At the intersection of art and technology

Wall to wall paneling: Phil and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital took part in last year’s Moog Synths panel. Photo by Rich Orris
Wall to wall paneling: Phil and Paul Hartnoll of Orbital took part in last year’s Moog Synths panel. Photo by Rich Orris

Just four months after announcing its split from Moogfest booker/promoter AC Entertainment, Moog Music released the news that the festival not only has a new date (April 25-27, 2014) but a new partner: Detroit-based Paxahau.

"We've worked with them for three years on their festival, Movement in Detroit," says Emmy Parker, Moog's senior brand manager. "They called me on the phone and said, ‘We would love to have Moog at this festival. We love your company and we love your instruments. That kind of understanding and level of appreciation of what Bob [Moog] created is the type of partner we wanted."

More about the connection between Moog and Paxahau: Moog Music artist relations and special event coordinator Alex Medley came to the Asheville music company from the Detroit promotions company.

Parker says that the past three years of working with Paxahau, seeing how they program, how they treat people and how they work with the city of Detroit impressed Moog Music. "They see Moogfest to Asheville the same way they see their festival to Detroit," says Parker. "They're as committed as we are to making this something that's great for the city."

Melissa Porter of Asheville Event Co., a former program supervisor with Asheville's Parks and Recreation department, says, "I've had the privilege of meeting them a couple of times and feel like they're the best for the job."

Parker says that those relationships are very important to Moog Music, as that the electronic instrument company has made a financial commitment to the city of Asheville. Following the split with AC Entertainment, Moog Music entered into discussions about moving the festival's date from October ("When the weather is a question mark") to spring. "We've always had the intention of moving Moogfest in the calendar. We now have the ability to just do that," says Parker. Moog Music spent time talking to the Asheville Economic Development Coalition, Asheville City Government, local business owners and hoteliers, trying to determine the best date to suit everyone's interest. 

As for giving up the connection to Halloween (after all, for the past three years Moogfest has been a three-day costume contest, as well as a music festival): "Just from reaching out to businesses across town, it's the info that we've received that, being that it's Halloween and peak leaf weekend, it was almost declining returns," says Kipper Schauer, host of Moog Music's AHA AVL series. "There was no way you could get more people in the hotels, there was no way you could get more people into town." Businesses were essentially saying that if Moogfest was at a different time, they could make more money.

The April date will also allow for more opportunities to extend the festival. More outdoor possibilities, more interactive events, more workshops and more engaging with art in different media. "More of a focus on people who are doing things like Bob did things — stepping out on a limb and trying to make something new," says Parker. And she's not just talking about music, but about inventions across the board. "We're focused on the intersection of music and technology here, at Moog. That's what we do. But people have new exciting ideas in lots of different technologies that don't necessarily have anything to do with music, but do have everything to do with the way people creatively express themselves."

"This is an excellent opportunity for the innovators in Asheville, those who are here now, and the ones we hope to attract as we grow our community here," says Pam Lewis, director of entrepreneurship ay Asheville's EDC. The aspect of adding more panels will be huge, she says, for people on the cutting edge who are looking at what's next.

Happily, more workshop-type programming will not mean less music. Paxahau is immersed in electronic music, both in the U.S. and in Europe, and the company has deep relationships with artists, says Parker. (The brother of Moogfest alum Richie Hawtin is employed at the Paxahau office.) "I don't really see the core value of who gets booked changing, but I see the execution changing," says Parker. As usual, when it comes to booking acts, Moogfest's only stipulation is that artists are pushing boundaries in their respective genres.

Lewis and Porter point out that at the interactive portion of Austin, Texas-based South By Southwest showcased a notable uptick in the number of technology companies who included a component of festivals or music in their convention hall displays. That intersection of art and technology is not just a trend, but strong current in today's business and economy.

Parker points out, however, that Moogfest is not modeled after SXSW. "We're glad technology and art are becoming synonymous with each other, but honestly, it's the only thing we know," she says. "People say that analog synthesizers — our core business — are having a resurgence or a renaissance. For us, they never went away."

Moogfest is the same thing — it's not about what's trendy or what's cool, she says. "The festival is about new ideas, and when people get together and share their new ideas, you don't know what's going to happen."

She adds, "We hope it's exciting for the people who come; it's exciting for us. We're constantly out there looking for new inspiration."

"And if we can bring it here and make it happen here, all the better," says Lewis.

Moog Music asks everyone to go to the new Moogfest website, www.moogfest.com (complete with the festival's newly minted logo), and sign up for the newsletter. Parker promises lots of announcements and different types of email blasts related to the festival, though when those announcements will begin is still to be determined. Moogfest fans can also stay connected through facebook.com/Moogfest.

— Alli Marshall can be reached at amarshall@mountainx.com.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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