Hopscotch seemed to have a lot more stuff going on during the day on Thursday this year. I arrived after lunch and got checked into the Clarion (I’d decided to stay downtown this year instead of driving to/from the ‘burbs each day). A quick stop by Morning Times, to check out the photo exhibit I’d organized, then over to the Sheraton to get badged. Finally hit my first band at Kings at 2pm. Jenny Besetzt, a Greensboro-based band, played as part of the Digg Up Tapes day party. Nice, 80’s alt-rock sort of hooks. I’d definitely check them out again. Afterwards, I popped into Slim’s just in time to see the end of The Once and Future Kings. Then it was over to the Raleigh City Museum for the Edward McKay speaker series.
My main interest in this particular speaker session was Matthew E. White. His “Big Inner” album has been in heavy rotation at my house. But, alas, rehearsals for his ambitious set that evening (more on that later) kept him from his scheduled appearance. Despite that hiccup, I was treated to a great warmup of a 3-song acoustic set my Hiss Golden Messenger. HGM had been getting a bit of buzz going into this festival, and they were playing several times with all the day parties. This intimate setting was a great introduction to their beautiful music. Afterwards, I stuck around a while during the panel discussion, but ultimately decided I needed more music to fill my soul. The Human Eyes at Kings fit that bill nicely.
After waiting out a heavy downpour (that, as it turns out, would flood the bottom of CAM, one of the venues), I heading to the hotel to rest up and grab some food before the evenings shows. I’d beging my evening by watching one of the areas most talented musicians, Phil Cook of Megafaun, performing his solo “Phil Cook and His Feat” material at the Fletcher Opera House. I got a little restless sitting though, so stepped next door and caught a few minutes of Young Magic at Memorial. Then a quick sidetrip over to Lincoln Theatre to see Jon Mueller’s Death Blues. Hard to describe in words, Mueller’s percussionmasterpiece really needs to be experienced.
Arriving back at the Fletcher/Memorial twosome, I first caught the end of Charlie Parr at Fletcher. Parr was excellent, alternating between banjo and guitar. Then over to Memorial for Deerhoof. I’d heard some good things about them, but was only so-so on what I’d heard while preparing for the festival. That so-so attitude didn’t really change on seeing them. Energetic performance and certainly visually interesting on stage, but it wasn’t grabbing me. I decided to get on back to Fletcher and take my seat for Matthew E. White early.
I’ve already mentioned the White performance in my Top Ten post. It was the thing I was probably looking the most forward to the whole festival, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. 32 musicians performing every part of Big Inner. Especially nice touches were the kind words White had to say about the festival, especially about co-organizer Grayson Currin, and White’s invitation to the crowd to come down front and dance. The performance had almost seemed a somber affair to that point, and it completely changed the vibe in the hall.
Because White was scheduled to also perform a day party, and because another band I really wanted to see was also scheduled late that evening, I’d been prepared to rush out and miss the end, but when the time came, I found that I couldn’t leave, I was too moved by the performance. I was, therefore, thankful to find that the set didn’t run late and I still hadtime to catch Thee Oh Sees, playing at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM). CAM was a remarkable venue for a festival like this. While the basement level had flooded in the earlier rains, the level scheduled for the show was fine. I walked in and the long, rectangular space was packed with concert goers. By far the largest crowd I’d seen, even more than the much larger Memorial. I was able to work up the side of the space to the back side of the stage and get some photos. I wasn’t about to get into the thick of the high energy crowd, moshing and crowd surfing away. After getting my shots, I moved to the rear, grabbed a PBR (probably the beverage of choice at the hipster-heavy festival), and listened to the driving, punk-y garage rock while I did the best people watching of the 3 days. What a great way to end the night.