November 28, 2012

Moogfest Day 1: Justice

For the last three years, Asheville, North Carolina has been a Mecca for electronic music lovers everywhere. The last weekend of October has been dedicated to the sonic pioneer Robert Moog for his remarkable vision and innovation over the course of modern music. His invention of early synth instruments paved the way unlimited potential for use in all genres of music in the last forty years, and the noises coming from those unassuming objects still find their way into hundreds of records every year. Moogfest has been a fantastic tradition for myself and the rest of the Decoder crew. This is our first year doing coverage of it, but between Jheri, David and me, we have been in attendance all three years, supporting the hope for a growing North Carolina music community. Held on the north side of downtown Asheville, the festival has many fantastic venues all operating shows throughout the nights, including the U.S. Cellular Center, with the giant Arena and the exquisite Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, the intimate Asheville Music Hall, and the Orange Peel, a world renowned music venue. So in the same fashion of our coverage of Hopscotch, David will have blue colored font, and I, Giancarlo, will have red.

On Thursday, Giancarlo drove out from Wilmington to pick me up at my apartment in Raleigh so we could head off for the Moog festivities in Ashevegas. We had an enjoyable ride up, (especially compared to last year, where we had a fun situation with a broken window motor on the way to an Odd Future pre-Moog show last year). We rolled into Asheville that evening with time to spare, bounced downtown to pick up our wristbands from the hotel there where we ran into and made friends with Dylan, a nice kid who worked for UNCA's radio station. This became a common theme of many of the media people I ran into over the weekend, everyone seemed to have radio credits, which is ironic because I didn't catch anyone from Raleigh's WKNC (the station I DJ at) over the weekend.

One of the first things I was so excited about getting to Asheville was the festivities of being in costume at Moogfest started from the first one, where the first one happily finished on Halloween. Now in its third year, the festive spirit is still alive and well. Thursday began with the unofficial pre-party with Justice. Although it has been scaled back to two days, the chance of hearing Justice throw a party for the attendees that more than made up for it.

Before the French duo began, a little more local flavor began the show. Atlanta's Distal introduced himself with a style that will be through the festival, ranging from triply techno to gritty hardcore. It was the perfect soundtrack for the everyone excited for the weekend ahead of them. But for me, the party really began with reuniting with a crew of Wilmington friends. Justin and Tommy of Libraries have always cited Justice as one of their main influences with their own dance music, and the excitement on their faces could be seen from across the arena. After a joyful reunion, we all filed back into the stage as a great lit up cross began to be revealed.

We got to Justice and watched the opener, an Atlanta DJ named Distal, who threw down a surprisingly varied mix of old 90's acid rave standards and new tunes. The crowd was pretty live for him. When Justice went on though, any last holdouts keeping their hands down and mouths shut were exterminated by the sonic force that the duo brings live. Not really much of a fan of their EDM vibes, but you really can't deny how amazing their live assault is, blinding lights and rumbling bass and the cross hovering focalized in the middle of it all. I paced the venue and watched the show from a half-dozen angles, amazed at the spectacle of so many people feeling the music.

The hungry crowd had already worked itself into a frenzy when the first note dropped. The duo, made up of Gaspard AugĂ© and Xavier de Rosnay, immediately launched into a sonic assault on the crowd, blending the straight electronic rhythms of their first album,  with the epic rock of their second album, Audio, Video, Disco perfectly. The energy never disappeared the entire night. Anytime the lights behind them rose, an army of flailing arms rose, showing just how enthralling Justice’s music can be.

Their insane set was the perfect way to introduce Moogfest, where there no stylistic limits to genres here, and there is guaranteed to be something for everyone. After the show, everyone quickly and efficiently left the civic center, groups of new and old friends leaving in different directions to explore Asheville’s downtown or to get some sleep for the weekend ahead. Still chanting the chorus to We Are Your Friends, David and I momentarily parted ways with our Wilmington friends to venture further into the night. Being a town enriched with a unique music culture, we were sure to be able to find several free shows along with Moog’s events.

After Justice, we went to the small-but-cozy Asheville Music Hall to meet up with Giancarlo's friend Judson Rogers, who records under the name Sumsun. I chatted with the homie Christian Church, a local muscian from the Asheville area who plays with the group Alligator Indian, check them out, they're rad. It's always nice to finally meet people you know from the digital world online outside in the physical world. Took some sexy Cinemagrams too, of the international-flavored lofi-pop group Levek, who were playing a free show at the joint. Definitely one of the more eclectic shows I saw over the weekend.

After we found out that our friends Tommy and Justin (who we were supposed to crash with) had left for the fabled Justice afterparty, we decided to head back to their room at the Ramada. Lo and behold, after we got to the hotel and chilled in the stairwell for a while, wondering where our friends were, we got a call informing us that they were staying at a different Ramada. Headed over there with egg on our face and partied a little bit with the Libraries crew. Ended up gracefully crashing to the 50 Cent movie on cable. The day was a nice little opening salvo and warmed up us for the fun of the next two days of Moogfest!

Check back tommorow for Day 2!

[All photos © Giancarlo D'Alessandro]

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