I’m 49 and have never attended any festivals before. Can’t say that any more. The thought of all of those people put me off the idea in the past, but this year, Moogfest added a performer that pushed me over the edge. Even my wife [who was the one who first told me about the artist who made us eventually go] wanted to go with me. This rarely happens, but when Harold Budd is in performance, you do whatever it takes to go! Fortunately, there were other acts worth catching, and they were all scheduled for Saturday, so a one day pass was possible to satisfy fully. What a wrap up to this Rocktober. It seems like there was more live concert music this month than I get during a whole year in sleepy Asheville. Who did we see?
Magnetic Fields – We had seen their tour earlier this year in Carrboro, NC at the legendary Cat’s Cradle. But we were dead tired by the time they took to the stage, and the Cat’s Cradle is just another rock dive. It was a huge comedown from the Arts Center in Raleigh, NC where we had seen them the first time. Fortunately, the show in Asheville for Moogfest was in an appropriate venue in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. They were their normal, marvelous [if darkly sardonic] selves. My wife thought after the last show she might be over MF but this proved her wrong. The venue needs to be up to their standard. But due to scheduling, we cut their set short by some 25 minutes to walk across downtown to see…
Cold Cave – Last year’s “Cherish The Light Years” was my very favorite album not by John Foxx + The Maths. So I was very keen to see this band, to put it mildly. They had been scheduled initially for Friday but the change to Saturday made me very happy. They played The Orange Peel, as I’d always imagined it and were superb. Frontman Wesley Eisold has been reading the Andrew Eldritch Guide To Life, with his shades and black leather gloves, but at least the fog machine wasn’t full on. At their most pedestrian, they are making the music I always expected from New Order that was never quite delivered. At their most visionary, they are the first band in 30+ years who can sit on the Philip Glass/Glen Branca shelf! They finished their set with their two most stunning cuts: the beautiful, hypnotic, “Confetti” and the awe inspiring “The Great Pan Is Dead.” Talk about ending with a bang! My spine is tingling just thinking about it. Didn’t do much for my wife, I’m afraid!
Thomas Dolby – I also saw Dolby’s tour earlier in the Spring, but this show in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium for Moogfest was a darn sight better. First if only for the inclusion of a bass player. This freed Thomas and Kevin Armstrong up to add some hot solos that I did not remember from the earlier show I saw with the three piece band [guitar/drums/keys]. Then, the lighting rig at Thomas Wolfe was worlds apart from the stage of The Handlebar in South Carolina. That was an intimate gig, but the vibe was just south of high school gym in The Handlebar. I was thrilled again that he saw fit to include my fave rave track “Field Work” in his set. With the addition of bass, that made it that much better!
He was awarded the Moog Innovation award this year before his set by synth innovator Herbert Deutsch [who co-invented the synthesizer with Bob Moog in the early 60s work] and the President of Moog Music, Mike Adams, for his varied and diverse career. He also got a special new handmade Moog 2012 Minimoog Voyager XL hot off of the production floor, which got a “well chuffed” reaction out of him. My wife was very impressed with his set. After that we got a little dessert at Old Europe Café and went to our final destination…
Harold Budd + Keith Lowe – This is the artist who made us buy the Saturday ticket! Mr. Budd had an 11:45 p.m. set at the intimate Diana Wortham Theatre and we got there early for a third row seat. I was a teenager in high school when I first heard Harold Budd. His collaboration with Eno [“Ambient 2: Platueux of Mirror”] had just been released and it opened doors for me. In the intervening 30+ years, Budd has managed to work with many of my favorite artists [John Foxx, Andy Partridge, Bill Nelson, Eno, Cocteau Twins] and when he retired in 2006 with a series of final concerts, I never imagined that I’d ever have the pleasure. Keith Lowe has played bass for David Sylvian [who also issued Budd’s album “Avalon Sutras” on his Samhadi Sound label] and the show began with a gong player which seemed right at home in the contemplative environment of the Diana Wortham Theatre. Then Lowe and Budd joined the stage while the gong player faded down as they took over. Lowe was working that double bass with samples and loops while adding sounds far from traditional double bass playing; providing texture for Budd to add his gorgeous, minimal melodies to. The duo were seriously messing with the flow of time this evening/morning. All of a sudden, it was over and the audience were on their feet, applauding.
In closing, the Moogfest was not the frantic crush of slacker flesh I’d feared it would be. That it was spread out at four Asheville venues meant that each show was approximately at half to 2/3 capacity. Very acceptable. A slight downside were people milling in and out of each venue for pretty much the entire show [apart from Budd], but it wasn’t a deal killer. I saw four acts I liked for my $150 [two tickets + TM fee$] and that seemed to be a bargain, when a performance the caliber [and rarity] of Budd’s was factored into the equation. Next year can we have Ryuichi Sakamoto and John Foxx + The Maths? Pleeeeeease?
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