Some might consider Asheville, N.C., an unlikely place to stage an electronic-themed niche music festival. They would be wrong.
The second Moogfest is set to take place in Asheville Oct. 28-30, tapping into a burgeoning electronic/DJ music scene. The city was also the home of the late Bob Moog, inventor of the iconic Moog synthesizer, and the electronic instrument company he founded, Moog Music, is headquartered there.
Moogfest producer Ashley Capps, president of AC Entertainment in Knoxville, Tenn., producer of the Big Ears festival in that city and co-producer (with Superfly Presents) of Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn., has been producing concerts in Asheville for some 20 years. He says AC is always looking at ideas on which to build special events and festivals, and Moogfest was rooted in several elements.
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"First of all, we loved Asheville," Capps says. "It was a very strong music market for us, and people there are very passionate about their support for arts and culture in general, and music in particular. So it was a natural place to think about developing a concept."
Capps became aware in the '90s that Moog called Asheville home. "Artists wanted to meet him," he recalls. "Through that, I met him, and I was inspired by how other artists were inspired by Bob Moog's creativity and vision as a person as well as a musical inventor. At the same time, I learned these amazing electronic musical instruments were still being manufactured in Asheville. These things became the impetus to build an event around Bob Moog and his personal creative visions."
Capps says Moogfest was in the works, at least conceptually, before the live electronic music scene exploded. "I had seen the contemporary electronica thing kind of ebb and flow, but the roots of doing Moogfest go back several years and really predate the current boom in electronica," he says. "You could kind of see it coming, but I would be lying if I said I realized it was going to blow up to the extent that it has at the present time."
The lineup for Moogfest 2011 includes the Flaming Lips, Moby, Passion Pit, STS9, Tangerine Dream, TV on the Radio, Special Disco Version featuring LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy and Pat Mahoney, Umphrey's McGee, Chromeo, Suicide, St. Vincent and Toro Y Moi. Also among the performers is electronic music pioneer Terry Riley, whose son, performer/composer Gyan Riley, will join him onstage.
"This is very much a curated event, and it's absolutely true that every single artist that plays was selected for a reason," Capps says. Asked who the curator is, Capps says, "That would be me, with a lot of help. Three of us [at AC] are very actively involved in the booking process, which also evolved from discussions with people from Moog Music, the Bob Moog Foundation and sometimes artists came to us asking to play the event. It's very much a collective effort."
Beyond the music, Moogfest includes workshops and sessions with such panelists as Moby, Dan Deacon and Neon Indian's Alan Palomo. Capps is particularly pleased that legendary producer/musician Brian Eno's new EP, Panic of Looking, due Nov. 8, will be released early at Harvest Records in Asheville during Moogfest weekend. Eno will be attending the festival for the opening of his video installation, 77 Million Paintings, and presenting an "illustrated talk" on Saturday afternoon during Moogfest.
Several shows will take place at AnimMoog Playground, a space adjacent to the Renaissance Hotel downtown and named for Moog's new iPad app. Most of the venues are indoor rooms, including the Asheville Civic Center, Thomas Auditorium, Diana Wortham Theatre, Asheville Music Hall and the Orange Peel, which AC books.
"The range of venues enables us to create different types of performance experiences appropriate to the music the artist makes," Capps says. "I really love the way the experience changes as you go from venue to venue; it's one of the things that sets the festival apart. Everything's within walking distance, which is very important to us."
Last year's total attendance was about 24,000, and Capps expects "a few more" this year. Weekend passes are $184.50, up from $149.50 last year, with individual days at $75. "Ticket sales, especially weekend passes," he says, "have gone way beyond what we did last year."••••
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