June 5, 2017
Most questions and concerns regarding the present or future state of the Moers Festival could probably be answered just a few steps inside the staging grounds by looking at the smiling swarms.
At the same time last year, such a scenario was much farther from reality. After a doubtful political environment in 2016 led to funding insecurities and subsequent major personnel changes, there was rampant speculation that the Moers affair would be greatly diminished, if not nearly eliminated.
After this year's event, nothing seemed further from the truth as lot of people obviously found their bliss, whether that Deutschland Dharma was inside the capacity filled festival hall or amidst the surrounding trees and merchandise outside.
The enchanting park around the festival locale was a vibrant reminder that even after internal shakeups and financial issues, Moers is still going strong. Whether that's from a new direction or old inertia there was a very positive vibe that seemed apparent to all, as thousands of ecstatic attendees basked in various stages of glow during varying levels of performance. Moers' basic sound system and lighting was first class, while acoustics were good but not flawless for an eclectic range of acts and locations.
A new operational team headed by Artistic Director Tim Isfort and Business Manager Claus Arndt had to be satisfied with their results, at least those based on attendance, sponsorship and the concerts.
Beside an abundance of homegrown artists there was popular, internationally recognized talent like The Bad Plus
, Anthony Braxton
's sextet, Swans and Brian Blade
's Mama Rosa Project.
"The first days felt like a trip through a worm hole," reflected Isfort. "The festival had been in hibernation basically. We had to work our way back to reality. We want to keep the 'idea behind Moers,' and to set off in search of the unheard and the unexpected, like it used to be. In doing so we're attempting to strike a balance between artistic quality on an international level when it comes to the music, and strengthening the festival's roots in the city at the same time."
Apparently, a large number of people simply attended to roam the festival grounds or wander through the adjacent park that glowed so green it seemed like Oz.
A "California Dreaming" type hippie aesthetic was apparently quite alive and well. Cordially colorful characters and groups of kids wandered about the trees, as families and freaks mixed for a mellow vibe.
There was plenty of free music, both on the grounds and in the historic medieval commercial district a kilometer or two away. It looked like much of the town got involved in way or another.
Even the schedule is offbeat at Moers, with starting times like 2:04 or 6:37 listed. Most of the time the oddballs score sensationally, but there are also misfires.
For some attendees, that was the case this year with the highly ballyhooed experimental band Swans. Minimalism from Philip Glass
or Brian Eno
usually makes sense. Swans may only have been making noise. That said, it would seem that whatever your tastes, there is something for everyone at Moers and it is decidedly not standard fare.
On Monday's climactic agenda, the festival hall's first performer was Dorian Wood, a multi-talented singer and pianist from the Los Angeles area. After a solo performance Sunday night, Wood put on a clinic in stage presence during his set with Ensemble CRUSH, a multi-national, chamber type group featuring electronically enhanced cello, viola, violin, clarinet and accordion.
The artistic pairing was a very good fit as Wood tapped some of his Latin background and played deeply from the heart for a festival highlight. The ensemble did a fine job responding with a classical based, foundational soundscape.
Deceptively subdued tension in the strings built to operatic bursts. Wood displayed his powerful voice during arrangements of traditional songs like "La Cara Infinta" and kept many entranced with his subdued baritone, singing in Spanish. Wood is an off-beat character who remains intelligent and engaging while taking risks in his repertoire. After his performance, Wood provided solid insight on what usually works, but sometimes doesn't, in a creative environment like Moers.
"Sometimes it seems like artists are entertaining themselves," said Wood, quite accurately. "I worked in free jazz where some bands' attitude was 'fuck the audience.' To me, something essential is nurturing the audience, because none of this is possible without them. Connecting with the people is what makes a moment breath forever."
Wood definitely made that connection, as evidenced by new fans that approached him for the rest of the afternoon. Anyone looking for an original talent should look his direction.