Moogfest 2018: Festival Fun Beyond The Synthesizers

I didn’t know what to expect at a music festival focused on synthesizers or electronic music but I love doing things that are different. When we got the opportunity to check out Moogfest, I was pretty excited. It’s also right down the street in Durham, NC so why not.

What Is Moogfest?

moogfest, music festivalMusic festival. Educational Workshops. Day party. Futuristic. It’s kind of everything. According to the Moogfest website, here’s the mission:

To grow a global community of futurists who explore emerging sound technologies and design radical instruments for change.

I actually didn’t go to any of the evening concerts, only the events during the day for the whole weekend. I’ll say it was quite an experience in a positive way.

A few things that stood out:


I guess because they had so many different themes and a variety of music genres this event attracts all types of people. It was wonderful to see and I really love events like this. There were all colors, different types of dress and different hairstyles. I see people half my age hanging with people 20 years older than me. All of us listening to the same music and checking out the same art. That part was pretty heartwarming.

Pure Fun

I loved being able to go to a place where you can fake play a guitar, bang on a keyboard and just have fun (even if you have very little musical abilities). The line for the drums was too long, but you better believe I wanted to hit those.

All About The Festival Workshops

Where I am in my life right now, I’m much more interested in hearing these artists talk more than perform. I enjoy learning more about who they are and what they think about what’s happening in the world right now. So the sessions during the day were very intriguing to me. We went to a lot of them, but I’ll speak about things that really stood out to me.

kalela, moogfest, synthesizer, music, festival
Photo by Justin Eisner

Kelela is one of the headlining artists – she is an alternative R&B singer. I know her name but don’t think I’ve ever heard her music. Listening to her talk was very eye opening. First off, she’s funny. She’s also very direct and honest – just my style. I could tell she wasn’t a very PC type of artist which is great.

A few things that stood out.

Controversy around the headliners was first up, right at the start of her talk. Because I didn’t previously know much about Moogfest, I wasn’t aware and I had to research it later. I found a great article on it, in case you are curious: Did Moogfest Mess Up?. From what I understand, Moogfest decided to announce the event by characterizing the headliners as all-female and gender nonconforming artists. They also decided not to tell the artists that this was the headline. Not everyone was happy and even one headliner dropped out.

Another thing she spoke about was the lack of black artists headlining music festivals. Something I actually never thought about. But when we were talking after, it kind of makes sense. As a black female and huge music fan, I think I’ve only been to two festivals in my entire life (before Moogfest). Concerts, that’s another story. I love live music but I don’t really go to festivals. I’ve been to the Essence Festival in New Orleans and a Summer Spirit Festival in Maryland but that’s it. But these are festivals geared towards black fans.

I love all kinds of music but never really thought about going to other festivals. There’s the problem that Kelela pointed out. The festival directors choose headliners based on the fan base, which usually doesn’t include an overwhelming amount black people. 

Then I start to think about the frenzy that was Beyonce headlining Coachella this year. I didn’t pay so much attention to it – it’s Beyonce, of course she would headline Coachella. But it’s a little deeper than I initially thought about.

kalela, moogfest, synthesizer, music, festivalAnyway, there were lots of other things Kelela talked about, and I really enjoyed her interview. So much so, that I went home that night and took time to listen to her music. Loved it. She’s great, talented and music is amazing.

I’m pretty upset with myself that I didn’t go to her live show, but I’m grateful I had the chance to hear her speak.


United Nations of Hip-Hop
moogfest, synthesizer, hip-hop
Photo by Justin Eisner

We were introduced to Mark Katz who has a program called Next Level to create art through hip-hop. They did a panel discussion and then a little freestyle. It was really great. There was a beatboxer from Morraco, a female rapper from Cambodia, a dancer from NYC, another female rapper from Myanmar and a few others.

This was one of the coolest things – only two on the panel spoke English. We had to listen to the translators tell us answers to each questions asked. It was interesting but exhausting because there was a lot lost in translation.

But when they started freestyling, it was a different story. No music, just the beat boxing from Double M (I guess it is music) and some great rapping from the two female MCs. It really didn’t matter that I had no idea what they were saying, I still felt it and it was great. Music really is the universal language.

This was all just Friday!


I was really excited to listen to KRS One speak during his workshop. He covered so much, there’s no way you can get the depth just from my little recap. I may have to do a separate recap of just his talk.

I was never a huge KRS One fan or really a huge hip-hop fan – but I do like anything interesting. Here are a few nuggets I took away.

krs one, moogfest, music, music festival, synthesizerKRS One dropped out of school in 8th grade. I would’ve never believed this unless I heard it right from his mouth. He tells us how his mother started him reading at 4, but not reading kid books. He started reading what she was reading. She was interested in philosophy, so he read about philosophy. She was interested in African history, so he read about African history.

By the time he got to junior high, he felt like school was a waste of time, he was already ahead of everyone, and they weren’t teaching him anything of value. So he stopped going and started hanging out at the public library all day.

Eventually, he starts running the streets a little, group homes, homeless, sleeping in hospitals. Then he got turned on to rap.

He talked about his start in the industry, the first time he heard rap on the radio and how he’s not that shocked at how far hip-hop has come in just a few decades. If his wife didn’t make him stop, he would’ve kept talking for hours!

Too Much To Recap

There is way too much to cover in this one recap. We had a chance to hear from Nihal Mehta, an angel investor and one of the founding partners of Eniac Ventures. He’s invested in over 200 startups and he talked about how he started and shared advice on what to look for when investing. His best trait though – he’s married to Reshma Saujani, the founder of Girls Who Code. 

pete rock, amie thompson, moogfest, music festival, synthesizerI had a chance to meet Pete Rock which was cool. He was just wandering around waiting for him time slot to DJ. No crew, he was just checking things out like we were.

I have to laugh and call out my co-worker Isaiah who is too young to even know who Pete Rock is. So sad…

We saw an interactive art show. It was very interesting. There were lots of metal pieces in different areas of the gallery. People from the audience just threw the metal around, makings sounds. Also putting metal objects on the some of the artists. Then there was a DJ in the back, making music from the sounds of the metal. Very different, but interesting.


Check out a quick little recap video on YouTube of some images we took.

This was a great festival and good location. Most everything was in walking distance downtown. From Carolina Theater to both of the Durham American Underground campuses to Motorco. Luckily it wasn’t too hot out, surprising for May in this area, so the walking wasn’t so bad.

If you get the chance to check out Moogfest 2019, you definitely should. Festival tickets are already on sale! It really is for everybody with all they offer the fans.


Amie ThompsonAmie is the Managing Editor for On The Scene and contributes articles about business, music, and entertainment.

Guest contributors are the opinion of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or views of Creative Allies Inc. or its affiliates.

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