with The Dreebs, Nathan Bowles, Angel Olsen, Sylvan Esso, Survival, Xiu Xiu, The Rosebuds, Purling Hiss,Downtown Raleigh
and The Oblivians
and The Oblivians
I kicked the night off with the Dreebs at the Kennedy Theater, a new venue for this year's festival that is located behind Memorial Auditorium. Like last year I was going to try to focus on out-of-town bands and acts I'd never seen before, and the Dreebs fit both criteria. I really didn't know shit about them going in, just briefly listened to a couple of tracks online. Turns out they're a three piece - drums, guitar and violin - the same set-up as the amazing Dirty Three. They don't particularly sound like the Dirty Three though, more like a hybrid of Liars and Tune-Yards. The guitarist spent a lot of time playing his instrument using what looked like a screwdriver, or at least some sort of metal rod...that kinda gives you an idea of the sort of band the Dreebs are. It was interesting enough for a few songs.
I walked around the building and to Fletcher Opera Theater, where Nathan Bowles was still performing. I got to see a couple songs of his solo instrumental clawhammer-style banjo work...he's damn talented. One dude playing a banjo without the help of vocals shouldn't be able to hold anyone's attention as well as Bowles does. I would have liked to have seen more of his set.
After a brief break Angel Olsen took the stage. Like Bowles she was also solo, only she was wielding an electric guitar instead of a banjo. She looked a lot like Brie Larson, something only notable because I have a huge crush on Brie Larson so it was basically impossible that I wasn't going to like Ms. Olsen. She paired those looks with an amazing voice and it was winner winner chicken dinner, I was sold 100% on her. She looked very serious while performing her songs, but then after each one was finished she would give a subtle, wry smile...killed me every time.
I continued my musical sampler tour by heading next door to Memorial Auditorium to see the much-hyped Sylvan Esso. They're a local duo but honestly I'd never heard of them before I started researching who to see at Hopscotch. Everyone was talking about their set as being one not to miss. The dude half of the duo was mostly just playing music from a laptop, dancing, and occasionally singing while the gal half of the duo handled the bulk of the vocals while grooving in her giant platform shoes. The music was extremely catchy electronic pop, or as a friend noted "Sleigh Bells except good." Every song sounded like it could be a hit and/or featured on an Apple commercial. I would not be surprised in the least if this pair blew up, not just locally but nationally - they seem to be keyed in to exactly what it is the kids want to hear these days.
After staying a spell at the Sylvan Esso dance party, it was over to the Lincoln Theatre for a little math rock, um, non-dance party. I liked what I heard of Survival online, and felt it imperative to see them live. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of Liturgy plays guitar in the band, but as he's not really the frontman I'm not sure if you'd call it a "side project," though surely his involvement is part of the draw for a lot of folks. There was definitely a heavy mid-to-late nineties math rock vibe to them, but more than anything they really reminded me of the long forgotten & underrated band Party of Helicopters. I dug the music and would have bought their record but didn't want to carry it around the rest of the night. The trials and tribulations of show hopping at a festival...
I intended to then pop back into Kennedy to see some of Sal Mineo, a collaboration between Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu and Eugene Robinson of Oxbow. It turns out the Eugene couldn't make it - this was announced on the Twitters but I don't pay the most attention there. I showed up anyways and it was just Stewart...I guess that means it was Xiu Xiu performance? It was just him in front of a table full of electronics and some cymbals, and the results were all noise and no melody to these ears. I suppose it was interesting for a little while, but this sort of music just isn't my bag. I just can't tell what is good and what is bad with this genre, which is probably a sure sign this isn't for me.
Finally, it was one of the big shows of the night - the Rosebuds in Memorial performing Sade's "Love Deluxe." The band had previously recorded their own version of the album and offered it up on bandcamp for free (see here), and apparently they decided it would also be a good idea to perform the classic soul release live. They fleshed the group out to an eight piece including an incredibly talented sax man and one of my best friends on guitar. I've known the Rosebuds for years and have never been exactly impartial towards them, but now even less so. If you already listened to their recorded version of the album you knew what to expect at this show - just like with that release they kept it pretty faithful to the original, minus Ivan obviously not sounding like Sade. I was very impressed with how tight and well practiced they sounded knowing the band had only been together performing these songs for about a week off and on. I managed to see the bulk of their set before moving on, and it was a damn good time.
I hadn't planned on seeing Purling Hiss, but I got to CAM early enough to catch a few songs. The band is from Philly, which seems to be one of the major hotbeds of the modern psych-rock movement, and they certainly fit in well this movement. They also wrap their sound in a lot of garage rock snarl and fuzz, which is a-ok with me. I'd never really listened to the band before, but after the handful of songs I got to see & hear I'll being making a point of checking their albums out.
My final band of tonight's marathon would be garage punk legends the Oblivians. They were one of the most important bands for me to see this year, and they did not disappoint. I might slightly prefer Greg Cartwright's work in the Reigning Sound, but I'll gladly see him play in any formation, plus I never saw the Oblivians the first time around. The band might be getting older but they were full of spit and fire from the start. Sure, they may have flubbed a few of their songs but nobody really cared because they were having too good a time. In reference to the errors, around the middle of their set Greg noted that the band was one-third music and two-thirds comedy, which drew a nice laugh. CAM wasn't packed but there were a lot of people there, all pressed near the front to see these legends. It was a great finish to the first day.