Moogfest, Day Two
Downtown Durham
Friday, May 19, 2017

As someone who has helped start fake celebrity sighting rumors at music festivals, Hannibal Buress is ruining our gag. Everywhere I went Friday at Moogfest, someone had a story about seeing him. They spotted him in an elevator, or walking down the street. Pictures of him tinkering with synths showed up on Twitter.

At one point, I got a text from a friend saying Buress was about to moderate an Animal Collective interview, a stunt I can only imagine was willed into existence by his Eric Andre Show bit about Animal Collective. I heard the interview involved a lot of talk about parrots.

Thankfully, I found things to do besides obsessively chart Buress’s movements. In their vision quest to become a Frankenstein tech-and-music festival, Moogfest doubled down on the futurist educational daytime events this year. Many of them are fascinating, but there are dozens of panels, talks, workshops and performances. The endless niche choices can start to feel suffocating.

I lay on the floor and pondered these choices early on in the day at the multi-hour Durational performance Haxan Cloak and Nick Zinner in the American Underground building, conveniently in the same first-floor room as the former offices of Indy Week. The extended set paired Haxan’s blacker-than-black harsh ambient with Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Zinner’s weirdo touch effortlessly, and their results sounded evil. As they jammed, I imagined synths exploding, wifi-enabled pocket synths tracking their users, a synth that steals your fingerprints for the government. For as positive and forward-thinking as most synth music is, it can be a fun thought experiment to take dark synth stuff and imagine the opposite.

One strange event became the most heartwarming and amusing event I saw Friday: a children’s book reading. In The Durham’s second-floor Mezzanine, former Pitchfork editor and current Creative Independent editor Brandon Stosuy sat crosslegged on hotel carpet in front of a group of kids (and a few adults) to read through his new children’s book, Music Is… The picture book has a cosign from Bjork on the back and is designed to teach children about the feelings and moods that music can channel. For example, music can be loud or happy or sad or soft.

Hisham Bharoocha, a visual artist who also plays in the band Kill Alters, soundtracked each page with CDJ musical selections that he felt represented the emotions at hand. I’ve never seen someone attempt to play Lightning Bolt and Moondog for toddlers, and I wonder if I ever will again. The ten or so children in the room were shy at first, and by the end Stosuy had a crowd of kids around him clapping and grooving out to each musical selection. It was all very adorable.

Early in the evening I headed to Pinhook for a rare U.S. appearance from Pye Corner Audio, a melancholy British producer who has recorded for famed “hauntology” label Ghost Box. He shares Boards of Canada’s spatial uneasiness and fetish for seventies educational music, and that came out in his live set, which was a frightening, slightly clubby daydream. I left a bit early because it was too densely packed in the Pinhook, a byproduct of a small show starting well before any others.

I don’t get many moments at festivals when I can sit in complete silence and focus on the live experience, so I absolutely loved Visible Cloaks’ hushed set at the First Presbyterian Church. They played as two silhouettes, framed against a giant screen that caught projections of rainbow cubes, amorphous latticework, and dripping colors, all underneath the church’s exquisite windows and cavernous ceiling. The room gave their new-age-influenced ambient jams the sort of panoramic boost that only the right space can.

But the best set of the night was courtesy of Canada’s Jessy Lanza. A quiet opener for Animal Collective’s headlining show later in the evening, Lanza made the stage her own and took the crowd to full-on R&B church. She’s good on record, but she’s a treasure live.