Moogfest announces lineup amidst behind-the-scenes changes

Composer Suzanne Ciani is coming to Moogfest in Durham.
Composer Suzanne Ciani is coming to Moogfest in Durham. Courtesy of Rachel Aiello

Moogfest, the electronic-music festival that has descended on Durham since 2016, is under new management.

But when the festival takes place May 17-20, festival-goers shouldn't notice too many differences with the new producer/operator, UG Strategies.

"It will be the same experience," said Jonna Humphries, who does marketing for the festival. "We have a lot of repeat attendees, people loyal to the brand. We want to try to expand on that. But as it relates to the transition, there will be no change. It's still Moogfest."

This will be Moogfest's third year in Durham, where it moved in 2016 after more than a decade in Moog Music's hometown of Asheville. For the past two years, Triangle Projects has run Moogfest under license from Moog Music, the Asheville-based synthesizer manufacturer.

Terms for the new deal were not disclosed beyond its length, which is for three years.

Moogfest has drawn a total attendance of more than 10,000 each of the past two years, according to festival organizers, with 2017's total economic impact estimated at $7.2 million. The festival receives $125,000 worth of support annually from the City of Durham and Durham County to go toward its free programming.

"We are wanting to grow it," said Parag Bhandari, UG Strategies founder/CEO. "Our goal is to expand and utilize Durham's footprint, invest in the community and everything that has made this city what it is."

2018 Moogfest lineup

The 2018 schedule features an eclectic program of night concerts plus daytime panels and workshops.

Chelsea Manning is a Moogfest keynote speaker. Manning, a soldier-turned-activist, is a transgender woman who is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland this year. Courtesy of Elizabeth Jane Cole

Moogfest released another round of scheduled 2018 performers including KRS-One, formerly the mastermind of rap group Boogie Down Productions; German electronic duo Mouse on Mars; Italian composer Suzanne Ciani; and the experimental multi-media ensemble Psychic TV.

Much of the programming has a socio-political theme. One of this year's keynote speakers will be soldier-turned-activist Chelsea Manning, a transgender woman who is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland this year.

There was some controversy in December when Moogfest released its initial slate of 2018 performers — all female, transgender and non-binary — which offended one act enough to quit the festival. Brooklyn-based musician Caroline Polachekresigned from the lineup, declaring that "Gender is not a genre."

Also of note, this year's festival will turn the Durham Armory into an "advanced sonic environment" with Ciani, Jenny Hval and other artists performing customized pieces tailored to the space.

"It's gonna be amazing," said Moogfest creative director Emmy Parker. "Part of Moogfest is all about experiences that can only happen at a festival like this. If we keep delivering these intense experiences, I think festival-goers will continue to have a reason to come back."

Future goals

As to Moogfest's new operators, UG Strategies has been involved with the festival's marketing for several years. The company has been around for about a decade and a half, with a client list that ranges from festivals to airlines.

As a result of the transition, Parker said there were a "very limited" number of Moogfest employees laid off — "only two or three people let go, due to redundancy."

Moogfest's long-range plans call for international expansion with satellite Moog-related events elsewhere, starting late this year.

But everyone involved said that Durham will remain the festival's home base.

"We are in Durham indefinitely," Bhandari said. "I packed up and moved here, so I'm ready to build this out in Durham. The community is so right for this, and it's incredibly exciting."

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi


For more on Moogfest, go to moogfest.com.

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