Hopscotch 2014Day One - Evening Performances
City Plaza & the Lincoln Theatre
This year Hopscotch expanded to having City Plaza shows all three nights instead of just Friday and Saturday, with De La Soul as the inaugural Thursday headliner. I saw them in a small club in Boone in 1993 (I think) opening for a Tribe Called Quest, and while seeing them on a giant outdoor stage wouldn't have quite the same effect, I still found it an enjoyable performance. The set seemed to be pretty comprehensively career spanning, with material from their first three albums getting the loudest cheers. Songs like "Stakes Is High," "A Rollerskating Jam Named 'Saturdays'," and "Me, Myself and I" still sound great to me more than two decades after they were first released. Things really started to get good when they brought Mike G from the Jungle Brothers out to perform "Buddy"...and then the rain started. First a few fat drops, then the downpour. Most of the plaza emptied and De La stopped performing after that song, but a small band of very wet fans stayed camped out in front of the stage and it looked as if they were going to perform an encore for them, but I didn't stick around to find out - I was gonna go get somewhere dry.
The Lincoln Theatre was the closest venue and I was planning on checking out Sun Club there anyways, so it was a no brainer to head there. A very young five-piece from Baltimore, they bounded around on the stage like a Jazzercise class gone awry. I suppose the closest musical touchstone would be Animal Collective, maybe with a whiff of hippie vibes (or maybe it was just the girl who smelled of patchouli standing near me that made me think that). In previous years I probably would have made some sort of Elephant 6 comparison, but I don't think kids as young as this band appeared to be have any idea what that even is. Not my favorite band of the fest but not bad either, and they were fun to watch.
My carefully crafted plans of roaming the streets and checking out different acts were scrapped because of this incessant rain, but continuing to hang at the Lincoln to see American Aquarium ain't a bad consolation prize. I've known singer BJ Barham for a little while now so I can't pretend to be unbiased, but their rabid fanbase will back up my assertion that they are a damn fine alt-country band, and on this evening they sounded fantastic. They threw a Backsliders cover into their set early, and towards the end tackled Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" which sounded great until they got to the end and no one was there to play Clarence Clemmons' sax part. Might be time for U.S. Fishtank to hire a horn player!
I didn't know dick about White Laces but their write-up on the Hopscotch website sounded interesting and I was waiting on the next band anyways, so why the fuck not right? The singer looked like David Bazan but the music they played was a blend of dream pop and garage rock that worked pretty nicely together. The crowd seemed into it - the kid standing next to me looked almost orgasmic while they played. Kids these day amirite?!? Also, I don't think a single member of the band was actually wearing white laces, tsk tsk. The band is from Virginia so I'm assuming they'll come back to town at some point - I'd gladly check them out again.
Finally it was time for not only the highlight of the night but the highlight of the whole festival for me, the War on Drugs. To say their most recent record "Lost in the Dream" is my favorite of the year would be an understatement - it's possible I've listened to this one album more this year than everything else combined, and I'm not even close to sick of it. The band was playing as a six piece, with three different guys manning keyboards (in addition to other duties on the guitar and various horns). They did get some bonus help on guitar for one track in form of local lad Brad Cook, who at this point either knows or has played with every musician currently alive it seems. The set consisted of nearly every song on the new record, and a few older tracks like "Baby Missles" weaved in throughout. Frontman Adam Granduciel and his 17+ guitar pedals were straight shredding from start to finish, but it wasn't just wankery for the sake of it - in the context of War on Drugs' songs, that kind of guitar work benefits the music. The band played for a long time, until nearly 2:30 - I was always under the impression bands had to stop at 2 AM, but good on the Lincoln for allowing the Drugs to finish their set. I left the venue dead damn tired, but extremely happy with my first day of Hopscotch.