY KNOWN AS MOOGFEST DIDN’T MISS A BEAT
After its business divorce from Moog Music, AC Entertainment and Mountain Oasis held on to value and local impact even without the Moogfest name, bringing Nine Inch Nails, Neutral Milk Hotel, and Animal Collective to Asheville this fall, along with hundreds of thousands of tourist dollars. No lie. Asheville is now home to two of the biggest electronic music events in the nation, one in fall and one in spring.
I’m really looking forward what this could mean for Asheville as creative class royalty pays us a visit en masse twice a year. Collaborations? Connections? Big breaks for local musicians? Celebrity musicians vacationing here or buying homes here?
3. ASHEVILLE LOSES THE BOB MOOG ARCHIVES
A family dispute made news when Bob Moog’s widow donated most of the notes and recordings of the late electronic music pioneer to Cornell University, Moog’s alma mater, removing them from the custody of the Bob Moog Foundation, the local organization (run by Moog’s daughter) that had cared for for them.
BMF Board President Bryan Bell stated that Ileana Grams-Moog had agreed to temporary custody of the archives as a first step in long-term stewardship, only to have her release them to Cornell without consulting the BMF, the organization in negotiation to steward them permanently. Grams-Moog revealed that she had turned down a $100,000 purchase offer from the BMF, expressed concerns that construction of the “Moogseum” meant to be a permanent mecca to Moog’s achievements had never begun, and also expressed concern over the BMF’s financial resources and long-term stability.
Bell responded that the BMF had “rescued” the archives from moisture, dirt and mildew, stored them in secure climate-controlled storage, hired an archivist, and decided to hold off on a Moogseum capital campaign until the economy was in better shape. The BMF’s response on its website is here. Without anything in writing, the archives were hers to give. They will become part of the collections at Cornell.
4. ‘WHEN YOU GET TO ASHEVILLE’
It’s a good music year when your city is immortalized in a hit single from former New Bohemians vocalist Edie Brickell and comedian/banjo picker Steve Martin. The pair released an album and toured together, with the catchy, poignant “When You Get to Asheville” as their leading single, and a new anthem for everyone who ever took a chance and moved here.
5. GRAMMY WINS FOR ASHEVILLE
Asheville appearances in the 2013 Grammy awards this year included a nod to local band Steep Canyon Rangers (and their collaborator, part-time Brevardian Steve Martin); a nomination for the Zac Brown Band’s Uncaged, recorded in Asheville and nominated for Best Country Album; and the Avett Brothers’ The Carpenter, also recorded in Asheville, up for Best Americana Album. Steep Canyon and Zac Brown took home awards.
6 LOCAL ARTISTS IN ROLLING STONE
A single from Asheville musician Jackson Scott appeared on Pitchfork.com’s Best New Track. 19,000 listens later, Scott ended up with a Fat Possum record contract and a new CD release. And local singer and producer Marley Carroll was all over national music media this year, even receiving attention from Rolling Stone for his new CD, Sings.
The Wham Bam Bowie Band–better known as The Cheeksters when they’re not playing Bowie – made a guerilla appearance in Rolling Stone, in editor Rob Sheffield’s picks for the best songs of 2013. PS for Rob: Cheeksters lead singer Mark Casson is from England, and comes by that accent very honestly.
7. DAVID BYRNE BLOGS: ASHEVILLE’S ALL GOOD UNTIL SOMEONE PULLS A GUN
Unfortunately, some of Byrne’s band members saw the dark side of multi-modal transport when a pissed-off cyclist had words with a driver on Haywood Road, and the driver pulled a gun. No one was hurt. And at least Byrne had a great dinner at The Admiral and a scenic riverside bike ride to balance out a scary occurrence.
8. ASHEVILLE MUSICIANS PLAY NYC GIG WITH RODRIGUEZ
This October, local musicians Josh Carpenter, Evan Martin, Mark Capon and Kimberly Roney played a gig at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall with Sixto Rodriguez, the musician whose story was the topic of an Oscar-winning documentary last year, Searching for Sugar Man.
This isn’t the first time that a group of Asheville musicians played with Rodriguez. The Detroit musician played the Grey Eagle back in 2009 with some of the same crew. The group also went on a brief tour with Rodriguez. As Ashvegas said in October: “I love that the connection remains, and I hold out a slim hope that Rodriguez may someday return to play his wonderful music in Asheville again.”
9. APOTHECARY COMES AND GOES
Apothecary opened downtown over the summer as an artists’ resource center. The space was meant to be “dedicated to a volunteer-run, D.I.Y. ethos,” providing “resources necessary to exhibit, unite and stabilize creative initiatives. Through encouraging experimental arts and ideas, Apothecary seeks to cultivate creative community, collaboration, and innovation.”
It hosted art shows and live music, and was briefly an outlet for unusual and experimental music. It folded during Mountain Oasis after hosting a local art show, and is now home to the former Wall Street Coffee Emporium, now the Eagle Street Coffee Emporium.
10. CHRISTMAS JAM 25TH ANNIVERSARY
Talk about longevity and lasting community impact: serious props to Warren Haynes for turning a one-off fundraiser into a musical institution, a weekend of music that benefits Habitat for Humanity and other charities to the tune of $1.3 million for Habitat alone.
11. NEWSONG CONTEST COMES TO ASHEVILLE WITH KILLER PRIZES
NewSong music label founder Gar Ragland moved from Brooklyn to Asheville and his prominent song contest did, too. This year’s winners, The Cardinal Sons, will record here in Asheville at Echo Mountain Recording with producer, musician and songwriter Charlie Sexton. The record will be released by NewSong. The group will also head to New York City’s Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts to play their own show, perform at the Sundance Film Festival’s ASCAP Music Café and appear on NPR’s Mountain Stage show. Wow.
Other prizes include a Little Phatty analog synthesizer from Moog Music, and a handcrafted, made-to-fit Sonus Musician’s Chair from local woodworker Brian Boggs.
And straight from Echo Mountain Recording Studios downtown, here’s the bands and musicians who made records here locally in 2013:
Underhill Rose, The Broadcast, Doug Keith, Truth and Salvage, Letters to Abigail, Justin Ray, Laura Faye (NewSong Songwriting winner), Chris Vellan, Yo Mams’s Big Fat Booty Band, Jeff Santiago, Posh Hammer, Lost in the Trees, Corey Bullman, Xenia Sky, Marcel Anton, Stillwater Hobos, Angel Olsen, Amanda Watkins, Chuck Beattie, Blonde Blues, Lonesome Trio, The Honeycutters, and many more.
Will Patton of TV’s The Office also stopped by to record the audiobook of Stephen King’s Doctor Sleep, a recording later named the Audible Audiobook of the Year.