Music Festival Watch / MOOGFEST

May 17-20 in Durham, NC


There are festivals that exist primarily to entertain people who enjoy taking off most of their clothes, swallowing various legal and illegal substances, and dancing the night away to future one-hit-wonders alongside tens of thousands of other seminaked, semismashed dancers—and then there’s Moogfest. While the concept of zeroing in on music from the past and present created on analog synthesizers of the kind pioneered by Buffalo’s own Robert Moog might initially strike the average rock fan as a little too niche to be fun for anyone but computer geeks, nothing could be further from the truth. For four days every May, the nightclubs, outdoor stages, and even churches of Durham welcome prog rockers and disco/funk legends from the 1970s, New Wave and techno pioneers from the 1980s and ‘90s, and an astounding collection of indie-rock icons, up-and-coming soul singers, moonlighting pop stars, installation artists, VR and AR explorers, noise bands, engineers, academics, composers, filmmakers, and music-theory profs. The days are filled with panel discussions (sometimes conducted in local craft brewpubs), screenings, public art projects, workshops (in everything from instrument building and circuit bending to laughter yoga and soundbathing—while the evenings offer all manner of music into the wee hours, including the chance to dance the entire night away (fully clothed) to some of the most influential DJs and keyboard kings and queens of the last half-century. It’s all a day’s drive from Buffalo. You’ll find my thoughts on the 2017 festival—which featured Michael Stipe, Flying Lotus, Animal Collective, 808 State, Gotye, Derrick May, Laraaji, Nona Hendryx, the recent Tony Conrad documentary, and the composers of the Stranger Things score, among many others—on Spree’s website (“How I Spent Your Next Summer Vacation”). The biggest name on the 2018 lineup, still being assembled at press time, is currently keynote speaker Chelsea Manning, but don’t let the lack of familiar headliners put you off: A vast number of folks I had never heard of before last summer’s fest immediately entered my personal pantheon.     


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