Monday, January 3, 2011
Moogfest 2010 with Big Boi, MGMT, Van Dyke Parks, Panda Bear and Girl Talk
Asheville Civic Center & Thomas Wolfe Auditorium
So months ago my friend Brian and I jumped on tickets to the opening night of Moogfest because one of very favorite bands, Devo, were slotted to play the festival. Getting these tickets was no small feat in my book - I don't go to big shows or festivals because they're too expensive and I generally don't enjoy them. But this was Devo, and all rules go out the window when it comes to them. Fast-forward to the week before the concert, and Devo gets in a wreck causing the band to miss the gig. We were devastated. But as we were already in the hole 75 bucks, might as well go anyway and make the best of it...
Despite the loss of Devo, the festival offered a pretty good consolation prize - Big Boi. Originally I was bummed as he was scheduled to play on a different stage the same time as Devo, but obviously now that wasn't an issue. So we got into the Civic Center just as he started up, and immediately blew the doors off the place. This wasn't the typical cruddy DJ/MC/hype men live hip hop gig that we're all used to, this was a complete band experience. I dubbed it "Parliment Hiphopidelic" and then was all proud of myself for being so clever (even if it isn't really clever). It was quite simply one of the best show I've seen in ages. Big Boi just released a solo record and as you might expect played a few songs off of that - "Shine Blockas", "General Patton" and "You Ain't No DJ" come to mind. But the bulk of the set was pretty much Outkast's greatest Hits - they played all or at least the Big Boi portions of every fan favorite song by the legendary hip hop duo..."So Fresh, So Clean", "Mrs. Jackson", "B.O.B.", "Ghetto Musick", "The Way You Move", and many more. The crowd was electric, singing along, bouncing on every word and beat like a bunch of half-drunk teenagers (to be fair, a lot of the crowd were half-drunk teenagers). Not only was there a full band (including horns and back-up singers), there were dancers! A group of four young men all dressed in matching outfits, stepping to the beats like it was a black fraternity pledge party. I'm not sure I'd go as far as to say Big Boi made up for us missing Devo, but he came as close as I think about anyone could.
After that gig I was counting anything good that happened the rest of the night as gravy. I've never really been particularly enthusiastic about MGMT, but Brian really likes them and they made the stage after Big Boi. They seemed like two bands - part psychedelic pop band ala The Zombies or mid-period Kinks, and then part popular dance pop band, kind of like Hot Chip but with less Prince covers. I liked both parts, but it was clear the crowd preferred their upbeat dance numbers, especially the super-catchy "Time to Pretend"...you know, that one MGMT song everyone knows that has been used in commercials, most likely to sell computers or phones or some such shit. I enjoyed the gig, and it prompted me to revisit their albums after we got back home.
Honestly, there wasn't much left that either of us was overly excited about. We ended up watching Van Dyke Parks, who most folks know from his work with Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys in their later days. The man was a great storyteller and an unbelievably talented piano player, but for the most part I was pretty indifferent about the baroque pop music. He did end it on a bang though, bringing Clare from Clare & the Reasons out to help him sing the Beach Boys tune "Heroes & Villains" that he co-wrote with Brian Wilson.
The only note I took from the set by Panda Bear: "meh". Pretty fitting actually. One man standing still in front of a bank of electronics and a guitar, with a lot of back lighting and the sound cranked up WAY too loud does not make for a great show in my book. When he first started I couldn't believe how loud it was...my ears were literally hurting. I've never had that happen. We stood strong for a few songs but nothing ever took our fancy, and we strolled back towards the Civic Center.
The Civic Center had one big act in it that night - Girl Talk. And by "act", I mean one guy with a couple of laptops and a couple of his friends blowing toilet paper rolls into the crowd using leaf blowers. I enjoy Girl Talk's sugar crack mash-up songs as much as the next guy, but seeing him live wasn't really much to speak of. After a few minutes the stage flooded with kids dancing and having a good time, and no doubt the fairly full Civic Center were really enjoying themselves, but I've never felt so old and out-of-touch in all my life. I suppose I'm too visually fixated, because it basically boiled down to watching a guy look at his computer screen. But I fully admit I'm probably not the target audience for this one, so we peaced out and called it a night.
Tir Na Nog
There's something I've always found very impressive when a band has a rotating cast of members, especially when all those members are in a bunch of other bands. I'm not entirely sure how they can remember all those songs, but then again I maxed out my memory years ago by memorizing all of the GI Joe character names and members of hair metal bands. Mount Moriah is very much one of those bands, with Heather, the beautiful driving voice behind the act, seemingly the only mainstay. This version of the band featured both of the Cook brothers, best known as two-thirds of Megafaun. I'm pretty sure at least Brad Cook has played with the band before ( I feel like I saw a photo of this somewhere), but this was my first time with either of them performing in the band. Not that it changed anything - they were just as fantastic as they always are, playing one incredibly catchy song after another, songs that would be hits if there was any justice in the world. They really REALLY need to release an album so I can listen to it over and over and over.