Moogfest took over downtown Asheville, NC, from April 23 to 27 across multiple venues. The electronic music festival celebrates Robert “Bob” Moog, the inventor of the Moog synthesizer and founding father of electronic music. The Moogfest crowd danced the night away for five nights to the likes of Flying Lotus, Kraftwerk, Pet Shop Boys, RJD2, M.I.A, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers and more.
On opening night, the Pet Shop Boys proved they still had it as the duo of Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe wowed the crowd. With dazzling visuals, costumes and dancers, Pet Shop Boys mesmerized the audience with hits such as West End Girls, It’s a Sin, Fugitive and more. Even after nearly 30 years, Tennant’s voice still remains as strong and powerful as it was when Please first came out.
German electronic robo-kings Kraftwerk played three shows in two nights. With an array of amazing 3D visuals (alien ships, city skylines and robots, oh my), 3D glasses were a must. Kraftwerk’s minimalistic yet catchy melodies enticed the crowd as it turned out to be essentially a greatest hits set. Classics such as Numbers, Autobahn, Radioactivity, Home Computer and more, Kraftwerk showed why they were considered pioneers in the EDM genre.
Moogfest celebrates not only electronic artists but also musicians who create work that reflect on Bob Moog’s spirit and creativity. Enter Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, who lit up Thomas Wolfe Auditorium with their amazing catalogue of delicious disco delirium. The crowd clapped, grooved and sang along to megahits such as Le Freak, I Want Your Love, Good Times and more. Niles Rodgers, two years after surviving prostate cancer, was the real star of the show. With his infectious smile and slick riffs, Rodgers brought disco back to life for one night. Niles not only played Chic hits but also songs he wrote for Diana Ross, Duran Duran, Madonna and David Bowie showing how he’s left a wide mark on the music industry.
Chaotic and abrasive, M.I.A. brought the sweat and bass to a boisterous Asheville crowd. With hardly any break in between songs, M.I.A zipped through Galang, Boyz, Paper Planes and Bad Girls. Backed with dancers, glimmering mandalas and swag you could kill for, M.I.A. brought a reckless abandon you’d expect out of a rowdy college party.
Flying Lotus electrified the Orange Peel club crowd with jaw-dropping visuals and an eclectic set list. Playing songs mostly off Until The Quiet Comes (Warp, 2012), the crowd fist-pumped and drenched itself in sweat as the night wore on, offering up a surprise duet with labelmate Thundercat.
Dan Deacon, famous for his live shows, didn’t let Moogfest down. Deacon had the crowd getting down on one knee to proclaim their awesomeness, having random dance offs between crowd members and successfully got his signature dance tunnel around the New Earth Music Hall from upstairs to downstairs (to my surprise). Deacon with his psychedelic and experimental beats more than hyped up the crowd for YACHT.
YACHT brought it on fierce with their electro synth pop jams for all of the New Earth Music Hall to see. Claire Evans and Jona Bechtolt provided hilarious banter and a energetic live performance as both individually jumped into the crowd at random points eliciting gleeful euphoria. At one point Evans yelled, “Let the motherfucker burn” during their song Dystopia (The World Is On Fire), and boy did they! They ignited the hall leaving nothing but a swath of sweat-drenched fans dancing away.
Mix Master Mike (of Beastie Boys fame) shredded the turntables for the crowded Broadway Street Outdoor Stage, playing Beastie Boys hits than randomnly dropping rock songs into his set to the crowds delight.
With an array of five turntables and mixers along with a live drummer and a bass/bongo player, RJD2 was on point. Showing that he is truly in a class of his own, RJD2 mesmerized the packed Orange Peel crowd while gliding effortlessly in between turntables, switching/scratching LPs and adjusting levels—all live for your listening pleasure. Playing faves such as 1976, Deadringer, Ghostwriter, and Winter Isn’t Coming, RJD2 proved he still carries a load of weight within the DJ scene.
Backed by heavy guitar riffs, pounding drums and massive bass, Saul Williams brought an intensity with not only his performance but his set list. Socially-conscious narratives and aggressive rhymes took the crowd by storm as Saul Williams showcased his enigmatic hip-hop.
Other sets well worth mentioning included: Daedelus (a DJ you must see live, the master of the Monome), Egyptian Lover (all about the 808 drum machine), Eliot Lipp, Black Dice, C Powers, Two Fresh, Tokimonsta and legendary producer/electro-disco originator, Giorgio Moroder—talk about a ’70s dance party to remember!
Words by Jason Demetillo. Photos by Jason Demetillo, Toni Chester, and others provided by Moogfest.