The future of a festival

The news dropped like a bombshell: Moogfest and its booker/promoter, Knoxville-based AC Entertainment parted ways. The announcement came from AC on Monday, Dec. 10, that the company will “rename its multi-day electronic music festival in Asheville as the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit for 2013, continuing to build on the success of the past three years when the event has been produced as Moogfest.

“People are kind of absorbing the information,” Capps told Xpress the next day. Absorbing, like the children of divorcing parents, in alternate waves of denial (No!) and opportunism (wait, does this mean we might end up with two electronic music festivals?).

The latter is a real possibility. AC developed the downtown event honoring the legacy of Bob Moog based on Capps’ vision and a smaller Moogfest that was held in New York City from 2004-’08. But the name belongs to Moog Music, the electronic instrument company founded by its namesake and now located on Broadway Street just on the edge of downtown Asheville. Moog Music had agreed to lease the festival name to AC for five years for $1.

The details of this contract were not confirmed by Moog Music: “I really can't discuss why we chose to terminate their contract,” Moog’s senior marketing and brand manager Emmy Parker told Xpress in an email. Nor would she speculate on the feasibility of a future relationship between Moog and AC. She did say that, through the festival, Moog Music had “the privilege of bringing thousands of people together to celebrate Bob Moog and we get to see some great bands in Asheville. That's a pretty big benefit.”

Capps explains that AC funded nearly all of Moogfest. “[Moog Music] had no investment in the event, so they didn’t directly make money from the proceeds of the festival,” says Capps. “The value to Moog Music was certainly in branding.”

And there would seem to be value to the city, as well: An economic impact study conducted by AC Entertainment after Moogfest 2010 found that the festival brought $15 million to Asheville. “I was very proud of what we were creating,” says Capps. But there was growing dissatisfaction from Moog Music’s president, Mike Adams, and others in the company, according to Capps. “Last year, a lot of our planning for Moogfest 2012 was delayed for months because of trying to work through various issues.”

So the two companies parted ways. Parker made a statement to Xpress last Monday that “Moogfest is absolutely staying in Asheville.”

And, while Parker says she’s not currently at liberty to discuss what the next Moogfest will look like, she does say the festival will be held again in 2013. It’s likely that Moog Music will seek out a new partner to book acts as, “We do not have any intention of booking large-scale events internally,” Parker tells Xpress via email. She adds, “We want a Moogfest that truly celebrates the innovative spirit of Bob Moog. No more, no less. We're working toward achieving that sooner rather than later.”

Michelle Moog-Koussa, executive director of the Bob Moog Foundation, spoke to WLOS in a recent news segment as a neutral party, echoing Parker’s statement. The Moog Foundation works to preserve the legacy of Bob Moog through archives and educational programs — it’s a separate entity from the factory. But the foundation has had a presence at the past three Moogfests, organizing panels, discussions, archival displays and interactive exhibits with some of the Moog instruments.

“The way that we’re involved is a reflection of our mission: on the historic preservation and the education side,” says Moog-Koussa tells Xpress. “We will also evolve with the festival. If there are different aspects of the festival that are added in, we’ll be contributing there, as well.”

Worth noting: AC Entertainment donated $1 per Moogfest ticket to the Moog Foundation, totaling almost $30,000 over three years. “It’s been a huge help to the foundation,” says Moog-Koussa. So, is it possible that the Moog Foundation will also have a relationship with AC’s newly branded Mountain Oasis? “Any opportunity we would have to continue to promote Bob Moog’s legacy, we would certainly consider,” says Moog-Koussa.

The feeling seems to be mutual. “Honoring Bob Moog’s legacy was a very important part of what we wanted to do,” says Capps. “I would love to see that continue. The inspiration that Bob gave to so many other artists was definitely the thread around which we built the festival. We don’t intend to let that go.” He adds that the decision to not continue with the name Moogfest was not AC’s.

However, the promotion company quickly changed the former Moogfest Facebook page to reflect the new festival name. That page had more than 30,000 followers and Capps reports that “the number of likes did increase substantially” on the day of the name change announcement.

What will not change, he says, is the experience for the fans. “We conceived of the event that was called Moogfest for the last three years,” says Capps. “We booked it, we produced it. Virtually every aspect of it was our vision and that’s going to continue. We had an investment in an event that we had a real love for and definitely did not want to see that go away.”

The new festival name comes with a history. “Asheville itself is a mountain oasis. I always had an affinity for that name. We used it many years ago for a very different festival,” says Capps. That festival was AC Entertainment’s first outdoor music and camping event, and it earned great response. It was “one of the sparks that led to Bonaroo,” says Capps. And while he’s excited to dust off the name, he says this Mountain Oasis will be very different.

“My goal would be to continue to have the event be centered in Asheville. I love using the indoor spaces,” says Capps. AC would like to incorporate an outdoor component, though the very cold weather of 2011 Moogfest weekend made the Animoog Playground outdoor stage less desirable. “If we were seriously to move to an outdoor component, we would need to move to a different time of year,” says Capps.

While AC is not yet ready to release details of its 2013 festival, Capps does say, “We have a lot of discussions already going on with artists and tours,” and (perhaps surprisingly) “after taking the step back [to a smaller, two-day festival] that we did last year, we’d like to return to an event that’s more on the scale of what we did in 2011 and continue to expand the offerings.” Art and installations are on that list, as well as engaging more deeply with Asheville’s creative community.

“Our vision for every festival we do is to create the most amazing experience we possibly can,” says Capps. “Change is always a challenge, but it’s also very exciting. We couldn’t be more excited about the future.”

— 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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