Moogfest, Night Three: Overcoming a Different Kind of Drone | Music
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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Moogfest, Night Three: Overcoming a Different Kind of Drone

Posted by on Sun, May 20, 2018 at 11:16 AM

click to enlarge Jenny Hval - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE BILLIONS CORPORATION
  • Photo courtesy of The Billions Corporation
  • Jenny Hval
Moogfest, Night Three: Jenny Hval, Pete Rock, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, DJ Stingray
Downtown Durham
Saturday, May 19, 2018


There was a dull ambient roar at Moogfest this weekend, and I’m not even talking about whatever Wes Borland’s drone set was. No, this particular sound emanated from the back end of the cavernous Armory all weekend, coming to a head as it threatened to engulf Jenny Hval’s set on Saturday night. It was the sound of dozens of people, choosing to pound their beers and chat instead of watching the stage. For a delicate set like Hval, their voices became a thick, meandering drone, impossible to tune out under the set.

Of course, this is unavoidable at most music festivals, where loud, drunk industry people live to be heard by each other. It’s also a symptom of curating a large-scale festival without clear tentpole headlining talent. There was almost none of the brash festival staples that Moogfest has brought in previous years, like Animal Collective, Grimes, Odesza, and Flying Lotus.

Casual ticket buyers who come year after year may reluctantly show up to left-field programming, but that can also make audiences feel weirdly fractured and hurt the intimate experience for those who are more concerned about the undercard. Maybe The Armory just wasn’t the best for Hval. For her part, she maintained professionalism during an extremely eclectic, unpredictable set. The singer blew up plastic inflatables and did word-processor karaoke to her own songs, while quietly demonstrating her considerable chops as a slow-burn ambient pop purveyor.

Late lineup additions like Pete Rock and A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad did their best to add name-brand respectability elsewhere earlier in the day. Both spun a memorable mix of hip-hop over at The Cage, a covered basketball court on the American Tobacco campus, which made for a distinct and genuinely cool backdrop. The Carolina Theatre had throwback spectacle too, where a back to back appreciation society for cult eighties heroes Psychic TV and KRS-One went down. It isn’t much of a revelation to say that both of those probably got a far better turnout at this year's Moogfest than they would have in a normal year. I sadly missed both due to scheduling conflicts, including a Fatima Al Qadiri set that I also just barely missed due to the long trek over to Motorco.

My real treat came getting to see Berlin-via-Detroit electro superstar Angus Finlayson, aka DJ Stingray. Stingray is a recent underground favorite with an impressive résumé—he grew up in the same neighborhood as the celebrated Detroit deejay Moodymann and learned to deejay from him, for one. His face obscured by his characteristic balaclava, he closed out the night at The Fruit with a visceral and highly physical set that demonstrated why his name carries such weight.

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