Wednesday, October 6, 2010
Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Three
with Motor Skills, U.S. Christmas and Weedeater
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)
The final night of Hopscotch was here, and for me it was a night of mixed feelings...I was kinda happy it was over because my old ass was worn out, but sad that such a great three days of music and merriment was ending.
My first stop of the night was Tir Na Nog for Motor Skills. This was my second time seeing them as a four piece, and they cemented my opinion that this is one of the best new (or at least newish) local bands playing these days. I had previously noted a comparison to the Notwist, a comparison that still holds for me; but there is some thing else there, something a little more lighthearted and poppy...and that something is a little bit of Erasure in their sound. Some may find a comparison to Erasure to be an insult, but it's certainly not meant to be - those dudes knew their way around a catchy hook from time to time, a trait I wish more bands had. As Motor Skills were the first band, I wasn't expecting much of a crowd, but the Nog really filled up! Not sure if it was friends or randoms checking out the first band of the night, but I'm guessing they ended the set with a some new fans.
My next planned show wasn't for a little while, so I slowly meandered my way there and stopped at a couple of places. Caught a couple of songs by the Dynamite Brothers at the Pour House and it confirmed that they are just not the band for me. I've seen them before, and while the musicianship of all the members is amongst the best I've ever seen, the songs just don't grab me. But they are one of the tightest damn bands I've ever seen. Made another stop at the newly opened Capital Club 16 to talk to my friend Layne who manages the place. Chatted with him for a while - looks like a nice place, will have to check it out some day.
Eventually I made it to the Berkeley Cafe, where I would spend the bulk of my evening. I was immediately greeted by Nate of U.S. Christmas as he ran up to me, delighted as a child in a candy store, because one of the drummers of the band playing at the time - In the Year of the Pig - looked Just like Newman from "Seinfeld". And he did look a whole shitload like him, but more importantly, he played drums like a deranged octopus (aka Damon Che from Don Caballero). It was a sight to behold, not just him but the whole band, flailing away like muppets on some jams that registered right in the middle between metal and free-form jazz. I only got to see them for ten minutes or so, but it was definitely interesting music and something I'm going to seek out in the future.
U.S. Christmas was up next. I know I've reviewed or talked about these guys a lot lately, but it's because they're a damn god band. Also, they finally started playing down here in the Triangle, something that always helps in seeing a band live. They seem to get tighter and tighter each time I watch them perform, their "William Faulkner" metal really ringing true in my ears. There was a pretty hefty crowd there to see them, and they were seemingly into it. I didn't poll the folks there or anything, but there was cheering and all that sort of business. You know, crowd shit. Worth mentioning is the sound man did a really nice job with the mix - Meg's violin can often get lost in the sea of noise this band makes, but tonight she stood out nicely and really added to the overall feel.
I had other designs on what to do with the rest of the night, but a knowledge of how hard it would be to get into Dungen plus Nate's badgering led me to sticking around for my first viewing of the entity known as Weedeater. He has told me for ages what a trip they are live and you never know what the front man Dixie might do, and he was not lying. From what I gathered it was a fairly subdued show for them, but he was still a very animated singer - constantly gesticulating toward the crowd, staggering around the stage, drinking enough liquor for ten people, and generally entertaining the shit out of me. It was drunken stoner metal at it's finest, and I was glad I stuck around.
I was going to end the night popping into the Lincoln Theatre to see a little bit of Tortoise, but the place was already full and I had no designs on waiting in line. So it was off to my car and back home for me, though en route I came across a group of young kids holed up in a parking garage stairwell playing sloppy punk rock for a few of their friends. It wasn't good, but it was fun, and a reminder of why live music is such an awesome experience and a great thing to have in your life.
Hopscotch Music Festival - Day Three (Day Parties)
with Flute Flies and NAPS
(Outside of) Raleigh Times
I barely made it to this...having the Flute Flies play at 11 AM the day after late night shenanigans is no recipe for guaranteed attendance. I felt like crap and I don't even drink, so I can only imagine how everyone else there felt. Things might have looked grim, but the Flies were putting on a hell of a show on the stage set up in the middle of the blocked off Hargett Street in front of Raleigh Times. For those not aware, this local "all star" band is made up of Ivan from the Rosebuds, Reid from Schooner, Zeno of the Sames, and what appears to be a revolving cast of support players. The driving force behind this band was to create some original music for CyTunes to help raise money for brain cancer. I saw them their first time playing live and while quite sloppy, it was fun and there were enough catchy hooks there to draw in fans of the member's main bands. But this time out they sound like a real band, not just a group of friends playing music on a lark. There were a number of really good songs, each lead member taking turns singing lead. Yeah, when Ivan sings it still sounds mostly like a Rosebuds song or when Reid sings it sounds mostly like a Schooner song, but I don't see any problem with that. The barely there, half comatose hangover victims, random parade of dogs and dancing children seemed to dig it, and to me that counts as a success.
I decided I'd stick around for one more band before I went home and napped on my couch, mostly because that one more band was NAPS. What I find funny, and it's probably only funny to me, is I've played basketball with Dan (aka D-Mike) for a while now but the first time I saw NAPS play I didn't even recognize him because I'd only ever seen him in basketball clothes. My nonsensical rambling aside, I liked them the first time I saw them and this time was no different, though it was weird seeing them in the middle of the day in daylight. But I was drinking a fresh squeezed lemonade while doing it, not something you can always say during a show. They still remind me a little of early Silver Jews and something else I can't place my finger on, and maybe I can figure out that something else if I can ever get my hands on their cassette (yes, cassette, it's what all the cool kids are apparently doing these days). I tried to pick one up after the show but they were out, and Dan keeps saying he'll bring one to our weekly basketball games but it hasn't happened yet. On a side note, we really need a boombox for our basketball games.
