Kraftwerk. I was actually seeing Kraftwerk. I couldn’t believe Moogfest 2014 was bringing me Kraftwerk, and that the legends were standing before me, on stage, at Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. I bought my first Kraftwerk album in the 1980s and here there were.
I was stoked for a big Moogfest Day Two, and this legendary band was going to kick off right for me. Kraftwerk got off to a slow, building start. The band members stood, nearly still, behind this synth stands as a 3-D projection show featuring Metropolis-like cityscapes and flowing Matrix-like numbers swept behind them.
Then, about five songs into their set, the bass dropped out of the music. The music, quieter and much thinner, went on for another couple of minutes before trailing off. After another minute or so, the band walked off the stage. No announcement, no explanation for about 10 minutes. Finally, a Kraftwerk band member returned to stage and told the audience in the auditorium (which was only about half full to start) that technicians were on the problem and it should be fixed in about 15 minutes.
I was thrown off. Should I wait? Should I go and try to catch something else? The breakdown – during a festival trumpeting the power and glory of technology – was another in a day of niggling glitches. The slideshow during the daytime panel featuring Janelle Monae didn’t work. Performing at New Earth, Black Dice literally blew the power out. (The band was playing, then suddenly blackness and quiet. It took about 10 minutes to fix.)
I decided to move on, and noted that Kraftwerk got back up and running after about a 20-minute stoppage.
Arriving at Diana Wortham Theatre, I caught the tail end of Keith Emerson’s set. Backed by his massive, 10-foot-tall Moog synthesizer and mastering his Hammond, Emerson had worked to a frenzied crescendo, and everyone in the packed theater hung on his every note. The crowd erupted into a standing ovation. It was a show to remember, and I look forward to reading a full review from someone who saw it all.
Yacht an Dan Deacon rocked the hell out one of Moogfest’s surprising venues, New Earth Asheville (the former Club Metropolis/Remix.) Renovated and featuring better lighting and sound, the bands were both danceable crowd-pleasers. Deacon, for me, is a guaranteed good time.
Other random notes:
-Zach Saginaw, who performs as Shigeto, warned followers on Twitter that he likely wouldn’t make his Moogfest performance because of air travel delays. But he DID make it, and from the reports I read, he played a great show pretty much straight out of his luggage. Rock!
-The dayside offerings continue to be impressive. Jane Monae and her collaborators, Chuck Lightning and Nate Rocket Wonder, held a thoughtful discussion about their science fiction inspirations, and delved into using super powers for good, developing mind over matter and considering the real versus the unreal. It’s just damn fun listening to intelligent people share their ideas. (Too bad a slide show that was supposed to accompany the discussion didn’t work. And the discussion was too long and, at times, inaccessible to the passing fan. It’s all about the moderator, people.)
Later, at the Masonic Temple venue, Neil Harbisson literally blew minds with his description of how he decided to overcome his color blindness by deciding to experience color through sound. Harbisson described his decade-long journey to craft what is now an antennae surgically implanted in his head that allows him to hear colors. The sound literally reverberates through his bones. A self-described cyborg, Harbisson said his new sense allows him to see people’s faces as music, allows him to wear a song through the color combinations of a certain suit, and to take joy in a salad that sings to him. I saw Harbisson later rocking out.
The “durational performances” at the Center for Craft Creativity and Design, across Broadway from the Masonic Temple, are also engaging and intriguing. I can’t wait to see what Deacon has in store there.
–“The Basement,” as it is known, is a confounding venue. It is literally the depths of the U.S. Cellular Center, but on maps, it is labeled as USCCB, an acronym nobody gets. At the venue, there’s no signage, and people on Wednesday night were able to enter the basement from the outside back entrance, while on Thursday, people were required to enter through the front of the Cellular Center and then walk down four descending ramp. Paint is peeling off the white walls and the trek gets a little desolate. That said, the stripped-down industrial feel of the basement lends itself to the DJ house music bouncing off the all the concrete.
-At the shows I’ve attended, the lines are minimal, although there are delays with Moogfest volunteers scanning attendees in and out of venues. It never hurts to arrive early, because the venues take some time to get to as you traipse through town.
I’m absolutely blown away at the level of planning and insight into the needs of the local economy and appetite for entertainment. I was very impressed with Janelle Monae, Chuck Lightning, and Nate Rocket Wonder…the only thing that rubbed me the wrong way was how they wanted to make cyborgs a new minority that needs a rallying cry around it as a disaffected class. I would love to see a higher call to the thought leaders of the future…or a more inspiring future than a perpetual quest for the new underclass that we must all feel guilty about. A pacemaker makes you a cyborg…it doesn’t make you the ‘new black, the new gay, the new woman’. That kind of thinking will never allow for true equality, it will only create more division…the opposite of the intentions. So much won going on otherwise! 😉
A couple of years back, Mogwai played at The Orange Peel, and something similar happened. They came out, and the sound was just horrendous, nothing at all like their big thundering crescendo’s. One of the band members stepped up to the mic and said” We’re having some technical difficulties, we’ll be back”. After about 15 to 20 minutes of techs scrambling onstage, they came back, and it was day and night difference.
Missing the good old days of fun crowds, full houses, shows starting on time, a decent website, informative and interactive social media updates etc, etc, etc. Amateur hour is here and it’s a shame to have our fine town represented like this.
Just an FYI, I was able to get in the “the basement” from the outside direct entrance last night (Thursday).