Hopscotch Music Festival – Day 3
Featuring Little Brother, Man Forever, Boogarins, Mdou Moctar, and Cate Le Bon
The final night of Hopscotch is always a mixed bag of emotions – you’re sad it’s ending, but you’re also really goddamn tired and want to spend your foreseeable evenings on the couch watching TV and not at rock shows. I know it makes zero sense logistically, but in an ideal world this (and all other) music festival would have a day off between each day of shows. Won’t anyone think of the old and lazy among us?
I started off day three in City Plaza witnessing the reunion of local legends Little Brother, a hip hop group out of Durham. The height of their popularity (2000 to 2010ish) almost identically mirrors the same span of time I moved away from Raleigh to northern California, so I missed them as the local cultural phenomenon they must have been for most of the crowd. Even still, I’ve listened to them a little bit and knew what I was getting into...the only thing keeping me from being a superfan of Little Brother and their feel good hip hop is repeated listens. Their performance was straight up – no props, no gimmicks, and no shenanigans outside of Phonte making like a fake preacher when hyping the crowd between tracks. The crowd was WAY into it, and it was hard not vibe off of the enthusiasm in the air – I was there for the bulk of the set, and only part of that time was I stuffing my face with a chicken pita.
And now for something completely different - Man Forever, aka Kid Millions, aka John Colpitts, the drummer for Oneida, was playing up the street at Kings. His set was two parts – the first was a “This American Life”-like retelling of the time he was in a bad car accident in LA, with a little drumming interspersed. It was interesting, but not exactly what I expected from this show. That would quickly be remedied with the second part of his set, a fifteen minute track that really showcased why he is known as an elite talent – in particular, his work on the bass drum specifically this time. It was a rapid, repetitive beat that sounded like a hovering helicopter, which he kept going perfectly for the entire track – it was incredibly impressive, and also the very idea of trying to pull something like that off makes my leg throb in pain. I literally don’t understand how what he did was even possible.
I didn’t have to move at all for the next band on my list, because they were the next act at Kings – Boogarins. There were already a lot of people there for Man Forever, but by the time this quartet of Brazilians took the stage it was all caps PACKED. Let me say from the start: Boogarins are way, way, WAY too good looking and cool and hip and it angers up the blood of an old troll like myself...you can't be this good at music and super handsome on top of it! I saw these guys a few years back opening for the Clean, enjoyed them quite a bit, and then despite my intentions, never really spent much time with their recordings. Is it because the vocals are in Portuguese? I’m sure that doesn’t help, but it’s not like I’m someone who cares much about lyrics…and god knows I’ve been phonetically singing along to French Stereolab songs for nearly three decades now. I'll just go with “I dunno, sometimes I'm lazy and forgetful.” Regardless, yet again they were fantastic live – swirly, psychedelic, occasionally heavy, and even a little bit funky. The crowd was was way into it, and the singer/guitarist with the Jimi Hendrix hair pretty much never stopped smiling the entire set. In an effort to repeat myself in the hopes it sticks this time, I really need to listen to their records because these kids are doing something right.
This night would prove to be an easy one in terms of transit, because yet again I stayed right in the same spot and finally got to witness Mdou Moctar in person. There was a long technical delay at the beginning, but it was worth the wait because HOLY SHIT was that good. For those out of the know, Moctar hails from Niger (as do 2/3rds of his backing band I assume...put probably not the white bassist) and plays an electrified version of Toureg folk music that...honestly, I have no idea how to describe what he plays, it truly has to be heard and seen to be believed. Imagine Eddie Van Halen playing repetitive, mesmerizing north African folk music and, well, that still doesn't really come close. Just watch this damn video and see for yourself. I've never in my life seen someone play like he does, and what's even crazier is he's fingerpicking. Maybe that's not crazy to folks that know what the fuck they're doing with a guitar, but to layman like myself it looks goddamn insane. I absolutely loved everything about this.
I decided to wrap up my 2019 Hopscotch experience at the best venue in town, Fletcher Opera Theater, with Welsh artist Cate Le Bon. It didn't hurt at all that the room has comfy seats, plus the sound is always fantastic in there. I'll say the same thing I say every year: I wish more shows were held here throughout the year, not just during Hopscotch. You ever just assume some shit about a musician or celebrity out of the blue? Based on zero evidence for some reason I thought Le Bon was from Minnesota. I am a dumbass. What wasn't a dumb assumption is how much she and her band would sound like a modern version Kate Bush or Laurie Anderson, so much so that it was all I could think about. She would also frequently pose while she sang, looking like she's recreating David Bowie album covers. If it's not clear, none of these are strikes against Cate, but rather compliments. Her ethereal, esoteric pop music was the perfect finale for what turned out to be a pretty good festival, even if I did have low expectations going in.