Moogfest 2016 Festival Review: 25 Best Performances

A perfect hybrid of music, technology, and humanity


    Moogfest: the event that never ceases to amaze.

    “Event” being the important distinction. Part festival, part conference, part expo — Moogfest celebrates music, technology, counterculture, and always the future. It’s as hybridized as the music genres it highlights and the multidisciplinary creatives presiding over its programming.

    Where else can cyborgs and futurists rub elbows with electronic music legends? Better still, where else can forward-thinking fans and creatives go to engage directly with some of the brightest minds on the planet? Moogfest is an experience designed to stimulate creativity. It’s uncommon for any event of this scale to have such altruistic intentions, but that’s the reality. That’s why luminaries like Laurie Anderson, Gary Numan, Martine Rothblatt, Mark Mothersbaugh, Janelle Monáe, Daniel Lanois, and many others left their mark on Moogfest this year — not to mention the legacy of remarkable talent that’s graced the event across its nine iterations.

    Nina Corcoran, Crowd 01

    Photo by Nina Corcoran

    What further sets Moogfest apart are its cozy confines. Since 2010, Moogfest had shared its home with the Moog Factory in Asheville, North Carolina, where it cultivated a relaxed, familial environment of artists, presenters, and patrons co-mingling as they walked from venue to venue. This year, they’ve uprooted from the funky mountain town to Durham, home of Duke University and myriad tech startups. Miraculously, the scenery change didn’t cause any unwanted distortion. Durham welcomed the hybrid festival with open arms, and their wide variety of venue spaces, excellent food, and genuinely friendly people ensured that even with the move, returning to Moogfest still felt like coming home.


    This year’s event comes at a critical time, with North Carolina’s discriminatory HB2 bathroom law restricting transgender persons from using the bathrooms of their chosen gender and many performers boycotting the state in protest. In response, Moogfest, along with the artists and local activist groups, co-opted the festival as a weekend-long protest of HB2, ensuring that all bathrooms at all venues were gender neutral, speaking out against the bill throughout the four-day event, and encouraging everyone to “Synthesize Love.” No artist declined to appear at Moogfest, and some of the biggest names lent their words to the creation of a powerful statement of defiance on the Moogfest website — a statement embodied in the event itself.

    Yo Gabba Gabba 1 - Moogfest 16 - Cap Blackard

    Photo by Cap Blackard

    Future thought, future sound, afrofuturism, transhumanism … synthesis. Moogfest is the festival of the 21st century. It’s an idea too bold to work, and yet, against all odds, it thrives — celebrating humankind’s triumphs in innovation and looking headlong to the synth-scored horizon of where we’re headed. Here’s but a sampling of the amazing things we saw and experienced at Moogfest 2016: music performances, discussions, and all the eye-opening stuff in between.

    –Cap Blackard
    Art Director


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