There’s a scene in the 1984 film Revenge of the Nerds where the titular Nerds win the school talent show with an awesomely-dorky performance, complete with spiked hair, Roland synths, sunglasses, electric violins and more. It isn’t too far off from some things I’ve seen at Moogfest, a festival I’m blessed to live only a few hours away from, and have attended yearly since its days of dubstep and jam band flirtation in Asheville. Now that it’s moved east to North Carolina’s scholarly “Research Triangle,” it’s free to be exactly what it’s always wanted to be; it’s the revenge of the nerds, with the film’s frat boy villains replaced by Coachella culture and the standard music festival formula.
Moogfest at it’s heart starts with Bob Moog, his company, and his legacy. This naturally branches out into synthesizer appreciation of all types, which then branches out to broader examples of musical experimentation and technological progression. Lately they’ve been adding social activism to the fold more and more. The festival organizers do a great job of preventing it from feeling like a dry history lesson, or an advertisement for Moog synthesizers. They’re honestly too busy coming up with unique installations and workshops, probably-won’t-happen-again collaborations, and holy-shit-where-have-they-been-hiding legends for their lineup. Here’s a few examples from this year’s docket, get ready to do weird things with your eyebrows:
- Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))) in collaboration with Angel Deradoorian.
- Michael Stipe of R.E.M. returns for a second year, debuting a new multimedia installation, Thibault Dance.
- Wes Borland (founding member of Limp Bizkit) performs new experimental solo material (he probably hates Limp Bizkit more than you do.)
- An exhibit of Ralph Steadman art, introduced by the artist himself via Skype.
- Bight of the Twin, a documentary on Genesis P-Orridge and voodoo.
- A lecture from activist and WikiLeaks whistleblower Chelsea Manning.
- With a smorgasbord of experimental music’s current leaders, like Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Jon Hopkins, Jenny Hval, Kelela, and Fatima Al Qadiri, plus OGs like Suzanne Ciani, KRS One, Shabazz Palaces, and Mouse on Mars.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg. Moogfest is hardly over a week away, taking place May 17-20 in Durham, North Carolina. Grab tickets (available as full weekend or day passes) here, and see the full lineup here.