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Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

on October 28, 2013, 6:35pm
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The first annual Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit (MOEMS) is in the books, and what a weekend it was. Despite all the pre-festival drama — the change from “Moogfest” to MOEMS, some unfortunate last-minute cancellations — the weekend ran with the ease of any other AC Entertainment effort. Just about every act was on time, the sound across every stage was pristine, and the crowds were just as fun as you’d hope on the weekend before Halloween, and with plenty of incredible costumes to boot.

With international talent top to bottom on the lineup, people from all over the world gathered together in Asheville, North Carolina. The gorgeous mountain town’s a free-spirit pocket in the middle of red country, where beer flows like honey from the insane number of high-quality local breweries, restaurants serve locally grown, natural products, and you’re more likely to find a police officer playing a friendly game of hacky sack with locals than abusing their power. It’s the perfect setting for a melting pot of music fans, stringing together experimental thinkers, bassheads, scene veterans, and indie rockers the world over.

And while Asheville will always remain a highlight, those fans booked flights and hit the road for a weekend of incredible performances. We did, too. From Neutral Milk Hotel to Alan Howarth, here are some of our favorite moments from the weekend.

Deltron 3030 keeps it classy

deltron3030 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

Deltron 3030 is not your average hip-hop outfit. They’re an electro-funk supergroup from the future with an epic sci-fi quest told across two albums. At Mountain Oasis, they really stepped up their game, bringing along a 16-piece orchestra complete with strings, horns, and a chorus. The tuxedo-clad Dan the Automator served well as conductor, also overseeing a three-piece band, Kid Koala on the tables, and Del the Funky Homosapien — a.k.a. Deltron Zero — at the mic. Together, everyone hit each note to precision, from “Positive Contact” to recent single “City Rising From the Ashes” to the closer that brought it all home: a cover of Gorillaz’s “Clint Eastwood”. Energetic is the keyword here. –Carson O’Shoney

Rustie vs. United States of America

Rustie Friday

Photo by Derek Staples

For the last half-decade, Scotland’s Rustie has been helping shape the UK’s eclectic underground garage scene, a sub-genre that’s still finding some traction Stateside. Even at a festival as progressive as Mountain Oasis, Rustie’s ability to meld powerful basslines and wonky deep drops with fluid melodies challenged the dancefloor. Although the producer has multiple production credits on Danny Brown’s Old, it was the Skywlkr-produced “Dip” that Rustie cued up to instigate total dancefloor mayhem. With intermittent scratch sessions, Rustie also demonstrated that he is much more than a keen track selector, but a truly practiced turntablist. –Derek Staples

Anti-electronic night at the electronic music festival

halfjapanese Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

During the weekend, if you were to walk into any given venue between 7 p.m. – 2 a.m., you were bound to find some sort of electronic music being played — be it EDM, experimental, DJ, dubstep, you name it. The one big exception was if you strolled into the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium on Friday night, where you would run headfirst into Half Japanese, Daniel Johnston, and Neutral Milk Hotel, all united for one big folk-rock party.

Half Japanese proved to be the antithesis to most of the weekend’s acts. Instead of an electro dance party timed to pre-programmed lights and visuals, the Maryland post-punk rockers were loose, improvisational, and amateurish — true to their DIY ethos. It was a disjointed and, at times, incoherent set that ran over by 20 minutes, pushing Daniel Johnston’s set back. (Admittedly, we weren’t able to catch the cult legend, though crowd reports indicated it went off just as well.)

By the time Neutral Milk Hotel arrived, Thomas Wolfe was at full capacity, with standing people lining the walls to make use of every bit of space in the theatre. As has been the standard on this tour, Jeff Mangum walked out first and performed a solo rendition of “Two-Headed Boy”, before the rest of the band joined him for “The Fool”. At this point, the crowd was in full frenzy, with not a person on the floor actually sitting in their seat and cameras snapping every second, despite Mangum’s request and zero tolerance for photography.

NMH Friday

After being told to simply “be in the moment”, the crowd settled down to hear the majority of On Avery Island and In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. Highlights included a sped-up punk version of “Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone”; Julian Koster switching between accordions, saws, and banjos with a bow; and Scott “Lawn Gnome” Spillane pouring his heart out on just about every horn imaginable.

The only down side to the entire show was the fact that Bassnectar’s set — literally next door in the conjoined arena — began in the middle of “Oh Comely” leaving the bass to rattle throughout the entire set. That didn’t deter the fans, though, who were completely enamored from start to finish and just happy to have them reunited after 15 years. –Carson O’Shoney

Finally catching Animal Collective on this tour

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Photo by Catherine Watkins

With Animal Collective’s ongoing postponement of multiple Midwest dates, there was a palpable fervor among the densely packed auditorium. Whereas many festivals don’t allow for full stage productions, an hour break between sets allowed for the four-piece to perform aided by their layered projection arches. A festival-friendly set, the performance pulled heavily from 2012’s Centipede Hz, transporting 55% of the audience down a vibrant rabbit hole.

