Saturday, September 8, 2018

Hopscotch Music Festival, Day One around downtown Raleigh - 9/6/2018

Hopscotch Music Festival
Day One
Downtown Raleigh
9/6/2018

It's that time of year again - Hopscotch!  Also: the meticulous planning of your schedule that you will never stick to, the bemoaning of multiple bands you want to see all playing at the same time, and the bellyaching about how tired Hopscotch is going to make you.  It's one of the best parts of the entire year...I just wish it wasn't so damn hot.  I wouldn't get mad if they moved it back a month to the first of October.

I kicked off my festival with the Flaming Lips at City Plaza.  They played this festival at this same location in 2011, and in a lot of ways not much had changed.  They actually played more old songs this time - I don't think they played more than two or three tracks that were released after "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots."  Give the crowd what they want and all that - I ain't complaining.  If you are all familiar with the band and their live shenanigans, it goes without saying that the spectacle of it all almost outpaced the actual musical performance - balloons, confetti, giant props, lasers, huge video screens, an actual inflatable giant pink robot, people dancing inside of inflated eyeballs...you get the drill.  Front man Wayne Coyne took not one but two trips into the audience: he rode his see-through hamster ball on top of the crowd, which he's been doing for years - this time while performing a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."  There was also a new (or at least new-to-me) addition of a giant plastic light-up horse on wheels Wayne rides on top of that the roadies roll through the crowd (during this bit of art he performed one of the newer songs whose name I've already forgotten).  The man really had a bee in his bonnet about the crowd not singing along enough, and lectured them multiple times...I'm not saying shut up and sing, but once was enough to get the point across, and at some point the "lessons" on how to be an audience become detrimental.  Despite that, I enjoyed myself because I think you'd have to be in some kind of funk not to have a smile on your face for most of a Flaming Lips set.

With the large outdoor portion of the evening over, I strolled up to it's polar opposite, Slims, to catch Das Drip.  I had honestly just intended to see part of their set en route to somewhere else, but they only played 15 minutes  - they were done before I was!  Most would probably just call them hardcore, but there's a strange/off-kilter angle to Das Drip that sets them just slightly apart.  Given that three-fourths of the band were once in my beloved Whatever Brains, their new band being a weird version of a known genre shouldn't be surprising.  The one non-WB member is the singer, a young gal with a lot of energy who paced around like a caged animal the entire time.  It was a packed house and a good performance, even if half the crowd was confused why it ended so quickly. 

I thought I was getting to the Basement of the Convention Center early enough to catch part of Skeletonwitch's set, but a last-minute thirty minute shift in the schedule meant I missed them entirely, but luckily I got there just moments before Sleep took the stage.  I like this space as a Hopscotch venue but I kinda hate the way it is set up - the huge gulf between the stage and the crowd due to a shit ton of giant speakers on the ground surrounded by stupid barriers wreaked havoc on my desire to get some good photos of the band.  But shit, at least they sounded great, which is why we're here anyways!  Matt Pike had a literal wall of Orange amps behind him, which you could not only see and hear but also feel.  Should I also point out he was shirtless?  Who am I kidding, of course he was.  I'm not sure what to say about Sleep from a review angle at this point - the stoner metal godfathers sounded as good as ever, heavy and deliberate and the dude-heavy crowd was FEELING IT.  Watching Al Cisneros play bass in person is one of life's true joys.  The man is a wizard.  

Since Sleep was over earlier than expected, I took an audible from my prepared schedule and went up to Kings to see Lee Ranaldo for my final performer of the night.  Why Lee Ranaldo?  In the event you don't know, he was one of the founding members of a little group called Sonic Youth, you should check them out sometime if you enjoy music!  Snark aside, I've now seen half of Sonic Youth at Kings (Thurston Moore also played there as part of Chelsea Light Moving a few years ago), which is kinda mind blowing given the size of the club.  Ranaldo had a drummer backing him, and he kicked his set off with some improv where Lee used drumsticks and violin bows and whatever else he had handy to make a racket, but after 10-15 minutes the noise slowly morphed into more straight-forward indie rock jams that would have felt right in place on most any Sonic Youth album (note to self: check out his solo records, I hear they sound very Sonic Youth).  It was quite good, but all good things must come to an end and I drug my tired carcass to my car, knowing I had two more nights to go. 

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