Hopscotch 2011, Day One in downtown Raleigh - 9/8/2011

Hopscotch 2011 - Day 1
With JEFF the Brotherhood, X-Ray Eyeballs, Grandchildren, Lower Dens, and Last Year's Men
Downtown Raleigh

Ah yes, another year has passed and Hopscotch is back again! Oh glory be to...well, whatever you want to send glory to.

After a stop at Shopscotch to get some cheap t-shirts and a couple of discounted records, I made my way to the Sheraton to pick up my wristband...er, excuse me, my VIP wristband, cause that's how I roll. And then it was down to the Lincoln Theatre to see my first show of the festival, Last Year's Men. I'd sort of made a pact with myself to only see touring bands since I can see the local bands all the time, but these young lads play such infectiously catchy garage pop that I just couldn't stay away. I'm guessing this is the biggest venue these kids have ever played (and they are very much kids, not that I'm jealous or anything...wait, I am totally jealous), but you'd never know it from the show they put on. Outside of some brief technical difficulties at the start of their set, they blistered the stage for nearly thirty minutes, ending with a litany of broken strings and a band member dog pile. There were already quite a few folks in the Lincoln, and I'd be highly surprised if they didn't make a bunch of new fans this night.

From there I strolled up the street to see Baltimore's Lower Dens at Kings, and already this VIP pass was going to pay off. There was a line halfway down the block, but with my fancy red wristband I was able to get in right away. Christ on a corndog stick was it ever hot in there. But then I was able to make my way to the front of the house and by some miraculous measure there was an air conditioned vent right above me...is it wrong I was as excited over this cool air as I was for the music? And that is meant as no slight to Lower Dens. I hadn't seen them play since they opened for Future Islands at Berkeley Cafe back in 2010, and it was good to get another taste. It's kinda like they are two bands - a mellow shoegaze pop band ala fellow Baltimorians Beach House, or a poppy krautrock act. I like the former fine, but it's the latter that has me coming back for more. I just wish more of their songs fit that dancy, drum-driven mold. This is not a phrase I say very often, but Lower Dens pulls off the sound perfectly.

I decided to stay with Kings and check out the next act Grandchildren for a few songs. My friend Layne had seen them before and spoke highly, so being lazy and staying put worked perfectly for me. From Philly, this six-piece act bucked tradition by setting up both drummers at the front of the stage and had a guitarist and bassist behind them. This sounds kinda neat, and certainly the (sitting) drummer was a bad ass and mesmerizing to watch, but it really screws up trying to take a photo. Kings is already more poorly lit than a country road, and now there were two drum kits obscuring most of the stage. So I got some blurry shots of the drummer's head and not much else. Poor photography aside, the band puts on a good show. I guess the obvious comparison is Animal Collective, but a more drum-based Animal Collective probably. The way everything was layered together and the vocals harmonized was very reminiscent of their more recent "pop" output though. I got through a handful of their songs before I needed to get to the next venue, but they're definitely an act I'm going to try and see again.

And that next venue was Slims, where I'd be spending the rest of my night. JEFF the Brotherhood was closing the evening there, and I was so eager to have a great spot for them that I got there a band early and watched X-Ray Eyeballs, who I'm told are from Brooklyn and I see no reason why anyone would lie about that. the four piece was one dude and three ladies, and my dude side must note all of the ladies were quite fetching. Especially the bassist/vocalist, who looked a shitload like Aubrey Plaza from "Parks and Recreation", and ain't a damn thing wrong with looking like her. The group played pretty simple garage pop, with the male and female vocals playing nicely off of each other. They weren't the most exciting band to watch, but as with all things in life if you're attractive no one really cares. After a few songs I started getting really antsy for the evening's closer.

Finally they were on - JEFF the Brotherhood. I would finally get to see more than a couple of songs by them as was the case when they opened for Fucked Up. Their weird, unique mix of riff-heavy sludge metal and catchy pop absolutely killed me from start to finish. Since they were the last band they played a nice, long set, the crowd egging them on for one more song and another and another...the encore portion of their set might have lasted longer than the original set. People were moshing and swaying and crowd surfing and throwing beers and there was even a girl wearing two pairs of sunglasses, which delighted me to no end. And then there was the girl who showed up next to me half-way through their set, and I'd swear she was feeling herself up so much she might have orgasmed. And we won't even talk about the bumping and grinding she put on my leg, I had to come home and give my knee a rape shower. And in case you're wondering, having some strange insane woman writhing next to you - quite detrimental to taking photos. Luckily, JEFF the Brotherhood are very photogenic and I managed to get a few snaps off before that girl showed up to get herself off.

It was a great evening, and was going to be a tough one to top. Bummed I missed J Mascis and Apache Dropout, but thems the breaks with festivals like this. I bought a chocolate milk from the corner store and went home. Two more nights to go.