Moogfest 2012: A Retrospective – Day 2

Continued from Day 1…

I missed Julia Holter, unfortunately, so Divine Fits was the first act I got to see. They are brand new, composed of Wolf Parade and Spoon members. I’m a fan of both those bands, but had never heard their collaboration. Divine Fits play sleek, danceable indie rock, erring more towards the Spoon side of the equation from what I saw. It wasn’t quite up to par with either of their previous bands, but still pretty damn good.

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After, I dropped by The Magnetic Fields for a bit. Interestingly, they were playing exclusively acoustic instruments. Piano, cello, organ, etc… There was none of the synth-rock of 69 Love Songs, only stately twee-pop that sounded just like Earl Grey tea, if Earl Grey tea made a sound. In theory, I respect such a bold move as to go acoustic at a festival like Moog, but in practice it just didn’t hold up to all the high energy electronic acts surrounding them on the bill. With my dancin’ shoes on and a few drinks in my blood, I had no time for glockenspiels.

Cold Cave was a total surprise. The band was all decked out in black, full on studded leather jackets and shades, blasting new wave from straight out of the 80’s. Very indebted to The Cure and Joy Division. Lead singer Wesley Eisold struck a fine balance between menacing and sexy as he channeled Ian Curtis, his band banging out dark synth grooves behind him. It was rocking, for sure, but eventually I became kinda bored with how little dynamic or tempo change there was, and how strictly they adhered to that throwback sound. Still, highly recommended if you dig that era of music.

I loved Santigold’s debut album when it came out a few years ago, so I tried to see as much of her set at The Civic Center as I could. As the only straight-up pop act on the bill, she certainly brought the tightest, most polished stage show of the weekend. Fun, catchy-ass jams abounded. She was backed by a full band and two hype women/cheerleaders who synchronized danced (danced synchronically? Danced in a synchronized fashion? Goddamit) and shook their pom-poms. At one point she got about thirty folks from the crowd to come on stage and party during a song. You’d have to be a bitter person with a terrible life not enjoy a show like that.

Death Grips was a trip. MC Ride cut an imposing figure, shirtless, tattooed and jacked (seriously, I was jealous of his physique), wildly flailing about the stage as he roared indecipherably above Zach Hill’s jackhammer drumming. His vocals were drenched in delay and reverb, and I literally could not make a single word out of the din. Not that it would really help if could, I’ve read his lyrics, they are nonsense. That there was a paying audience in front of him was the only context clue that he was not, in fact, just some crazy street person. They sounded huge and primal, like air sirens blaring over an avalanche. The relentless sonic pummeling from the stage whipped the crowd into the a frenzy the likes of which I did not see the rest of the festival. Mosh-pits everywhere. Like all live hip hop, the bass and drums were high in the mix at the expense of everything else. I was slightly disappointed by this. One of the things I liked most about their recent album was its intricately multilayered samples, and it would have been nice to hear that aspect of their sound. But that’s only a minor complaint, really. Death Grips are really meant to be felt in the gut more than anything, and they certainly brought the noise.

Orbital was pure fun. I know they’re supposed to be legendary, but that was the first I’d heard them. Really great, kinetic party music. By this point in the night, everyone was getting good and sauced, including yours truly. The Civic Center might as well have been in Ibiza, the entire place was packed with drunk dancers. I made out with a raver girl. Whatever image pops into your head when I say “raver girl” is probably about what she looked like. Rainbow stockings, neon tutu, Hello Kitty backpack, the works. For someone who came to Moogfest with zero clue about electronic music or it’s culture, I feel like this was the last step in my total techno immersion boot camp. But I could not be sidetracked by the beckonings of comely young women for too long. I had a responsibility to music fans everywhere to report on more of the Moogfest happenings. Also, her friends pulled her off me and dragged her away (I think they were worried.) On to Four Tet!

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Four Tet makes some truly beautiful music. On record, he has a tendency to go for slower, more atmospheric pieces, but live he was just as bumpin’ as any of the other electronic acts at the festival. Unfortunately, he was also hampered by the auditorium seats, so there was not much dancing. I dropped by Prefuse 73 as well. He was playing some pretty cool stuff, an amalgam of electronic and hip-hop similar to Four Tet, but at that point my ears were pretty music-fatigued, and couldn’t really take it in the same way as if I had seen him earlier in the night.

The last act of the night was Shpongle (easily one of the worst names ever.) He had a giant technicolor castle type thing surrounding his DJ booth, which was neat. I don’t really remember much about what it sounded like, so I guess that meant I was having fun. My friends tell me it was good, so there you go.

At 2 o’clock the lights came on and everyone stumbled out of the arena. Moogfest we hardly knew ye. Some folks headed home, others to speakeasy dance-parties in the shadier parts of downtown. As for myself, I slept in my car. The life of a freelance music journalist is not always pretty. Still, Moogfest was a fantastic experience, and I’m looking forward to what next year’s lineup will bring. You simply don’t see such a wide variation or progressive outlook in your average music festival. If you can swing it, do yourself a favor and make your way up to our fair city the next time it rolls around. I’ll smuggle you a beer out of the VIP lounge.

– Taylor Rogers