Despite their fame, it remains the experimentation that fuels AnCo. As hinted at during the performance, the intensity of the light show creates a wall between the men and the adoring crowd. They know the fans are there, but they too are lost in the magic of the multi-sensory experience. Which means, that they were oblivious when 45% of the early audience departed approximately 20 minutes in to grab a spot for Nine Inch Nails. A perfect pairing for the festival, AnCo was the delectable amuse-bouche. –Derek Staples

Zola Jesus connects with her audience

zolajesus Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

Everything about Zola Jesus’ Saturday evening set was stunning; from her dress to her voice to the string arrangements. The addition of JG Thirwell and a string quartet only turned it into a piece of living art — literally. The collaborators formed a perfect crescent around the statuesque singer as lighting shrouded her face. Eventually, she broke the stillness and roamed the stage like a possessed spirit, dedicating songs to the audience, haunting up and down the aisles, and singing in their faces. It was funny to see a few aloof souls just brushing by her as they were exiting or finding seats, totally oblivious to the situation. –Carson O’Shoney

The Curious Case of Gary Numan

gary numan watkins Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

When watching Gary Numan own a stage, it’s hard to believe that the seminal electronic artist is now old enough to register for AARP. Early support for Nine Inch Nail’s headlining performance, the set was dominated by Numan’s darker industrial edge. Like a mystical contortionist, Numan snaked around his mic, the angst of the tracks candidly displayed across his sweat-drenched grimaces.

Not to be outdone by the festival’s younger artists, the performance also shed light on Numan’s multi-instrumental abilities, with the frontman also picking up a guitar and spending a considerable amount of time on the synth. This time away from the microphone was a gift for the touring bassist and guitarist, who were forced to avoid getting whacked when Numan would start swinging the stand.

Adding to this youthful energy was a 16-track setlist rife with new material pulled from Numan’s recent Splinter. Of course, no Numan set would be complete without a sing-along to “Cars”. And about an hour into the set, after the tear-jerking “Lost”, Numan was happy to oblige. –Derek Staples

Godspeed being Godspeed

Godspeed

Photo by Derek Staples

At this point, you know what you’re getting when you witness Godspeed You! Black Emperor. That’s not to say it’s stale or boring –quite the contrary — but one recognizes the dramatic tones, gorgeous post-rock, and mountainous crescendos that build and cascade in awe-inspiring rhythms. Their set at MOEMS was no different. Opening with a bass drone so bone-rattling that even Bassnectar was jealous, Godspeed filled the arena with a heavy dose of their musicianship that spanned their entire discography. Not surprisingly, there was some indifference in the stands, perhaps from people just waiting for Nine Inch Nails, as they’ve sure experienced on this tour opening for them, but those that paid attention were treated to a fantastic, engrossing performance. –Carson O’Shoney

NIN steals the show

nin scott criss Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 PerformancesIn case their top billing didn’t make it clear enough, signals were all over town on Saturday that Nine Inch Nails were the biggest band on the festival’s lineup. From their posters on streetlights to the plethora of band shirts to all the conversations murmured at surrounding eateries and pubs, it was clear that thousands of ears were ready for Trent Reznor & Co.

Bringing along a new stage production and a light show that’s something between the “With Teeth” and “Wave Goodbye” tours, Nine Inch Nails played likely the smallest show of their tour in the less than 7,000 capacity Asheville Civic Center. That didn’t stop them from going all out in the 20-song set. Drawing from at least one song from every album, Reznor played a career-spanning set that was heavy on The Fragile and this year’s comeback album, Hesitation Marks.

A few of the new songs held their own next to the classics, while some just felt like filler. Given the festival setting, the band stuck to more of the hits (e.g. “The Hand That Feeds”) and trimming some of the fan favorites in recent setlists (e.g. “A Warm Place”, “Somewhat Damaged”). Still, they were on fire and found a good balance of slower, moodier songs and the heavy, hardcore jams which the crowd chewed out of their hands.

The light show was intense and flexible; hanging lights hovered just above the band with backlights that blinded the audience at times. It could get really moody and smoky, especially when they relied on the crowd’s lighters for “Hurt”. Thankfully, there was no encore; instead, they wasted zero time and played straight through to the end. –Carson O’Shoney

Photo by Scott Criss

William Basinski becomes a living piece of art

basinski tidwell Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Bands performing as part of an art piece at a museum became something of a thing for a while this year, what with The National performing “Sorrow” for six hours at MOMA PS1 and Jay-Z doing the same with “Picasso Baby” at the Pace Gallery. But if any artist belongs in a museum, to paraphrase Indiana Jones, it’s William Basinski. (Fun fact: His most well known work actually can already be heard in a museum; the Disintegration Loops at the 9/11 Memorial Museum.) On Sunday evening, his MOEMS set was similar to a new art installation, as passersby came and went, admiring for as long as they saw fit. Opinions varied; some found his nearly hour-long loop of piano chords enthralling, though others couldn’t handle it like one sleeping patron and someone’s frustrated girlfriend who exclaimed, “I can’t take it anymore.” Hey, all the best works of art are controversial, right? –Carson O’Shoney

