Previewing Moogfest 2012
BY RYAN SNYDER firstname.lastname@example.org
Tricks and treats? Moogfest will usher in rather significant changes in its third year, as the Asheville electronic- and dance-music festival continues to rewire itself more often than the music it celebrates.
A three-day-long costumed party thrown over eight downtown venues in the past — a Halloween trial for the festival-weary — Moogfest-proper has officially been pared down to a more manageable, two-day show in six spaces, happening Friday, Oct. 26 and Saturday, Oct. 27 in Downtown Asheville.
There are treats, however, including a particularly delicious aperitif served off its books when French electronic duo Justice give a conveniently unrelated performance at the ExploreAsheville.com Arena (formerly the Asheville Civic Center) on Thursday night. And while some might see Moogfest’s local music showcase overlapping North Carolina music sidebar as only a token nod to Asheville’s local offerings, position assumes that the music of Bob Moog is inherent to the state’s musical heritage. It’s not. The Moog influence is worldly and digital, existing across borders and genres simultaneously, and the festival’s lineup is a reflection of that.
KILLER MIKE — FRIDAY, 7:30 P.M. AT THE ORANGE PEEL
Many words have been written in this space about the hulking Atlanta emcee Killer Mike, but fortunately opportunities continue to present themselves. Killer Mike is simply a rapper who needs to be heard, even if those he speaks directly to likely never will. He’s the (large) embodiment of a disenchanted and disenfranchised consciousness who would just as soon pitch real daggers at the establishment alongside the lyrical ones. His gregarious sense of humor doesn’t always come through in virulent hooks like “I’m glad Reagan’s dead” from his outstanding album RAP Music, but his live shows are a different story. With his wife behind him pouring out cups of spiked purple Flavor Aid, Mike delivers his propaganda with a slizzard smile. He has a good time and wills his audience to do the same, but if you don’t come out a little angrier than when you went in, you weren’t listening.
MORTON SUBOTNIK — FRIDAY, 8:15 P.M. AT DIANA WORTHAM THEATRE
Only at Moogfest could the trippiest performance of the weekend come from a grandfatherly composer unearthed from academia. Last year, it was minimalist godfather Terry Riley. This year, it’s Morton Subotnick, the man who unwittingly gave birth to house and modern music 45 years ago when he created Silver Apples of the Moon on something called simply an “electronic music machine.” Since then, his work has been of the distinctly avant-garde nature, i.e. a certain degree of tolerance is required. While there’s zero chance that anyone will jump out of their seat at the Diana Wortham Theatre and dance as he spins his decades of work (even through possibly the first-ever beat drop), this is one of the events that sets Moogfest apart from your gardenvariety electronic festival.
EL-P — FRIDAY, 9:30 P.M. AT THE ORANGE PEEL
Apologies to Nas, but the Orange Peel is hip-hop-head heaven on Moogfest Friday. A brief window to run see God’s Son after Killer Mike does present itself, but only if you want to gamble missing part of a set by a superior emcee with better beats in a smaller venue. Not to mention that, given the imperishable bond between he and Killer Mike, that hour-long set changeover may not even need to happen at all.
PRIMUS 3-D — FRIDAY, 10 P.M. AT THE EXPLOREASHEVILLE.COM ARENA
Les Claypool said in a recent interview with Billboard that Primus’ upcoming 3-D tour is going to be “for the head,” which begs the question, “What do you call the last few tours?” As if large animatronic puppets weren’t 3-D enough, Primus might have hologram Winona’s Big Brown Beaver and hologram 2Pac sharing Taco Bell onstage (probably not, but who knows?) at their top-billed set on Moogfest Friday. Whatever it is, it will be unique to that performance, because Claypool promises a different experience at every stop. Hologram Bob Moog, anyone?
GZA — FRIDAY, 1 A.M. AT THE ORANGE PEEL
When Wu-Tang don GZA toured earlier this year on his timeless album Liquid Swords, it opened the book on the possibilities of live hip hop. Already possessing one of the most imperious collections of beats since Kool Herc laid needle to vinyl, its recreation by the nine-piece Latin funk outfit Grupo Fantasma during a mini-tour this spring instilled it with nuance that can’t be conveyed by turntable and laptop alone. The infamous sample riff of Willie Mitchell’s “Groovin’” reconstituted through an Afro- Cuban lens rendered it only vaguely familiar, but equally menacing and on point with GZA’s schismatic flow. It’s a new tour with a new band, however, as Waaves’ Nathan Williams will provide instrumental support to GZA with his new psychedelic side project Sweet Valley. It will be Wu Tang Corp. meets Motown on acid — you’ll know it, but it will still all sound new.
THOMAS DOLBY — SATURDAY, 10 P.M. AT THE THOMAS WOLFE AUDITORIUM
Science! How it’s taken three years for the musical director of the TED house band and the writer of the presupposed Moogfest anthem to make an Asheville appearance is beyond even the scientific method. Dolby’s catalog bears more than just responsibility for no. 20 on VH1’s “100 Greatest One-Hit Wonders”; he also wrote the score to the enduring classic Howard the Duck. No seriously, there was also the FernGully stuff. No? Somebody help me out here.
DEATH GRIPS — SATURDAY, 10:30 P.M. AT THE ORANGE PEEL/ORBITAL — SATURDAY, 10:30 P.M. AT THE EXPLOREASHEVILLE.COM ARENA
As with any festival, conflicts are inevitable, but the Orbital vs. Death Grips cockup just seems willfully malicious. On one hand, there’s the reunited Brit-rave demigods Orbital whose new album Wonky, their first in eight years, proved one of the best comeback albums of the last few years. Their Moogfest Saturday headlining spot gives them a venue large enough to enact their visual onslaught of black magic in its full glory. They are a duo built for Halloween weekend on the sensory level, but on the other, Death Grips have the potential to actually scare one shitless. Fronted by the imposing MC Ride, the lovechild of Wesley Willis and Tiny “Zeus” Lister, Death Grips are shoving punk into its next evolution much like Bad Brains did in the late ’70s. Ride flows like Clubber Lang swings: erratically and violently, each blow capable of a knockout, but there’s a deep, sinister message to his lyrics (when they’re intelligible). “I’ve Seen Footage,” one of their most accessible tracks (and their aren’t many), has Ride completely disassociating his cruel experiences with the ghetto, only recalling them as though he had seen them on television or dreamed them. It’s heady stuff that’s difficult to process in the mistral of drums and death rattle synths, but the feeling of being present at the advent of a major shift in music will more than make up for it. And come on, they put an actual, erect phallus with the title scrawled on it on the cover of their new album.
CARL CRAIG — SATURDAY, 12 A.M. AT THE OR- ANGE PEEL/SHPONGLE — SATURDAY, 12:30 A.M. AT THE EXPLOREASHEVILLE.COM ARENA
When it comes to honest-to-God, buckle-your-knees dance music of the old-school variety amidst hours of brutal hip hop, quasi-academic ambient, squarepegged rock and Pink Floyd laser-light shows, there are two options and they perform opposite one another. Shpongle presents “The Masquerade” is Simon Posford’s worldbeat mashup sieved through the trance idiom, but minus his spiritual guru Raja Ram, who is allowed back into the country but missing from the US dates. The music and its scene pegs the meters while the festival is ostensibly winding down. Consersely, the music Detroit Techno hero Carl Craig is warm and minimal, with smooth builds and releases, the perfect comedown set.