Friday, June 12, 2015

11.06.2015 Will Gregory’s MOOG Ensemble

11.06.2015 Town Hall Birmingham, £15, Support act: Fairns

In the 32 years of my going to gigs (I was 16 when I went to see Udo Lindenberg in my native Germany back in 1983) and especially regarding my fondness of going to synthesizer/electronic music related gigs THIS event ranks among the finest examples of AWESOMENESS I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.

The town hall itself has an impressive past as she played hostess to the likes of Buddy Holly (in 1958), Ravi Shankar (1956), Simon & Garfunkel (1968), Black Sabbath (in 1972) and many more over the decades.

Fully refurbished the hall now allowed for the 2015 Super Sonic Festival to be officially opened by Will Gregory’s MOOG Ensemble. 

For synthesizer freaks (and I mean that in a nice way) that was a feast but for any music lover the high musicianship displayed during the concert itself must have felt like a treat and, of course, the MOOG Ensemble incorporated quite a number of classical musical moments into their performance.

This event also marked the 10th anniversary of inventor Robert ‘Bob’ Moog’s (Mogue/Moog/Moch with a soft CH but pronounced in Klingon) passing. Listening to the stunning array of sounds and the tonal depth of these machines served as a reminder of the high quality musical instruments used to have.

On stage there were many Moogs such as the Minimoog and the Micromoog and I believe some Moog Phatties (was a bit hard to see from afar) but one could also see and hear a Minikorg 700  S, Korg Delta, some Rolands and even well preserved and quite hissy 1950s univox’s. Will Gregory (whose day job is to be awesome in Mute records signed GOLDFRAPP) himself played a lot of flute parts with a Yamaha WX 7 attached via CV/Gate box to his Moog. 

So from a ‘nerds point of view’ that alone was amazing but musically and sonically the ensemble didn’t let us down either.

With 10 people on stage, all well capable to read music, and including Portishead’s very own Adrian Utley as well as composer Graham Fitkin, the evening offered many well known pieces such as the 1968 ‘Switched on Bach’ Moog showcase of a Bach piece, The ‘Escape from New York’ theme tune made famous by film director and musician John Carpenter and even a Burt Bacharach song from the ‘Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid’ movie from 1969 starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford.

But most impressively the Moog Ensemble performed many brand new tracks on their vintage gear and all well synced up thanks to an especially built clocking device. All the instruments on stage were built way before MIDI was established and once synced up became a force to be reckoned with.

There were songs oddly titled ‘Pipe Box’ and ‘Noise Box’ that were at times Kraftwerky and extraordinary. ‘Pipe Box’ was all these machines creating a dense rhythmical song by using just white noise for which these old machines are well loved and feared for.

The show came with an interval during which we were aloud to change seats from one in a far away row to a much better one right by the stage and looking at it from above while David Bowie's ‘Low’ was played over the house P.A. with all the wonderful Eno-esque synthesizer parts that are now so well known.

Before the Ensemble started Nottingham based duo FAIRNS played a three song set, two of the three songs as of yet not even titled on just an electric guitar and a violin and although enjoyable didn’t feel all that well rehearsed and coherent to me.

In any case this was not only a very very enjoyable night out but an educational and entertaining musical journey with great musicians in a great venue with gear on stage that reminds the aspiring synthesist to keep on saving up and to keep playing their beloved keys.

TOP entertainment for a very reasonable price

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