May 6-7, 2016 at White Horse in Black Mountain, NC.
Asheville electro-music is organized by members of the electro-music.com online community. The focus is on compelling original music and innovative technology. Previous events have attracted many world-class musicians and were an excellent opportunity for sharing new music with an appreciative audience, networking, socializing, and becoming creatively inspired.
Asheville and the Black Mountain area are beautiful places, and this was one of the most enjoyable musical events that we’ve experienced. Usually, my wife Audra doesn’t accompany me at electro events – she’s just not into the artform, though she does play uke. But given the opportunity to see another part of the country, Audra agreed to make this a part of our wedding anniversary celebration. Some may think that would be a hard sell, but thankfully Black Mountain in particular offered more than enough to enjoy while I was off listening to bloops and bleeps.
We selected Monte Vista as our hotel which is admittedly a bit pricey, but well worth it. We checked in Thursday night and then went to a pre-show party at Greg and Hong Waltzer’s home in Asheville, greeting old friends and new. For many of my electro friends, this was the first time they were seeing Audra in person – confirming she was not a figment of my imagination.
Friday morning we took in the Moog Museum in Asheville, which is sort of a required stop for electro artists. The tour was very well done and we had basically full access to the labs and testing rooms. We even got to see one of Trent Reznor’s module racks that was in for calibration. Just one of these boxes starts at $10,000 – never mind custom configurations.
After Moog, we made a quick trek to Lumen Audio, a studio in Canton just west of Asheville. Lumen Audio is run by Ryan Earnhardt, who runs Creative Sound Lab, a popular YouTube series on recording. Ryan was very humble, and pretty much just what you’d expect from watching his videos. The real deal. We share some of the same attitudes, influences and interests about audio recording. It was cool to meet him and see his space after watching him online.
The electro festival kicked off at the White Horse on Friday, offering a wide range of listening experiences. Highlights were Tenderlash, and (as always) Robert Dorschel. In between sets it was easy to pop out into Black Mountain to check out the shops or grab a snack. Within walking distance there were three music stores, including Song of the Wood, a specialty dulcimer shop. Dinner at Thai Basil was good. Audra explored shops that evening while I returned for the evening festival set. It featured Klimchak, an artist I had not seen before but very much enjoyed for his humor.
On Saturday, artist Kevin Spears gave a talk on “Harnessing The Speed of Thought”. Kevin plays kalimba and does a lot of live looping, singing and percussion using Handsonic controllers. His talk was just a taste of a great performance he’d later give that evening.
I opened the festival with my new piece, Sonic Conspiracy Theories 528 vs 741, with visuals by Michael O’Bannon. Overall I thought it went well, save for one feedback swell from my Cordoba. In the context of the performance it was fine.
With my set out of the way, it was time to relax and enjoy Black Mountain, listening to the many talented artists. After dinner at the hotel, I came back to enjoy Vibrophonik Electronik, Joe Belknap Wall (a personal favorite because not many people do spoken word well) for the evening set. By far the highlight on Saturday was Kevin Spears, who knocked us out with his percussion/groove pyrotechnics and gave en encore performance.
Originally, Bill Manganaro was slated to coordinate the final Zero Input Mixer (ZIM) performance for Saturday night. Titled “Journey of the Satellite,” it was to feature three movements of ZIM or mostly-ZIM material from several festival performers. Unfortunately, about a week before the event Bill found that he’d be unable to attend, so I was asked to regroup with the available artists and lead a guided improvisation to wrap up the evening.
Joining me were Paul Vnuk, Jr., Daniel Z (Vibrophonik Electronik), Joe Wall, and Bill Fox. Tony Gerber was originally going to join us, but in a rather funny snafu, we started without him (no hard feelings). Visuals were provided by Michael O’Bannon. More about Zero Input Mixer (ZIM)
My piece “Cephalothorax” appears on the CD sampler for the event.