If you're experiencing a comedown now that the Big Ears festival has come and gone, or if you're looking for a festival with more of an electronic music focus, take heart, because Moogfest is now just a week away. The eighth installment of the event celebrating the life and work of electronic music innovator Robert Moog takes place in Asheville April 23-27.
Moog Music held the first Moogfest, a one-day affair with fewer than a dozen performances, in New York in 2004 to mark the 50th anniversary of the company. It maintained that intimate size through 2008. In 2010, Moog Music partnered with AC Entertainment to launch a revamped Moogfest in Asheville, which Robert Moog had called home for 30 years until his death in 2005. AC Entertainment's version of the festival took place over three days in the city where Moog Music is now headquartered, offering a diverse lineup of dance, pop, rock, and avant-garde music. But after the most recent Moogfest, in October 2012, Moog and AC Entertainment parted ways. (AC went on to host the similarly themed Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in 2013, but recently announced that festival is on hold.)
There are several changes in Moogfest's structure and approach this year, most notably in its scope and duration.
"The biggest change is from three to five days, and we're going to have a much more dynamic conference in the daytime," says Moog Music's Emmy Parker. "At these panels, we're going to talk about how we use technology, not just creatively but in our everyday lives, explore how technology is used, not just with musicians and artists but at universities and by scientists. Our hope is we will have dynamic discussions about what art and culture might look like in the next 100 years."
A total of 24 panels, talks, and workshops are scheduled for the daytime conference, from the historically minded ("The Pioneers of Electronic Music Instruments") and the tech-oriented ("Sonifications and Cybernetics," "Google and the Future of Audio") to theoretical discussions ("New Forms Presented by MIT Media Lab," "Sounds of Space"), artist talks (Janelle Monáe, Giorgio Moroder, and Nile Rodgers) and hours-long durational performances using Moog gear by Bradford Cox, Dan Deacon, and Nick Zinner.
As for music performances, more than 100 acts will be appearing over five nights, including Awesome Tapes From Africa, Chic with Nile Rodgers, Factory Floor, Giorgio Moroder, M.I.A., Pet Shop Boys, and Wolf Eyes. Returning to the festival will be Moog pioneers Keith Emerson and Bernie Worrell, both of whom appeared at the first Moogfest and helped popularize the instruments in a pop context in the 1970s.
"Bernie is like the heart and soul of the company," Parker says. "We probably wouldn't still be around if it weren't for Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman, and Bernie Worrell."
Perhaps the most anticipated aspect of the festival will be three performances by the immeasurably influential German band Kraftwerk.
"They're only playing a few cities in North America, so it's obviously really exciting to have them," Parker says. "Everybody at Moog is just as excited to see them as anybody."