Ah, the Moog. A synthesizer so popular even non-musicians can recognize it by logo, but almost everyone fails to pronounce its name correctly. Way back in 1964, Robert Moog created a voltage-controlled analog synthesizer with Herbet Deutsch that was neither bulky nor too pricey. Once it was demonstrated at a couple festivals, musicians began grabbing copies immediately, most notably The Beatles, Mick Jagger, and Sun Ra. All of a sudden, electronic music wasn’t ostracizing listeners in the way its eerie tones once did — especially not when performed in pop or jazz songs — and by the time the Minimoog came around in the ’70s, musicians began dragging it around on tour, introducing it to audiences worldwide. The Moog became a permanent fixture in music.
Maybe you didn’t need that history lesson, but it’s important nonetheless to provide insight as to why Moogfest was created — and why it’s so valuable some five decades later. After its first run in 2004 in New York City, Moogfest began drawing larger crowds not just of music fanatics, but people curious about the logic and technicalities of the instrument itself. The festival moved to Asheville in 2010, took a break in 2015, and then, as if out of nowhere, relocated to Durham for this year’s installment.
So what does all of this mean? Moog was a bizarre sight so many decades ago, nevertheless a bizarre sound. A change in location with 12 new venues (to regulars, at least), a giant lineup featuring Gary Numan and Laurie Anderson, and a commitment to more innovative panels represents a return to unfamiliarity and the joy it can bring. With a new setting, the festival can further blur the lines between musician, speaker, techie, and festivalgoer, allowing attendees to interact with one another and redefine their traditional title to one more representative of the day.
So to prep for that, we offer up our top eight pairings of the festival. Here, you get duos that emphasize both the performer and the panel. These dip into history from the ‘60s, afrofuturism, synth-heavy music, rising rap, Kinetic interactive features, Berlin club music, and more, matching them up so your transition from day to evening activities maintains some consistency during a festival that prides itself in shaking things up.