Moogfest 2017 kicked off on May 18, 2017. The four-day celebration of music, tech, culture, and art swooped into Durham, North Carolina. Its second year in Durham was marked by high-energy, and diversity of programming.
On the Protest Stage, rapper Mykki Blanco opened with an uptempo performance. The California-born artist moved to Raleigh, North Carolina in her youth before eventually attending the School of the Art Institute in Chicago and later Parsons School of Design in New York City. Blanco is self-described as transgender, and in light of the horrifying and appaling House Bill 2 (HB2) law, Blanco used the protest stage to deliver a message. “All lives matter, but we must protect black children.”
I grew up in North Carolina so I know 2017 NC isn’t 1963 Alabama.
— Mykki Blanco
Additionally, Blanco recalled living in NC and offered the hopeful thought, “I grew up in NC so I know 2017 NS isn’t 1963 Alabama.” Not only did Blanco deliver musically, but her set featured a theatrical vibe. Mykki opened not on stage, but in the crowd, venturing into the audience several times.
Syrian legend Omar Souleyman graced the stage after Mykki Blanco. The prolific Souleyman, decked out in his rec-checkered keffiyeh and robe-esque djellaba busted out his joyful music. With just Souleyman and an accompanying man onstage manning a pair of Korg keyboards, Omar’s vibrant tunes emanated throughout Motorco Park’s Protest Stage. The former wedding singer debuts his latest album To Syria, With Love in June, 2017.
Netflix original series “Stranger Things” rose to prominence, quickly amassing a cult following. In part, this is owing to its retro aesthetic fostered visually as well as through its synth soundtrack which channeled a John Carpenter, Goblin, and Zombi vibe. Kyle Dixion and Michael Stein of Survive composed the “Stranger Things” score. The experimental, dark synth band is comprised Michael Stein, Kyle Dixon, Adam Jones, and Mark Donica. Their set at Durham’s Armory remains one of Moogfest’s finest.
Exhibiting spectacular analog synth proficiency with an atmospheric, all-instrumental set, Survive offered a captivating show. Replete with dark purple, blue, and red lighting, it reminded me of Zombi’s 2016 Moogfest gig.
Renowned rapper Talib Kweli hit the Protest Stage. Paying homage to the greats, Kweli took a moment to remind the audience that hip hop spawned from the likes of Public Enemy, Rakim, and KRS-One. Additionally, and for what promises to be one of the best moments of Moogfest 2017, Talib kicked part of “Strawberry Fields Forever.” As Kweli astutely observed, “Paul McCartney got bars.” Talib also spit over recognizable beats varying from Wu-Tang and A Tribe Called Quest tracks to Jackson 5 samples.
North Carolina hip hop producer 9th Wonder came out on stage briefly. Talib and 9th collaborated for the 2016 Indie 500 LP. “Race is a social construct,” Kweli told the audience. Further, he explained that pro-black simply means pro-equality. Altering his lines from Black Star track “K.O.S. (Determination),” Kweli spit “The fire’s in my eyes and the flames need fannin’/The fire’s in my eyes and fuck Steve Bannon.”
Closing out the evening, Avalon Emerson dropped a captivating show. The DJ and producer featured a set of hynotic poppy beats mixed with harder dubsetp. While individual movements varied significantly, Emerson’s cohesive performance proved her skill and proficiency in sound design. Her dreamy DJ gig was matched by an impressive light accompaniment.
Meanwhile, Stones Throw DJ and producer Peanut Butter Wolf held it down for the hip hop heads. Spinning vinyl on dual turntables, Peanut Butter Wolf provided a spectacular show replete with old school hip hop music videos and retro cartoons. In the middle of the show, Peanut Butter Wolf invited Stones Throw up and coming artist Sudan Archives onto the stage so sing over his beats.
Moogfest 2017 day one concentrated on diversity of programming. Additionally, there was a strong theme of social change and ideation.
Stay tuned for more Moogfest 2017 coverage! What were your favorite day one shows, and what are you most excited to see?