Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day One in Downtown Raleigh - 9/8/2016

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day One
Downtown Raleigh

It's that time of the year again, time to stand around in the heat and watch bands and wish this festival was later in the year when it wasn't so damned hot!  I've taken photos at every festival, but this year I would officially be taking photos for the festival.  Basically, the only real difference is I can now get into the photo pit at the big gigs...well, that and a free pass that works like a VIP pass.     

Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my favorite band of the entire event, Wye Oak, was the very first performance I saw?  I'll be optimistic and say it's awesome that a group I enjoy so much would be my welcome to the next three days of musical decadence.  It was great to see them on the big stage of City Plaza, hopefully winning over new fans that had never heard their eighties new wave-inspired indie pop before.  They definitely won me over again, but that outcome was never in question.  If Jenn Wasner was a religion I would be a strict adherent, because she is infallible.  There were lots of songs from "Shriek," a few new ones, and then they ended their far-too-short set with their greatest track, "Holy Holy."  I had hoped with Jenn moving to North Carolina we would get more frequent Wye Oak shows - this has sadly not occurred, so every time I get a chance to see them play is a real treat.   

The big City Plaza headliner this first night was Wolf Parade.  Somehow I never saw them live before their hiatus in 2010, but I get to make up for that now.  I have seen a number of their side projects though, and to be quite honest I might prefer those solo efforts over the whole of Wolf Parade, and I mean that as no slight to Wolf Parade (I really REALLY like Spencer Krug's Moonface, in particular).  I forgot to take notes on their set list, but I specifically recall them playing my favorite song "Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts," plenty of other classics, and at least a couple off of their latest EP, the imaginatively titled "EP 4."  Just like on the recordings their songs live have a driving, manic energy to them - if it was fun to see on the giant outdoor stage, I can't imagine how enjoyable it would be in a small, indoor club.  A couple of other super important notes from this performance: Dan Boeckner not only physically looks like the Clash's Mick Jones, he looks like he's actually doing an impression of him; and Spencer Krug plays the keys with one hand raised in the air as if he is constantly competing in a bull riding contest. 

The "big" part of the night over, it was time to hit some clubs.  I got to the Pour House in time to see Most of Wing Dam, a band I seem to see/think about a lot at Hopscotch as they play often, and not much otherwise.  It doesn't really make any sense because they are a lot of fun live and should be interesting year round, but brains work in mysterious ways.  The club was packed with a crazy line outside, luckily this is where the photo pass helps a ton...sorry everyone I skipped in front of.  Once inside, I saw Sam from Future Islands and it occurred to me the Snails were closing out the night at this venue...this crowd was just trying to get themselves Future Islands-adjacent.  Or maybe they're just really into bands that perform in snail costumes.  Wing Dam are a little bit slacker pop, a little bit jangle, a little bit garage rock, a little bit a lot of things actually - I've probably said it before but they remind me a lot of the mid-nineties Teenbeat era, Versus and Unrest and Eggs and all that.  Possibly the most noteworthy moment was when Sara Autrey's boobs popped out of her low cut top in the middle of their set; instead of freaking out or being embarrassed, she instead asked for solidarity from the rest of the band and the dudes took their shirts off.  She then left them popped out, and offered to "high five nipples" with anyone back at the merch table after the set was over (I have no verification if this actually happened).  A damn fun band, I look forward to their set next year at Hopscotch. 

I decided to stay put at the Pour House to see some of Sneaks.  I didn't know a single thing about them other than they recently signed to Merge, and I like the bulk of the Merge catalog so it was worth a shot.  The band is a duo of young folks, a dude making beats on a computer and a dudette who rapped/sang/mumbled, occasionally played bass, and was also wearing plastic pants that made me hot just looking at them.  It was...not for me, to put it kindly.  The crowd seemed into it but I was totally confused.  All of the songs were really short, the instrumentation very sparse, and the vocals were way too low in the mix - hell, they played two or three songs before I realized they weren't just dicking around doing sound check.  I moved on after a handful of songs, but since each song was about a minute long a handful didn't take long.

I smartly chose to stop off at the Lincoln to see some of Mutoid Man.  I knew they played metal, had some connection to Converge, and that was about it.  I would best describe them as classic eighties-style thrash metal, but somehow lighthearted and fun.  And I don't mean lighthearted in regard to the lyrics, cause I don't have a clue what the hell they were singing about - more so in the actions of the group, as they were clearly having fun.  Smiling even!  A metal band smiling on stage, while simultaneously headbanging, fucking with each other, and more general antics!  Unprecedented, I say - metal is usually such serious business.  Oh, and they started their set by playing the last half of "Purple Rain" (song, not album) - I can't think of a better, more fitting intro to this trio.  My only regret is I didn't get to see more of them, as I needed to get to Television...if it had been nearly any other band in the entire festival that I was off to see next, I would have probably skipped it to see more of Mutoid Man. 

Finally, Television.  This was my most anticipated show of the whole festival, a classic band I've loved for ages but had never seen live.  Yeah, Richard Lloyd wasn't there so it wasn't the true classic line-up...but, and I say this with all respect to Mr. Lloyd, I was there for Tom Verlaine first and foremost.  Memorial Auditorium wasn't packed but there was a healthy crowd there, a mix of old fans (like myself) and young kids there to probably see what all the fuss is about with these "olds" on stage.  After Tom requested the venue turn the lights nearly off (not ideal for taking photos, obviously), the band launched into an hour-and-a-half set, playing nearly all of their classic "Marquee Moon" and plenty more.  After the show I heard some complaints that the band was boring and not very engaging or interesting, but that was not true for me at all - it probably helped that I was front and center in front of Tom Verlaine the entire time, completely mesmerized by his effortless guitar acrobatics.  I've probably seen guitarists that were better technically, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone as effortlessly perfect.  To no surprise they ended the set with an epic version of "Marquee Moon," and as happy as I was to hear the likes of "Prove It" and "Elevation," finally getting to hear the title track of their seminal album live was a legit bucket list item for me, and one I was very happy to finally fulfill. 

My only real regret on the first night of Hopscotch is that Lambchop were playing at the same time as Television, forcing me to miss a local appearance by them for the first time in ages.  Word is they were great, to no one's surprise.  Lambchop will be back though, most likely sooner rather than later.  Television may never grace these parts again, but here's to hoping.

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