It’s a hard spot to be in: Playing a set at the same time the festival headliner goes on stage. In the case of local producer/DJ/singer-songwriter Marley Carroll, he was up against none other than M.I.A. In fact, the Hopscotch Showcase at Emerald Lounge (on whose roster Carroll performed) cleared out immediately after RBTS WIN, and for a few minutes it looked like Carroll might be playing to the bartenders and the one guy who was passing by with his infant strapped to his chest.
But Carroll is a professional — he’s played all over the country, including sets at Coachella, and even though he’s based in Asheville, most of his shows are elsewhere — and he took the stage as if in front of a full house. Quickly, the room did fill as Carroll’s unique brand of thoughtful synth-pop spilled out onto Lexington Avenue, attracting all of the M.I.A. skippers. And those who weren’t familiar with the musician were asking, Who is he, anyway?
Carroll played songs from his recently released album, Sings. But where those, on the recording, are radio-ready four-minute tracks, for Moogfest Carroll expanded them. He performed live remixes and whatever the DJ version of an extended jam is. The thing about Carroll is, if you know him as DJ, it probably comes as a surprise to encounter him as a vocalist. But he sings live with his original material, his vocal fluid and expansive behind the melody.
But for those who know him as a singer and songwriter, it’s a revelation to watch him perform as a DJ — which is what he does on stage, even though it’s his own material that he’s mixing and spinning. Carroll has a real skill for tapping into the mood of the audience and both drawing them in with his sonic choices, and also leading the vibe of the performance with scratches and beats and any number of tools that maximize both the songs and the room in which they’re being performed.