REVIEW: Moogfest 2011 (Tobin, Battles, FlyLo, STS9, UM & more)

Our buddy Nick Isasi (@noodlecast) wrote up this awesome summary of all the amazing music he caught at this year’s Moogfest in Asheville, NC. There was a ton to take in and he was able to catch sets by Flying Lotus, the Flaming Lips, Battles, Amon Tobin, Holy Fuck and more…

Moogfest is a festival and celebration based around the memorial of Mr. Robert Moog. You know, that dude who invented the Moog Synthesizer which is used in so many music areas today. It was my first time attending this kind of festival that follows the SXSW format of “adopting” a community for a certain amount of time. I was excited to see how it would work. A relatively small town to hold a music festival, festival goers were forced to travel from venue to bar to parking lot to truly enjoy all of Moogfest.

Read on for my highlights from the festival; I grabbed some photos over at the Moogfest Facebook page, so all photos © their respective copyright owners.

Highlights from Friday, 10/28 (Day 1)

The Antlers:

This was the first set of three that I would be seeing in a row at the Asheville Civic Center. It didn’t take long for it to fill up after the band started to play. Coming off a very strong couple of years, they definitely played through most of their new album Burst Apart. They create the perfect combination of emotion and noise. They produce such a raw emotional noise that has brought them to where they are today. Lead singer Peter Silbermann has a unique ability to convey the emotion of a fifty word paragraph into five short lyrics. Definitely good stuff.

Holy Fuck:

Just watching these guys set up to play got me excited. The normal strew of instruments appeared on stage quickly followed by two tables covered with other miscellaneous instruments and objects. Holy Fuck is a band that loves to create electronic noises and music without the traditional items today like laptops and samplers. A flawless performance on some songs that made it sound like a sampler is being used led to this being one of my favorite sets of the weekend. They cranked out song after song without much conversation in between, creating a whole new kind of dance floor with jumping, arms flailing and no lyrics to sing along to.

Moby:

A legend. I was so excited to finally be able to see Moby perform and I’m even more excited to report that he didn’t disappoint. With an hour and a half long set time he had more than enough time to cover a good amount of his library, even though he could have played another hour and a half. Spanning almost twenty years and genres, Mody seems to fit that definition of a genre crossover artist. His DJ and producing skills are nothing to argue with but Moogfest brought out ‘rock star’ Moby leading his full band through all sorts of hits. An impromptu speech during his set about being a raver led to Moby instantly kicking up the BPM making people forget all about singing along and focus on dancing their asses off. Only complaint I have is that before his last song of his set, Shirtless Moby appeared.

Shirtless Moby will now and forever haunt my dreams.

Setlist (via NPR):
God Moving Over The Face Of The Waters, In My Heart, Sitboth, Go, Natural Blues, We Are All Made Of Stars, Lift Me Up, Flower, Bodyrock, Porcelain, In This World, Southside, Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad?, Extreme Ways, Raining Again, The Stars, Honey, Feeling So Real, Thousand

Flying Lotus:

Adult Swim beat artist Flying Lotus has quickly grown to fame in the last five years. At first thought I wasn’t sure if his beats and sometimes experimental genre mixing could work performed on a large stage like this, but fortunately I was wrong. Playing to a capacity filled room with police officers filing in and out trying to avoid chaos from the surge of the Moby crowd, Flying Lotus killed it. Not one seat in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was being used as it was impossible to not be dancing during it. Dropping a sample by Tyler, The Creator got the crowd going, and no one doubted the fact that a DJ is more than a guy behind a laptop by the time his set was done.

Highlights from Saturday, 10/29 (Day 2)

Unfortunately after a miscommunication and then confusion, I missed some of the earlier sets that I wanted to see. But it in no way ruined my Saturday overall. Here’s some of the stuff I was able to see:

Crystal Castles:

Alice Glass has never disappointed me and Moogfest was no exception. Her crazy intense stage behavior is what leads to some of this band’s fame. Coming on stage bundled up for the cold weather didn’t stop her from screaming her lyrics at the top of her lungs. Song after song, layers started to come off until she was just in a t-shirt in what felt like 40 degree weather. After drinking from her 40oz and handing it to an audience member, she stomped, jumped and danced her way through an intense set complete with cigarette break. Every song almost left her collapsed on the ground as she really did use all of her energy in every song of this hour long set.

Flaming Lips:

During the stage setup for one of the best live shows in music today, Wayne Coyne visited with the fans. After taking a few pictures of the crowd and shooting some confetti guns he gave a small speech which in my opinion shows how much he cares about his fans. He warned about the intense use of lights and strobe and that if you are having a bad reaction simply, “LOOK AWAY FROM THE LIGHTS.” He also expressed his deep wanting for no one to get hurt trying to rush the stage or get closer to him and his ‘space ball.’ After each member of the band emerged from a giant LED vagina (no misspellings there, that’s what actually happened), Wayne Coyne was spotted inside a giant ball that was slowly being inflated to capacity. Rolling around the crowd, stopping to put his arms up in victory got the audience members going and completely ignoring the cold weather. Within 20 minutes it was impossible not to have some sort of confetti on your body. Balloons and happiness littered the crowd as Wayne’s never ending source of energy kept popping more confetti filled balloons and strumming on his colorful guitars.

Amon Tobin: ISAM:

Catching only a bit of the ISAM performance was more than enough. I firmly believe no words can explain the amazing visual performance of this electronic act. I do have a few collected quotes from audience members.
“Visually, the coolest thing I have ever seen. And I’ve seen a lot.”
“Were the cubes moving?”
“HOLY SHIT.”

