December 3, 2012

Moogfest Day 3: Four More Years of Moogbama

Day 3, a.k.a. the last day of our Moog coverage! If you missed parts one and two, you can find Part 1 and Part 2 over here. Now onto the "content". Because that's why you're here. You're here for "content". Remember: Giancarlo is in red, and David is in blue.

Waking up at on a cushioned surface can do wonders for your health. As our hosts from the night before left for work, David and I ventured back into Asheville’s downtown. As interesting as the town is, we found ourselves with a lot of time to kill before the Moogfest’s final night. Judson Rogers, aka Sumsun, was great to catch up with the day before, and when he invited us to spend the afternoon with him in his mountain retreat, we jumped in our car and headed down to Tuxedo, a tiny community about half an hour south. Two years ago at Moogfest, Jheri and I stayed with Judson here at his family’s lakeside home, and I was excited to kick it back again with him.

Like Giancarlo said, that morning, we went out to the deep mountains (so deep one of the nearby towns is called Zirconia, a name straight out of Final Fantasy) to visit Rogers (who recently signed to L.A.-based electronic label Halocyan) at his house, which is situated on an enormous, partially dried lake. We spent the day wandering the lake looking for treasures, climbing an old grain silo buried in the forest and just having a damn good time talking about music. We headed out that evening to head back to Asheville for the final day of Moog.

Heading back into town, that creeping sense of exhaustion and confusion that sets in as the night comes on feels almost comforting. The secret pleasure of finding a free parking space mixed with stupor, can make any place seem dreamlike and exotic. We were running a little late, but as we casually entered the Orange Peel, the energy caught up with us.

Our first experience was Cold Cave, the brainchild of frontman Wesley Eisold, a former vocalist from a number of bands in the hardcore scene. I was unfamiliar with them, all in leather jackets and carrying a "too cool for school" attitude that only wearing sunglasses in a dark club can bring, I was excited to see what they were all about. They ended up filling the venue with a dark vibe that made it seem like a much more intimate affair, like if I was jamming out in the wet, cobblestoned basement of an English pub. The quality of sound from the Orange Peel is amazing, and hearing Cold Cave was exemplary of it.

We arrived back in Asheville in time to catch a quick bite at Mama Cita's again, heading into Orange Peel just in time to catch 80's-inspired coldwave act Cold Cave. Their singer looked hella bored and I shared his sentiments. Cold Cave to me has always seemed like a low-brow Depeche Mode, sans the originality and songwriting ability that makes Depeche great. If you're gonna do New Wave, at least do it with some panache. The crowd did dance hard during the hits, so there was SOME enjoyment to be had.

As soon as Cold Cave finished, the crowd changed from new-wavers to scrawny white boys in anticipation of internet buzzband Death Grips taking the stage. By scrawny white boys I mean no less than 4chan's finest. As I suspected, when I casually mentioned /mu/, 4chan's volatile music board, casually to Giancarlo, ears perked up all around me, as two or three kids asked me if I was a /mu/ user and part of the ARG, a long promotional campaign involving cryptic messages and the TOR network that Death Grips ran on the board a few months ago. It was really sort of funny to watch a dude wax poetic about the aesthetic beauty of an album called NO LOVE DEEP WEB, as if it were Eric Satie or something. To the crowd's credit, they did go HAM during Zach Hill's soundcheck and maintained that energy throughout most of the set. The show itself was average. It was definitely solid, MC Ride is a bad motherfucker who goes ape shit for 30 minute chunks with no break in between songs, but it wasn't the second coming of Christ that the WWW has made them out to be. Temper your hype for good things a little, guys.

We started at the Orange Peel to check out Death Grips. I have only heard about them so I expected an intense show of screaming mock-rap that's risen with OFWGKTA. As the show began, the singer matched his photos. He flailed around for a crowd that was excited to be there yet looked uncomfortable watching him. Maybe it was too early in the night to be thrashing. My focus went in and out, ending up on the edge of the crowd, debating with some others their drummer, underground legend Zach Hill, and whether he was indeed the greatest drummer of all time. It looked like a lot of fun, and even their simple set up sounded impressive at the Orange Peel, but I turned and made the jog back to the civic center to check out one of the nights bigger acts, Orbital.

The place was packed walking in. English techno sells, no doubt. I had listened to a few tracks before coming here to get familiar with them and they sounded like a lot of fun. From the very beginning I was impressed. The duo has been on the beat for about two decades now, but they still delivered a performance that sounded new and created an audience full of energy. Creating a nonstop ballad of amazing music and rhythm, blending their own large selection of tracks with 80s pop classics like Belinda Carlisle’s “Heaven Is A Place On Earth” put the full venue into hysterics. Everyone was dancing with complete abandon, including myself.

Not giving my ears any rest, I next went to the mass trance rave that was Orbital, probably my second favorite set of the weekend. You ever seen Hackers? Mortal Kombat? Mean Girls? Yeah you know that one Orbital song then. The arena was packed more than even Nas had been, and the urge to dance was irresistible no matter where you were in the room. It was probably the closest thing to the packed 90's raves of lore that I've ever been part of.

After Orbital ended, I stood around talking to a friend from Duke University that I had seen earlier in the evening. We briefly went next door to check out the warm, minimal techno of Four Tet, and were greeted by an usher that said every seat left was in the balcony and that we should head upstairs. Four Tet, a veteran of Moog, had a live crowd going, and even from the top of the venue I could feel the energy in the room. I wasn't really keen on ending my night in the balcony though, so after a text from Giancarlo, I decided finish Moog at the cerebral dance party that glitch-hopper Prefuse 73 was throwing over at Asheville Music Hall with him. Fellow organic-sound beatsmith Teebs was supposed to be on the set too, cancelling at the last minute thanks to an American Airlines-related snafu. No matter, Prefuse killed, and it was a wonderful way to end what had been a great weekend of electronic music. Moog til' infinity.

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