Mountain Oasis 2013: Review + Photo Gallery
Hosted in the quaint mountain city of Asheville, NC, Mountain Oasis premiered a first year festival worthy of attention. Seeing the likes of Pretty Lights, Neutral Milk Hotel, Deltron 3030, Nine Inch Nails atop a listing of a festival sporting fifty bands over three days at five stages leaves little to be desired. Seemingly disconnected in musical genre, the majority of the bands were connected stylistically by the use of keyboards and synths. The theme of electronic music reigns supreme in the land of Bob Moog. While an electronic music festival has been going on around this time of year since 2010 (MoogFest) in Asheville, this year saw promoter giant AC Entertainment, best known for Bonnaroo and Forecastle Festivals, split ways with Moog Music and deliver Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. MoogFest is set to return on its own in the spring.
Before arriving in Asheville, those who already had wristbands could easily register on the incredible phone app that was created for Mountain Oasis. This app is hands down the best that I’ve seen at a festival. The schedule, map, band pages, and even the push notifications thanking us and talking about how great a day it was going to be were appreciated. Kudos on the app, it was the first time I felt like I could use a festival app without it slogging down my phone or slowing me down.
On Friday we found the venues easy enough and started off with Claude VonStroke and his upbeat beep-bloop version of dance music that I find delightfully hypnotically. We were full of excitement and had fresh enough legs and eyes, so we ventured out after to see People Get Ready at a theatre a few blocks away. This high energy electro pop group charmed us as they weaved through their highly-danceable beats and riffs. Jherek Bischoff joined on bass for a few songs and fit in like a missing link. With the evening closing in and the ever elusive Deltron 3030 coming up, we missed out seeing Silver Apples and pushed it back to the main two stages.
Deltron 3030 is a three-man operation consisting of Del the Funky Homosapien (Deltron Zero, for this project), Dan the Automator, and Kid Koala. They debuted back in 2000 and promised a second album for THIRTEEN YEARS before it finally dropped a month ago. The backing of a thirteen-piece orchestra with Dan the Automator playing maestro and Deltron Zero spitting rhymes was one of the most spectacular hip-hop sets I’ve ever seen. Next up came Neutral Milk Hotel, a band that needs little introduction, as they’re considered by many (myself included) to have made the greatest album of the ’90s. All that happened long before front man Jeff Mangum effectively dropped off the face of the earth outside of a coffee shop show in 2001 (yeah, I’m a nerd about NMH), only to resurface in 2012 for a live streamed one man show at Occupy Wall Street. Now they’re back and touring and hopefully they do this forever. I am biased in my affections for this group and was nearly brought to tears as a theatre slammed full of people sang along to a band I never thought I’d get to see play live. We finished up by catching the end of Bassnectar. It was loud and dub heavy with incredible visuals, and it made me feel old because I don’t think it’s that good. His latest EP is lighter and more tangible to me, but the majority of his music I’ll take a pass on. It was a phenomenal night regardless of my Bassnectar opinions.
Saturday started by spending an hour listening to Gary Numan do a Q&A that ended up mostly being Numan speaking about depression that he feels like he has recently overcome (It seems likely considering how good his latest album is compared to the previous few.). The music for the evening started with Bosnian Rainbows electro-punk set. The band plays edgy music built from the ashes of The Mars Volta’s hiatus. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s recently has said Bosnian Rainbows is his main focus these days and I’m just fine with that for now. Next came Zola Jesus and JG Thrilwell. Between Zola Jesus’ incredible operatic vocals front and center and Thrilwell conducting a quartet while mixing in samples from a MacBook, it was a definite highlight of the weekend. Catch this act if you can, it has all the signs of an evolving artist so I suspect changes for this group will be common. We dragged ourselves away mid set to keep our night on track and popped in to see Gary Numan. It was dark and gritty with Numan playing the role of the eccentric frontman who occasionally showed his skills on synth keys while the band ripped through mostly new songs. Next up was Robert DeLong down at the Orange Peel. DeLong’s electro-pop dance music is a one man band show with fun poppy visuals. We didn’t stay long because of the distance between the venue and the main stages, but what we saw was tons of fun. The crowd was eating it up and DeLong seemed to feed from it, but we had to leave to catch Chromatics. Chromatics sound dark and moving and came off like gritty poetry that belongs in ’80s musical montages about losing loved ones. It’s haunting and marvelous and we stayed until they finish. Next up was Godspeed You! Black Emperor. As much as I enjoy this band and their epic twenty minute songs on the albums, it was kind of difficult to sit idly while they played through them. We left near the end and got into Animal Collective early. I personally don’t get much from Animal Collective, but I sure do love that one song, “My Girls”… guilty pleasures, I know… I’d rather see Panda Bear play solo, but the stage, lights, crazy fun fans, and energy from the band are worth the live show. Inflatable projection screens meant to look like the inside of a mouth made for a stage setup that was worth seeing. Mid-way through the set, we left to see Nine Inch Nails. NIN was heavy and drew awe from us with their incredibly appropriate light rig. When we walked in they had begun and each member of the band had a square light rig with columns illuminating each of them as if they were in their own cells on stage. Trent Reznor’s stage presence was impeccible, as they played through a long set of classics and new material, I’ve never been a diehard, but NIN is worth the ticket live.
On Sunday, we began the evening at the Orange Peel to check out Autre Ne Veut, a very unique sounding R&B act with some haunting production and emotionally pushed vocals that are absolutely captivating. If R&B sounded like this most of the time, I’d actually think of it as more than a broken genre like pop country. This was spectacular and reignited my faith in a genre I was happy to leave to over-wrought dance beats that Chris Brown ruined years ago. We stayed until the end then hiked up the hill to try and catch PANTyRAID. We happened to catch the end of PANTyRAID, but I heard more of it while going to the bathroom than I caught live. I found a bite to eat and a good spot for Disclosure after that. The English EDM duo has been hyped sufficiently since they debuted #1 album Settle on UK Charts, with the same album reaching #2 on US Electronic charts. Poppy and dreamy at the same time, Disclosure brought a light show that embodied what I envisioned when I thought of an Electronic Mountain Summit. Cut Copy was next and with it came my sense of missing them a couple years ago. I should say that the tempered excitement won over those in my group who have not caved to the worldly EDM craze. Last up for us was Pretty Lights’ full band set. This was, without a doubt, the best way I could think of to close out the weekend
It was a quick festival, only going on for six or seven hours each night, but they were all spectacular. The sound was flawless, the light shows were exciting enough to draw a deaf man to a music festival, and Asheville as a backdrop is a great bonus. Definitely a top tier organized festival with an incredibly diverse lineup. Everyone in my posse had a phenomenal time and we will most certainly be looking out for this festival for years to come.