Moogfest Review: 5 Best Shows

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WSOE’s Music Director Tom and DJ Myra got the chance to attend Moogfest 2017 in Durham, NC. Here are their 5 favorite shows!

S U R V I V E

SURVIVE

The most Moog gear I saw throughout all of Moogfest was during S U R V I V E’s Friday night set.  S U R V I V E were all over Moogfest this year doing workshops and even doing a live performance of their acclaimed score of the Netflix series “Stranger Things.” However, Friday night at The Armory, they played a set comprising of their original, non-score music and it was jaw dropping.

Stacks of synthesizers created a wall of electronic sound unmatched by anyone else I saw at the festival.  Most groups are limited to one or two synthesizer players so when you have four people all playing at the same time it is an unusually overpowering sound.  The ability to create booming, rhythmic basslines and gorgeous ascending melodies all at once is S U R V I V E’s specialty and it was on full display at Moogfest.

They ran through a lot of material from last year’s “RR7349” and the acoustics of The Armory augmented their sound to a point far greater than anything headphones or even a nice home speaker system could achieve.  Right after I got home I found myself returning to all of their material with a newfound appreciation of it and a desperation to relive their spellbinding set. [Thomas Coogan]

Listen to S U R V I V E on Spotify!

Talib Kweli

Talib

Talib Kweli is not only a hip-hop artist, but a social activist. Moogfest is an atypical festival in the sense that during the day, there are workshops and talks with the artists, giving them a platform to teach and explain things that they are passionate about. Talib Kweli used this platform to talk about racism in America today, our current government situation and how we can work together to overcome the racist mindsets that still exist in America today.

Kweli shouted out ‘90s kids, ‘80 and ‘70s, doing some back and forth with the audience and cracking jokes about how old he is (41). He shouted out Detroit, Dilla, Mos Def and 9th Wonder.

In the midst of shout outs, one came to life. Coming from not-too-far Midway, North Carolina, 9th Wonder appeared on stage. He didn’t much more than take a few videos and get the crowd pumped up, but it was a sweet surprise.

He played tracks dating back to his Black Star days, ranging across all his albums and closed out with “Get By.”

Though he is clearly a well-established and great musician, seeing him speak at his show was really unmatchable. Between social activism work he has done and things he has experienced, matched with a festival that promotes artists expressing their opinions and views on stage all came together for a spectacular show. [Myra Johnson]

Listen to Talib Kweli on Spotify!

Colleen

Colleen1

Colleen’s set at Moogfest will be her last with her usual setup.  The French musician discussed how her new album, which is apparently slated for an October release on Thrill Jockey Records, is entirely electronic, unlike her previous viola centric work. So, when coming to America to play two shows, one in San Diego and then in Durham for Moogfest, she had to decide whether to debut her new material or give one last glimpse of her old material as it was impractical to bring the necessary equipment for both sets of songs.  She chose the latter and gave the crowd gathered in Durham’s First Presbyterian Church a wonderful live farewell to her old material.

It’s always as intriguing as it is entertaining to watch someone create live loops and Colleen’s viola and percussion combination was just this.  The building sound rang through the church and everyone in attendance hunched over in their pews to get a better look at how she was creating the harmonies and rhythms so seamlessly. The bouncing pizzicato mimicked a typical electronic music sound while retaining its acoustic quality making it one of the most innovative sets of the weekend.  While Colleen seldom sang, when she did, it echoed and harmonized with the layers upon layers of sound she weaved with her instruments and I was equally perplexed as I was in awe.

Her set ended with a taste of her wholly electronic music to come and while it is sad to see her viola go, the flash of modernization to her music was enough to make me eagerly await her upcoming album. [Thomas Coogan]

Listen to Colleen on Spotify!

Dave Harrington

DaveHarrington

Dave Harrington gave a world premiere of his live score for the 1922 Swedish-Danish silent horror film “Häxan.” That sentence does not make a lot of sense for any other festival other than Moogfest.  While it was not a typical festival set or even a typical concert, Harrington brought a dark, brooding score that perfectly complimented the avant-garde film.  I had not seen “Häxan” before watching it projected by Harrington and his band and now I cannot imagine it without his score.

The film is a documentary-style depiction of 15th-century witch hunts in Europe.  Many movies of that age are viewed nowadays as hokey, however, “Häxan” shockingly holds up.  The depictions of hell in particular, while not as convincing as more modern portraits, were admirably grotesque and the set and prop departments should be applauded for their creativity and resourcefulness.

The terrifying and uneasiness of “Häxan” was captured impeccably by Harrington.  Harrington is no stranger to creating grim music but his score employed post-rock and heavy metal stylings that are new to his sound.  I could feel my heart rate following the tempo of the score and each strike of the guitar inched me closer to the edge of my seat.  The score and the film were so faultlessly synched I find it hard to image either existing without the other.

This once in a lifetime concert is not something that I’ll soon be forgetting. [Thomas Coogan]

Listen to Dave Harrington on Spotify!

Flying Lotus

FlyLo

Flying Lotus is a beat maker out of Los Angeles that has been turning heads since ‘06. Having worked with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat, and Earl Sweatshirt, this John Coltrane-descendant is the real deal. With six studio albums and a handful of EP’s, Flylo has kept the public well-fed with his masterful beats and interesting sounds.

Playing the last evening of the festival (as there is still a portion of the day on Sunday), Flylo attracted a massive crowd, especially compared to the other performers. His tracks combined with the visuals behind him were almost hypnotic. The audience gets drawn into them, and almost stuck.

Check out an interview with Steve (Flying Lotus) and Red Bull Music & Culture on his visuals and the making of them. Flying Lotus explains that the visuals let him escape into his show and tell the story that he wants to through his music, rather than worrying about what the crowd is doing or how they are reacting. With that, comes an ambition to do more on stage, and provide more for the crowd, a clear step with the addition of 3D visuals in some of his shows.

This visual component was wildly prevalent during his show. You almost get stuck in the visuals, in a great way, but there is still this aspect of being pulled in. This isn’t EDM with a drop. This is clear cut, electronic, well-made, beats. No clear come up necessary, so no clear come down either. Hypnotic beats. Hypnotic visuals. Incredible performer. [Myra Johnson]

Listen to Flying Lotus on Spotify!

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