We woke up groggy. Super groggy, actually. Night of The Living Dead-type. We went for coffee at a nearby Hardees (easily avoidable mistake) and summoned our energy up for another day of Moog, then onto downtown, where we met up with Judson and our friend Lexy (whom we crashed with back at Moogfest 2011) to throw down on some Mama Citas burritos. We collected some local alcohol afterwards and headed over to Apothecary, a nice little DIY music venue not too far from the main thoroughfare of Moog. Stuck around for a while at the space as some local bands played. A short time later while smoking a cig on the curb, I got word that the show had been delayed because of noise complaints. So a bunch of us trolled around the city for the afternoon, seeing some shops, and pre-gaming for Moog at the Beir Garden where one of Lexy’s roommates worked.
Yeah, already drained from Justice, I can see how Moog being just two days was an advantage. It was fun partying with friends from back home, but I was especially excited to be reunited with friends who I hadn’t seen since last Moogfest. Now that we were all officially ;in full swing, costumed characters could be seen mysteriously walking around us as we caught up with Lexy on the last year's worth of events. The weather usually requires a coat or at least a jacket, but it was completely optional this year, so "thank you, global warming".
Later that night, we arrived at the expertly staffed Orange Peel (seriously though, play nice or they will kick you out for fucking up once) for Killer Mike, our first official set of the festival. Although I had caught him at Hopscotch the month before, the rest of my group wanted to see him, and to be real, his sets are too wild to miss. Even on his off nights, dude is an immaculate performer. Consider that by this set, Mike had been on tour for almost two months, an exhausting feat for any musician no doubt, but even towards the end of his tour cycle, here was this dude on point and bringing his stage persona and bombastic delivery 110%. I really wasn't left pondering while leaving the Peel whether or not he was "glad Reagan dead."
He encourages the kids to vote. It was a fantastic way to start the night, and all my energy had returned to me by the end of it as we ran across downtown to the civic center.
Next for me was rapper veteran NAS, who had completely filled the arena. The energy coming from the crowd simply exploded as the lights went down. Accompanied by his whole band, NAS came out looking fresh, seemingly with the energy and hunger of any newcomer to the game. Throughout his set he expressed how grateful he was all the support the crowd was gladly giving. His humility was endearing, and his outstanding performance was one that no one at Moog should forget. Though I didn’t know much of his catalog, I had a great time listening and ended up picking out familiar beats and tracks that made me realize I was a fan of Nas before I knew it. After he finished, I watched from the stands above as a river of people flowed out of the center into the night as two large astronauts were being set up. I was not excited for Primus at all. I can appreciate the diversity that Moogfest brought this year. Originally sticking to experimental electronic bands as when The Octopus Project openedfor Devo the first year, their second year opened up to a lot more unique choices; Passion Pit, TV on the Radio, and The Flaming Lips as their veteran acts. So, even in this scaled down year, “Primus 3D” seemed still completely inappropriate. As I picked up my 3D glasses a knot began to form in my belly with the dread of something gimmicky and disgusting, more akin to U2 3D than Spy Kids 3D. I mean, even a week later, I am not sure what I saw that was so much more 3D than seeing them in person, which is 3D by definition? They began to play well, and seemed to generate a good crowd, but looking at the stage, I was dumbstruck by what I was watching. The only noticeable visuals were on one screen behind them, and the visuals were just awful. Not only because they looked lazy with graphics that popped out like an old cellphone screen saver, but they were clearly just several year-old clips ripped from YouTube! For the time that I bothered to stick around, they simply showed excerpts of a popular British flash cartoon from 2005 called Salad Fingers that I hadn’t seen since high school. I couldn’t handle too much of it, and left assuming that Moog not only wanted to appeal to a diversity of musical acts, but a diversity of audiences as well.
Nas at the arena, as Giancarlo mentioned above, was really captivating and an interesting change of crowd for the festival, way older and more racially/ethnically diverse. Standing towards the middle of the hoard of fans watching him spit, I was pretty stoked on the thought that I was actually there, watching Nastradamus perform. I mean, it's NAS, right there in front of you, how you sposed' to react? During the last song, I ducked out to glide over to Squarepusher, which was though, in my humble opinion, the best set of the weekend. His visuals were hypnotizing, sort of a re-appropriation of old early-90's monochrome computer textures, and his glitchy, technical IDM filled the auditorium with cacophonous, jagged noise in the best way. I can still feel the light streaks on the inside of my eyelids.
If I'm being honest here, Black Moth Super Rainbow was a bit of a disappointment. After seeing Tobacco's gooey electronics win over a sizable crowd last year at Moog, I was ready for what psychedelic weirdness Black Moth had in store, but they were slightly unrehearsed on some of the newer stuff (Windshield Smasher started the set and was sort of sloppy) and their visuals, compared to the found-footage assault of Tobacco last year, was more akin to a screensaver, for instance, a picture of a house in a forest that gradually changes. Maybe I expected too much.
After my look at their recently released album, I was also excited to see how BMSR would compared to the fantastic showmanship of Tobacco last year. I even stood around the same spot in the Orange Peel as last year, front and center. Something looked wrong as they filed onto stage, all looking down, as if they just had a fight off stage and now had to work together unwillingly. They started without a word, starting with “Windshield Smasher”. As David just said, no performance or willingness to engage the audience, their frontman burying his face into his laptop. Worst part was watching them made me feel uncomfortable, as they all played in stressed potations over their instruments that made my own joints hurt. After the first few songs they got into some sort of rhythm where they were all playing correctly and they moved on to one of my favorite songs from one of my favorite albums, “I Think It’s Beautiful That You Are 256 Colors Too”. My ears perked up and I was momentarily wrapped in the nostalgia that I was hoping for. It was short lived, and left feeling disappointed. I would be at Fun Fun Fun next weekend and was excited to see them again then, hoping that later on their tour they would be more in sync.
We were beyond tired at this point. The night before I slept on the floor next to a hotel sink and was anxious for the feeling of sinking my face into a pillow. But there was one more important task for me, and that was to see Explosions In The Sky. If anyone, ever, anywhere gets a chance to see them, you must. These Austin, Texas post-rock instrumentalists began with a soft spoken introduction and then dived into one of the most intense and powerful shows I had seen all day. From start to finish, EitS throws every ounce of themselves into their instruments, creating ballads that seem to form and carve the mountains around us as they fall to their knees, continuing to play every emotion into their songs. The lights from the Auditorium’s stage threw their shadows twisting and reaching onto the walls and over the crowd.
Explosions In The Sky were definitely something to be reckoned with. While I had just caught Godspeed! You Black Emperor (e.g. post rock vanguards who Explosions are often accused of apeing) in Chapel Hill earlier that month, I definitely think Explosions live up to their forefathers live in terms of sheer volume dynamics. I snuggled in my seat and enjoyed the contemplative quiet parts, and was erect on my feet for the crescendos, which were loud and vicious and made my neck hair stand at attention. A lovely show to catch in the context of a seated auditorium, for sure.
I left the civic center’s lobby still in awe of Explosions. Their set had the perfect combination of emotions, as I felt caught in an immense world shared with all these people, yet at the same time, it is all forgotten. We all came to share this powerful medium of communication, even when no words have to be said. For just a fleeting moment, all of one’s individual worries and problems melt away, and we can all gather for a common retreat. No matter what the size of Moogfest is now, it will always be a celebration of the beauty of a world of music.