In the world of musical instruments, specifically synthesizers, there is no greater name in history than Moog. When the Minimoog was released, it changed the game forever and paved the way for the companies we see today. Dr. Robert Moog was a big advocate for music and technology, pushing ever forward with new instruments with greater capabilities. To celebrate innovation, music, technology, and the people involved, in 2004 Moogfest was born.
Fast forward to 2018, and Moogfest has become the premier music and technology festival in the US, perhaps even the world. We were fortunate enough to be in attendance this year and despite the torrential downpour, the event was definitely one for the books.
What is it?
As stated, Moogfest has become the premier destination for all that is music technology and features keynotes from some of the greatest minds both in and out of the studio. This year, key speakers included the creative director for IBM Watson, Chelsea Manning, DJ Stingray and more. Workshops were lead by both Moog and other artists, with categories reaching from introductions to playing vinyl, to modular patching, to building your own synthesizer. The festival is held in downtown Durham NC, with different installations and workshops held in various venues throughout town. Most of the core classes were held at the old Tobacco plant, which added a rustic and industrial feel to the whole thing. There were essentially two parts to the whole event. The daytime was geared more towards learning, whilst the nighttime was for partying and experiencing things like the new Meyer sound system in surround sound, and performances from top techno DJs, as well as bands and solo performers. On top of all of this, in what could be considered the main hub of the event, was an area called the Modular Market Place, which allowed attendees to check out the latest and greatest from Moog, Elektron, Dave Smith, and more. Guitar Center had a small pop-up shop where you could buy almost everything that was being demoed. Upstairs, was the Reverb vinyl record fair, where you could also buy records.
What do I think?
I've been wanting to go to Moogfest for a few years now, so when I found out I was going, I was beyond ecstatic. Even though it's a music and tech festival, I was extremely impressed by both the DJ lineup and the fact that IBM Watson was going to be there. Due to scheduling conflicts, I was unfortunately not able to make the IBM talks, but it was made up for by being able to join the synth building class, where I got to build (and break) my own Moog synth. I'll be doing a full review on that soon, so stay tuned for that.
Another thing that I absolutely loved about the whole event, was the location. Or locations I should say. The fact that I was able to walk out of my hotel, and reach my destination within 5 or so minutes was perfect. No UBERing across town, no dealing with traffic. It was as logistically ideal as could be. This was even more handy with the fact that it rained with a fury I haven't seen in years. One night I was leaving a venue to meet up with some friends, literally across the street, and within 5-6 seconds of being dry, it was like someone sprayed me with a hose. This was also the second night it happened. Let's just say my hotel room umbrella became my best friend that weekend.
If I had to pick the best thing about the entire experience, it was the actual Moog team themselves. I've been fortunate to have a met them previously, but being able to hang out with them all day and night for 4 days in a row, I have to say that they are some of the nicest people in the industry. Every team member was extremely helpful, from the leaders of the workshops to the random volunteers spread throughout the city pointing me in the right direction. It's one thing to have a successful event, it's another to have a team that lives and breathes the companies ethos, and I can say with the utmost confidence that the Moog team is just that. Shouts to all of my beautiful friends at Moog!
Should you go?
If you are a producer, artist, or hardware designer, yes. And even if you aren't, still yes.
I've pretty much said all I need to say, but if I had to say anything more, it's that this is definitely an event I will be attending every year for the foreseeable future, hands down.