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Hey everybody! We were lucky enough to be granted access to the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit in Asheville, North Carolina a few weeks ago and decided to write a few things down about what we saw. Three representatives of the station attended the festival, taking in as many different types of music and experiences as we possibly could in order to get the full breadth of what Mountain Oasis had to offer. Asheville is one of the greatest places on earth and while Mountain Oasis is still has some growing pains to work through, it’s one of the most exciting and creative new festivals in a market that doesn’t always treasure creativity. The decision to travel to Asheville was sort of last minute and we ended up spending three nights sleeping in a car in the back of an UNDISCLOSED HOTEL parking lot and I think all of us agree it was completely worth it. Below, in alphabetical order, are our most memorable moments from the Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit. Enjoy. - Nathan Kerce, blog editor/director.

Bassnectar
A lot of my friends love Bassnectar. I’ve seen people spend a lot of money and drive a lot of miles to actually follow him on tour. I was originally going to see Neutral Milk Hotel perform for a third night in a row (after seeing two nights of their three night stand at The 40 Watt in Athens earlier that week) but decided at the last minute that I would go see exactly what Bassnectar was all about so in the future when one of my friends drives states away to see him, I can have a better understanding of why. If there is one form of faux-music snobbery I can’t stand it’s people who like to call big, garish electronic music “brostep.” It’s a condescending and unnecessary putdown to a subset of the EDM genre that has taken festivals by storm. It would be easy to sit here and call Bassnectar “brostep” and call it a day but that would be putting it too simply. Bassnectar’s gigantic bass drops combined with his massive, bright visuals are the musical equivalent to excellent summer action movies like Fast & Furious 6. It may be over the top, it may be more about style than substance but that doesn’t make it any less meaningful or entertaining. I had a great time watching Bassnectar and more importantly seeing everyone else get so much joy out of his appealing brand of dubstep. Big budget, colorful and (admittedly) kind of dumb, Bassnectar’s set was a highlight of the weekend. – Nathan Kerce

 

Cut Copy
Cut Copy puts on some of the best dance shows I’ve ever seen. Frontman Dan Whitford always stands in the forefront of the stage and releases a disco-infused electronic sound you would never have guessed could come out of such a lanky, well-dressed Aussie. At every show I’ve seen of theirs, Whitford brings charismatic and loveable charm to the stage with amusing hand gestures and fabulous dancing. Their Mountain Oasis show was no different, with the only real impediment being that they were playing an auditorium with fixed seating. They broke out older hits  “Hearts on Fire” and “Out There on The Ice” early on in the show, and integrated new singles off their upcoming LP Free Your Mind in the latter half. Even though they ended the show about 15 minutes early, I still felt I couldn’t complain after such a magnificent performance. – Dafna Kaufman

 

Daniel Johnston
Daniel Johnston arrived in my life around 2005. This story may ring true for many, but I first came to know Mr. Johnston through an incredibly interesting and entertaining documentary called The Devil and Daniel Johnston. After seeing the movie, I came to see Daniel Johnston all around me. Many of my favorite musicians (M. Ward, Bright Eyes, Sparkelhorse, and too many more to list) cover his songs, so in a way I had been listening to him long before I even knew who he was. I went into his performance at Mountain Oasis with no idea what was going to happen. At 9:45, he walked out on stage with his guitar and several sheets of paper (which I later figured out were lyric sheets). As expected, he spoke meekly and shook a bit as he played. It was amazing to see him up on such a huge stage, all by himself, playing all the songs he knew everyone wanted to hear such as “True Love Will Find You in the End,” “Devil Town,” and “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” Perhaps Johnston’s playing was a bit shaky at points and perhaps he could have played a few more songs but I do have to agree with what one fan yelled out during the show: “Daniel, you’re so much cooler than you think!” – Dafna Kaufman

 

Darkside
As I walked into Darkside it was quite obvious the show had already started. Nicholas Jaar and David Harrington both stood on stage with their equipment but what grabbed my attention first was the light. They each had their own separate cones of light shining directly upon them, as if a space ship was about to beam them away. This starkness complemented their musical performance brilliantly. Their darkest of dark electronica boomed from the stage and all I could do was bounce my head and stare. While I often prefer a more dynamic stage presence, they didn’t really need to interact with the crowd. Their sinister experimental beats had an effect over everyone in the auditorium. – Dafna Kaufman

 

