Thursday, September 14, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day Three around downtown Raleigh - 9/9/2017

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day Three
Downtown Raleigh

I was more excited about the free day parties today than the proper festival line-up  - that meant it was time for daylight rock!  Even better, I never had to leave the same building - between the Merge/OCSC party at Kings and the Chunklet party at Neptunes, my dance card was full. 

Let's cover the Merge party that was upstairs at Kings to start.  The first act I took in was HC McEntire, aka Heather from Mount Moriah.  I've seen her perform solo before and she just went by Heather, so not really sure what the name change is about but [insert that shoulder shrugging emoji here].  Whatever the name, between this gig and two Mount Moriah shows, she was keeping real damn busy at this year's Hopscotch!  If you wanted to argue she has the best voice in all of music, I'm not sure I would disagree.  The whole club kept pretty much silent for the entirety of her performance, which is pretty impressive for a bunch of day drunk freeloaders.  Her solo songs are similar to the country rock of her full band, but mellower and with much sparser instrumentation.  Even with a another guitarist accompanying her, the music was as much about the silences as it was the actual sounds.  While being a creepy annoying fan after the performance she said she would have a solo record coming out next year, so that's something we've all got to look forward to. 

The main reason I even came out to the day parties was to see Escape-ism, which is the name Ian Svenonius uses for his solo act.  Much like in the Make-Up, he was dressed in a sparkly suit, but this time it was different color...I'd love to take a look in this man's closet, I bet it's delightful.   If you're wondering what solo Ian looks like, it's this: an ancient drum machine, an old school top loading tape deck, and a Silvertone guitar that I'm pretty sure he had no idea how to play.  He mostly just held the guitar (speaking from personal experience, Silvertones never stay in tune) like a prop, and would occasionally strum a mangled chord or play a ham-fisted solo that had everyone cracking up.  Mostly, to no surprise, it's all about the Ian's performance and stage presence, as it usually is with any band of which he is a part.  He wasn't quite as unhinged here as he was with the Make-Up the night before, but was still nuts compared to any other performer.  With sparse/off-kilter instrumentation and songs about rest stops and "The Exorcist" stairs, any fan of Ed Schrader's Music Beat would be a fool to pass this man's impending album up. 

The last band I saw at Kings was Bat Fangs, who it felt like played at every day party based on how many people were talking about and posting photos of them.  I'm not sure if they qualify as a "supergroup" in the same vein of Contraband or Blind Faith or the Firm (either the rock or rap version), but with Betsy from Ex Hex and Laura from Flesh Wounds making up 2/3rds of the band, they certainly qualify in my book (I have no idea as to his bonafides of the dude bassist).  Their sound actually reminded me of a bigger, bolder version of Ex Hex - it still had that power pop backbone, but with an adrenaline shot of arena rock injected into it.  I had always assumed Mary Timony was the driving force behind Ex Hex, but after hearing this second effort from Betsy, it makes me wonder if she's not doing the heavy lifting over there as well.  Regardless of all that, the band is damn impressive and already sound like weathered vets, and according to the internet their debut record is coming out in early 2018 on Don Giovanni.  I'm so excited I wish there was a countdown website I could stare at daily. 

Downstairs in the red light district aka the photographer's torture dungeon aka Neptunes, Chunklet was hosting a party that heavily featured Atlanta acts, which isn't shocking because that's where the mag/label/imprint is based.  The first band I caught was DiCaprio, a trio of young kids that made me feel bad about my old bald fatness with their youthful exuberance.  I only caught a couple of songs, and assuming those weren't outliers I liked what I heard - Suicide/Magazine-style dark punk with a smattering of nineties slacker rock around the edges.  I think if you go to that link you can "name your own price" to download some of their music, aka "I'm a cheapskate and I'm paying zero dollars and sure, I feel kinda guilty and bad about it but not so much that I'm actually going to spend anything." 

I was told by multiple people to check out Material Girls, though they never told me why.  Because of this, I assumed (or rather hoped) they were a Madonna cover band...they were not...cue the sad trombones.  Instead, it was a seven-piece of...well, mostly dudes I think with one girl but a bunch of the dudes were also dressed as women and I wasn't clear if it was just drag or a more intrinsic part of their identity...fuck it, let's just say seven people and leave it at that.  Along with the typical rock and roll instrument trappings, you had horns, bongos, wigs, face paint, god knows what else.  The music was sort of a punk rock version of the result you'd get if James chance and the B-52s joined forces.  I'm not sure if I liked it for the music or was just entertained because so much was going on, but I'd definitely go see them again if they came back to town out of sheer curiosity alone. 

My final day party show was All The Saints - that same All The Saints I saw two nights previous in the cavernous Basement, I was now seeing in probably the smallest venue of the festival.  I don't have much additional to say about them other than their set felt more aggressive, louder, and more immediate this afternoon - this might have had as much to do with the venue differences as it did with the band itself.  In the middle of their set Chunklet impresario Henry Owings came on stage and began pouring beer in the band member's mouths, allowing them to hydrate mid-song.  It's probably the next big advancement in live music technology, and it was great to get a free preview of it on this day. 

After a dinner interlude with the family at Capital Club 16 that involved stuffing mac & cheese and bratwurst into my gaping maw, my Hopscotch continued with Big Boi down on the City Plaza stage.  I've seen him a few times now and knew exactly what to expect - a mix of his solo tracks and medleys of Outkast songs, all while backed by some variation of a live band.  The one negative is his band keeps getting smaller and smaller - the first time I saw him there were fifteen or more musicians backing him up, plus a dance squad, but this time he only had DJ, guitar, a pair of trumpets, and a pair of additional singers/rappers.  That said, the day I don't get excited to hear Big Boi perform "Bombs Over Baghdad" live is the day I have completely died inside. 

I decided to end my night in the most somber way possible - Advance Base at the Lincoln Theatre.  It's really just one dude, Owen Ashworth; Owen used to record under the name Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, which was also just one dude.  It's not entirely clear why he changed the name, perhaps he was just wanted a shorter band name.  It's still pretty much the same music no matter what it's called - sad sack electronic pop, like David Bazan if all he used was a bunch of keyboards and synths.  He had a funny comment about halfway thorough his set that was roughly "Thanks for made a choice to see me over seeing Solange...I would have rather been at Solange."  I disagree, I think I made the right choice. 

I thought briefly about checking out some other acts, but after eight hours my old man feet were ready to go home and get horizontal on my couch. 

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