Over a year ago, I was connected to the Moog folks and it wasn’t until Halloween weekend that I actually met them. I hopped on a plane with my girlfriend to Durham and rented a car to make our way to Asheville for Moogfest.
Just looking at the schedule, a nice mesh of electronic sub-genres from psychedelic masters The Flaming Lips to the electro hip-hop stylings of Flying Lotus. Needless to say, there was plenty for us to see.
When we got to town, the first thing we wanted to do was eat. Raki and I delicious meal at The Market Place after some quick consultation with Yelp because of their mission to support local farmers. Our choice was well through out: grilled flatbread, roasted parsnip soup, seared yellowfin tuna, and pan roasted duck breast. By far, the best thing we ate was the soup. It was smooth, creamy (without any cream), refreshing, and slightly sweet (because of the apples).
After dinner, we headed over to Civic Center for Holy Fuck for some weird instrumental live electronics. It had been over 3 years since I saw them open up for MIA at Drexel University and I could definitely see their musical growth and stage presence.
A few minutes later, I got a text message from Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller to tell me that he was recording Mayer Hawthorne at a nearby studio. Having been to some of the finest studios in the northeast, I’m fairly confident in saying that Echo Mountain has amazing equipment, great acoustics, and a really mellow, talented staff helming all the gear.
When their set was over, we made our way back to the Civic Center for a trio of amazing performances: Tangerine Dream (which Raki fell asleep at), Flying Lotus, and TV On The Radio. I had never seen or heard of Tangerine Dream before, but they’re apparently a 35-year old ambient group and rarely perform let alone in the US (listen to their 2 hour set here). I totally zoned out when we sat down and the next thing I know, it had been 30 minutes.
We passed out around 2am, woke up early, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed to the Biltmore Estate, which a HUGE 120,000 acre plot of land owned by the Vanderbilt family, which contains a ginormous castle-esque home, farm, winemaking facility, forest, and pond (see pictures at the bottom). Despite the surprisingly cold weather, we trekked throughout the property and made the best of our time.
Saturday night was filled with more food (Laughing Seed Cafe) and music. Laughing Seed was an inferior version of Williamsburg’s Bliss, but still a solid meal. As for the music, we hit up Amon Tobin, St. Vincent, Toro Y Moi, and STS9.
Amon Tobin’s performance was mind blowing. He was hidden inside this moveable cube that had trippy projections on it. The visuals matched the glitchy bass-heavy electronic music.
St. Vincent was such a blast. Annie is such a talented, fun, and appreciative artist. And her accompanying band rocked out a lot harder than I expected focusing mostly on newer songs (off of “Strange Mercy”), which I loved.
It was great to see Toro Y Moi for multiple reasons. I love his albums, but his solo live set was awful last year when he opened for Ruby Suns. Seeing him with a full band helped fill a lot of the missing textures that were missing the first time around. Secondly, it was great to meet Michael from Consequence of Sound and catch up in person after having been on email with him for months for my day job.
As for STS9, I’ve said this for years: they play intelligent, layered electronic music with the emotional builds of post-rock, but have unfortunately not grown out of the jamband scene. Their Moog set was first time I had seen them live since 2005. It started off with a cover of NIN’s Closer followed by songs off their new EP as well some of my old favorites. I left their set a little early around 1:15am completely satisfied and ready for bed.
After all that music, we woke up the next morning and ate breakfast at Tupelo Honey Cafe, which was one of the best meals we had all vacation. In the slideshow below, you can see Raki (trying to) devour the huge sweet potato, pecan, and oats pancake (with emphasis on cake). As for me, I had fried chicken and biscuits with white gravy and a side of goat cheese grits.
We went for a quick walk around town to help us digest the massive brunch and then made our way to Moog store to say goodbye. Inside the Moog store, Dan Deacon and Alan Palomo (aka Neon Indian) did an improvised Moog demonstration that was completely about sound exploration leaving any sort of song structure at the door.
Finally, we headed out of town for on a 9-hour journey of mountainous Blue Ridge Parkway down into South Carolina (briefly) and back up to Durham. We stumbled on waterfalls, mountain peaks, dams, and the random town of Hendersonville, NC for some tasty food.
Overall, I was happy to have had a reason to go Asheville because it was beautiful and filled with such nice people and an appreciation for fine art, food, and culture in general. As for the festival itself. It was perfectly run, great lineup of respected and upcoming and coming electronic artists, and attendance grew from 25,000 in 2010 to over 30,000 in 2011 (exact attendance TBA). But the one major thing I realized for the future is to refrain from inviting my girlfriend to another electronic music festival.