San Diego Radio Sucks Quite A Bit

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Moogfest 2019 Review - Day 1

After the demise of Coachella, I thought, let's do something that's basically the polar opposite. While Coachella now attracts the lowest common denominator, Moogfest's crowd were brainy, respectful, and fragrant. It was a completely different class of people, let me tell you, and I came out of it a better person for having attended.

I arrived in Durham, NC at lunchtime and hit up a Mexican place I’d researched online called Gonza Tacos Y Tequila. I’ve never been to Lucha Libre in San Diego, but it reminded me of what I’ve heard about that place - lots of wrestler masks and other over-the-top decor.  Not necessarily in a bad way.  Had some tacos that were decent but too juicy for my taste.  

Drove across the way to the American Tobacco Campus, a former compound that apparently used to be dedicated to the stuff.  Gigantic, neat space with several of the venues for the fest as well as the hands-on Moog-sponsored area and a Guitar Center pop-up Moog store.  Moogs at 25% off?!  Yes please.  Messed around with a Mother 32 and DFAM combination for a bit, while I could get sounds out of the DFAM I decided it’s not really what I’m looking for, but confirmed my interest in the Mother 32.  Purchased.

Went off to the hotel next to check in.  At 1:00 it was a bit early but I figured I’d give it a shot.  Turns out the 4th rate travel agency Google booked me through CANCELLED my reservation.  Oh, fuck.  Luckily the lady was super nice and they still had a couple of rooms.  The rate was different each night but turned out to be about as cheap as I was hoping it would be.  Folks, go with a major site like, or just don’t go.  It’s not worth it.  Can you imagine if you showed up to Coachella the day of without a reservation?  You’d go to sleep in your car and wake up in your car in a tow yard somewhere in Cathedral City at best.

Checked in and grabbed the hotel shuttle to the first venue to see the three-hour A Place To Bury Strangers show.  This was listed as a “durational performance,” which I had to look up.  Basically it means “long”.  They started with a 15-minute drone piece, solid feedback expertly manipulated.  They then opened with Alone, the opener from their album Worship, and song I was hoping they’d open with, so that was a good sign.  They did a couple more songs, then another drone, then a set of maybe six songs.  That was the first hour.  

The bassist left the stage and we were all kind of wondering what was happening.  We turned around and saw him and another guy at some sort of mobile rig, manipulating switches, playing bass.  So the whole perplexed crowd walked over to the back right corner of the venue and stood around while the singer worked the mic and the others worked instruments, knobs, dials, faders, and whatever.  Then they started moving this contraption around in a slow, wide circle, while the crowd shifted around them.

After a while one of them walked to the OTHER back corner of the room and got onto a DIFFERENT mobile rig, so there were two sets of them on two rigs, doing weird shit.  Eventually all of them ended up on this second mobile thing and slowly, very slowly, walked it to the front, back to the stage.  They took the stage again and played until the second hour was up.  

For the third hour, they started by leaving their instruments in a state of ambient feedback while they moved the drums near the edge of the stage, the bassist and singer moving their amps to the edge of the stage while they decided to stand on the floor with the audience.  They were doing literal mic drops, dropping the head of the microphone onto various things - guitars, the floor, switches on pedals.  More drone and then, a final, blistering set including the title track from their amazing album Exploding Head followed. At the end of it there were still about 100 people who’d stuck around for the entire thing, applauding as the band smiled at us, stupefied, giving us a thumbs-up.

In the bar before the show I overheard a conversation between a guy from Detroit and two guys from San Diego.  I got in on that conversation pretty easily and ended up hanging with Josh from Detroit for that entire show.  Nice, big dude named Josh with glasses and a super long beard who was probably the most into the show of anyone, he’d yell, “FUCK YEAH!” About once an hour and get the crowd yelling and applauding.  We ended up drinking rye whisky the whole time together and generally getting our minds blown.  Afterwards I said, "See ya later man!", to which he replied, “I’ll be around, I’m the dude with the beard!”

Went over to Quarterhorse, another venue around the corner (everything’s right around the corner here) that was an arcade with DJs.  Mamis and the Papis were playing some housey Latin-inspired tracks, and by the time I headed out about 20 minutes into their set, they had a decent-sized crowd.  It was a free event, as were all at that place for Moogfest.   I wanted so badly to head back to at least play some pinball (they have many machines) but never made it.

Then onto Pinhook, a little Casbah-sized place for Dudadius, a guy who’d mentioned he had a set on Muff Wiggler (I know, the name sucks, but it's a great community of wonderful modular synth folks).  Excellent combination of (I assume) mostly modular synths sequenced by something like Ableton.  That’s a direction I’m exploring so it was great to see how he could put together a 50-minute set with that stuff and make it compelling and feel like it had movement at the same time.

I’m ashamed to admit that it was 8:30 and I was beat.  I would have liked to have seen Matthew Dear, but I figured I’d rather rest up on the first night to have energy for Friday, which is the big night with Tim Hecker, The Field, and if I can stay awake, Daniel Miller, then Arabian Prince of NWA at Durham Fruit Company (aka "Fruit") until 2:45 AM.

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