Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Two
Downtown Raleigh
9/9/2016

The second night of Hopscotch was a big night in the history of the event - not only was it the first time ever they would be including Red Hat Amphitheater as a venue, they would be holding "big" shows both at both Red Hat and City Plaza concurrently.  It was an ambitious move, and might have worked out great...if the shows had started on time. 

Gary Clark Jr was my first act of the night, at Red Hat.  He was opening for Erykah Badu, but she was having flight problems and was going to be late, and had her start time pushed back.  Because of this, they had Gary start 15-20 minutes later than he was originally scheduled...fortunately, I was still able to see enough of his set to get a few photos; unfortunately, I only got to see three or so songs before I had to leave for the next venue.  That was a shame, because his modern blues were sounding damn good to me at the time, and it's always a pleasure to watch Mr. Clark mangle a guitar.  I would have gladly stayed for a lot more of his set had it been possible.  Plus, from a photographical perspective, he makes great faces while he plays.  Yes, photographical is a real word, I looked it up.  The internet never lies. 

Unfortunately I had to buzz it up the hill to City Plaza to see Anderson Paak, who seemed to be getting the most buzz heading into this year's festival.  In an ideal world Paak and Clark would have been paired together and I could have seen both of their sets in full, but dammit no one asked me.  In simplistic terms you would lump Paak into the genre of hip hop, but he is so much more than that...most importantly, he plays with a full band, even throwing down on drums himself on a few songs.  Nearly every time I've truly loved live hip hop, it's been when there was a full band...that's probably the middle aged white guy in me talking, but the feelings still stand.  Despite being from LA he gave off a nineties East Coast/DJ Premier-esque jazz sample vibe to his sound, aka my favorite era in rap by a large margin.  There were many times where Paak & his band's sound was more funk and soul than hip hop...at least one song sounded exactly like Curtis Mayfield, and a number of tracks reminded me a ton of the Brand New Heavies.  I barely knew a thing about Anderson Paak before this performance, but by the end I definitely left a fan.

After Paak I waited around for Beach House, who for unexplained reasons were also running late.  Tired of waiting and not really being a huge Beach House fan to start with, I decided to walk back down to Red Hat to catch the start of Erykah Badu, as her amended start time was fast approaching.  Of course, that was delayed even further and I ended up waiting there for a while, only to hear through the grapevine that her plane had just landed, meaning it was still going to be a while before she appeared on stage.  So I went back up to City Plaza to actually catch some of Beach House, who were finally playing.  As I suspected, after a couple of songs I had had my fill - the music is mostly fine (if a little boring), sort of a modern take on the Cocteau Twins, but they're not much for watching.  They have as much fog on stage as Sunn O))), only when you do get glimpses of the band it's not a bunch of metal dudes in crazy monk outfits, instead run-of-the-mill indie rockers standing as still as possible.  Between Badu and Beach House this portion of the night was kind of a bust, but since I wasn't overly excited about seeing either band only my time was really wasted. 

I popped into Fletcher Opera Theater to see what was going on with Kid Millions & Jim Sauter Duo.  Sparse crowd, but given all the schedule fuck-ups with the "big" shows and the fact that both were still going on that wasn't particularly surprising - I'm guessing the scene was somewhat similar in the other small clubs across town.  The gig was pretty much what I expected it to be - Millions pretty much just playing a long drum solo while Jim Sauter played some skronky atonal saxophone over him.  It's the exact sort of thing I find interesting for about fifteen minutes, and that's about it.  I may not always love everything Kid Millions does, but he's such an amazing drummer it's always worth checking out any project he's involved in, I'll like way more than I won't. 

Boulevards were playing next door at Memorial Auditorium, so off I went to see local lad(s) done well.  I'm still not entirely sure about who to call what here - Boulevards is the band name, but the band is technically only one person - Jamil Rashad.  So is he Boulevards, and do I refer to him as such, or do I refer to him as Jamil, member of Boulevards?  Regardless, he had two cats playing with him at this live show, one on drums and the other handling the rest of the music on a computer, so for the purposes of this gig I will refer to Boulevards as the band.  I'd be lying if I said I've listened to their record "Groove!" all that much, but you would be damn hard pressed to find a more engaging and exciting live show, and you don't need to know the songs to enjoy it.  Jamil owns the stage, prowling the entirety of the giant Memorial stage like a caged Tiger, climbing on speakers, jumping into and out of the crowd multiple times - he was definitely having fun, and so was the audience.  I bet the dude burns 2000 calories over the duration of a show...hell, I think I lost some weight just watching him move around so much.  Musically it felt like being at a mid-eighties New Jack Swing/Bobby Brown-esque gig - it doesn't hurt that Jamil looks like he stepped right out of a 1987 time capsule.  If Boulevards is playing in your town, don't miss it..unless you hate fun, then you should definitely miss it. 

I decided to stay put at Memorial to see what all the Young Thug fuss was about, and also because I'm lazy.  Not my best decision, as it turns out.  After being 45 minutes late, Young Thug's DJ finally came out and then proceeded to try hyping up the crowd by playing snippets of the same songs Thug would be performing only a few minutes later.  To be fair the tactic worked, despite my bewilderment.  Another 15 minutes later Young Thug himself finally came out, along with one hype man and at least a dozen people who did nothing but mill around on the stage.  One guy spent the entire time checking his phone; another filmed the entire show on the biggest iPad I've ever seen, it was the size of a damn cookie sheet; a number of others just smoked and drank (probably lean, or at least they wanted to appear that way) out of Styrofoam cups.  I'm not even sure what to say about the music...dude half-slurs a ton of his lyrics on record, they're even less intelligible live.  His music is generally interesting, but there was way way WAY too much bass...to be fair that could be on the venue as much as it's on Young Thug, although both Big Boi and Killer Mike sounded great here a few years back, so probably not.  Long story short, it just wasn't for me.  The very young crowd was loving it though, so despite my sour reception it seems like a smart booking choice. 

After a lot of Hip Hop and R&B for most of the night, there was only one sensible way to end things - metal.  I had hoped to see some or all of Cobalt, but due to Young Thug being so (unnecessarily) late, I saw an entire two minutes of their very last song.  That happens at Hopscotch sometimes, life goes on.  Luckily I was able to get there in time to see Yob, my main reason for walking to the Pour House anyways.  I've seen them a couple of times, as well as lead man Mike Scheidt solo, so I knew exactly what to expect - really heavy stoner metal bordering on doom, minus the Cookie Monster vocals that turn me off from so many metal bands.  This was probably the best I've ever seen them, the band was tight and Mike was destroying his crazy looking custom Monson guitar.  It wasn't butts to nuts in there, but the crowd was healthy - I guess I wasn't only one who thought ending the night with some riffy metal was a great way to finish off the second day of Hopscotch. 

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