Believe it or not, I usually don’t spend my early Sunday evenings jumping up and down in unison with hundreds of costumed hipsters to the otherworldly, euphoric sounds of arena space-rock/dreampop- but I happily made an exception for M83’s unforgettable set on the final day of Asheville’s Moogfest event. And now the day of rest will never be the same.
For clarification’s sake, I’m a little biased. M83’s Anthony Gonzalez has been systematically blowing my mind for about eight years now beginning with his minimalist, avant-garde electronic epic, Dead Cities, Red Seas, & Lost Ghosts (which somehow finds a world of soul in three minutes of deliberately repetitive notes and chords). But biased or not, my realist sensibilities had given me a cause for concern. First of all, M83’s set time had troubled me ever since the schedule was officially announced a little over a month ago. Sure, “Midnight City” is currently all the rage (I’m pretty sure by now that Sirius DJs are dreaming about that digital yelp ←- see what I did there?). But by playing at 6:30 (!) Sunday evening, M83 would be effectively mopping up the floors from two previous days of garish, musical excess. With Neon Indian, Ghostland Observatory, and Umphrey’s McGee still waiting in the Sunday night wings, M83 was placed in a decidedly odd position of possible Moogfest irrelevance.
But if any album can reinvigorate a sluggish crowd, it would of course be Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. The band itself was comprised of a mere four people including Anthony Gonzalez; among them, Morgan Kibby, who most fans would recognize as the female vocalist from 2008’s Saturdays=Youth, as well as a new fresh-faced guitarist named Jordan (who was actually celebrating his twentieth birthday). As six-thirty rolled around, the crowd at the Asheville Civic Center had begun to dominate the floor area forcing others to resort to balcony seats.
And this is all before a costumed monster slowly walked onstage to raise its arms in youthful defiance. At the time, it merely seemed odd. We would know later that this was a warning signal for the crowd- things were about to get awesome. In an hour and fifteen minutes, M83 effectively ended Moogfest for hundreds of people. Any follow-up experiences that evening suddenly became an anti-climactic formality**.
The setlist was weighted mostly towards Dreaming and Saturdays with “Teen Angst” receiving the nod from Before the Dawn Heals Us (no time for avant-garde minimalism here!). Yet it never really felt like a collection of songs at all- instead, more so a giant, relentless wall of sound. And I say this without the aforementioned bias, these guys put out sound the way a fire hose puts out water. From the opening “Intro” to set-closer “Couleurs”, everyone inside the Civic Center was under the band’s spell- it was palpable, you could actually feel it. And when an artist can do that, it becomes more than special- it becomes a dream.
** Trust me- this is no exaggeration. The usually awesome Neon Indian started fifteen minutes after the M83 show and it seemed as dynamic as a wet firecracker. Try going to a Neon Indian show and not enjoying it. It’s like trying to frown on a waterslide- but on this particular day, it all felt quite pedantic. Neon Indian… pedantic! Hence the power of M83 at Moogfest.
<-- not Neon Indian
- Fr. Jones