Best performances from Zola Jesus and Colleen at Moogfest 2017

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Colleen at First Presbyterian Church credit – Cap Blackard

Durham NC – As Moogfest 2017 comes to a close, as i’ve said in another article i was underwhelmed by the line up at first until I gave myself into the build up and found some interesting nuggets to check out.  Unfortunately as the event closed in, i had to fight illness and there was some shows i was interested that i missed.  That said out of the performances and events i made it too during the May 18th to May 21st festival,  two of them – Colleen and Zola Jesus were the best on the list.

Flying in from San Diego to perform the last of her two show appearance in the United States, Cécile Schott known as Colleen graced the First Presbyterian Church with what would be the last time she features songs from her old set spanning 15 years.    The first i’ve ever heard of Colleen’s experimental and ambient music was probably in 2009.   “Summer Water” was a bright slightly gray-ish atmosphere of looping classical music strings and Colleen playing strings above it.  Other songs involve her ghosting voice loop amongst the other echoing sounds moving in and out.   While these sounds are nothing new to me, living in Florida i’ve grown used to not seeing performances from artists like this due to many valid reasons such as artist logistics, their opinion about our weather, lack of support, etc.  I accepted the conclusion she would be like the others.  Although she didn’t perform in Florida, knowing that one of her two US appearances would be a 90 minute airline trip away was special in itself.

If there’s any performance that delivered more than promise it was this show.   She played a good long set and rekindled that magical interest that connected me with her music last decade.  Ironically as much as she liked the festival she hated the Saturday humidity in North Carolina.   When she said that i could only pencil down the negatives of a music artist from another part of the world playing live in the Southeast United States.   On another note, luckily for her and day time workshop the next day the temperature dropped to the low 80s.   Anyhow she closed out with 2 songs that signaled a transition from old to new.  Captain of Nothing from the last album of same name before playing a song from her new album with the new electronic setup.  No she didn’t pull out the lap top but she said its the last time the Captain of Nothing and her older music will be played on tour due to accommodation issues.  After the show, she quickly clarified the hiatus for both and new songs physically and for time constraints, music from the last release Captain of None will not be played at her next tour.

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Zola Jesus was another artist i’ve been interested in that i’ve never seen in concert.  She also made some appearances in Florida early this decade which i missed.  While i penciled in her show for Moogfest, i was skeptical if her act would be compatible to an early evening, big parking lot show like Motorco Park on a Friday evening.  I also was prepared to walk over the VIP area if it got too crowded.  Luckily that wasn’t the case.  I had a nice brisk walk to the front and witnessed her lead her band through a powerful and poetic performance to close out the humid day and slowly bring in the night.  Zola has a presence that teeters between the feeling of anonymity and sheer stardom.  Like she wants to tackle topics in her music that aren’t necessarily comfortable.  That said its that charisma that can undo all of it.  And its why i have been hesitant and have generally ignored her because unlike say Chelsea Wolfe she’s meant to ascend to accessibility which means being associated with boring and uninteresting music eventually.  So in that sense i felt lucky to watch her beforehand.  Another interesting tidbit is that its great that Zola Jesus and Colleen are fans of the Moogfest and have said that they can get behind a festival like this.   I agree.  The combination of performances, keynotes, installations, workshops, conversations and films – happening at all parts of the day and even better happening in theaters, churches and inside comfortable AC buildings like the Armory and the American Underground Ground….within reasonable walking distance – is what separates Moogfest from your standard set up festival in the middle of nowhere.

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