The annual Moogfest (rhymes with “rogue-fest”) celebrates this synthesizer’s storied tradition not only in the mainstream of synth-driven pop music through the years, but in also pushing the boundaries of how we define music. The event features experimental musicians from all areas of the synth-pop genre, including synthesizer driven pop powerhouses like Grimes and Miike Snow alongside experimental orchestral arrangements, glitchy world music compositions, grinding drone metal and all other manners of boundary pushing artists. In anticipation for Moogfest 2016, this article takes a look back at the festival’s roots in experimental music, culture and science.
The first Moogfest took place in New York City in 2004 as a celebration of the Moog company’s 50th anniversary and the musical advances spawned by the instrument. This “festival” featured only two events – an incredibly cheerful clinic and lecture regarding the use of a Moog synthesizer featuring Moog Music’s founder, Dr. Bob Moog, alongside renowned keyboardist Keith Emerson, and a musical gala held at the B.B. King Blues Club.
2004’s gala-style event was popular enough to warrant its annual return for the next three years, following the same one-night-only format at the B.B. King Blues Club. Notable artists performing at these ensuing festivals include Edgar Winter, Adam Holzman and Keith Emerson. Emerson, alongside fellow Moog player and composer Pat Hammer, was awarded the newly created Bob Moog Legacy Award in 2006, following Moog’s death the year prior.
Following a poor turnout in 2008 and a hiatus in the festival in 2009, Moogfest returned in 2010 to take place in Asheville, NC. This event featured artists such as MGMT, Sleigh Bells and El-P, and was Moogfest’s first iteration in a multi-day and multi-venue festival format. The event continued as purely a music festival for the next two years, bringing the likes of Brian Eno, the Magnetic Fields and the Flaming Lips to Asheville.
2013 marked another break for the Moogfest festival, as the event, unrelated to the Moog brand or curation, was replaced by the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. This hiatus led to a reimagining of Moogfest, which returned in 2014 with its modern format: technology and futurology convention by day, experimental music festival by night.
Moogfest 2016 marks the largest iteration of the festival to date, as well as the festival’s first appearance in Durham, NC. The event’s organizers attribute this change in venue to Durham’s reputation as a center of technology, education, higher-level research and – most importantly – music. This year’s educational events center around themes including “Afrofuturism,” “Technoshamanism” and “Transhumanism,” while the evenings feature the cutting edge of experimental music. Veteran Moogfest artists such as Explosions in the Sky, GZA and Oneohtrix Point Never headline the event, while newcomers including Blood Orange, Made of Oak and Reggie Watts promise their own unique brands of “Future Sound.”
Moogfest 2016 takes place from May 19-22 in Durham, NC. Find more information and tickets online at http://www.moogfest.com/, and be sure to follow CisternYard Radio and Beside the Point on social media (@cy_radio) to stay updated on our live coverage from the event.