In December, Moogfest announced its first wave of programming with a twist: all of the performers and presenters identified as nonbinary or female. While lauded by many, the festival's decision wasn't without controversy. Caroline Polachek, who was announced in that first wave, dropped out of the festival, citing her anger at being unnecessarily othered without her permission. "Gender is not a genre," she wrote on Twitter.
That's true, but gender and other identity factors have become something of a new guidepost for conscientious consumption. How often do we seek out art made by those whose lives look different than our own? Whose voices get prioritized on label rosters, magazine covers, and festival lineups, and why? What other unlearning of the patriarchy do we still have left to do?
It's easy to tie curatorial decisions like this one to the #MeToo movement, wherein those abused by men in positions of power have reclaimed their strength by publicly speaking out against those who did them harm. But a more accurate truth, at least in the music industry, is that people from traditionally marginalized backgrounds are now making the art that's more suited to our times. Artists like Kelela explore intersecting identities through sound, while others, like Norway's Jenny Hval, lay bare stark personal truths about everything from self-doubt to menstruation. Chelsea Manning, the transgender soldier-turned-information-activist who had to drop an interview with the INDY last-minute, delivers the festival's keynote address on Saturday afternoon.
But the men of Moogfest have plenty to offer, too—Jon Hopkins builds immensely beautiful worlds with sensitive, spiritual touches. KRS-One has been a leading figure in hip-hop for nearly three decades, while Mouse on Mars has made a music career out of dissolving the boundaries between different strains of electronic music. On Monday, the festival added Moses Sumney, whose 2017 album Aromanticism is a stirring rumination on intimacy.
A single music festival can't fix centuries of toxic power dynamics or their trickle-down effects. But it can at least push us toward thinking about pulling those systems apart, offering an extra spark in the long march toward gender-blind equality.
Lower Your Lids and Open Your Third Eye with the Sublime Spiritual Techno of Jon Hopkins
Chelsea Manning's Next Chapter
A New Audio System at The Armory Wraps the Audience in 360 Degrees of Music
Kelela's Future Pop Transformatively Draws on the Music of the African Diaspora
The Bloody Brilliance of Jenny Hval
Discwoman Shakes Up the White Male Hegemony that Betrays the Diverse Origins of Techno