Every year, Durham, North Carolina is transformed into a sprawling music, tech, and art festival known as Moogfest. For the second year in a row, I was able to attend the event, and this year was even better than last year. You can read my review from last year here. I'll save the "What is it" bit, and get straight into the review.
I arrived late Thursday night and unfortunately missed most of the action, so my first night was a short one. One of the best and worst parts of Moogfest is that there are so many great events that you just can't do it all. You must definitely pick wisely. Fortunately, most of what I was looking forward to didn't happen on Thursday anyway. This year I really gave myself time to check out as many events as possible, as I missed some great programming last year. On Friday, I interviewed Daniel Miller in an old vault, which you can check out here, and then later saw him interview Martin Gore. It was really special to hear some behind the scenes tales for both Depeche Mode and Mute when Depeche exploded in popularity. The humble beginnings of both and the success they've achieved was beyond inspiring and encouraging.
Last year I was able to partake in the Engineering workshop and was able to build a real Moog synth by hand. While I wasn't able to do it this year, I was able to judge a DIY circuit bending contest in the Modular Marketplace. The three entrants each created something super unique, but the winner went to an entrant who turned a kid's vintage music toy into a solid noise generator. The Marketplace seemed a bit more spread out this year, which allowed for plenty of elbow room to noodle with synths all day. Below, I've put some of the standout products this year.
A hypersensitive modular touchpad with different overlays, ranging from MIDI controllers, drum pads, video editing, and the latest Buchla Thunderbird. Its slim design and various overlays make it absolutely perfect for traveling artists. You can even design your own overlays.
I have had my eye on this synth since it was first announced, and I'd been dying to actually try one. It's the best sounding synth I've ever heard in my life. In fact, it sounds so good, that the headphones they had plugged in couldn't even handle the definition of the sound coming out of them. One day I would like to own one.
As is a tradition every year, the latest synth from Moog is built in the middle of the Modular Market place. The Matriarch, the bigger sibling of the Grandmother, was this year's reveal, and once again, watching the Moog engineers practicing their craft was a sight to behold. The synth itself was fun to play and sounded like classic analog bliss.
One thing that really surprised me this year was how quickly Durham has developed in 12 months. There were new restaurants and establishments open, and many more in development. While there were many new options to try this year, I couldn't help but return to Jaktar. It's quality food in a great atmosphere and great service. Venues like the Armory, Pinhook, and Fruit Co, which now has a rave basement that has insane potential.
Speaking of Fruit Co, a very surprising and standout set I saw there was Ouri, who's live set was absolutely perfect. Another great set I got to see was Max Cooper, who've I've had the pleasure of seeing a few times, and even shared the stage with. His live set and new music were as impressive as always.
Live performances are pretty much the name of the game at Moogfest, and Daniel Miller's modular set was really quite intense, once the subwoofers kicked in. The low-end filled the room, and the ambient beeps and sequences would float in and out, creating a constantly evolving soundscape. What made it even more interesting was that the visuals were actually his body's heat signatures. Seriously trippy stuff.
Overall, this year's Moogfest was a really great time, and I'm fortunate enough to have had the chance to go and see all the wonderful people from Moog and the other hardware companies. I've heard a few rumors about next year, and it's already sounding next level.
Tickets for Moogfest 2020 are now on sale. Click here to get yours.