Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Overview

This article was originally published in the Spring 2014 issue of Ascension Magazine which is entirely in Italian. I wanted to share the English version in case that is easier for some people to read. Enjoy! 🙂 ~ Candy

an overview and report on the five best performances

Ascension MagazineThis is my first time writing a report for Ascension, so I’ll say, “Hello from the USA!” For the past few years I have been contributing by designing the cover page, so I’ve watched every issue with reports on WGT, Villa Festival, Leeds, etc and I’ve enjoyed experiencing the European festivals through these pages, so now I’ll try to do the same of an American festival. If you’re a fan of electronic music or simply curious about a music festival in the US, you should read on…

First, a little background: Asheville, North Carolina is a small town nestled in the mountains about two hours from the big city of Charlotte, my home. In the conservative “bible belt” of the Southern USA, Asheville stands out as a rare, liberal pocket. In fact it has been nicknamed “The Cesspool of Sin” by religious types who would burn the whole town at the stake if they could. The area is buzzing with art and culture, and swarming with bohemians and free-thinkers (and yes there is a goth scene.)

This town has been home to Moog Music since 1978. Robert Moog made Asheville his home for the latter part of his life. Moog’s electronic music festival, “Moogfest” moved here in 2010. Last year Moog parted ways with AC Entertainment, the company who had been in charge of organizing the festival. As soon as the split was announced, AC announced they would instead start a new festival and call it, “Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit” (what a long name, we will just call it MOEMS) Now, Asheville will have two annual festivals; Moogfest every April and MOEMS every October. This is quickly making a name for Asheville as a destination for synth lovers and electronic music fans.

The challenge with music festivals is to try and navigate through the enormous lineups to find the artists who interest you most. With the 3-night MOEMS festival, there were a lot to choose from in almost any electronic genre you could think of (and perhaps some non-electronic ones that we’re wondering why they were there.) With a lot of preparation, I was able to see everything I wanted and more. I won’t cover all the bands I saw, but I’ve selected what I think are the top five performance highlights for me.

From what I hear they were added at the last minute to fill in for another artist who backed out. This duo’s performance was “large.” I don’t know how else to describe it. Loud and bass-filled, with volume levels I wasn’t quite used to. Often the bass and percussion would drown out the vocals, but singer Megan James had a rather stunning and powerful stage presence that was hard to ignore. Several lanterns lit the stage and were shaped like alien larvae pods and smaller lanterns worked in sync with Corrin Roddick’s synths and percussion which made for an eerie, otherworldly experience. This is a band that I haven’t listened too very much and I only know a song or two, but I’d say the live show surpassed my expectations.

I arrived about 10 minutes late and came in just as the band were playing “Tick of The Clock” made famous by being part of the soundtrack to the film, “Drive” (One of the best movie soundtracks in recent years, in my opinion.) The theater was so crowded, I couldn’t find a place to stand. The room was filled with energy, though the band seemed to want to play it cool and pose like sculptures more than dance. They sounded great, though. “Cherry” and their cover of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” were in perfect form. It was almost too perfect, with songs sounding pretty much the same as they do on the CD. But they were playing real instruments, so let’s just say they gave a solid, tight performance that had the entire room dancing in unison.

How dare the festival organizers do this to me… how dare they overlap this show with Gary Numan!? Luckily there was time to catch about half of the show before I had to go. Well, what can I say? Nika, the tiny girl with the powerful voice did not disappoint. The symphonic orchestra conducted by JG Thirlwell and some nice electronic drum sounds lifted her into another dimension. It was if we were being beckoned by an angel to proceed through the tunnel of light. I would have crossed over. At one point, she came down from the stage and went into the crowd, being passed by drunken idiots who didn’t realize she was there. She broke into a laugh. When she was on stage, she gave the illusion of being tall, with giant platform clogs and her hair stacked into a bun on top of her head, but the true tallness was in her voice. By far,“Night” is my favorite song and to hear it live was a moment for me. I nearly cried. I didn’t want to leave. But, she is young, there will be a lot more from her.

This was my first time seeing NIN so I have nothing to compare this show to, but I will say this was one of the most amazing stage shows I have seen in a while. No matter that we decided to sit up in the balcony way back in the arena. It was the best spot to see the full stage. Seeing Trent Reznor was only secondary to being able to see this intense light show. There is really no way to describe, but the lights made every song feel ten times more electrifying. Opening with his new one “Copy of A” and later, launching into some of the old Pretty Hate Machine hits that I was glad he was still willing to play and hadn’t tired of.. “Head Like a Hole,” “Terrible Lie” “Sanctified”.. Suddenly, I was back in college again. Encore was an amazing soul-ripping performance of “Hurt” What didn’t he play? “Closer.” Perhaps he is as tired of that one as club DJs are. Great, great show.

In 2009, Numan had toured in the US and the one show he canceled was the one I was attending in Atlanta, Georgia. He owed me a show! So, I finally got my wish. Earlier in the day, I went to a bonus event; a sit-down interview with Numan in a very intimate theater. The whole interview is on youtube if you look for it. What can I say, the man is endearing and boyishly charming, giggling and cracking jokes, and sometimes getting very personal. He also had lots of inspiring tidbits of wisdom. I walked out feeling my outlook on life a little brighter. It was at that moment I forgave him for canceling that Atlanta show.

Later that evening came the show. Sadly I missed the introduction and first song since I was still running over from where I was seeing Zola Jesus, but thanks to posting the entire show in high quality audio on their website, I heard it later. From start to finish, Numan was kicking serious ass on stage. Powerful and strong vocals and intense moments of pure synthesizer bliss. It was so powerful in some moments I have to say I sort of went into some sort of musical drunken trance where I had no idea of my surroundings and ignored all attempts at human interaction. It was simply amazing and I was in heaven. Highlights for me were hearing some of the old ones; “Down In The Park” “Prayer for The Unborn” and of course “Cars” (sadly, no “Are Friends Electric”) The songs blended well with his new material “Everything Comes Down To This” “Love Hurt Bleed” and, I get emotional just thinking about his performance of “Lost.” Seeing this legendary pioneer of electronic music was what absolutely made my weekend complete.

Other performances I did not mention were Cut Copy, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Baths, Disclosure, Neutral Milk Hotel and The Orb, to name a few. The other fun part of this festival is the people-watching. Since it’s close to Halloween, a lot of people dressed in costume, some of them elaborate. There were beer tastings, flash mob dance-offs, discussion panels, and a synth meetup to play with some boutique modular synths. All in all, a fantastic weekend with lots of memories. If I could choose a time in 2013 to go back and experience again, it would be this weekend. Next year can’t come soon enough!

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