[Festival Review] Moogfest 2016 in Durham, NC


Moog Like Rogue, Fest

Words & Photos by James Gilstrap

How many conversations have I had revolving around how to pronounce “Moog”?  Thanks to Moogfest FAQs, I have the knowledge to not sound like a fool.  So begins, the first step in entering my fest of Moog. Let me tell you the rest.

Thursday 19 May, 2016

8PM Dawn of Midi at Carolina Theatre

I couldn’t think of a better way to start my festival.  Listening to Dawn of Midi felt like standing on a open field watching an approaching thunderstorm.  Not afraid, you stand there letting the rain piano, thunder bass, and lighting drums wash over you.  At that moment, I knew that Moogfest was going to be dope!


9PM Julia Holter at Carolina Theatre

There is still a dark cloudy sky left by the last performance.  Not problem for Julia Holter.  Her music punching progressively larger holes filled with golden light.  Endless smiles are what is left.


10PM Blood Orange at Motorco Park

I didn’t know much about Blood Orange other than a few popular tracks from their latest album.  I was definitely excited about seeing them, but never thought it would be the best performance of the entire festival.  Even with a top notch band, Dev Hynes stands out as a true sex god.  The culmination of him ripping on the guitar, breaking out some perfect dance moves, and releasing his smooth voice; had the entire place grinding privates to ass.  I’m pretty sure many babies were made that night.


11:30PM Miike Snow at Motorco Park

I just want to dance!  Miike Snow let me. They brought this high energy electro pop rock that just took over my body. Many calories were burned during their set.

Friday 20 May, 2016


1:00 AM Ryan Hemsworth at The Armory

What an incredible DJ set!  The man masterfully controlled wide ranges of tempos across genres — keeping everyone anxiously on their toes for what was next. NOTE:  Dude markets himself in a perfect manner.  His back drop projection was constant artistic representations of himself or his name.

2:00 PM

Give the non-performance festival activities the ole college try.  This lasts for about 10 minutes before I’m off to pound beers.  LIttle do I know,  drinking was a grave mistake.

4:00 PM

Pounding of beers continue.

6:40 PM

Getting tipsy.


7:00 PM Professor Toon at Motorco Music Hall

My hip hop side loves a bomb ass beat that moves your body. This was not Professor Toon.  Intelligent deep lyrics perfectly flow with the beat in the back seat just filling gaps.  He had my ear the entire set. Keep an eye on this fella.

7:30 PM

Head to The Pit rooftop for $10 buffet; and proceed to stuff my face with 2 plates of Carolina BBQ with vineagar sauce, BBQ Chicken, and green beans.  Thus begins, the great downward spiral.

8:50 PM Grimes at Motorco Park

I’m 35 and chubby.  Day drinking always wrecks me, but I always seem to forget.  Plus add on 2 pounds of food in my stomach, you do the math. Trying to muster up energy but having difficulty.  Ask anyone, Grimes put on a good show.  You can see this by just looking at the crowd move during her set.  But unfortunately, I had no energy to enjoy her show.  Must keep going.


10:15PM ODESZA at Motorco Park

The entire crowd is just jumping all around me matching the same high energy of ODESZA’s performance as I make errrr sounds.  All energy has completely left the body.  I have become a zombie.

10:45 PM

I raise enough courage to call it quits and head home.  I vow again, to never day drink at a festival.

Saturday 21 May 2016


3:00 PM Daniel Bachman at First Presbyterian Church

Moogfest picked a perfect venue to hold this man and his gang.  Epic western guitar stories with a perfect back drop of dark wood paneling, large organ pipes, and the holy cross.  I anticipated a rugged cowboy kicking open the doors, shining six shooter hanging loosely at his hip, slowly walking down the center isle, boots clopping on the hard woods with a sharp ding of spurs, stopping in the middle of the church, and saying “Someone owes me 10 thousand pesos.”  Daniel barking “I got your money, son” and starts wailing on his guitar.  The cowboy immediately starts doing a two step smiling the entire time.


4:00 PM Mac McCaughan at Durham Arts Council PSI Theatre

Not reading anything Moogfest wrote about his planned performance, I was caught completely off guard.  My only research was listening to his solo work on Spotify which was completely opposite of this set.  He synthesized an entire slow burn score while strangely costumed dancers moved in odd patterns with props.  Once I relaxed and just let it soak in, my enjoyment increased every minute.  The most unique performance of my Moogfest.


5:00 PM Julianna Barwick at First Presbyterian Church

Covered in warm stained glass light, standing at the focal point of spiritual energy; Julianna Barwick brought the Holy Spirit to Moogfest.  Everyone perfectly still absorbing her angelic music.  I was very surprised not to see hands raise in praise.


7:30 PM Gary Numan at Carolina Theatre

Only knowing a few tracks by Gary Numan, I was expecting a very chill and relaxed performance.  Boy was I wrong.  I would have never guessed this man screams electro Rock N Roll.  From the amazing light show, rock god poses, relentless band; I can see why there was a HUGE line. Gary Numan is the total package.


9:15 PM Son Lux at Motorco Music Hall

Each time Son Lux played a song the masses rejoiced.  Their style pretty much made it impossible not to enjoy.   It reminded me of dubstep mashed with rock.  Entire songs speckled with wonderfully synthesized sounds brief moments of dropping pure crazy.  They definitely kept you on your toes.


10:15 PM YACHT at Motorco Music Hall

YACHT’s pumping 80s electronic dance set the packed Motorco into a frenzy.   Plus Claire L. Evans added stage energy, speaker standing antics, and not to mention her jacket disrobe; add anymore to this pot and risk spontaneous combustion all over the place.  Last thing I wanted to was pick pieces of smelly hipster off my Cole Haan shoes.


10:00 AM Explosion in the Sky at Carolina Theatre

Every since seeing Explosion in the Sky on Austin City Limits aired on 13 October 2007, I have been a fan in waiting for a chance to see them live.  Finally, the time has come to fulfill a life dream.  I arrived a hour and 30 minutes early to ensure my dream comes true.  Tied with Sigur Rós, there is not one band that can top their ability to create such epic stories minus a vocalist.  You just have to close your eyes and let your imagination create your own vision of the song.  I couldn’t have asked for a better set to close my Moogfest.


Despite some issues, my first Moogfest was amazing.  On top of the fantastic performances, I met a lot of interesting people and had wonderful conversations.  In the end, this is the goal of any festival. Bring all styles of people together to share art.

I’ve lived in North Carolina since ’86 and experienced its slow transition from a quiet to lively character.
Lets hope that Moogfest will continue to grow as a beacon not just for Durham, but North Carolina.

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