Disclosure brings Settle to life

Disclosure + Jessie Ware

Photo by Derek Staples

The English brothers’ debut LP Settle was huge, but there is something about watching the duo live that one can just see yet-untapped abilities. Stationed behind their individual rigs, the duo separate themselves with an ability to perform tracks live, thus further bridging the EDM-pop realms. Not too vocal behind their rigs, the crowd interaction arrives from their syrupy songwriting abilities. Surely, those standing outside could hear the buzz of an entire arena singing along to “When A Fire Starts To Burn”, “White Noise”, and “Help Me Lose My Mind”. The night was completed by one very special guest vocalist — Jessie Ware hooped on stage mid-set to perform “Confess To Me”. It’s unlikely that the brothers Lawrence will ever be able to tap all their featured vocalists; however, that extra live element is a needed evolution as their careers continue to develop. –Derek Staples

 Darkside throws a Dark party

darkside 600 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

For their first gig since the release of their Top Star-earning debut album, Psychic, Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington unpacked a show that bobbled to the top of the weekend. Amidst a minimal light show of two stationary cones of light, the two shadowed collaborators matched the album’s feelings and atmosphere by moving from experimental ambiance to bass-heavy dance sections, sometimes within the same moment. The crowd turned into a madhouse, especially during set highlight “Freak, Go Home”, which hopefully someone taped — it’d make a great preview for next year’s proper tour. It’s a can’t miss… you’ll thank me later. –Carson O’Shoney

Cut Copy’s 90 minutes of zero nonsense

cutcopy tidwell Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Reggie Tidwell

Cut Copy are proof that age and excitement are not inversely correlated. With the Aussie’s fourth LP Free Your Mind available in about a week, Dan Whitford and co. worked through some of the album’s material. Set opener and summer single “Let Me Show You Love” contains nostalgic electronics and sing-along choruses that fans of Cut Copy have grown to expect; now complete with progressive guitar interplay, twisted electro loops, distant echoes, piano strokes, and a more mature lyrical perspective.

As expected, the band revisited past singles “Hearts On Fire”, “Where I’m Going”, and “Far Away”, though the last third of the set included new tracks such as “We Are Explorers” and “Take Me Higher”. However, fun sound aside, Cut Copy isn’t the type of band that brings much excitement to the stage, which is something they might want to tweak for next year. Not that we want Tim Hoey to crash an amp or Mitchell Scott to destroy his kit, but it would be nice to see a connection to the climaxes of fan favorites like “Lights and Music”. Still, the music sounds great. –Derek Staples

Alan Howarth brought the ’80s back

howarth600 Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit: Top 14 Performances

Photo by Catherine Watkins

Think of any ’80s horror flick. Now think of the score. Are you hearing a distinctly creepy ’80s synth? Because you should be. And if you happened to think of a John Carpenter horror flick, chances are you’re thinking of an Alan Howarth creation. He paired with Carpenter on a number of his best films to provide that aural tension, specifically Halloween, The Thing, They Live, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China, etc. On Sunday night, Howarth brought those sounds and its accompanying visuals to MOEMS and it was the most 80s thing that happened all weekend — much apologies to any ’80s themed Halloween costumes.

Armed with just a synth and a guitar, the cult composer performed selections from all the aforementioned films, including others like Assault on Precinct 13 and Retribution. The various selections and their accompanying videos ran the gamut from light and fun (Big Trouble) to dark and gruesome (The Thing). Every new selection elicited a number of cheers, though most came when picked up the guitar over getting gooey with the synths. The set ended with a slideshow of his career and a gracious smile. Shortly after, he stuck around the lobby to sign autographs for anyone that wanted one.

All in all, this set was one that makes MOEMS stand out above the rest. Sets this unique come rare at festivals. –Carson O’Shoney

The Orb closes out MOEMS

The Orb Sun

Photo by Derek Staples

Born out of post-club chill out events, it was fitting for The Orb to shut the doors on Mountain Oasis. Easily the “danciest” of the three days, much of the lineup was building to the cerebral dub of founder Alex Paterson and live collaborator Thomas Fehlmann. The influence of Paterson’s downtempo experiments of the ’90s can now be heard in the post-dubstep of Mount Kimbie, and the work of T. Williams and Disclosure (who all performed on Sunday). The set reintroduced many to the life that can be present within electronic music. Free of the clutter of modern EDM, the UK duo grabbed the Orange Peel at the most tribal of levels, unifying the crowd with churning ambient techno and insulating everyone from the madness of reality. After a quarter century, Paterson continues to hypnotize revelers with his worldly palette, energized with a new preferred on-stage stimulant: coffee. –Derek Staples

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