Fan Fare

Entertainment behind the scenes

Is rock-and-roll the new stimulus?

By Rob Cox
The opinions expressed are his own.

When it comes to urban economic development, Ashley Capps isn’t the kind of businessman that comes to the mind of most local politicians. After all, he’s a rock-and-roll promoter. He puts on big, rollicking festivals, like the Bonnaroo Festival, where tens of thousands of music fans camp, dance and party in the middle of the Tennessee countryside. So what’s a guy like Capps doing in a city like Asheville, North Carolina?

Well, from the looks of the past weekend, he’s making serious coin for the people of this town in the mountains of western North Carolina. The second annual Moogfest, which Capps’ firm AC Entertainment puts together in homage to the godfather/inventor of the electronic synthesizer Bob Moog, brought as many as 30,000 people into downtown Asheville, to sample music, art and electronic geekery at a handful of venues.

Capps, you see, is a new kind of conventioneer. Events like Moogfest are precisely the kind of thing that smaller cities, particularly those with adequate tourism infrastructure and underutilized performing arts spaces, can look to as a transformative way to bring in fresh tourist dollars and promote a new form of economic development.

Take Moogfest in Asheville. The three-day festival was held in ten different locations around the city. Among these, a concrete park served as an outdoor amphitheater dubbed the “Animoog Playground” where larger acts like Flaming Lips and Passion Pit rocked the crowd. The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium, home of the local symphony (and named for the novelist whose home is now a museum dedicated to his work downtown), hosted more sedate acts like St. Vincent and Tangerine Dream, and a two-hour talk from Brian Eno, the artist and producer of seminal Talking Heads and U2 records.