Asheville, North Carolina’s Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit, produced by AC Entertainment, Inc. (the producer/promoter behind Moogfest), featured a much broader variety of acts than its name suggests. Though traditional DJ sets were well represented (none better than the Friday night opener by Claude VonStroke), the rest of the bill offered acts for every taste of popular music. The concurrent performances on Friday evening illustrated the eclectic nature of the event, as veteran outsider acts like Half Japanese and Daniel Johnston played in the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium while VonStroke, Purity Ring, and Deltron 3030 performed in the larger Exploreasheville.com Arena. The highlight of the evening was Deltron 3030, which is on tour for Event II but played a triumphant, orchestra-assisted set heavy with tunes from the group’s eponymous 2000 album.
One common complaint of music festivals is the sound bleed that occurs when two or more acts are playing at the same time. Despite its two main venues being housed in the same structure (the U.S. Cellular Center), the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit was entirely free of that problem — especially remarkable considering that Neutral Milk Hotel went on stage with Bassnectar playing next door. The Neutral Milk Hotel show was surprising for how rowdy the audience became. Nearly every song was treated to a loud sing-along by a room full of fans. The crowd participation (and errant drummer) distracted from the band’s otherwise impeccable renditions of songs from In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.
On Saturday, the Thomas Wolfe Auditorium featured Zola Jesus and JG Thirlwell, followed by Chromatics. The two acts generated some stylistic synergy because of their singers. Both preceded Animal Collective, which curtailed some of its more experimental live tendencies. The common element on the larger stage was the electric guitar, with a lineup offering several variations on its uses. First up was Bosnian Rainbows, featuring former Mars Volta member Omar Rodríguez-López. Gary Numan was the surprise of the night, as he turned in a dramatic performance full of goth posturing and wry smiles. He seemed to be having a lot of fun as his excellent band filled the arena with a massive industrial rock style. Sharply contrasting with Numan’s set was the music of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a band whose live approach hasn’t evolved much over the years but remains as effective as ever. With the lights dim, the members of the band form a circuit, facing one another and playing along to film projections.
Nine Inch Nails was the final act to take the stage that night, in a performance that backed up Trent Reznor’s recent claims that he’s a very different man compared to the one who became famous in the early to mid-1990s. While many of the group’s fans swear by the tours of those early years (and legendary concerts such as the one at Woodstock ’94), this current, post-“retirement” lineup is the best live version of Nine Inch Nails to date.
Sunday, the final day of the festival, featured a combination of dance music acts (such as Disclosure) in the arena. But the auditorium was the place to be, as Jessie Ware proved to be the most audience-friendly act of the entire weekend and Darkside practically cast a spell on the crowd with a no-frills setup that concentrated all of the focus on their guitar/synthesizer sonics. Of course, there were dozens of other performances throughout the weekend that haven’t been mentioned here. Nor are they documented in the photographs below. Other venues, such as the Orange Peel, the Diana Wortham Theatre, and the Asheville Music Hall all hosted a variety of creative and innovative acts throughout the weekend. Indeed, my only criticism of the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit is that too much great music was programmed at the same time, forcing some difficult decisions about where and when to show up. The 2014 edition cannot come soon enough.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor:
Nine Inch Nails:
Zola Jesus and JG Thirlwell: