What did Bob Moog do for the history, development, course and future of Music? His inventions have done no less for music than the inventor of the wheel has done for transportation! To commemorate the sonic and technical gifts to the world that Bob Moog has bestowed upon us, AC Entertainment in conjunction with the Bob Moog Foundation formed a festival, MoogFest. While some musical genres’ incorporations of Bob Moog’s synthesizers and other inventions/contributions are obvious; in other genres, that is not the case. Regardless, his ingenuity has impacted almost every band and genre that has graced your ears.MoogFest 2010 encompassed the whole of downtown Asheville with simultaneous events going on at the major venues in town including the Asheville Civic Center, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, The Orange Peel, Stella Blue and the ballroom at the Haywood Park Hotel which was renamed for the weekend as the Moogaplex. Besides dozens of live musical performances and film screenings, there were Moog workshops and panels discussing the history of Bob Moog’s invention of the world’s first electronic synthesizer to discussions about what their ongoing company has in store for future of music.
The Synth History Panel – The Birth of the MiniMoog featured Herb Deutch who was the co-collaborator of the first Modular Synthesizer in 1963. Also on the panel was Bill Hemsath who created the 1st prototype of the Minimoog, Dave Van Koevering who was Moog’s original VP or Marketing and Brian Kehew; a Bob Moog Foundation Historian. Explaining that they were inspired to create an electronic instrument that could be functional to the musician on-the-go, they realized their invention had to be transportable. Starting with an only seemly comical $200 research grant, the team developed the Mark 2, a synthesizer without a keyboard which was not part of the original design. Wanting to meet the needs of musical composers, Bob Moog and his team of engineers worked to make an electronic instrument that mimicked how sounds occurred naturally with non-electronic instruments.
While it was possible to make a note electronically, the panel explained that to sound like an instrument, they needed to include articulation and rise, meaning that not just having an on and off, there needed to be attack and delay in the electronically produced notes. Bob explained to his partners that creating a sin wave instrument would be too hard or impossible but by utilizing a triangular wave form, sounds generated from such a device could meet these requirements. One afternoon Bob Moog told Herb during one of his many moments of inspiration to go to the hardware store and buy a doorbell buzzer. Herb explained to the crowd that by the time he returned, Bob had sketched the schematics for the first envelope generator on a yellow piece of paper! Bob Moog understood what was happening to electrons with the circuits he developed and he used that skill and knowledge to create many new methods of electronically generating sounds.
Bob Moog’s Theremin (a modified design of the original invention by Russian inventor Lev Sergeivich Termen) was a favorite instrument. One panelist mentioned that a blind acquaintance became proficient and enjoyed performing on the instrument that does not require physical contact for it to ‘sing’. Bob worked to build up his company and worked to get investors onboard and developed custom devices for customers. The Minimoog synthesizer went through Model A, Model B then Model C. A slide was added for modulation and pitch control. Success came from a combination of vision, marketing, ingenuity and “Rugged design” meant to meet the needs of performing artists including having an “Intuitive feel” to being “Sweat proof!” The panelists explained that Bob Moog registered patents on only a few of his many inventions.
Devo had to cancel their performance because Bob Mothersbaugh suffered a very bad cut on his thumb severing his tendon. Despite the postponement and severe injury, he is expected to make a full recovery. Devo’s Gerald V. Casale and Mark Mothersbaugh performed a collaborative performance with Octopus Project after just a brief rehearsal right before the MoogFest Award Ceremony with the unveiling and presentation to Devo of the new Moog Voyager XL Synthesizer.
MGMT headlined at the Asheville Civic Center preceding the award ceremony. The crowd danced away to their techno-pop riffs and beat. With a lot of awesome choices of shows to see, it was a hard pick-n-choose for many.
Friday night had Asheville electrified with performances going on throughout the city. Besides MoogFest, it seemed that there was a ton of other things scheduled transforming the humble mountain city to become both busier and 10 times more exciting than Times Square in the center of Manhattan for weekend. RJD2 (Ramble John "RJ" Krohn) had people lined up the street to get into The Orange Peel to hear him perform. All events were open to all but some got shut out based on the capacity of the smaller venues. RJD2 was tearing it up at times reaching out in what seemed to be 4-feet in both directions running a full table with his MPC 2000XL and two 1200 turntables and other electronic musical equipment. His performance was noticeably more energetic than his visit to The Orange Peel last January which could only be expected given the vibe he was performing to which was a packed house of MoogFesters. Adrenaline was dripping in the sweat of most in a city that had the lid blown off.
