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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Moogfest – Saturday, September 22, 2007  BB King’s NYC

By Jill Hughes

Bob Moog Moogfest, the annual festival celebrating the groundbreaking achievements of inventor Robert Moog and his namesake synthesizer, took place on Saturday, September 22, 2007 at BB King’s in New York City.  This festival created a different kind of ambience with the guests seated by candlelight below the stage that was a keyboardist’s dream. The entire stage was overflowing with synthesizers and other instruments and technologies, including one of the original mini Moogs.

This was my first time attending such an event at BB King’s and it really drew in an enthusiastic crowd who obviously had a love for the instrument and were eager for the performers to start the night-long set of keyboard bliss. As the audience members sat there sipping their beverages, the room filled with cheer as Bob Moog’s daughter came onto stage to announce the start of the show and really bring a heartfelt welcome to everyone who was there to remember her father’s legacy.

The winner of the opening band slot for Moogfest was Xenovibes, hailing from Singapore with all of their electric glamour.  Put yourself in a discotec, but this time without the DJ spinning.  Xenovibes’ sound only came from two people, Shueh-li Ong on the theramin, and Anthony Martinez on an electric drum kit.  The synth techniques were astounding and really was a great way to open the show to a techno groove.

Next up was the New Jersey based band, Spiraling which is fronted by keyboard prodigy (Meatloaf, Yes), Tom Brislin. The band also comprising of Marty O’Kane (guitars), and Bob Hart (bass), started out with a catchy pop tune, “Victory Kiss”, which can be found on their upcoming album, Time Travel Made Easy.  Although Tom was barricaded behind his keyboard, he was able to really get into the songs and his smooth voice filled the room, radiating, glowing, and really rockin’ out. His presence on stage was astoundingly vibrant and the band’s songs really added a fun element to the show.   They can sometimes be found playing at various prog rock events, calling themselves prog by association.

The rest of the evening showcased the extraordinary talent of renowned keyboardists, Moog users and musicians such as Don Preston, Adam Holzman, Herb Deutsch, T. Lavitz, and Nail.  The evening also honored two individuals who contributed so much to the advancement of the Moog, Gershon Kingsley and Herb Deutsch.

The night was filled with great pleasantries to please anyone’s taste buds no matter what genre of music they enjoyed, whether it was 80’s electronic, jazz, space sounds, or indie rock music.

The last two that must be mentioned in detail as part of this article, which have contributed so much to the U.S. prog community, are Erik Norlander and Jordan Rudess.

Erik Norlander, known for his solo albums and his involvement with the band Rocket Scientists, came to Moogfest all the way from California and delighted our ears with a few of his bombastic tunes that Norlander fans are fond of. His set-up is always quite extravagant, using every possible combination of synthesizer sounds to bring pleasing melodies, not just some random concoction of noises. Using dual layers of keys and long holds that resembled fermatas, he really formed an appetizing song, and kept us hungry for more.  He fed us our wishes by playing a third song, unlike the other artists, and teased the audience by saying, “Does anyone remember the 1970s?”, and then said, “How about 1999?”.  Well, I wasn’t quite sure what he was getting at, until he started playing the TV theme to Space: 1999. Although what seemed like a random choice of song, it definitely lightened up things and really put a smile on the audience members’ faces. This was quite a surprise!

Dream Theater keyboard god, Jordan Rudess, was the second to last artist of the evening and brought to us a different tune than Rudess fans may be used to.  Jordan experimented with his V-Synth GT and created all kinds of space-like sounds, and even made music with his voice, synthesizing that as well. Although his music was extremely interesting, and his visual effects on the screen provided an extra element (which was much better than the pixilated videoing during the course of the show), his shirt was the most amazing sight of the evening.  He was able to capture the levels of his performance through a microphone attached to his shirt, visually displaying it in the bright red, yellow and green colored LEDs on his chest, just as you would find in any digital music player or recording/editing software.

The finale of the night was Thomas Dolby, 80’s synthpop virtuoso, best known for his song, “She Blinded Me With Science”, which was played for us that evening. He had some technical difficulties but managed to overcome it by keeping the enthusiasm reigning on stage and plowing through the troubleshooting stage with sarcastic comments. He did not let the audience down once he was able to regain his confidence and shower us with electronic pop that brought us back to the 80’s that most of us still hold dearly in our hearts.

Moogfest was never a dull moment with a dash of every possible kind of music that could be created with the synthesizer and it educated us about the world of the Moog and a side of genius and creativity that should be honored every day.  Rest in Peace Bob Moog.

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