Moog CEO Mike Adams on Retooled Moogfest: ‘It’s More the Engineering Geeky Side of Things’

Where can you see futurist George Dvorsky by day and living meme Riff Raff by night? This year's retooled Moogfest is an eccentric five days of daytime musings on sci-fi, instrument design and music visuals and evening performances ranging from M.I.A to Holly Herndon. The celebration of art, technology and innovation begins today in Asheville, North Carolina.

“We looked at SXSW as a model for what we were doing, but the twist that we want to put on it is we’re going to be more about technology here and I see South-By as a bit more marketing focused," says CEO of Moog Music Mike Adams in an interview with Billboard. "We try to bring in more of the engineering geeky side of things as opposed to the glamor marketing side of things."

Moog Music, the electronic instrument manufacturer and namesake of the late Robert "Bob" Moog, has invested upwards of three million into this years expanded festival, confirms Adams, "We’ve done well, but it’s still an investment at this point." He comments that his ultimate goal is to bring technology jobs and economic development to his hometown of Asheville, “You don’t know where the next Google or Hewit-Packer might come from, we want to attract those kind of people to this area.”

Prior to this year, Moog Music solely licensed the Moog name to the festival, considering Moogfest to be a marketing expense. The last event bearing the Moogfest name was in 2012; a three-day long, fall festival in Asheville produced by AC Entertainment, the agency that co-produces Bonnaroo with Superfly Productions.

Moog Music cut ties with AC Entertainment last year, AC then put on a separate, unaffiliated festival in the fall of last year, the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, also in Asheville.

This year's festival was produced by Paxahau, the producer of Detroit’s Movement Electronic Music Festival. The lineup includes three Kraftwerk 3D performances, a CHIC dance party with Nile Rodgers, Pet Shop Boys, Giorgio Moroder, Dillan Francis, Flying Lotus and label showcases from DFA, Ghostly International, Warp Records, Fool’s Gold and more.

Last year's festival attendance reached approximately 5,000 per day for the three day fest. This year, attendance is projected to reach 6,000 per day over the five day festival, according to Moog Music. Asheville has a population of about 86,000 people (US Census Bureau) and the city has roughly 7,200 hotel rooms.

“VIP tickets continue to be our best seller and I think it speaks to the programing we put together," says Adams. According to a demographic survey of VIP ticket holders, 76 percent of respondents have never attended Moogfest before and 82 percent are between the ages 30-54. “We wanted to bump up the demographic age line to about 30-50 as opposed to 20-30 and I think we really accomplished that with the programing,” says Adams.

The website for Moogfest has geometrical shapes and flashes of sound waves where sponsors banners typically rest, though a sponsorship page including Red Hat, MailChimp, Pabst Blue Ribbon and audio companies such as Sweetwater, Avid, Behringer, Sennheiser. Adams originally cited Google as a sponsor, but a representative for the festival later clarified that Google staff would contribute to some of the daytime programming, but not financially to the festival.

This years festival also received 90,000 in sponsorship from Bunombe Country and 40,000 from the city of Asheville in addition to 40,000 in in-kind services like police barricades, security and clean up. "The Commerce Secretary and the Governor have told me that its not just the Asheville area that needs this, it’s the whole state, says Adams. "They feel a need to rebrand the state."

Until a few days ago, Governor McCrory was scheduled to speak at the first panel of the festival, Wiring Silicon Mountain: Nurturing Innovation Through Technology along with Adams and others. After a local group organized a protest of Gov. McCrory's politics and appearance at Moogfest, Moog Music cited a scheduling conflict has rendered the Governor unable to attend. The Governors office stated Gov McCrory was asked by the festival to cancel his appearance. Adams cited no comment when asked about the situation.

In a statement to via email protest organizer, Andrew LaFiosca wrote "We're still holding the protest because our grievances with the governor still stand. We are in no way protesting Moog, or economic development in Western North Carolina."


Start out the festival with a visit to the Conductar Installation, a personalized audio-visual experience created specifically for Moogfest, headsets create a personalized alternate reality that allows visitors to explore their own animated Asheville with a electronic score composed by their own mind by measuring the brain's electrical activity.

The first tough choice between sets is when rapper, producer, and notable sci-fi fan El-P and veteran electro-pop duo Pet Shop Boys are both on at 9pm. Brainfeeder ringleader Flying Lotus closes out the first night of the festival at 12am, but if you can't make it catch another member of the Brainfeeder squad later in the week, Daedelus, Lapalux and Tokimonsta all have sets.

On Thursday at 11:30am Cindi Mayweather--er, Janelle Monae--  will discuss her psycadelic dystopia with some of her Wondaland crew. From 3pm to 7pm Yeah Yeah Yeah's Nick Zinner and Deerhunter's Bradford Cox will do a durational performance soley on Moog pedals.

At 12:30pm, Mathew Dear's alter-ego Audion is on at the same time as DFA's Yacht (If you miss Yacht, catch member Claire Evans' panel for OMNI Reboot on Saturday listed bellow) And at 12:45pm, Awesome Tapes of Africa, aka Brian Shimkovtiz blogger turned DJ , plays weird and wonderful regional African cassette music. 

On Friday, Giorgio Moroder introduces a screening of Scarface at Noon. From 2:00pm - 6:30pm, video game company Kill Screen presents "What Does Play Sound Like?" exploring interactivity and sound.

There are TWO Krafwerk 3D performances to choose from on Friday, one at 7pm and another at 10pm (and a third on Thursday.) End the night with Moderat at 12:15am or get weird with Riff Raff and Dillon Francis back to back at midnight.

On Saturday, there is a mini Moog Film Festival of Drive and Solaris composer Cliff Martinez at noon. And then at 1pm Claire Evans, front woman for YACHT and also editor of OMNI Reboot, the retooled legendary science fiction magazine, leads Science Fiction & The Synthesized Sound. The Future Of Music Visuals at 2:30 is moderated by former editor of The Creators Project and current director of an art and tech incubator at the New Museum in NYC, Julia Kaganskiy. Headliners CHIC and M.I.A go back to back on Saturday night.

If you missed the US premiere of the modular synth documentary featuring Trent Reznor and Morton Subotnick "I Dream of Wires" on Saturday, catch the second showing at Noon on Sunday. The delightfully nerdy panel The Math of Futurama & The Simpsons starts at 1pm. End the festival with an afternoon outdoor Fools Gold showcase. 

For a full list of events, see the Moogfest website