I’m going to blog about Hopscotch Music Festival for the next few days. I wanted a few days for it to sink in, but not long enough for memories to fade. Hopscotch, for those unfamilar, is a 3-day urban music festival held each September in Raleigh, NC, organized by Grayson Currin and Greg Lowenhagen of The Independent Weekly. Year 3 of Hopscotch was this past weekend and featured roughly 175 bands as part of the nighttime, paid part of the festival. It also featured dozens of “day parties” with tons of other bands.
Without further ado, my Hopscotch 2012 Top 10:
- Matthew E. White: One Incantation Under God at Fletcher: During last year’s Hopscotch, while bouncing around from day party to day party, I walked into Tir na Nog and started listening to a band. I hadn’t caught the name yet, and just stood and observed for a few minutes. Soon it became clear that whoever this was, it was really good. I started to look around for photo opportunities, but as the song came to a close, the band started to pack things up. I’d arrived too late. I walked over to one of the guys playing and asked them who they were and discovered it was Matt White. I was really bummed I’d missed the bulk of the set. Then this past spring, Grayson Currin posted about them. I mentioned my above story, and he told me I was going to be very happy when Hopscotch was announced. Sure enough, I was. And I was even more happy when I finally heard Big Inner, the album that came out shortly before Hopscotch.When I heard what Matthew (and Grayson) had in mind for the Hopscotch performance, I knew it was a can’t miss for me. Thirty musicians on stage to bring the album to life in a way that White’s normal band cannot.Flethcher was packed. What started quiet a reverently became a dance party. White brought the house down. I was there. And I was happy. I loved it so much that I made sure to catch the scaled down version at the Longview Center the next day.
- Hacienda at Slim’s (Day Party) : Local DJ Kitty Kinnin had mentioned Hacienda when interviewing Grayson about Hopscotch as one of the bands she was excited about. I hadn’t heard much, so decided to give a listen from Jedidiah Gant’s Hopscotch playlist on Spotify. The problem (as it turned out) was that there must be two Hacienda’s and I listened to stuff by the other (and wasn’t impressed). I had realized the mistake just days before Hopscotch, but hadn’t had a chance to explore further. Then I saw Christopher Blake Tamplin, who books the excellent Local Bands Local Beers series at Tir na Nog, tweet about how excellent their nighttime set at TnN had been. So seeing that they were scheduled to play a Slim’s day party, I decided to check it out. Riveting set that was over way too fast. I don’t expect to see these guys at a place as small as Slim’s next time.
- Megafaun Day Party: I’m going to just throw this whole day party in as one event, but if I broke the individual sets up, several of them would make the list. I had Megafaun, War on Drugs and Mount Moriah on my year-end 2011 best-of list, and got to hear 2 of them, and the front man of one, at this party. And I got to see NC legends The dB’s perform, the first time I’ve seen them since they played my high school, RJ Reynolds High in Winston-Salem, in 1985. But the absolutely highlight of all the day parties was the Megafaun (and friends) finale of “Real Slow”. I felt totally absorbed in the music in the same way I would at a Dead concert in the 80s.
- The Mountain Goats Heavy Metal Cover show at Fletcher: John Darnielle playing a cover of Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” (my favorite metal tune). Fuck yes.
- Wye Oak: Hours after seeing 3 bands from my top 10 albums of last year, I get to see yet another. I somehow missed Wye Oak when they played here a couple of years ago. I loved their Civilian album, so it became one of my “must see” shows of the festival (passing up what I’m sure was an amazing Sunn O))) performance). I was impressed with how powerful and hard rocking some of the songs became live. About halfway through the set, confident I’d gotten “the shot”, I put the camera away and moved towards the back of the Lincoln Theatre (where the sound was more balanced) and just soaked in the sounds. Ah, Hopscotch.
- Thee Oh See’s at CAM: I’ve really enjoyed listening to these guys records, and have never seen them play, so rushed over to CAM after the Matthew E. White performance. It was surreal to go from a soulful, almost gospel-like performance and then walk into an art museum with a mosh pit and crowd surfing. I loved CAM as a venue.
- Love Language Day Party at CAM:I only was able to catch the Love Language performance at this party, but it was great. Can’t wait for a new album. Hot and packed full of people at 4pm on a Friday. I love Raleigh.
- T0W3RS at CAM:My photo of this is worth more than a thousand of my words. Projections on the wall. Acrobatic performers (circusSPARKers?). I felt like I was in The Haight in 1967 catching a warm up band for The Pink Floyd and The Jefferson Airplane.
- Jon Mueller: Death Blues:Mueller was phenomenal pounding away at the drums. I’ve not seen anything quite like it.
- Odonis Odonis at Pour House (Day Party):This sounded so good. I arrived late and had to rush off to catch some other show right after, so only caught maybe half. But so glad I did. Such a good band. Way better live than on record.
Spider Bags outside Raleigh Times (Day Party):These guys put on one of the best live shows around. And they did it Saturday starting up shortly after noon. They blew the small crowd away.
Hiss Golden Messenger at Raleigh City Museum:I went to an Edward McKay speaker panel mainly to hear Matt White, because I’d so grown to love his album these last few weeks. I was disappointed he didn’t make this, and was going to leave, but decided to catch the opening handful of songs MC Taylor performed beforehand. It was so beautiful I even stopped by the Fletcher and caught more later in the festival. Looking forward to seeing more area shows from him/them.
The Jesus and Mary Chain on City Plaza:Not the most photo-friendly band to shoot (and it was going to be hard to live up to last year’s Flaming Lips show in that regard anyway). But the old J&MC songs sounded so good live echoing around Fayetteville street.