Showtime: Moogfest 2011

The electronic and indie rock extravaganza Moogfest fell on a chilly Halloween weekend this year. Moogfest takes place in Asheville the hometown of sound engineering visionary and electronic instrument inventor Bob Moog   (he invented the synthesizer as well as countless other electronic instruments).It’s a music and arts festival that showcases musicians and bands that integrate electronic instrumentation into their music — this includes a diverse group of performers — from synth pop to indie rock to DJs.

I drove up to beautiful Asheville from Atlanta and was happy I had the foresight to pack some winter gear as it would dip into the 30s at night. Although most stages were set indoors at the various venues around town — the Asheville Convention Center, Thomas Wolfe Amphitheatre and the Orange Peel — there was one outdoor venue. The Animoog Playground stage sat outdoors in a large parking lot where the likes of Chromeo, Mayer Hawthorne and The Flaming Lips performed.

Mayer Hawthorne hit the stage early Friday evening while a cold rain pelted the brave onlookers. Despite the inclement weather the band persevered and gave an energetic performance.   Hawthorne was smooth cruising through the funky beats with his confident and upbeat vocals.

Bradford Cox of Atlas Sound performed at the Orange Peel. I was happy to get out of the rain and into the warmth of the small club. Cox took a seat in the center of the stage. The set up was pretty unassuming and unadorned besides the three projectors on the walls at the back of the stage showing colorful and hypnotic imagery.   Highlights included “Walkabout” which Cox sang to great effect sans Noah Lennox. The set started with some of the more energetic sounds of the Atlas Sound catalog then journeyed into the more ambient and droning fair. Cox strummed his guitar, with a harmonica around his neck — occasionally playing, turning knobs on his audio mixer while crooning his intimate and introspective lyrics.

I ran back to the Animoog stage to suffer through some more rain. Chromeo showed swagger with their funky, synthesizer driven music.   Dave 1 was dressed in a black leather jacket and tight jeans while P Thugg wore a black beanie and a big Starter jacket — both wore sunglasses even though it was already dark outside. The music got the crowd dancing as Dave 1 amped them up singing in his sexy style. P Thugg mixed up the beats and played the keys that kept the audience moving — warming them up to spite the cold.

Saturday night was a night I won’t soon forgot with the awesome performance by The Flaming Lips. Wayne Coyne pulled out all the stops at this show. His entry on stage began with a brilliant light show and the birthing of his band and himself from pulsing and hypnotic womb.   Before the lights and lasers Coyne warned the crowd about the visuals and that the bright lights can cause some people discomfort- he advised anyone experience those symptoms to look away. When Coyne exited the womb he entered a clear plastic sphere which was inflated and he used that to crowd surf. Eventually he returned to the stage and began his performance. It was an epic intro to epic set.


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