Disclosure
You know you love Disclosure (or any electronic/DJ type act). It’s just a matter of how well they convince you that what’s happening on stage has some impact on what’s coming out over the speakers. They do just good enough to make me a brazen vessel of dance but not quite at the twirl around into a jump to punctuate “Now I’ve got you in my space, I won’t let go of you” level. Cymbals were struck, samples were cued and you didn’t see too much of the ‘ol “exaggerated knob tweak.” Sam Smith wasn’t there to sing on “Latch” (a giant Disclosure face sketch filled in) but Jessie Ware made a (somewhat) surprise appearance to sing on “Confess To Me.” The brothers Guy and Howard Lawrence (21 and 18 respectively) didn’t seem burdened by their excitement but hey, at least they spoke in British accents.  If nothing else, I left with an even greater obsession over the artistic stylings of the Disclosure face than I did before. – Will Guerin

 

Gary Numan
As I was walking up to Gary Numan’s show it didn’t seem like he was going to play his big hit “Cars.” The bulk of Numan’s set was made up of songs off of his 2013 Splinter (Songs from a Broken Mind) and then a hodgepodge of songs from his LPs spanning from 1979 to 2013. As Numan performed his very small figure and his energetic performance made him look much younger than his actual age of 55. Surprisingly enough, Numan did pull out “Cars” about three-fourths of the way through his show. What surprised me even more was how entertained and captivated I was by his more contemporary music than his old hits. – Dafna Kaufman

 

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
At some point I realized I had no idea how loud Godspeed (do I run the risk of sounding too pretentious with the abbreviation?) was playing. A snippet of a conversation from the crowd gave me some perspective but it didn’t seem like their sound had any quantifiable volume. Usually there’s a baseline and the extension of noise makes volume, but here there seemed to be no distinction between the baseline and where the actual music began. It didn’t make sense to see people up on stage playing instruments because it didn’t feel like you were hearing anything physical. It didn’t feel like a sound filling a cavernous arena – it felt like a presence that wasn’t bound, imperceptible like rays of sunlight.  Even as visual projections flowed by above, looping and repeating images, I failed to leave the horseshoe formation of musicians on stage”  a half circle without a leader and without incongruous edges, toiling away at a convergent point on the horizon in a uniform build.  A perfect expression of self that this lowly writer could never hope to translate to words. So yeah, the concert was pretty damn amazing. – Will Guerin

 

How to Dress Well
Tom Krell aka How to Dress Well has canceled most of his tour dates for the rest of the year due to one of his bandmates breaking his arm. It seems like Mountain Oasis was one of the few dates he absolutely couldn’t cancel so he made due with a stripped down set and a substitute man (who Krell noted that he had met only four hours ago after they had a minor timing mishap) to handle string and laptop duties. There were a few sound and equipment problems throughout the set but Krell pushed through all the issues delivering a set that felt satisfyingly personal for a festival performance. Song selection was split evenly among his first two albums along with an electrifying cover of R. Kelly’s “I Wish” and a taste of several new, as of yet unfinished cuts off his new album set to release early next year. Krell and his bandmates at times seemed visibly frustrated with the loose and mistake-prone nature of their performance but it’s a testament to the power of Krell’s voice that none of that seemed to matter in the long run. – Nathan Kerce

 

Jacques Greene
The tone of Montreal producer Jacques Greene early set at mid-sized club The Orange Peel was fittingly hazy and slowed down. The lights were turned down low as Greene ran through several tracks of cloudy electro with the occasional R&B remix thrown in. An extended version of fellow lineup member Autre Ne Veut’s epic “Play by Play” got a lot of love from the crowd (despite my hatred of the term this was probably the most “PBR&B” friendly festival lineup/crowd environment I’ve ever seen) but the opening coos of Ciara’s “Body Party” really got people excited. One guy in particular absolutely lost his mind as soon as he heard Ciara’s voice. He just started screaming “CIARA!” over and over until the song ended and once Greene moved on to other things he started screaming “MORE CIARA!” I don’t know if Greene had this prepared or not but about ten to fifteen minutes later he started playing another Ciara song (wish I could pinpoint which song but it seems like it might be a deep cut or remixed beyond my basic Ciara recognition), I’ve never seen someone flip out so hard over an R&B song. You could barely hear Greene’s quiet thank you and goodnight over the drunken one man chant of “DOUB-LE CI-AR-A! DOUB-LE CI-AR-A!” – Nathan Kerce

 

Mount Kimbie
It was clear that not many people at The Orange Peel on Sunday night expected Mount Kimbie’s set to be as turnt up as it was. There were a few quiet and reflective moments at the start and the entire set was accompanied by projected visuals of an oddly touching personal photo album of various parties and trips across China but by the end of the night things had gone into full dance party mode. Bass was dropped, guitars were thrashed about and shirtless dudes were jumping around with reckless abandon. Some sublimely chill moments paired with the aforementioned photo albums might have made the crowd meditate on life but it was the intensity of the closing moments that made them live. – Nathan Kerce

 