Girl Talk (Gregg Michael Gillis) created many true believers at the Asheville Civic Center Friday night! His unique and talented method of sampling Underground Rap (and a lot more) with funky beats filled the largest venue at MoogFest to a ragin’ crowd. It wasn’t long into the second song or so that Girl Talk had the stage fill up with a pre-selected group of festival goers to dance for the remainder of the show. The mostly female dancers (many in sexy costumes) added an eye-candy addition to the energy packed performance that poured from Gregg’s soul. Gregg, who first appeared in a Freddy Krueger mask and razor fingered glove, frequently addressed the crowd on the mic and often leaped up onto the table housing his mixing equipment. Toward the end of the show he apologized to the crowd because like so many in the audience that were bouncing out of their pants he said that got so excited that he pulled out one of the main cords for a second which most likely happened during one of his springs to the stand on the mixing table.
Bonobo (Simon Green) closed MoogFest’s Friday night performances for those lucky or dedicated enough to get into the Moogaplex at Haywood Park Hotel. Bonobo performed to a far-from-langourous and boogieing crowd past 3a.m. before finishing his set on the cusp of Halloween.
Saturday began at noon and that left me just enough time to get home to charge all of my camera equipment, upload and backup digital film, and take a hot bath. The Haywood Park Hotel featured many events including a “circuit bending” competition. Two finalists were battling it out behind a table loaded with wires, screwdrivers, soldering irons and circuit panels from two Speak & Spells. Correcting my ignorance of what circuit bending was, one of the competing finalists took a moment away from his public concentration to explain that they would change the wiring and such of the various sound generating circuit panels within the electronic kids’ toy to try to develop new creative sounds and effects. I asked if it was frequent that they fry the circuits and he replied, “Hopefully not today” due to the competition. He then pointed out the speaker of the Speak & Spell that was indeed producing some unique and rhythmic clicks and pulses of sound.
The Satellite Gallery run by Bill Thompson featured an on-location MoogFest Art Show at the Moogaplex featuring paintings and limited edition prints of only 20 each to help support the Moog Foundation. Many of the posters were created by Phish poster artist Jim Pollock. At seemly ten times larger than life, a portrait of Bob Moog was hard to miss in the small but well filled gallery space.
Many had Thievery Corporation in the works for Saturday night. Starting at 9 p.m., the broad genre band lived up to the expectations of many to be a highlight of the incredible weekend. Blending genres and bouncing around from Reggae to “Outernation Sound” (their self-coined and developed genre). The beats and sounds changed with and within each song so that their hour and a half long set transformed many as if traveling close to the speed of light, to where time all but stops.
The Disco Biscuits had a great light show and jammed at the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. While in mild disarray, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium has withheld the heavy vibrations of many a packed house for raging performances, but during the course of this weekend however, it was MoogFest ragers that caved-in the floor in front of the stage causing the first 25 feet in front of the stage to become roped off for the rest of the weekend to prevent the floor from fully falling through.
Massive Attack performed on the biggest stage of the festival which was in the Asheville Civic Center on Saturday night, the electronic performance was accompanied by a digital screen that covered the full length of the stage and was over a dozen feet high. Ikonika performed late night on Saturday past 3a.m. at the Moogaplex but that did not stop the music for many who wandered to the after-parties which went on till dawn.
On Sunday, which was Halloween, most in attendance were sporting costumes. The music started across the city at 6p.m. with Two Fresh at the Asheville Civic Center followed by MiMOSA. Neon Indian performed in the adjacent Thomas Wolfe Auditorium. Pretty Lights lived up to their name. The last performance at the Civic Center for MoogFest had Pretty Lights blazing tunes with an awesomely lit stage set along with all types of lights and effects in an otherwise dark stadium providing many with all the ear and eye candy one could ever want, even on Halloween!
There was some difficulty picking and choosing for many who wanted to see performers who were scheduled simultaneously. The latest running performance on Sunday night was Marty Party, the performing name for South African DJ, Martin Folb. Marty Party’s well-loved high-energy electrical compositions had the small venue Stella Blue packed to capacity. A one-man band, Marty Party brought new energy to the lucky ones who got into the small club for the last performance at the 2010 MoogFest. His beats, rhythms and unique sounds captivated the Halloween partygoers that already had a solid three days of music under their belts. The intimate setting added to the party, Marty Party that is. People were lined up on the sidewalk and were allowed in as people left keeping the club from going over capacity.