Hopscotch Music FestivalDay One
For reasons that are still unclear, I was unable to obtain a photo pass for this year's Hopscotch Music Festival despite their apparent satisfaction with what I provided last year. Shit happens, right? I was excited for this year's line-up, but 85% of what I wanted to see was all scheduled for Friday (9/8) - because of this, I considered buying a Friday only pass. At the last minute I couldn't handle the idea of not attending the whole thing, and pulled the trigger on a pass for the entire festival. Based on how Thursday turned out alone, I made the right decision.
I kicked things off with Margo Price, who was headlining City Plaza. Technically, I kicked things off with a chicken & cheese pita and then Price, if we're being accurate. My entire knowledge of her comes from the time she was on the Anthony Bourdain show "Parts Unknown" during his Nashville episode, and that she often gets name checked along with Sturgill Simpson as that new hot shit country that's a backlash to the pop fare that dominates the airwaves these days. I was taken with her from the first song she played - she's a clear, obvious successor to the country stars of the seventies like Loretta Lynn & Tammy Wynette - big-voiced, brash, and bawdy in all the best ways. Hell she even played a Loretta Lynn cover ("Rated X"), dedicating it to anyone who had been divorced, and then later told a dirty joke about men spending more time looking for golf balls than g-spots. I'll be grabbing her record pretty soon, and how.
After a dose of that good country I made my way to the new venue, the Basement, to see All The Saints. It is an actual basement, specifically the basement of the Convention Center right next to the City Plaza venue. Also, it is fuckin' huge - easily the biggest performance space outside of Red Hat and City Plaza. This trio from Atlanta ended up being my favorite "new" band of the festival, as in someone I had no idea existed before this fest. The Basement was way too big for them, but they made the most of it playing beneath huge projections and cranking up the volume in the cavernous chamber. The had sort of a kraut/punk/dark wave vibe...I saw a comparison to Gun Club written somewhere, and that seems fair. They also reminded me of a heavier Secret Machines, if anyone else remembers that band (they were great live). All The Saints lives and dies by the rhythm section - the drummer played so hard he had to get up and walk around between each song just to straighten himself out. I really hope to see more of this trio.
From there my goal was CAM, but I stopped into Deep South on my way to check out a little bit of Cones. I didn't have a clue what they were going to be about - you'd never guess from looking at them either...the tiny singer/guitarist had a hipster look and a great head of hair, the bassist looked like a lost member of Teenage Fanclub circa 1992, and the other three guys looked like normal folks you might see at your boring cubical job. I could only stay for a few minutes, but from the little bit I heard their music had a breezy, tropical vibe, sort of a modern yacht rock, complete with breathy vocals. They had the type of sound where I wouldn't be surprised if they got quite popular if things broke their way and the right tastemakers took a liking to them. I'm not sure I felt one way or the other about them myself - not great or terrible - but the club was packed so apparently the band was being well received.
After that brief interlude and a couple more blocks of walking, I was at CAM just minutes before Pallbearer kicked off their set. All I knew is they were doom metal, at least according to the band's website, and some of my metal friends like them. I've never totally understand the different metal delineations, but the name "doom" to me implies a much heavier, gruffer sound than Pallbearer hit me with on this night. The music was heavy, sure, but much more melodic than I was expecting - no "Cookie Monster" vocals, the dudes were actually singing - like a slightly heavier Baroness maybe, and I fucking love Baroness. The long-haired guitarist was playing (and destroying) a seven string guitar...I guess the extra string on a guitar is like the amps in Spinal Tap that go to eleven? For a band I'd never listened to before this night, I was feeling it the entire time, not something I can often say with music I'm unfamiliar with.
Next up at CAM was more of that good metal, this time Miami's own Torche. I've actually seen these guys a few times, so I knew what to expect - intricate, pummeling, heavy, mesmerizing, LOUD. There's somewhat of a punk/hardcore approach vibe to their sound, the way they attack their songs. And let me say, as a bald, it's uplifting to see other balds out there enjoying life and not letting their baldness hold them back. This band of (mostly) balds can melt your face off just as well as all of those heavy metal longhairs out there! For a band I like so much, I don't have a lot to say about Torche to be honest...go see them live if you have a chance though - they tour all the time, and if you like shit HEAVY you won't be disappointed.
It's a rare treat at Hopscotch to stay put at the same venue for three straight bands, but it seemed like CAM was booked exactly for me. Metz closed out the night, and were one of the main reasons I splurged for the full festival ticket instead of Friday only. A punk band from Canada on Sub Pop, they might look like a trio of brainiacs better suited for defending a dissertation, but goddamn if they weren't louder and more aggressive than any of the metal bands with which they played. This heavy feeling was probably greatly amplified by the strobe lights that fired off nearly constantly while they played - it was disorienting at times, and paired well with Metz' Drive Like Jehu 2.0 vibe. Even with earplugs, my ears were still ringing after the gig. This was a much more raucous outing by the band than the last time I saw them, but then that was in the middle of the day at Schoolkids four or five years ago on one of the Record Store Days. I really hope they don't wait so long to come back.