Moogfest 2012 Recap, Part 1

The 2012 Moogfest was quite a different creature than its 2011 predecessor. While Moogfest 2011 was a three-day event with a large number of stages – venues indoor and out – the 2012 event scaled back to five indoor venues. (The “indoor” change made real sense: October weather in Asheville NC is unpredictable. It’s often cold, and in 2011, it poured, pissing off some performers and quite likely ruining some of their equipment.)

The 2012 event also reduced from three nights to two. And in a controversial move – one that elicited a number of unhappy comments on the Moogfest Facebook page – each evening’s schedule started later than the previous year’s lineup. The overall ticket price did drop proportionally, but many concertgoers (or potential ones) may have felt that they were getting less value for their entertainment dollar in 2012.

Adding to that perception was the fact that this year’s lineup did not feature “marquee” acts on the level of Flaming Lips. While the largest draws were quality acts (within the context of their specific genres, anyway), none ranked as high-profile major concert names.

The no-outdoor-venues decision also meant that one of the festival’s admirable connections to local businesses – the placement of several locally-owned food trucks inside the “Moogfest Playground” in 2011 – was a non-happener in 2012.

Organizationally, on the ground the 2012 Moogfest was a smoothly-run operation. The long, long lines that were a hallmark of 2011’s shows (especially at the Civic Center) were happily less of a factor this go-round. (Of course this may have been related to a decline in ticket sales; I don’t have data, but anecdotally I can report that the downtown Asheville sidewalks were not overflowing with concertgoers in the way that they were last year.) And while costuming has been a big part of the Moogfest experience, there did seem to be a decrease in the number of oddly-dressed people on the streets and in the venues. One notable exception: the guy dressed as a bottle of Sriracha hot sauce, complete with bright green cap atop his head.

But then there was the music. Previous comments aside, the lineup was well-chosen, suitably eclectic for an event worth of its namesake, and certainly entertaining. My personal Moogfest schedule wasn’t quite as exhaustive as it was in 2011, but I did get a chance to check out several intriguing performances.

Morton Subotnick
The first show I attended was a low-key affar at the (very classy) Diana Wortham Amphitheater, a performance by synthesizer pioneer Morton Subotnick. Musically akin to last year’s sets by Hans Joachim Roedelius, Subotnick’s concert featured a performance of his historically important work, “From Silver Apples to a Sky of Cloudless Sulfur.” A recording of the piece has been selected as one of a small number of works (about 300) archived at the National Registry of Recorded Works at the United States Library of Congress. The piece as performed this night (with not-sure-what-he’s doing accompaniment by a second person onstage) was a deeply textural, often meditative piece. Modern listeners familiar with Philip Glass and/or Brian Eno would have recognized Subotnick’s approach. Parts of the work were just pure sound (as opposed to “music,” and some unkind people might characterize it as “noise”) while other parts briefly drifted toward melody. Visually there wasn’t much to look at during Subotnick’s performance; he and the other guy merely got on with whatever it was that they were doing. Meanwhile, some interesting-but-not-distracting impressionistic images were projected on the wall behind them, in a manner very similar to what was done during Roedeliius’ 2011 set.

Sitting in the Diana Wortham during Subotnick’s performance, one had the feeling of being witness to something very important. Certainly not a fist-pumping, rock’n’roll extravaganza, it nonetheless fit perfectly within the Moogfest concept, and – as it would turn out – ended up being one of the weekend’s brightest spot for this attendee.

Stay tuned for much more…

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