Hopscotch Music Festival
I was so disinterested in the big stage acts this second night of Hopscotch I didn't even bother showing up until the club shows were up and running. First stop: Kings for Patois Counselors. It's been a little while since the last time I saw them, but they're now up to seven members apparently. At least Kings has a large stage, I have no idea how they pull off a show at venues the size of Slims. The crowd was surprisingly large from the start, and they were treated to a terrific performance of jittery, paranoid punk - like if the Fall had come from the New York No Wave scene instead of the UK. The drummer never seems to be playing a 4/4 beat; despite having two guitarists, their addition is often sparse and almost never used as rhythm; the Joe Lally-cloned bassist seems to be the load-bearing beam of the group, holding the whole thing together and allowing the singer to glare and growl and occasionally ring tiny bells and blow whistles. A great start to the night - I really need to get off my lazy ass and go see them more often.
I stayed at Kings to check out the next band, Empath. A four piece from Philly, they had two keyboardists, no bass, and at least one member wearing a neon orange mesh tank top. It was a noisy synth pop sort of thing, like the Cocteau Twins gone punk maybe. I think the Cocteau Twins might be my go-to for any band that has a female singer and somewhere in the neighborhood of the noisy/shoegaze/C86 sound, I've just listened to them too damn much in my life and it colors everything. They had their moments, but I wasn't totally feeling it so I peaced out after a few tracks. I think the ingredients are there for this to become something I would like, but only time will tell. At a minimum I wouldn't be surprised to hear more from the singer, I think she might have "it" though I'm not entirely sure what "it" is at this moment.
It was down to the Basement to check out Breathers next. A trio from Atlanta with a singer that was dressed like a WWII soldier on leave and performed like he might be the little brother of Har Mar Superstar, the band was all synth and keys, all the time (with occasional stripped-down drums during some of their songs). Since I didn't recognize any of the songs we can safely assume they aren't an Erasure cover band, but it would be an easy mistake to make based on the earnest, VERY eighties synth pop they played. Occasionally it actually felt too earnest, veering into musical theater territory, but the music was pretty rad throughout. I just love some damn keyboard pop, is that so wrong?
I had such a good spot from Breathers, front and center, that I decided to stay put in the Basement for the Revolution because...well, why the hell not. Like most living, breathing humans, I loved Prince, but I had no idea what to make of his former band touring and performing his songs. The group went five deep, and were all original Revolution members from their first run: the well known Wendy & Lisa, the keyboardist that plays in scrubs and is probably named "Doctor Funkhaus" or something, and, uh, the other two dudes - one of which (the bassist) did most of the singing. Truthfully - it felt like watching a cover band...but a really, really good cover band that full of incredible musicians that knew this music inside-out. Everyone knows what a good guitarist Prince was, but the secret weapon of that band was always Wendy Melvoin - it was truly a treat to watch her play live. I just recently learned she is the daughter of one of the musicians in the legendary session band the Wrecking Crew; all of the sudden it makes sense why she was so good at such a young age, I'm sure she was practically born with an instrument in her hand. They played almost nothing but the hits, and I stuck around for a few of them - "Erotic City," "Computer Blue," and "Raspberry Beret," off the top of my head. I missed some other bands I'd planned on seeing to enjoy this nostalgia act, but they were damn fun.
The final piece of the night's puzzle would be Red Fang at the Lincoln Theatre. I had to miss them entirely at Carolina Rebellion earlier this year because they played at exactly the same time as Baroness, so I was making a point to make sure I saw at least a few songs by them this time. What do you even call the kind of metal these guys play? It's loud and heavy but not growly and scowly (those are scientific terms)...is "happy metal" a genre? The band members actually smile and look like they're having fun. Just because it's heavy doesn't mean it has to be serious, people. They did a cover of Tubeway Army's "Listen To The Sirens," which might have been my single favorite moment of the entire festival. It seems like they might exist in a weird space where they don't take metal seriously enough for the purists, but are too heavy for the non-metalheads, but what the hell do I know. What I do know is they are very good, they are fun, and you should give them a listen if you haven't already. You never know, you might like them so much you try to dry hump half the audience like that one gal who was roaming the crowd (I suspect she may have done somewhere between some and all of the drugs this evening).