What exactly is Moogfest?
It’s OK to wonder. This multi-day event, which moved to Durham in 2016 after getting its footing in synthesizer innovator Bob Moog’s beloved Asheville, isn’t a traditional music festival by any stretch. It’s kind of like Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival or Hopscotch Music Festival’s early years in that it plumbs vernacular music’s experimental fringe. But it’s also kind of like a STEM camp or a maker space — and also kind of like a seminar of progressive thought.
Overall, it’s tough to draw generalizations that ring true about the entire Moogfest lineup. So maybe “what is it?” is the wrong question to ask, with “what can I find here?” being a better one.
Here is a sampling of the musicians, lectures and workshops comprising Moogfest, which runs from April 25-28 in Durham. Most of these require a Moogfest ticket, though we’ve included a few that are part of this year’s suite of free programming. For more, go to moogfest.com/schedule.
NC State Libraries presents a number of tech-forward workshops throughout the fest: on using our phones and devices as recording studios; on being a DJ; on digital learning and research; on virtual reality; on 3D design and 3D printing.
That includes a digital making playground of hands-on stations, for both kids and adults, Saturday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the American Tobacco Campus Workshop 6. Participants can take home whatever they make.
Among other free activities, look for a modular marketplace, a Moog store and a Moog pop-up factory every day at the American Tobacco Campus Bay 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dig into the potentially complex visa process (as well as challenges under the current administration) for international musicians touring the US at Navigating the Labyrinth workshop, which is April 25 at 5:30 p.m. at the American Tobacco Campus.
New York Theremin Society co-founder Dorit Chrysler performs 6:30 p.m. April 26 at Carolina Theatre, but also leads workshops on how to play this flying saucer-sounding instrument — two for adults (3:30 p.m. Friday and 1:30 p.m. Saturday, American Tobacco Campus) and one for kids (1:30 p.m. Friday).
NWA founding member Arabian Prince performs a DJ set at The Fruit’s main room 1:15 a.m. Friday.
Ambient music composer William Basinski leads Moogfest’s annual Sleep Concert, which starts at midnight Friday and lasts eight hours. Per its name, nodding off is encouraged – though floor space is at a premium.
Modular on the Spot is an outdoor modular synthesizer picnic, a format which is designed to welcome people of all skill levels who are interested in modular synthesizers. Find this between 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday as part of Moogfest’s free programming.
What do BuzzFeed senior investigative journalist Jason Leopold and producer, music technologist and “She Blinded Me with Science” musician Thomas Dolby have in common? The two interview each other at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Carolina Theatre. Leopold also leads a how-to-use-the-Freedom of Information Act workshop Friday at noon at the American Tobacco Campus, while Dolby performs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Carolina Theatre.
Documentary filmmaker and activist Astra Taylor screens her film “What is Democracy?” at Full Frame Theater at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, followed by a discussion. Half of the tickets to this screening will be given away free on a first-come, first-serve basis. Taylor also presents the visual lecture “You Don’t Represent Us!” 3 p.m. Friday at Carolina Theatre.
Questlove, the towering drummer and frontman of The Roots, (also known as the longtime house band of NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon,” appears twice. Once is a free showing at the American Tobacco Campus at 4 p.m. Saturday, and then for a midnight DJ set Saturday at The Fruit as part of the ticketed fest.
Fartbarf really is the name of the synth-driven trio that plays The Pinhook at 4:45 p.m. Saturday. Seriously. Thing is (and almost despite the absurd name), Fartbarf’s music positively crackles.
In terms of both local and free, rapper and Raleigh native Mez plays American Tobacco Campus 8:30 p.m. Saturday – and you don’t even need a Moogfest pass to check out his set.
When: April 25-28
Where: Downtown Durham
Cost: A limited number of single-day passes for Thursday, Friday and Saturday are available for $99 each. It includes daytime panels, workshops and night shows. $249 general admission. $149 student. $499 VIP. $1,500 Engineer. Some events are free.