Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hopscotch Music Fest 2010, Day 2 around downtown Raleigh - 9/10/2010

Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Two
with Harlem, The Golden Boys, Kingsbury Manx and Americans in France
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)

Not feeling the day parties, what with having to work my job and all, I rolled into downtown for this second night of Hopscotch festivities in time to buy some cheap shirts at the Kung Fu pop-up store and then made my way to the Busy Bee to check out Americans in France. I'd heard good things about these guys (and gal) and had been meaning to see them play live, so why not now? At their best they reminded me of a combo of The Fall and Pavement circa "Westing (By Musket and Sextant)", two great things of which to remind me, or anyone for that matter. As I've never seen Americans in France before I can't speak to the frequency of the act, but they had an older black dude (who I'm pretty sure I've seen a bunch of times hanging around Slims) play some extra drums on a couple of their songs. He could play a little bit so it wasn't a complete goof, but it was a bit odd. Sometimes a little odd makes the night better, and this was a great start.

It was just down the hill from there and into Tir Na Nog for some Kingsbury Manx, who'd just started their set. I hadn't seen the Manx play in years, probably not since Kenneth left the band, though I had continued to listen to their recorded output. They were just as great as I remembered, still very mid-era Pink Floyd crossed with Yo La Tengo and just a dash of Kiwi popness. The crowd was light when I first got there but by the end of their set the Nog was mostly full...not the kind of sardine can full it was the night before for Best Coast, but pretty well filled in. Their set was mostly a cross section of their last couple of records, but the band delighted me to no end when they pulled out my very favorite song of theirs, "Pageant Square" towards the end of the set. If I had to zero in on what my single favorite moment of the entire festival was, this might have been it...certainly top three, I love that song that much.

I went back up the hill to Slims to get in and find a decent spot for Harlem...I was quite a bit early, but Slims is tiny and I didn't want to miss out on seeing them. It was already insanely packed and swelteringly hot when I got there, and though I didn't have to wait to get in I'm pretty sure there was a wait soon after I entered. Harlem's record "Hippies" is one of my top five favorite records of the year, perfect from start to finish.

But I'm getting ahead of myself, as the band before them, The Golden Boys, hadn't even started their set when I got there. Luckily, they kicked nearly as much ass as Harlem. They had a real nice classic party garage sound, like a modern version of the Sonics, with just a hint of soulful R&B mixed in to their sound. Let it be said that the keyboard player had a ridiculous mustache, something I felt like folks should know. These Austin kids really brought a lot of life and energy to the gig, and I feel certain that there would have been a tons of dancing from the crowd if they weren't packed together like sardines. As it was, vigorous head nodding is about all that was possible. That, and flash backs to dry humping in high school cause it was nuts to butts in there.

I didn't think it could get any more packed for Harlem, but apparently it did. I literally could not move - I was pinned against the wall and contorted into a half turn because of some weird box or footstool on the floor. I talked to one of the bartenders and he said that even though it was easily the most people they had ever had in there, they didn't sell much alcohol because no one could get to the bar. None of that really mattered though once Harlem started playing incredibly catchy tunes. They might get lumped in with the garage rock genre, but this pure pop music through and through, only the guitars are a little fuzzier than usual. The crowd went as nuts as they could, bouncing up and down and making the floor shake with every note, whooping and hollering and if they were like me, singing along and trying to keep the blood running to their feet because they were standing so awkwardly. The last time Harlem came through town I was actually visiting their hometown of Austin; many thanks to the Hopscotch overlords for bringing this amazing band back to the area at a time when I wasn't wandering the country.

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