Photo by Ben McKeown
Container at Motorco
Saturday, May 20, 2017
Festivals are a marathon, not a sprint. This year marks my fifth Moogfest, and experience has shown that the third day is usually when my music festival morale starts to crumble. My left foot will suddenly develop strange blisters. Cheap beer and food truck dining, great for the last forty-eight hours, begin to swirl together into a queasy glop in my stomach. My phone stays at 1 percent, always barely clinging on. I begin to question whether I even like live music that much.
I was feeling exceptionally groggy Saturday morning after two wild Moogfest nights, coasting on about three hours of sleep Friday night. My sleepy spirits weren’t raised when I learned that a scheduled talk with Michigan weirdos Wolf Eyes, always a joy in interviews, was canceled because of unforeseen travel issues. I decided to take a pass for daytime events for the day, and geek out on record shopping instead.
By the evening, I was back in Durham, fully refreshed and ready to take on Octo Octa at The Armory. Moogfest boasts plenty of cold, harsh synth work and this set was the antithesis: sugary and sumptuous and completely over-the-top fun. In terms of house music, this was my favorite set of the weekend, bar none, though I selfishly wish that Moogfest would have scheduled her later for maximum impact. The small crowd at the front danced appreciatively while everyone behind them stared politely and checked their phones. Guess you can’t expect people to dance themselves clean at 8:15 p.m.
On the abrasive side of things, there was roaring tech-noise salvation at Motorco Music Hall by way of Providence, Rhode Island's Ren Schofield, aka Container. His blend of feedback, beats, and cassette samples is danceable, but in the way that a jungle track blared on a blown-out university emergency alert system is danceable. Right after him, Pharmakon shook the building with a snarling, broken performance where she snaked through the audience, writhing on the floor and leaving unsuspecting synth dudes scarred with some of the most frightening facial expressions I've ever seen. Her press attention has made her something of an entrance point for dabblers in noise, but it’s easy to forget she’s still one of the best in the game.
Right outside, DJ Premier prepped the crowd for Flying Lotus at Motorco Park. To his credit, he did his best to make his set work in a situation that felt a little weird. He launched humorous profane invective at the crowd, played out classic productions from his work with acts like Gang Starr, and generally hype-manned the hell out of every song. But for whatever reason, maybe the outdoor environment or the crowd steeling themselves for FlyLo, it didn’t quite work as an active set, only as an appetizer.
Flying Lotus, a treat as always, primarily stuck to the chopped-to-shit eclectic Adderall flow and double-projector visual barrage we’ve come to know and love from him. He also dropped a trap remix of the Twin Peaks
theme. It was timely, but then again, so was that X-Files
techno remix on Pure Moods