Thursday, May 1, 2014

Moogfest in Downtown Asheville - 4/25/2014

with Kraftwerk, Egyptian Lover, Giorgio Moroder, Clark and Moderat
Downtown Asheville

After hearing from so many friends on the west coast and in the northeast go on about how good Kraftwerk has been on their current tour, I called up my friend Brian and decided it was time for a road trip to Asheville - Asheville had Moogfest, and Moogfest had Kraftwerk. 

After a leisurely drive up we hit the streets of Asheville about 5 in the afternoon.  They had the street in front of the Moog factory blocked off and in place of traffic was vendors and food trucks and a big ass stage.  Performing on that stage was a guy named Egyptian Lover.  Initially I thought he was just a guy paying homage to the early days of rap, but it turns out he was an actual part of those early days!  His music was highly influenced by Afrika Bambaataa's "Planet Rock" - very VERY heavy 808 beats paired with a futuristic/robotic sound.  The lover sorta sing/raps his lyrics and had a hype man there to help plus a dude playing keyboards on a couple of tracks.  In a word, it was fantastic. 

Our next destination was up the hill to Thomas Wolfe, where we would see the early show by Kraftwerk (they had already played once the night before and had another scheduled for later this night).  Honestly I don't think there is any possible way to put into words the joy I felt from this performance.  Yeah, it's four old German dudes in matching outfits playing electro krautrock in front of 3D graphics, but it was oh so much more than that.  They played for two hours spanning their entire catalog, but of course I was most excited for the older material - I've still got a smile plastered on my face from hearing "The Robots" and "Numbers" live.  Truly the only even slightly negative thing I could say is I wish they had played "Pocket Calculator," but given how happy I was walking out of that auditorium, I won't be losing any sleep over it.  I might have balked a little bit when I dropped over a hundred bucks for this single day of Moogfest, but this performance was worth every cent if not more.  You can peep the entire set list here, if you're so inclined.

Our minds blown, we left Thomas Wolfe and walked down the hill to the Broadway Outdoor stage to see what exactly the Giorgio Moroder performance was all about.  Of course I was hoping it was a band performing his scores live, not that I actually expected that to be the case; instead, it was just him on stage DJing disco music.  There was a large crowd and they were eating it up, but I just don't need to hear any more Donna Summer ever again.  We rocked some grub from the food trucks, listened to the party music in the background, and then before we even had to decide whether or not to stick around, his DJ set ended and the outdoor stage shut down for the night and we made our way elsewhere.  In lieu of all that, let's listen to the amazing song he wrote for "Midnight Express," "The Chase."

We walked a few blocks up the hill to the Diana Wortham theater and the Warp Records showcase happening there. There was a DJ/musician/performer named Clark doing his thing.  The sort of instrumental noisy-electronic-techno that he was playing is so foreign to my usual listening habits I don't even know where to start in describing his set.  Honestly, my best feel for this is it sounds and feels exactly like the sort of music I, as a non-raver, would expect to hear at a rave - loud, repetitive, beat-driven music with a little glitchy IDM (id that still a thing?) thrown in.  It was pretty interesting for about twenty minutes, but an hour of it was a bit much for me...I was definitely checking my phone for the time at the end. 

The final band for us on the night was Moderat, a German trio made up of two other known acts Modeselektor and Apparat.  I had watched a couple of youtube clips of the group performing live and they seemed interesting enough to check out.   If nothing else, they stood apart from most of the other options in that they weren't just one person with a laptop, but rather Moderat performed like a more traditional band, something that is important to an old fogey like me.  Hell, they even played a guitar on one of their songs!  This would also notably be the only stringed instrument we had and would see all night, for those keeping count.  Not really knowing much at all about these guys, I quite enjoyed their music - I'm not sure what artists I would compare them to of the electronic ilk, but to my untrained ears they sounded a lot like Radiohead's more recent electronic fare, minus Thom Yorke's vocals of course.  There were some vocals though, although they were pretty few and far between.  We watched at least half of their set before heading out, greeted by a giant line of folks waiting to get in the packed theater.  That was a wrap on Moogfest.

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