STS9:

With eleven released albums, two live DVDs, and a fame for having amazing live shows, STS9 set a high bar for themselves. And they hit that bar plus more. Described as “post-rock dance music” some people could be skeptical of this band, but attend one show and that feeling will be gone. The lights, music and environment make this a multi-sense experience. For someone who is not too well-versed with STS9, some of this set could have been called repetitive, but they proved that they can easily fill a two hour time slot; when they left the stage the crowd wanted more.

Battles:

Regardless of their awkward onstage presence, this trio proved their success. A band with no lead singer, their three video screens show recordings and clips of the singers on various tracks. The crowd went nuts during “Ice Cream.” I was surprised to see people dancing just as hard at Battles then at other various dance acts at this festival. Their hybrid, experimental noise had no trouble translating to the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium as flashes of different colored lights kept audience members on their feet.

Highlights from Sunday, 10/30 (Day 3)

A day of tough choices. Had to skip some must-see bands to see others. Didn’t skip anything that is coming through Chicago anytime soon (ahem, M83). Here’s what I did see, though…

Sonmi:

The only local Asheville band on the bill. And what a pleasant surprise they were. Playing the first set of the day to a light crowd, they fed off their own energy and sound rather pleasantly. Each song felt like an original collage of unique sounds, drum fills and guitar riffs, giving them an almost-human electronic sound.

Beats Antique:

No stranger to the festival circuit, this band has been all around in the last year. Their unique sound and eclectic world beats bring something fresh to any festival lineup. Their live show consists of a beautiful mixture of samples, heavy percussion, clarinet, saxophone, stringed instruments and even tribal dancing of a sort. No other band in this year’s Moogfest lineup can boast genres and elements of electronic, world, and belly dancing like Beats Antique can. And they brought it hard. Armed with two dancers that kept changing outfits, a Glitch Mob remix, a Bass Sax, and a handful of props and masks that made their last song into one huge animal thrash party they proved why so many festivals have booked them.

Childish Gambino:

The sole pure rapper of this festival. And a very appropriate one at that. At a festival that boasts booking acts that go away from the norm and use unconventional ways to create their music, Donald Glover’s rap ego Childish Gambino is far from conventional. Acting, writing, stand up comedy-ing, and rapping are just some of the skills that Glover can brag about. But this was all about rapping. With such a top 40 topping genre like rap, it’s hard to just book one act of the genre, but Gambino handled it great. Armed in short shorts and a tight polo shirt, his lyrics flowed seamlessly playing through his wide library of songs.His hit “Freaks and Geeks” didn’t hit as strong as it should but quickly made up by performing his verse in a “Rolling in the deep” remix. He performed some brand new songs from his upcoming album Camp and even free styled over Rick Ross. You can’t argue with his swag, and I’m excited to see the rest of the world discover Donald Glover’s Childish alter-ego

Special Disco Version (James Murphy & Pat Mahoney):

Once Moogfest was announced for the first time last year, LCD Soundsystem was on top of a lot of wish lists. With LCD Soundsystem playing their last show already, it’s a wish that will never be granted. Lead singer and front man James Murphy and drummer Pat Mahoney stopped by for a DJ set nonetheless. And it was great. Mahoney started the set alone, and Murphy met him on stage after about 10 minutes, immediately removing his jacket to an eruption of applause. Like most of the Sunday sets, it wasn’t too full, but enough people to make a dance floor. The disco ball was the first thing to be turned on, and there was no computer to turn on since this DJ set was a true to its name DJ set with nothing but turntables and vinyl. With Murphy mixing drinks with one hand and picking out a next track from his boxes of vinyl with the other, he was the epitome of cool. Their mixes of old, obscure disco cuts of songs blended with the crowd that wanted to do nothing but dance.

Passion Pit:

A Solid two and a half years since Passion Pit released their debut album Manners that gave them a name and sent them on tour pretty much everywhere. Two and a half years later it’s still one of the most addictive,happiest releases I have heard. And so did Moog. At a festival that has synth-everything music why not book a very relevant, very dance inducing synth heavy band like Passion Pit? And that is exactly what they did. And it was glorious. Lead singer Michael Angelakos slingshotted from one side of the stage to another belting out the lyrics full force infront of a wall of lights, LED, and strobes. He continuously thanked everyone for being out in the cold for them and even debuted two new songs. After trying to leave the stage, they were pulled back on by a generous wall of applause and Angelakos commented, “We were having too much fun to leave.” And kept the crowd’s feet above ground for three more songs.

Ghostland Observatory:

One of the most fun groups to see Live today, their formula is simple. Thomas Turner puts on cape and plays the synthesizer and occasionally the drums while Aaron Behrens donates his vocals in a manner which looks like he is leading a revolution. Never staying in one part of the stage for more than four seconds Behrens dance moves made it look like he was swimming in place at some points. Behind the two was the most laser heavy show of the weekend, which could be dangerously seizure inducing given the right conditions. A flawless performance from a seasoned synth duo.

Umphrey’s Mcgee:

I only caught the last seven or so minutes of this show, but it was great. Never really been into ‘jam bands’ Umphrey’s surprised me. A continuous stream of music from the time I got there until the time they finished was great , and even a live mashup of Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4” with one of their songs had me saying “Whoah.”

Gold Panda:

I didn’t expect Gold Panda to be the last set of the weekend, but Moogfest has surprised me a lot so I gladly accepted it. The Orange Peel filled up to capacity just as Gold Panda took the stage so there was a ‘1 in 1 out’ rule for pretty much his entire set. The constantly crowded room was filled with energy still. His quick beats and almost random song sequences made it hard to get into a groove but the crowd easily made it work dancing and swaying along with the music and the visuals on screen. The night and the festival ended at the same time after his quick encore and a very sincere very British thank you.

Thanks, Moogfest…that was fun!

– Nick Isasi (@noodlecast)

  • Elissa

    Very awesome summaries, thank you so much! :D