Sleigh Bells performing on Sunday of Moogfest 2010. Photo by Jeff Pearson.
On Sunday evening when I walked down the aisle of Thomas Wolfe Auditorium to assume my position against the rail for what was to be the duration of the night, I never thought that at any point during the last day at Moogfest would my life be in danger. Obviously I had never seen Sleigh Bells live before. The night started out innocently enough with Shout Out Out Out Out, an Edmonton-based electro-punk band, who burned through a high energy set of catchy and aggressive tunes. The band combined elements of electro freakouts on their vintage Moog equipment and the unabashed punk ethos, as the dueling drummers pounded out heavy rhythms to give backbone to Nik Kozub and Jason Troock’s digital flourishes. It was seemingly most of the crowd’s first time hearing Shout Out Out Out Out, but by the end of the set, a good amount of people were warmed to their sound, and were giving the group back some energy of their own.
Shout Out Out Out Out by Jeff Pearson.
Shout Out Out Out Out set the tone for what promised to be a high-spirited affair, many attendees donning their Halloween best. The pit began to fill rapidly, and by the time Sleigh Bells, the noise pop duo out of Brooklyn, took the stage, Thomas Wolfe Auditorium was seeing one of the biggest turnouts of the weekend. Kyle and I had struck up a conversation with two Brooklynites named Conor and Dana who were beside themselves with excitement to see one of their favorite local acts play to such an enthusiastic festival crowd. It turns out that while Sleigh Bells was a huge draw for the couple, the real reason they made the trek down from New York was to see the headliner for the evening, Hot Chip. We discussed what most people who just meet each other at festivals discuss—other music festivals—until the lights dimmed to a roaring Moogfest crowd. Sleigh Bells is made up of singer Alexis Krauss and Derek E. Miller on production and guitar. For live performances, Miller controls the cues of the beats, and blasts crowds with unaccompanied guitar through a wall of Marshall Stack amplifiers while Krauss brings an infectious energy to each concert, never staying still for even a second, working crowds into a complete frenzy. The band worked their way through their small collection of songs, playing practically all of the material from their debut album, Treats. With the bounce of songs like “Tell ‘Em” and “Infinity Guitars,” Sleigh Bells had the entire rambunctious, costumed crowd thrashing about like teenagers at a hardcore show. I’m not sure at what point during their set the floor caved in, but like I said, I had never seen Sleigh Bells live, and I was too transfixed on the huge wall of sound, and protecting my face from flailing elbows, to notice.
Sleigh Bells by Jeff Pearson.
I may not be sure which song during Sleigh Bells’ set the rowdy crowd broke the floor of the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, but I do know that it wasn’t until after the entire duration of the next set—Neon Indian—that it was brought to anyone’s attention. This is where the “life in danger” portion of my Halloween adventure came into play. The auditorium is a classical venue, which means the floor we were standing on was placed there for the weekend, and was about ten feet above the orchestral pit below. Had the floor caved all the way, well, I try not to think about it. Basking in the after-show glow of Sleigh Bells, completely unaware of the death trap we were standing on, Matt had rejoined us—he didn’t want any part of that pit—and began to explain the sound of Neon Indian to Conor and Dana. He put it better than I ever could, saying that “It’s like being a character in an eighties video game,” and we all pondered that as Alan Palamo and company took the stage. Neon Indian have a very unique sound; it is both ahead-of-the-times and grounded in futuristic ideals, and very retro and lo-fi. As the band made their way through their debut album, Psychic Chasms, playing hits like “Should’ve Taken Acid With You” and “Deadbeat Summer,” we were simultaneously in the middle of the frigid, mountainous terrain of Appalachia, and an eighties beach buddy movie. It was quite surreal, and the crowd ate it up, busting out moves that weren’t even popular at any point in their lifetime, yet seemed oh so right for the occasion.
Neon Indian by Jeff Pearson.
After Neon Indian finished, security took note of the fact that we were all standing on a broken floor, and proceeded to evacuate us to the seated sections behind it. They gated up the floor, leaving about ten feet of space between the crowd and the stage for Hot Chip’s festival-closing set. The English dance kings made note of the space during their non-stop party of a set, saying how they weren’t used to the crowd being so far away. The space didn’t do anything to disconnect the crowd from Hot Chip’s music, however. They worked through an expertly crafted set, reworking their hits like “And I Was A Boy From School” into a hyper-extended version that had the crowd spinning out of control. There was an incredible dynamic between the band and crowd, a cyclical ball of energy as Hot Chip would build a beat to the point of explosion, and the packed Thomas Wolfe Auditorium would build their energy through intense dancing, the give and take never-ending. It was the perfect way to end the inaugural Moogfest—a pure celebration of life and music, friendship and love, all rolling up into one through the vehicle of electronic dance music. As Hot Chip closed their set with an exuberant version of possibly their biggest hit, “Ready For The Floor,” an amazing weekend coming to a close, the crowd showed they were ready for the next floor, ready for next year.
Hot Chip by Jeff Pearson.