On the evening of May 20, Moogfest issued a press release recapping its third festival in Durham. In addition to laudatory highlights about performances from Jenny Hval, Mouse on Mars, and Moses Sumney, the email contained one other key piece of information: new festival dates—April 25–28, 2019—and a link to buy early-bird tickets.
Since then, however, Moogfest has had little to say about what will happen in Durham on those days. Toward the end of January, I noticed that the tech-heavy festival’s social media channels had been unusually dormant as it heads into its fifteenth-anniversary event. As of February 5, Moogfest’s Twitter feed had been silent since November 4, and its Instagram and Facebook pages had lain fallow since December 22. As I started sniffing around, the answers I got were surprising, by virtue of barely existing at all.
In short, nobody outside of the festival’s inner circle seems to know what’s going on.
Moogfest’s biggest public-facing issue at the moment is that there’s no announced lineup. That doesn’t mean they don’t have one—J. Cole’s Dreamville festival released its lineup just two weeks before the festival was scheduled for mid-September last year—but it doesn’t bode well for a festival of Moogfest’s scale.
It’s standard for festivals to release lineup information several months ahead of time; even Hopscotch usually has a lead time of about four months. The practice also doesn’t follow Moogfest’s own track record of announcing at least a handful of artists well in advance: In 2017, Moogfest announced its first wave of programming in early January, and the first artists for the 2018 iteration were announced in the first week of December 2017.
So when is the announcement coming? Neither Kai Riedl, Moogfest’s Durham-based “head of innovative curation,” nor festival publicist Susan Zimmerman, who goes by SiouxZ, would say. Asked specifically when the announcement would happen, Riedl offered “February,” while SiouxZ said that the lineup announcements would “begin in a few weeks.”
Big-name bookings like Sunn O))), Animal Collective, and Gary Numan have been a strong advance-ticketing driver for Moogfest, so the lack of an announcement so far could suggest that there’s not even enough confirmed programming to warrant an announcement.
It’s not impossible to book a music festival on relatively short notice, but it is significantly more difficult. Many artists already have their summer festival appearances confirmed, and last-minute booking usually requires spending a lot more money on talent—it’s markedly more expensive to fly in a band and their gear for one show than it might be to slot a festival stop into the band’s pre-existing East Coast tour.
The hoi polloi aren’t the only ones left in the dark: The very rooms required to make Moogfest happen are, too. An essential piece of booking any show or festival is a hold, a save-the-date arrangement between venues and promoters as they finalize details for a show. The Pinhook, The Carolina Theatre, American Tobacco Campus, The Fruit, and Durham Armory all confirmed that they are holding April 25–28 for Moogfest events.
But the venues’ information ends there—they have no other details on programming or production needs.
According to Glenn Boothe, who handles booking for Motorco, there’s no hold on the 450-capacity room for the festival, indicating that the venue is likely not participating.
And a representative of Raund Haus, Durham’s premier beatmaking and hip-hop collective, which had its own stage at the festival last year, said that its involvement with Moogfest this year has yet to be determined.
Even internally, the festival appears to be scrambling. Past and present employees, who requested anonymity for fear of professional retribution but spoke independently of one another, have characterized the working environment as chaotic, marred by poor communication and unclear chains of command.
Last year, the festival came under new management by UG Strategies, but it’s no longer clear if that company is involved (both SiouxZ and Riedl declined to offer specifics). The employees reported that several people had been laid off, and others were required to re-interview for their jobs outright with that restructuring. The festival has a new CEO in Gillian Ryan, who previously was the chief operating officer at UG Strategies and who has worked in the music industry in various capacities for nearly twenty years. Ryan did not respond to multiple requests for a comment or clarification, though SiouxZ wrote that Ryan had been traveling and “apologizes for not getting back to [me] herself.”
Moogfest organizers promise that the festival is happening, though one staffer said that planning for 2019 didn’t begin in earnest until December of 2018. As of press time, it’s entirely possible that it will all go on without a hitch, with all the bells and whistles bigger and better than ever before.
But in the meantime, the festival has a lot of blank spaces to fill, and the odds aren’t entirely favorable.
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Most owners of Moog gear are 40+ and make electronic music that harkens to the original meaning of the term… yet Moog seems to mostly ignore the musicians and bands that this segment loves in lew of young indie rock musicians. I suppose marketing to the next generation is key, but I’d expect better attendance and more interest if they catered to this group as well by booking more artists in this genre. There are not many 20 year olds buy Moog One synths at $8k methinks…
I have attended Moogfest the last 3 years. I purchased an “VIP Early Bird” ticket in 2018 for 2019 when Eventbrite was the agent through which one purchased tickets. Without an email notice from Moogfest Support or Eventbrite, the ticket agent was changed to Front Gate Tickets. My ticket disappeared off my Eventbrite account and my Moogfet account completely disappeared. Moogfest (which has no direct contact phone number) auto replied that Front Gate Tickets would issue me a ticket by April 1st. After April 1st and no ticket, I contacted Moogfest (which auto-replied again the same email message sent a week before April 1st). I called Front Gate Tickets, and was told by customer service to forward my Eventbrite order number, Moogfest Support correspondence, and my contact. The result, a return email saying..”we are not responsible”. I sent another email to Moogfest and received another auto reply that Front Gate Tickets would email a new ticket by April 15th….Chaos. Me thinks I will not be attending this Moogfest year
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