For the first time, Durham, NC hosted Moogfest–a music, art, and technology festival. Even though I live next door in Raleigh, I have spent a very minimal amount of time in Durham. After a weekend spent, my heart is sold on this town. It’s progressive, innovative, and tasty! I will definitely be spending more time in Durham.
The first day of Moogfest, I took a tour of American Underground; which is a hub for startups. I am so inspired by all the creative and entrepreneurial energy through these streets. I don’t think anyone could go to Durham and feel mundane. One of the tour guides, Tatiana Birgisson, happened to be the founder of Mati. Mati is an energy drink made out of highly caffeinated tea. Tatiana began brewing this tea out of her dorm room at Duke University. She later moved her business headquarters to American Underground.
Moogfest is a unique festival in that it has an interactive piece. Attendees can play with synthesizers and keyboards and doodads at all sorts of workshops and tech spaces. I had a lot of fun exploring my creative energy in a way I hadn’t ever before.
Enough about the day time. Let’s talk about the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Dusk. Music. Dancing. There is no doubt about it, the lineup for Moogfest 2016 was killer. Though the festival is organized around what seems to be a single genre known as electronic music; the artists were incredibly diverse in talent and stage presence. There was a range in theatrics, overall production, lights, and visuals. Odesza and Grimes headlined and stole the show; but the real magic was in those small intimate venues. It was just the rapport of the audience and the artist. My two favorite shows were at First Presbyterian Church–Gwenno and Juliana Barwick. Two beautiful ladies with amazing talent.
Gwenno is a Sweedish electronic artist. Her performance was witty, charming, and incredibly intelligent. She did something I wish artists would do more often; she explained the meaning behind her songs with tear-jerking, metaphorical explanations. She mentioned that “Many of [her] songs are reminders to think more positive, which is kind of sad. But since they are in Swedish and [she] doubt[s] many of you speak it; you can just pretend the song is about whatever you want it to be about.” My favorite song she performed was Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki. She mentioned this song, along with the rest of the album, was inspired by a Welsh SciFi novel, written in the 70s, she had read by Owian Owain– Y Dydd Olaf (The Last Day). But she said that this particular song was written from what she imagined to be the last song the “protagonist” danced to before dying. She invited us, not to wish anything ill on anyone, to stand up in the church and take our last dance. One by one the crowd filled the church isle. It was beautiful.
I was busy metaling out at The Body, so I only caught the last 15 minutes of Juliana Barwick’s set. As usual, incredible. She makes loops with her voice, creating a soft, yet complex sound that is the most soothing I have ever heard. The last and first time I saw her was in 2011 at Hopscotch. I was on one of my very first dates with the first man I later fell in love with. Spoiler alert, we are no longer in love–but the experience played a very significant role in my coming of age. At the show, I sat next to him. Nervous about the status of our relationship, all of the angsty thoughts went through my head. “Should I hold his hand?” “Oh my god. My hand is sweaty.” “Do I look okay?” “Does he like me?” I couldn’t relax. But suddenly, I felt hypnotized by this Juliana Barwick. Her music drew me in and silenced my thoughts. I had a paralleling experience at Moogfest 2016. This Press Pass had my mind racing. I had so many places to be at once. I wanted to make sure I did a good job. To say I was stressed is an understatement. Upon walking into Juliana Barwick’s set, my mind was at ease. My thoughts were no longer. Go see her. She’s an absolute gem.
Though Gwenno and Juliana Barwick were my favorite acts, I had the most fun dancing in the rain with Made of Oak. Made of Oak is a local from Durham, NC and is one part of Sylvan Esso. His energy on stage is nothing like I’ve seen in an electronic artist. This sounds bad, but I mean it in a very good way; he resembles that of a gremlin in his dance moves. It’s cryptic, and grimey; but dance-y at the same time. I asked multiple folks what their favorite headliner is–more than half said Made of Oak. I loved the other headliners, but I couldn’t agree more that Made of Oak completely destroyed the stage.
Don’t let me lead you to believe the Moogfest is all synthesizers and keyboards. There were plenty of bands on the line up who ingeniously combined electronically produced sound with mechanically produced sound from guitars, drums, etc. Take Zombi, for example. This dynamic duo had the entire audience combining head banging and booty shaking–typically mutually exclusive dance moves. The fog, coupled with the blue and green dim lights, provided for an eerie atmosphere. This contrasted nicely with the multi-layered and extremely stimulating music. I’ve definitely seen artists that go all out with sound and visuals; but it’s refreshing to see a contrast in the two.
I could honestly continue to go on and on about all the amazing artists I saw at Moogfest, but I do not want to bore you with my incoherent babble much longer. I will say all in all it was a wonderful first year in Durham. I can’t wait for next year. Here are some photo highlights and a video at the end to enjoy:
(Stay tuned for an interview with Demo Taped 🙂 )