Between 2013 and 2016, Slingshot Festival filled the streets of Athens, Georgia, with its three-pronged approach of music, visual arts, and technology, bringing in high-profile performers like James Murphy of LCD Sound System, Tinariwen, Angel Olsen, and Crystal Castles, alongside dozens of sound artists and local artists who work in other mediums. 

Founded by Kai Riedl, a former Ph.D. student at the University of Georgia, the festival grew from a scrappy Kickstarter-fueled event to the kind of sprawling experimental festival that Southern college towns are known for. The festival took a pause over the past few years as Riedl worked as executive producer of Moogfest. (Moogfest 2020 was canceled before the onset of COVID-19 due to apparent logistical issues, and has since been snarled in legal troubles.) 

Now, Riedl says, it’s time for Slingshot to make its mark on Durham: the festival is set to take place at downtown venue the Fruit on Friday, October 1, and Saturday, October 2. Because of both COVID-19 and its new beginnings, Slingshot won’t be a full-scale festival, but Riedl says he anticipates it having a “weekender” feel that “represents what is possible.” 

Techno producer Juan Atkins (also known as Model 500, Cybotron, and Infiniti) is headlining the festival; there will also be a Friday DJ set by chillwave pioneer Ernest Greene (Washed Out) and a Saturday set by Colombian composer Ela Minus. Also on the roster: sets by local electronic staples like Oak City SlumsTreee CityGemyniiQueen PlzGappa Mighty, and more. 

“Now that Moogfest is no longer in Durham I thought it’d be a great opportunity to reignite Slingshot in a town that has a lot of the same vibes as Athens—a lot of the tech community and a burgeoning electronic music scene,” says Riedl, who is no longer affiliated with Moogfest. 

If Slingshot’s hybrid approach to an electronic music festival sounds similar to Moogfest, Riedl says that’s fair—they both emerged during the heyday of hybrid music festivals, and both relocated to Durham from out-of-town.

But, he adds, after building a foundation in Durham over the past four years, he’s excited to foster a more community-based approach to Slingshot. Alongside business partner curator and artist Vivek Boray, Riedl has been using some city funding and working with Art of Cool festival veteran Al Strong to get Slingshot’s first year in Durham off the ground. 

“I’d like to see a little more organic growth from Durham instead of a more top-down Moogfest situation where you have many parties from out of town dictating what’s going on with a festival,” says Riedl, who has lived in Durham for four years. “This is a little more community developed. That’s why I’ve been reaching out to a lot of local and regional musicians to make sure they’re interested in doing something.”

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