Electronic band Kraftwerk performs during Moogfest 2014. I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Moogfest and found it was certainly a different kind of festival. The Asheville, NC-based event, now spanning five days and 10 venues, has celebrated the legacy of Dr. Bob Moog—electronic music pioneer, inventor of the Moog synthesizer and founder of Moog Music—since 2004.
Moogfest has manifested itself in an amalgamation of many things forward-thinking and creative; it’s truly “the synthesis of technology, art and music,” to quote Moogfest’s own slogan. Daytime events mix performances with artist, engineer and (yes) scientist-provided keynotes, panels, installations, workshops and films; nighttime events more closely resemble a traditional music festival, but one of otherworldly soundscapes.
“Clearly the idea was to bring together scientists,” explains Gordon Reid, moderator of Moogfest 2014’s Synthesized Sounds & Voices panel series and, by trade, CEDAR Audio Ltd.’s managing director. “Mathematicians, physicists and other academics were there along with musicians, artists and dreamers. All together, they created a forum to interact.”
Artists featured at Moogfest 2014 included dozens of electronic musical acts, like Kraftwerk, Keith Emerson, Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, Pet Shop Boys and M.I.A., with dozens of lesser-known artists spread throughout venues across town. Livonia, MI-based Thunder Audio was the primary sound provider; some nighttime events were covered sonically by the independent local venues that hosted them, such as Asheville’s legendary Orange Peel Social Aid & Pleasure Club.
“It’s a multi-venue festival, versus one or two stages at an outdoor festival,” explains Greg Snyder, business development manager for Thunder Audio. “Our biggest challenge? This isn’t just a music festival. It’s about technology and analyzing the art of music with evening concerts.”
Thunder Audio’s latest flagship system—a new L-Acoustics K2 rig—resided in the festival’s largest venue, the 2,431-seat Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, where Kraftwerk performed stunning multinight 3D performances. The K2 system featured left and right arrays of nine K2, eight SB28 subs and three Arcs II out-fills, per side. Two K2 and two K1-SB subs per side were utilized as side fills, and six Kara enclosures provided front-fill. Power and processing came via LA-Rak touring racks with three LA8 amplified controllers.
Between such venues as Asheville’s Diana Wortham Theater and the downtown Masonic Temple, challenges abounded for the sound team; from the demands of working in the latter century-old, plaster-walled building to juggling multi-format programming, secondary audio systems for Moogfest 2014 were chosen carefully. “At Masonic, the chosen systems were lighter-weight sound systems. One rig was basically ‘speakers on sticks,’ so to speak, and the other was our Nexo Alpha—groundstacked versus flown,” Snyder said. “Then there was Wortham, an auditorium where we’d normally fly, but couldn’t; because it’s an older venue, we were forced to ground-stack. We chose our JBL VTX, a four-way system that could be ground-stacked with acoustic values meeting our needs frequency-wise as well as ‘corporately.’”
A PARTICIPATORY FESTIVAL
Look no further than Moogfest’s arguably most popular, highly respected events on the calendar: MAKE Workshops, where festivalgoers could build their own Moog synth from scratch. “They were all sold out,” explained Reid. “People were presented with circuit boards, cases and other bits and pieces. At the end of it, those participating could hold a small, self-built Moog synthesizer in their hands.”
Educational opportunities extended beyond workshops and panels, as they were built into nighttime musical events, too. Engineer Nick Tipp—hired to head recording production duties for Moogfest 2014 via CyKiK, the festival’s programming curator—led a team of 47 volunteer college students that were eager to learn and participate. “The 47 were college students from UNC-Asheville University and Montreat College, both local schools with a recording/engineering program,” explains Tipp. For all the main stages, a MADI-based recording rig was employed featuring a Behringer X32 digital console and DirectOut Technologies ANDIAMO 32-channel mic preamp with AD/DA converter.
Nearly everyone I spoke with at Moogfest 2014 had something kind to say about the host city, Asheville, with the general consensus being that the community was thrilled to host such a crowd of tech/art aficionados. “They wanted to learn about what I was doing and more about the daytime events. It seemed obvious to me, and from Moog’s own culture, that the purpose of the festival is to bring attention and business to Asheville,” Tipp said.
Strother Bullins is the Editor of Pro Audio Review.