I contemplated sticking around for some more good music, and did see a couple of songs by the Loners who are always entertaining, but the knowledge that I would be out all night rocking sent these old man bones back home and to the couch for a little rest and relaxation before the final night of Hopscotch.
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.
Hopscotch Music Festival - Day One
with Lucero, Best Coast, Cults, Old Bricks and No Tomorrow
Downtown Raleigh (Multiple Venues)
The First night of the new, highly anticipated music festival known as Hopscotch. I got out in the streets nice and early to get my wristband (which I put on too tight and drove me nearly insane) and promptly went on the hunt for some music. My first destination was the Busy Bee to see Old Bricks, but en route I heard some music coming out of Slims so I went in to see what was happening. Turns out it was a band called No Tomorrow, an outfit hailing from Wilmington that sounded like The Cro-Mags or NYC hardcore crossed with metal. It was fun enough for a few songs, a decent unplanned diversion en route to other endeavors.
And that other endeavor was literally right next door at the Busy Bee. One of the best parts of this festival is how walkable the whole thing is. Old Bricks were still setting up when I walked in, so I entertained myself watching Mr. Retirement, Brett Farve, play some football on the bar TV. I'm pretty sure he retired and unretired three times in the five minutes I was watching. Then the band played, and they were very entertaining as always. It was the newish four man version of the band which I've seen once before but forgot or got too lazy to write about. Interestingly enough (or at least interesting to me), doubling the number of members in the band included adding the singer from Motor Skills, another band that somewhat recently doubled in size. They've still got a sort of Animal Collective/Dodos vibe, lots of reverb and up to three members drumming at once, though if you added up all the drums on stage it would probably equal one kit. I dig their sound and their songs and performance is getting stronger and stronger each time I see them. Outside of the vapid blondes standing next to me talking about "fucking some bitch up", it was very enjoyable.
I staggered down the hill and lined up to get into Tir Na Nog...it wasn't much of a line mind you, and I was in the club after about five minutes. It was packed. Even the far side of the bar away from the stage was full of people. Cults had just started their set...I found a spot in the back of the crowd and watched the band churn out their pop ditties while throngs of kids waved their glow stick-clad arms in the air. The singer for Cults was delightfully cute, and had a voice that matched her looks. I'm usually not one for cutesy pop music, but I've certainly heard worse than these guys. There is something very Euro about their sound, which can obviously be good or bad...and honestly I'm not sure which end of the spectrum Cults falls in. It's going to take further listening to get to the bottom of this one.
Between bands I managed to weasel my way up into the middle of the crowd. Best Coast got their gear set up pretty quickly, but due to festival rules had to wait a while before they could play. So I just stood there, eavesdropped on inane conversations, and sweated. A lot. Did I mention it was packed? These guys were one of the top buzz bands of the festival, and once they started playing it was obvious why...so catchy, so infectious. I've been loving this band and their songs for a few months now, and was worried seeing the band live they wouldn't live up to the high standard I had set in my convoluted brain - but they were just as adorable and enjoyable on this evening as any recorded output. I'd guess they played nearly all of their songs, including "When I'm With You" and all the other ones I wanted to hear whose names escape me. One of the best shows of the festival.
I'd planned on ending my evening at the Berkeley Cafe with a Future Islands dance party, but the line to get in stretched around the block prompting me to utter "fuck that" and take my ass over to the Lincoln Theatre to see a little Lucero. Of course, Lucero tops my "love the band, hate the fans" list - generally a loud, rude group of inebriated boobs who take the band's drunken lovability and go way over the top, usually irritating the shit out of me. But for whatever reason, the crowd was mostly subdued this evening, which meant you could actually watch and hear the band perform their heartland country rock stylings. It was my first time seeing them with a horn section, which seemed really out of place but after getting used to it I decided I liked what it added to the live sound. They mixed up their set list with a lot of songs from their most recent record "1372 Overton Park" (which I honestly haven't listened to very much) and older material (which I knew well and clearly delighted the crowd). I watched a large portion of their set before my old man tiredness set in and I called it a night. A great start to Hopscotch to be sure, and I was looking forward to the next couple of days of rockin' out.
with Lonnie Walker
Tir Na Nog
Made it out to the rare show at Tir Na Nog where I actually had to pay to get in, but that was OK since the bands were good. And despite my cheapness, sometimes that's just fine.
Of particular note was the show opener Motor Skills - I'd seen these guys before as a two piece with electronic pop act with a portion of their set dedicated to comedy rap songs. But now they're basically a whole new band, expanded to four members, with an impressively strong set of songs. The best (and most boring) comparison I would make would be to the Notwist, only less German. There were no funny hip hop songs this time either, though it's unclear if they are completely removed from their set or just weren't there on this night. I liked the previous version of this group - I love the current edition.
Lonnie Walker also played and I'm feeling too lazy to review them for 684th time, but worth mentioning is this was the first show back for their organ player after being out sick for an extended period of time. He really rounds their sound out and it was a pleasure to hear him playing with the band again.
(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)