Nine Inch Nails
Nine Inch Nails closed out Saturday night with a set that was (wisely) pretty light on new material (though I would have liked to have seen how the Sugar Ray-esque “Everything” would have gone over with this kind of crowd). Instead the freakishly buff Trent Reznor and his bandmates ran through a lot of fan favorites, doing a pretty decent job of covering the best aspects of his large discography. Judging by overheard conversations near the front barrier, many people had bought Saturday tickets solely for the experience of catching Nine Inch Nails and after being barraged with their hard electronics and amazing fog/light effects it’s easy to see why. All of the hardcore fans were packed at the front barrier (including the band’s touring security guard, a massive statue of a man who towered over the crowd and mouthed all of the words to every song) and at times it seemed they were at odds with the more casual, touchy-feely festival goers. There were more than a few fights and the tension was uncomfortably high during the more mosh-friendly songs. When the set came to a close with a reserved but intense performance of “Hurt” everyone seemed to put their various differences aside and come into agreement that this would be the most powerful and memorable performance of the entire festival. – Nathan Kerce

 

Pretty Lights
I have had more than once chance to see Pretty Lights in the past. Due to my lack of knowledge about EDM, I’ve always passed. But this was the last show of the weekend so I decided to embrace my electronic-dubstep loving brothers and sisters and join in on what was sure to be an interesting experience. I watched as the neon lights cascaded over every single thing within the Exploreasheville.com Arena. Nothing was untouched by the brightest, most flashy light show I had ever seen. Yet, I stood there and watched and felt no urge to dance, or even move. I could barely understand what was coming from the monitors, some mix of electronic, dubstep, hip-hop, with a live band wailing on their instruments. With all this excitement, I felt I was bound to feel something and yet I left the arena tired and slightly bored. Perhaps I lacked the necessary psychedelic drug pumping through my blood stream but I would hope that something like that would not be essential to enjoying a show like this. – Dafna Kaufman

 

Purity Ring
Before Purity Right arrived on stage, they had already began setting the tone with their stage set up. When they finally walked out on stage with cocoons of light hanging around the area they performed it felt like they were entering a different world. Due to their smaller discography, I heard every song I wanted to hear, from “Lofticries” to “Ungirthed” to their now standard Soulja Boy cover. With Megan James in front luring the audience in with her quiet, yet powerful vocals and Corin Roddick lingering in the back producing some of today’s sexiest and attractive beats, Purity Ring is never a show to miss. – Dafna Kaufman

 

Sparks
Since I had never heard Sparks before I entered the Diana Wortham Theatre with absolutely no guess as to what I was about to hear. I sat down and stared at the stage; there were two people; one man standing on a pedestal and playing a keyboard, while another man stood in the center of the stage and sang. The first words that came to my mind were “New Wave Musical.” The performance was so campy yet the stage set up and lighting was so modern and flashy. The performance only got weirder as after each song both performers would leave the stage and then return within seconds. They played some crowd favorites such as “Falling in Love with Myself Again” and “Academy Award Performance.” Perhaps for huge Sparks fans this was the most normal show they had ever been to but for an outsider such as myself I was quite surprised and stupefied. – Dafna Kaufman

 

William Basinski
Composer William Basinski is most famous for The Disintegration Loops, a series of severely damaged and deteriorated magnetic tape recordings on constant loop. So, what does someone who specializes in looping things over and over do for a live performance? Well, he loops. We got the same roughly minute and a half of music (with slight variations) looped for nearly an hour in a darkly lit seated theater with distorted visuals of the night sky projected onto a screen in the background. The audience seemed split between people who were completely enraptured by the whole process and several people who literally fell asleep, mouths open and all. Not that either of these reactions seemed “wrong,” it was just a very bizarre tone for a crowd at a large festival. Everyone seemed shocked and confused when Basinski actually went into a second piece (which ended up being around fifteen minutes) before the end of his set. Some people took that break as a cue to rouse from their slumber and rush for the exits while the others sat at attention, waiting to see what, if anything, would happen next. – Nathan Kerce

Zola Jesus & JG Thirlwell
Earlier this year singer Zola Jesus and composer JG Thirlwell (of Foetus and Venture Bros. fame) put out Versions a collection of Zola’s best work re-recorded with a string quartet and Thirlwell’s signature conduction/production. Mountain Oasis was the final stop of their Versions tour and it was thrilling to see these compositions come alive. Sure these are “classical” versions of the songs but Zola Jesus gave a full on pop performance, dancing back and forth between her string quartet bandmates. At one point she came down into the audience to interact with individual members of the crowd (not exactly a common occurrence at a large festival), the whole thing felt very personal. As Thirlwell and the Quartet stood up to take a bow they received a rapturous standing ovation, a high class close to the one of the most upstanding pop shows I’ve ever seen. – Nathan Kerce

Photo credit:Scott Criss, Criss Images via the Mountain Oasis Flickr group photo pool.

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