Hopscotch 2012, Day Three in downtown Raleigh - 9/8/2012
With Oneida, Old Quarter, Mount Moriah, The Roots, Nobunny, Danny Brown, Lambchop and Sunn O)))
Mecca, Slims, City Plaza, CAM, Fletcher Opera Theatre and Memorial Auditorium
To paraphrase "Clerks" I wasn't even supposed to go out today. I was planning on lazing around on my couch and not going out until the evening shows, but when Oneida was a last-minute addition to the Megafaun day party so I screwed myself together, put on some sunscreen, and left the house. Oneida was also playing later that night, but I was going to be seeing someone else during their time slot so it was exciting that I was still able to see them play. This gig was held in the street in front of Mecca, and apparently I wasn't the only one who thought starting the day with these guys was a good idea. The band had eight people total, but never more than seven playing at the same time - the sax man was never performing when the extra drummer was doing his thing. It was a space kraut free jazz orgy onstage, kind of an odd sight for the middle of the day (this sort of band feels like late night music for reasons I could never possibly explain), but I was delighted to be seeing it. Kid Millions was absolutely destroying the drums, they had a Farfisa and an organ droning away at the same time, and I may or may not have gone into a trance during their set.
Between bands I wandered over to Slims to see a few songs by Old Quarter. Some of the members of this group are good friends of mine so I'm not even going to pretend my opinion of them is unbiased, but for my money they are one of the better up-and-coming alt-country bands in the area. They've just recorded an EP that hopefully folks will give a listen, and had a few of them for sale at the show (even though the official release isn't for a few weeks). Strong songs and quality instrumentation - most of the band members are in other more established acts like Jack the Radio and Lonnie Walker, while singer John Massengil has really started coming out of his shell since their first gig a few months back. I didn't spend too long at the show, maybe three songs total, but they are a group I will be seeing many more times in the near future.
I walked back around the corner to the Megafaun party to see that Mount Moriah was already in the middle of their set. I've seen these kids many, many times, but they're not playing out locally quite as often as they used to so you've got to jump on the chance when they take the stage. Like always, Heather's voice was pure gold - one of my favorites, local or anywhere else. Also like always, the line-up of the band was different from the last time I saw them...this time a four-piece, though I'm pretty sure everyone that was performing this time had played with them the last time I saw them live. The band spent much of the set test-driving new material, which sounded great; but of course the highlights were towards the end when they performed "Social Wedding Rings" and "Lament." "Lament" is one of the best songs of the last five years - FACT. Anyone trying to argue otherwise will be completely ignored, or challenged to a round of fisticuffs.
At that point all I wanted to do was go home and rest up for the final night of shenanigans, and that is just what I did. Which turned out to be a smart move because some hellacious storms rolled through and pushed the start of the Roots back by an hour or more. I timed things just right and got to City Plaza just a few minutes before the band took the stage. They began the gig with a tribute to both the "Godfather of Go Go" Chuck Brown and the Beastie Boys' MCA aka Adam Yauch by playing a Go Go version of "Paul Revere" - this obviously won the crowd over from the jump. If my memory serves they played "Proceed" and "Mellow My Man" from their great record "Do You Want More?!!!??!", a few other random covers, and lots of new songs. It was a nice set, very enjoyable, and the crowd seemed to be quite digging it. After watching a lot of Jimmy Fallon it was nice seeing Black Thought leading the band again, as he seems to be little utilized on the television show. On a partially unrelated note, I keep thinking I saw these guys at the Ritz back in the late nineties, but I'm not entirely sure. Such is the case with having been to so many concerts over the last twenty years. I'm sure it was good if I did.
After the Roots I made the long hike to CAM in a misting rain to see Nobunny. I've seen him a few times but it was very early in his career, when I still lived out in Oakland and he would perform what was basically glorified karaoke in my friend's basement. I've listened to his music pretty obsessively in the following years, from that first CDr I bought at a house party to 2010's "First Blood" and was excited to see what sort of show the older, more mature Nobunny would put on. Turns out it would be just as goofy and immature as ever, but much tighter musically. He was touring with Texas band Bad Sports as his backing band, and they even played a cover of what is probably the Bad Sports' best song "Teenage Girls." Other than that it was exactly the catchy dumb pop punk of Nobunny you would expect, riling up the crowd into a rowdy mosh pit and enticing many of them to sing along...possibly myself included. They probably played twenty songs in under thirty minutes, including many of my favorites like "Mess Me Up," "Blow Dumb," and "Motorhead with Me." Oh, and I've not even mentioned Nobunny's outfit - a ragged, dirty rabbit mask paired with tight black underwear, a leather harness and a black leather jacket. His outfits have slightly changed from those early days, but he has always been outlandish. It would have been an entertaining show even if the music sucked, but luckily that wasn't the case.
My knowledge of Danny Brown was pretty limited going in to this gig, but he was on after Nobunny, I had a great spot at the front of the stage, so why the fuck not stick around and see what all the fuss is about? I thought the crowd was excited for Killer Mike the night before, but they were absolutely bonkers over Danny Brown. For most of the show I had this hot amazon blonde dry humping my leg, which is typically not a problem but it didn't help in my photo taking endeavors (well, that and my wife prefers random women not dry hump me, but it was so damn crowded I'm not sure it could really be helped). They were doing some sort of dance/mosh hybrid as a group, and there were even kids stage diving (to varying degrees of success). I couldn't tell you dick about what he played or how it compared to the record, but I do know he wasn't rapping over his own vocal tracks, had a ton of energy, and gets a big thumbs up from this old man as a performer.
It was now time for another long slog in the light rain to Fletcher Opera Theatre where Lambchop was playing. Like Yo La Tengo the night before, my desire to see bands I'd never seen before (or hadn't seen in a long time) goes out the window when someone like Lambchop is involved. I had just seen them a few months ago in Durham, and this show was very similar to that one both in set-up and song selection. Despite that I couldn't help but pop in and soak up a few songs from this beautiful group of sad bastards. Like always the band was absolutely flawless, every player performing their part perfectly. The tracks I was there for were mostly from their newest record "Mr. M," a great album everyone should pick up. Great band, great sound, great great great...I don't know what else to say about it. Interestingly, something I found odd the last time I saw them - the drummer playing with his wallet sitting on the snare - happened again this time. My best guess is he is using it as some sort of sound damper on the drum, with the added bonus of keeping him from sitting crooked on his stool and being able to keep an eye on his valuables. Smart move really.
And there it was...the final band I would see not only this evening but for the entire festival: Sunn O))). It's probably fitting that it would be one of the most amazing and befuddling shows of the entire event. I have no idea how to describe Sunn O))) or what the hell they even mean, but I enjoyed myself. the back of the stage at Memorial Auditorium was nothing but a wall of amps, with three shrouded men(?) playing guitar and Moog in front of them. When you could see the band that is - there was so much smoke from the fog machines that most of the time the stage looked like an illuminated cloud. The music was the slowest, heaviest shit I've ever experienced in person, even if I really didn't (and still don't) understand what the hell was going on. I left confused, but happy.
And that was that - another Hopscotch in the books. I can't wait to do it again, exactly a year from now. No sooner.