So this past weekend, I left the comforts of my turbulent, exorbitantly-priced and overcrowded city (otherwise known as the Big Apple) to attend the annual Moogfest in Durham, North Carolina. Never heard of Moogfest? Me neither. Haven’t made the journey down south to visit the techie college town of Durham? Same. So allow me to fill you in.

After exiting a flight filled with a troupe of teenage Southern Baptists coming back from a retreat in Thailand, a human cyborg (no joke) and a family of boisterous Italian Americans who only conversed in vowels, I was a bit surprised to enter a climate that was actually worse than New York. It was cold (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit), rainy and overcast with the occasional wind gust that tried more than once to snatch the cap right off my head, forcing me to grasp it with brute force - I didn’t wear hair gel that morning, so the prospect of this happening was simply out of the question.

After taking a 20 minute taxi ride to my hotel, a relatively short journey which cost about $50 mainly because I had trouble deciphering the thicker-than-molasses Southern drawl spoken by my driver, I dropped my belongings off at the hotel, which was hosting a convention comprised of over a hundred middle-aged guitar enthusiasts, and headed down to the festival.

Before galavanting around, I read up about the event in the shuttle ride to provide myself with a bit of context. Launched in 2004, Moogfest started as a multi-day music, art and technology festival honoring the inventor of the Moog synthesizer and sonic deity, Robert Moog. Before moving to Asheville, North Carolina, the event was actually held in New York City, but this year marked Moogfest’s first time in Durham, which is apparently the heart of North Carolina’s tech-centric “Research Triangle.” According to the festival’s website, Durham, a city formerly known for its thriving tobacco industry, is “one of the only cities in the country to boast $1 billion in tech exits, 200+ startups and a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem.” You go, Durham.

I started my day off by hitting up the event’s main attraction, an interactive installation dubbed “Realiti - Inside the Music of Grimes.” As a longtime fan of the avant-pop artist, the headline certainly piqued my interest. And not to mention, the tagline “interactive” always holds some pretty substantial leverage. Would I come out experiencing hallucinatory flashbacks? Would I suddenly feel the urge to quit my day job and become the next Gary Numan? Would I fly? Sadly, none of the above. But it was cool nonetheless.

Using a Microsoft-developed technology called Kinect, the installation gave each attendee their long-awaited DJ moment as they remixed Grimes’ hit song “REALiTi,” cut from her 2015 LP Art Angels, by pushing on a very large mesh panel enclosed throughout a dark tent lit only by LEDs that flashed hues of blue and purple light. With the song’s vocal track and driving bass on a seamless loop (pretty sure Grimes lost a few fans among those working the installation all day long for four days straight), various sonic layers were triggered by users’ hand gestures moving throughout the space at any given time - controlling things like EQ, pitch, reverb, volume and other sophisticated music jargon.

After thriving in Grimes’ realm, I decided to check out a few shows. Blood Orange, the new wave music project fronted by the exceptionally talented Dev Hynes, set the bar sky high for the night’s succeeding acts. With Dev commanding the stage with a fiery, guitar-wielding gusto on par to the late Prince, the spectacle certainly provided me with a supplemental (and much needed) energy boost to carry on after a striding through a day on just four hours of sleep.

Contrasting the happy-go-lucky vibes from Blood Orange’s performance, I somehow stumbled into a very unexpected, very random, very weird hard techno set by some Berlin-based (naturally) DJ whose name I can’t remember, located in a bar about a quarter mile from the main stage. This is where all of the festival’s more “alt” attendees seemingly congregated; so picture head-to-toe black outfits, well-manicured facial hair, undercuts, septum piercings and an endless array of tattoo sleeves. But after getting my fill of relentless 150 BPM bass thumping and elbow thrusting, I finished the night with a closing set by hip-hop/electronic producer Ryan Hemsworth. Ryan was dope, but the crowd and venue? Well the space was essentially a florescent-lit school gym and the people, or rather kids, were most definitely teetering the legal age limit.

The following day I decided to take advantage of the many (or one of the many) seminars Moogfest had to offer by attending something called “Technoshamanism: A Very Psychedelic Century!” Not gonna lie, the only reason why I chose this particular talk over the others is because of its alluring headline. Steering the convo was a guy named Michael Garfield, a self-proclaimed “paleontologist turned cyber-acoustic guitarist and psychedelic performance philosopher.” There was mention of an ancient dragon god named Tiamat, something about a technological Doomsday, techno-telepathy and far more, but please don’t ask me what because I honestly couldn’t tell you.

Some other installation highlights included these enormous inflatable balls that were suspended in a large indoor tennis court that made noises when you pushed them, a synthesizer workshop where you got to push a bunch of buttons and plug in wires into various switchboards and this thing called “The WiFi Whisperer” that was essentially a tutorial on hacking your smartphone via WiFi and Bluetooth connections.

With some time to kill before the night’s roster of shows, I though it might be cool to do some street style of the various festival goers. This was, well, kind of a bust sadly. But there was this guy.

The time finally came for Moogfest’s crown jewel, Grimes, to perform. I somehow managed to sneak into the photo pit for like five minutes, where I had to stealthily slither through a horde of agitated handlebar mustached photographers to get a decent shot, but it was worth it. She played all of her older hits - “Genesis, “Oblivion,” “Be A Body” - as well as nearly all of the cuts off her latest LP and a few unreleased joints. If you’ve never been to a Grimes show before, I highly recommend seeing her. She’s like this feral pixie that jumps from playing keyboards, to guitar to screaming and dancing at breakneck speed. It was certainly “lit,” as the kids say.

Following suit was an explosive performance by Seattle indietronica duo Odesza, who projected some of the most intense, epilepsy-inducing visuals I’ve ever seen, then Toronto rapper Tory Lanez, who concluded his set by crowd surfing all the way to the bar to down a shot of Hennessy.

And that’s it, really. Due to strict time constraints, I was only really able to scratch the surface of the many workshops and seminars being held, but to be honest, unless you’re a sound engineer, futurist, scientist or work in any other tech-centric domain of the music industry, making the trip to Moogfest might actually fall short on your buck. As a music fan, I did enjoy the festival’s chill vibe and eclectic lineup, but was it compelling enough for me to go back? Probably not. Also, thanks for the nightmares, human cyborg.

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