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Moogfest started in 2004 and is named for Robert Moog, the inventor of the modern analog synthesizer, who spent the last 30 years of his life in his adopted hometown of Asheville, North Carolina. It began when Moog Music employee David Olivier contacted Charles Carlini, a New York-based promoter, to create an event honoring the company’s 50th anniversary.

The first event, May 18, 2004, was a four-hour, sold-out affair at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in New York City with appearances from musicians such as Keith Emerson, Rick Wakeman (Yes), Bernie Worrell (Parliament Funkadelic), DJ Logic, and Stanley Jordan. Its subsequent appearances in New York City were one-night only concert-based affairs. Robert Moog died of brain cancer in 2005.

In 2009, the Moogfest skipped a year and in 2010 moved to the city of Asheville, home to Moog Music and known for its robust music scene and forward-thinking vibe. Moog Music then partnered with promotion company AC Entertainment, and it became a three-day, multi-stage event with contemporary performers and producers embodying the innovation intrinsic to electronic music. Over the course of the following years in Asheville, Moogfest grew, bringing in electronic music legends such as Devo, Tangerine Dream, Moby, Thomas Dolby, Brian Eno, and Orbital along with up-and-coming acts such as Pretty Lights, M83, MGMT, Hot Chip, Massive Attack and the Flaming Lips. In 2013, the festival did not take place, and Moog Music parted ways with AC Entertainment to be relaunched in conjunction with producers Paxahau.

For the first time, 2014’s Moogfest was a five-day event, with more than 100 musical acts centered around electronic music in some way, shape, or form. The festival is expected to attract 50,000 over the course of five days, a fairly significant crowd, given its under-the-radar location in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Learning by Day, Dancing by Night at Moogfest

This year, the festival’s expansion frees up the schedule, splitting up activities thusly: thinking and talking during the day and dancing and concert-going at night. During the day, Moogfest operates like a left-of-center academic conference geared toward creative and/or technology professionals. You’ll encounter days of programming that include talks, presentations, panels, workshops, and film screenings with futurist thinkers, inventors, engineers, designers, artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians. This year, you can see presenter Keith Emerson, founder of Emerson, Lake and Palmer—he also happens to be the first musician to tour with a Moog analog synthesizer, a repeat participant in Moogfest, and the first recipient of the Bob Moog Innovation Award. Other daytime events include speakers such as producer, composer and songwriter Giorgio Moroder, who has worked with everyone from Donna Summer to Blondie and Daft Punk. Mindbending talks will likely come from futurist Ethan Dvorsky, chair of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, Jerome Glenn, and Dr. Nick Bostrom, MIT Media Lab’s Joseph Paradiso, Make magazine’s Mark Frauefelder, and more.

At night, the past, present and future of electronic music take various stages throughout downtown Asheville. Headliners include Giorgio Moroder and Laurie Anderson, and plenty of other artists, ranging from legendary dance music group Chic featuring Nile Rogers to New York rapper Le1f, disco and funk duo Soul Clap, producer Green Velvet and many more. Up and coming acts get some space, too, as independent record labels such as Warp Records, DFA, Drifltless Recordings will host showcases of electronic music’s rising stars.

Perhaps the epitome of the Moog’s spirit will be on display with a rare appearance from the German electronic act Kraftwerk, scheduled for three separate performances. This pioneering band’s career spans decades and has influenced scores of musicians, starting with 80s new wave through the current day. Kraftwerk’s events will include synchronized 3D projections that create an immersive experience that illustrates the group’s innovative spirit.

Analog-ous Events

Moog spent years growing up tinkering with small radios, amps and Theremins with his father. This process is honored with the 4th annual Circuit Bending Challenge, whereby people take various electronic devices—everything from keyboards and drum machines to children’s toys and small electronic devices to create new sounds. Past challenges have seen the likes of greeting card samples, joysticks, alarm clocks, and a Barbie bike horn all morphed into new sonic experiences. The finalists will be on display in all their interactive glory—you can play around with these creations before the winner is announced.

In keeping with the progressive, technology-forward theme, in partnership with North Carolina Technology Association, Moogfest has started an expo called Synthesis@Moogfest, showcasing the latest technological creations from companies based in North Carolina. These aforementioned events are open to the public, along with another new thing for this year’s festival: a four-day street festival that takes over downtown Asheville in front of the Moog factory and features live music, art installations, and more.

Want more of funky Asheville? Tour the sprawling Biltmore Estate or take in the lively craft beer scene. Don’t miss a visit to the Moog factory downtown, where the eponymous synthesizers and other electronic instruments are still being designed and built.

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