Moogfest (Day 2)
I wasn’t all that enthused with this year’s Moogfest line-up when it was released, but I was given the opportunity to take photos for the festival, so I was going to be there regardless. The flip side of not having a ton of shows you feel like you have to see -it leads to a lot more exploration and investigation of the acts you don’t know, instead of just seeing performers that you already know you like.
Case in point – my favorite artist this Friday night was Annie Hart at the First Presbyterian Church. Her name didn’t mean anything to me at first, but after a little digging I discovered she was one-third of Au Revoir Simone. Spacy electro pop in a dark church? I’m there. I’m not sure when they started using this venue, but it was my first time seeing anyone perform here – it’s a great spot. I’m always game for a church performance though – the setting lends itself to a quiet, respectful crowd; though the flipside is you feel very self-conscious while taking photos because many times it was so quiet you could hear the camera shutter over the music. It was definitely a great setting for Annie, adding to the atmospheric vibe of her whole endeavor. Roughly half of the set was just her, and for the rest she had one and/or two other women adding backing vocals, bass, and just a smattering of drums (or rather drum, since there was only one). Sound wise, other than a couple of more upbeat songs, I’m not sure it was really all that different from an Au Revoir Simone performance (outside of the band members involved obviously), or at least I’m not smart enough to spot the differences. It was great regardless, and now I really need to hear that record she released last year called “Impossible Accomplice” (note: apparently it was only released on cassette and since I don’t have a cassette player anymore I’ll need the digital files instead, but the point stands).
I’d planned to do a bit of bouncing around to different venues, as one does at these festivals, but the weather had different ideas. Intermittent downpours meant I waited until the rain was at least somewhat manageable, and then hot stepped it to the Armory to spend the rest of my night. I was planning on only catching a few minutes of Yves Tumor, but I ended up with a full set out of a necessity to keep dry. Yves is just one person for the record – a dude who was dressed like an extra from Blade Runner in futuristic clothes, a white cowboy hat, and what looked like a surgical mask? I’m not sure I have the slightest idea on what was happening on the stage – heavy, industrial noise with a tinge of techno and vocals so distorted I’m not sure he was even trying to form words – and if he was, you’d never know what they were. The only lighting was erratic strobes scattered around the venue (until Yves told them to kill the strobes, and then it was dark as shit). The whole affair was disorienting, ominous, maybe a little creepy…I’m not sure I would call it enjoyable though. My snarky side would say it wasn’t even music, but eye of the beholder and all that, who am I to decide what is music? It just wasn’t for me.
After all of that, whatever that was and whatever you decide to call it, Shabazz Palaces closed down this night at the Armory. The duo was positioned behind a bank of electronics and a wide assortment of percussion for pretty much the entire show, but it still felt like a pretty dynamic performance. The music may be quite different, but it’s hard not to hear Digable Planets whenever Palaceer Lazaro (nee Butterfly) raps, his voice is so distinctive – plus I listened to the fuck out of those two albums Digable Planets released in the mid-nineties. The tweaked out, electrified & fried percussion laid down by Baba Maraire was just as excellent as you would expect from a dude who grew up under an African music master, Dumisani Maraire. The entire time the backdrop was filled with projections that ran the spectrum of anime to clips from the movie “Malcolm X,” which added to the trippy vibe of the performance. It definitely inspired me to spend some more time with some of the Shabazz Palaces recorded output, weird ass space alien lyrics be damned. If Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips can make a career of writing songs about this nonsense, there’s no reason we can’t have a hip hop version of roughly the same content.