Moogfest, which was recently described by Billboard as a “Philip Dick fan convention surrounded by a relentless bass line,” was in high gear Saturday—the last of the five-day event to feature daytime programming and ticketed nighttime shows. Perfect spring weather in Asheville served as an ideal venue for festival goers, who traversed the city from one locale to the next, navigating a schedule overflowing with events.
During the day, fans were offered the chance to listen and engage with members of Google’s creative team, while up the street, super-producer Nile Rodgers shared stories with audiophiles about his role in creating smash hit after smash hit. Rodgers, who would go on to play a set with CHIC at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium that evening, often delved into subjects outside of music—hearkening to his days being raised by drug dealer parents while working at a Los Angeles airport and cleaning Frank Sinatra’s plane. The discussion was fantastic, and a unique chance to hear perspective from a music legend who was behind many of the 20th century’s biggest songs.
A rumor that Daft Punk would play a secret show Saturday night steadily built throughout the afternoon, but it turned out to be a DJ set by Ernest Green, a producer better known as Washed Out. A lucky 100 fans were allowed entrance to the event, which was held in the third-floor theater of the old Masonic Temple on Broadway. Plenty more could have fit in the room, which is arguably one of the most unique in Asheville, but organizers kept the limit capped. Green’s beats were thick and squashy, and almost as soon as the gig had begun, it ended in half-an-hour.
By that time, Rodgers and CHIC had Thomas Wolfe Auditorium in full party mode. The music icon, backed by a full band, churned out chart-topping hit after another. Songs like “Let’s Dance” and “Le Freak” have been engrained on the ears of casual music listeners for decades, but they became infinitely more awesome while being played by the man who wrote them. Rodgers ended his set with a groovy rendition of “Good Times,” inviting dozens of audience members to join him and the band to dance on stage.
All over town, other gigs were happening. At the Orange Peel, a crowd gathered to hear Avey Tare, a member of Animal Collective, perform new material from his side project—a band called “Slasher Flicks.” Other performances were ongoing at Asheville Music Hall, the U.S. Cellular Center Basement (which is now being called the “rave cave” according to Billboard), New Earth, and the free Broadway stage.
All that set the stage for M.I.A., who attracted a capacity crowd for her set around 11 p.m. The vibe in Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was raucous, as the British-by-way-of-Sri Lankan rapper blasted songs from her hit albums Arular and Kala, along with tracks from newer records.
During her final song, “Bad Girls,” M.I.A. invited dozens of women in the audience to the stage. But halfway through, fans were already making their way to the streets, intent on gaining entry into the next venue as the night grew later and options began to dwindle. Well after midnight, the line for the RJD2 gig at the Orange Peel stretched well down Biltmore Avenue. For those who wouldn’t make it inside the Peel, music at other venues would continue till almost 3 in the morning—and even later at after parties happening around town and in West Asheville.
I would never pay that much money for a festival that doesn’t guarantee entrance to every show you want to see. No way.
I had no problem getting into any music event I attended. The only exception was the workshops, that had caps on participants.
And note that even if an event is at capacity, the chances that you would be waiting very long for entrance are slim, as there’s a constant churn as people move between venues. (I was in line for RJD2, and was in within 10-15 minutes.)
I wanted to like M.I.A. In fact, I do like her recorded material…but that set was one of the worst sets of music I’ve heard in my life. Whoever was running FOH should be ashamed of themselves. It sounded AWFUL.