The weekend started off an hour into the first night for me. I arrived shortly after 8:00 and just in time to trek through the costumed crowds that were hiking up towards the US Cellular Center and plop in front of the stage for Purity Ring. The Canadian duo has been on my list of must sees since Shrines was released in 2012. Though the act leans towards electronic-pop, the instrumental foundation is heavily ensconced in the world of bass-heavy hip-hop. Pounding low-ends were marked by shimmering vocal melodies and a percussively oriented light show. As Corin Roddick would accentuate his beats with bright synth lines, corresponding orbs of light would illuminate as they were struck with his drum sticks, making for an incredibly well put together stage presence. Megan James' haunting vocals lingered throughout the ExploreAsheville.com Arena and a sense of disappointment filled the air once fans realized that their set was over. However, that disappointment quickly dissipated once Deltron 3030 took the stage. While I've admittedly not delved too deep into Del The Funky Homosapien's discography, this Deltron set immediately drew me into the highly revered rapper. Deltron is a hip-hop supergroup comprised of Del, producer Dan The Automater, and prolific DJ Kid Koala, but that's not the main draw of this high-energy hip-hop show. While it was fantastic to see Del and the crew pull out favorites like Gorillaz' "Clint Eastwood," the real highlight of this performance was the massive orchestration that backed this sci-fi hip-hop narrative. Swelling strings and soaring horns blended with bass and electric guitars to make for a unique and compelling live hip-hop set-up. It's always a crapshoot when you're stepping into a live hip-hop set-up, it could easily be a blasé affair with a strong lack of personality, but Deltron 3030 turned all expectations upside down and provided one of the most exciting sets of the weekend.
SaturdayI started things off in the afternoon on Saturday by checking out some of the immersive panels and exhibits throughout downtown Asheville. But first I stopped through at Farmburger and ate one of the tastiest hunks of meat I've ever had. Seriously. I then struggled to walk off my delicious meal by stopping through Diana Wortham Theater and The Apothecary for some art installations and mind-bending exhibits. Naturally I had to play with all of the synths and theremins that were set up at Diana Wortham, but the highlight of the afternoon came from Mark Mosher's audiocube installation. Mosher displayed how his interactive "9-Box" set-up works and how he's using the innovative technology to teach children about music. 9-Box allows the user to make music and shape sounds using an infrared sensor that picks up which side of the cube your hand is covering, therein applying said effect or playing an assigned sample. Set-ups like this gave attendees a reason to traverse through downtown Asheville and stop in and some of the local businesses to soak in some of the culture of the city. Sadly there weren't many local musicians involved in this year's festival, which can hopefully be addressed in future years. However, there was more than enough excellent music to lose yourself in throughout the weekend.
Surely enough, coming early was an excellent idea. I positioned myself right in the middle of the auditorium, providing an awesome visual point to soak in all of Animal Collective's daunting stage set-up. Framed with inflatable teeth, the stage mirrored that of a trippy mouth in which AnCo was gradually being swallowed by. Various images were projected onto the stage, whether they be psychedelic leaning visual patterns or random clips of media, they never took away from the meandering music on display. After opening with "Lion In A Coma," the band quickly got the fan-favorite "My Girls" out of the way. After this a slew of fans poured out of the auditorium and things got sufficiently weird. The band always preceded their tracks with down-tempo explorative jams, they served almost like a guessing game to see which track was coming up next. Throughout their set they played an excellent mixture of new tracks from Centipede Hz and old fan favorites like "Purple Bottle" and "Brothersport." While I definitely should have checked out some of Nine Inch Nails, I instead trekked over to Asheville Music Hall for Cashmere Cat, which still served as an excellent closer for the evening. Cashmere Cat's cloud-rap production was brilliantly infused with modern hip-hop bangers from acts like Kanye, 2 Chainz and Drake. The set also had a few surprises like the Ja Rule sample that drove the audience to new levels of insanity or the subdued James Blake clip that closed out the show. Many, myself included, walked into the cold Asheville air drenched in sweat after Cashmere Cat's wild set. It was a welcomed breeze and made the walk to the car a bit more comforting. All in all Saturday stood out as the highlight of the weekend, bringing an absolutely stacked lineup from beginning to end.
Disclosure was another one of the weekend's highlights that took me by surprise. I was expecting an awesome set, but they blew my preconceived notions of their live set-up out of the water. Blending live instrumentation of bass guitar, percussion and vocals, Disclosure compelled me to use up every fiber of energy I had left to dance my heart out to this infectious English house music. The two even brought Jessie Ware onstage for a rare on-stage collaboration, making for an even more special set from this swiftly rising duo. If Disclosure aren't figureheads of the electronic scene within the next few years then color me surprised, because I for one can't get enough of these two. Whether they throw on a slow-brooding track like "Latch" or a club-ready banger like "When A Fire Starts To Burn," these two certainly know about the subtleties that make a live show something to write home about. Much of the same could also be said for Pretty Lights surprisingly. I was expected something akin to Bassnectar-lite, but instead I got a full live band that coincided with the heady electronic sounds of Pretty Lights. While the actual light set-up left me a bit underwhelmed--if your name is based around your light show maybe you should bring more than some high-powered lasers--the music actually surprisingly drew me in. It leaned more towards electronic dub jam than my preconceived notion of this bro-step icon. Granted there were moments where I kind of lost myself in thought while the horns noodled along, the fated bass drops brought it all back into perspective.
After a Pretty Lights set that felt like it lasted for hours on end, I sadly realized my stay in Asheville was coming to an end. The weekend was filled with a wide array of musical tastes converging together for one three-night excursion with a bit of something for everyone. The festival certainly had its highs and lows and it could have done with a bit more focus on the local music scene that Asheville contains, it's a fantastic start for a festival that will prove to be a staple for many years to come. While last year's Moogfest felt like a fragmented event that wasn't too certain as to what genre it was trying to tackle, Mountain Oasis feels like a much more realized event with a definite sense of purpose and direction. Mountain Oasis is looked forward to the future of music while paying homage to those that have helped shape the scene into what it's become. To put it simply, Mountain Oasis has its finger on the pulse of the music scene and as far as I can tell this festival has it down to a tee.