Hey, everyone loves lists and I love making them! Here are the rest of my favorite things from 2016.
Top Live Shows of 2016! I went to WAY less shows this past year than I usually do. Maybe I'm getting old (definitely true), maybe my interest level in new music is waning (probably true), or maybe it's the being a new dad thing (probably not true, I still stay up late every night)...mostly it's probably laziness. I'll try to do better in 2017.
Top Movies of 2016(ish)! I
took a slightly different approach with my movie list - thing is, I
watch a ton of movies but rarely go to the theater. And as a general rule the bulk of the best films of the year all come out at the very end of the year, so I rarely see most of them.
So this is two lists - my favorites of what I saw that actually
came out in 2016, and my favorites that I saw in 2016 that came out other years. Favorite movie of the year:
Midnight Special (2016) - I found this film totally mesmerizing. Incredibly acted across the board, even down to the
kid (Alton, played by Jaeden Lieberher).
Director Jeff Nichols has now made three out-
standing films (see also Mud and Take Shelter), and has
earned my total fandom.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Deadpool (2016) Everybody Wants Some (2016) - A perfect spiritual sequel to Dazed & Confused. Hush (2016) The Nice Guys (2016) - Strong Big Lebowski vibes in this one. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Favorites from other years that I saw in 2016: The Baby (1973) - One of the most ridiculous movies I've ever seen. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young (2014) The Green Room (2015) It Follows (2014) - Favorite horror movie of the last decade probably. Kingdom Of Shadows (2015) Mavis (2015) Northern Soul (2014) The Rover (2014) - Reminded me a lot of the original Mad Max. The Salt Of The Earth (2014) Sicario (2015) - I'd have to go back and review, but possibly my favorite movie from 2015. Thank You For Playing (2015) - One of the saddest documentaries/movies/anything I've ever seen. What We Do In The Shadows (2014)
Gomorrah - this came out in 2014 in Italy, but was released this year on Sudance here in the US so it counts on a
technicality. Brutal and unforgiving, a mobster epic
set in Naples (Napoli) that follows the ups and downs
of the Savastano clan. Unlike the Sopranos, you never feel sorry
for any of these people, other than their
victims. My favorite show all year.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): Atlanta The Grand Tour (We can pretend this is a new show and not an exact replica of Top Gear) Luke Cage One Mississippi Preacher Stranger Things Westworld
Favorite returning shows...
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt - the funniest show on TV (or rather streaming) by a large margin. It should probably
here that I am a
Tina Fey superfan who has watched 30 Rock from
start to finish at
least four or five
times, and every joke she writes feels like it is cus-
just for me.
Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order): The Americans Black Mirror Halt and Catch Fire Narcos Rectify You're the Worst
Favorite single season shows / mini-series... The Night Manager The Night Of OJ: Made in America
Favorite show I thought came out this year but apparently I'm wrong but I'm including it anyways...
Deutschland 83 - this would be my second favorite show of 2016 if it had come out this year, but it's still my second
favorite show I watched this year.
I've always been fascinated by East Germany and the eighties
soundtrack here is perfect - it's
impossible not to like this.
***December Fifteenth Two
Thousand and Sixteen***
Since it's December I'm required by law to list my... Top Records of 2016!!! Very
little of what I picked match any of the other lists around the
internet. Either I'm out of touch, have terrible taste in music, or both. Probably both.
Eric Bachmann - Eric Bachmann (Merge) His best work since the first Crooked Fingers record. The doo-wop backing vocals were both unexpected and a fan- tastic addition to his sound! Belong To You Dreaming Modern Drugs
Flock of Dimes - If You See Me, Say Yes (Partisan) Jenn Wasner's solo project, a slightly dancier/poppier version of the pop songs she writes for Wye Oak. Impossible not to like. Birthplace Everything Is Happening Today
Fruit Bats - Absolute Loser (Easy Sound Recording) At their worst Eric Johnson/Fruit Bats is dependable folk pop; at their best, you get gems like the opening track on this album "From a Soon To Be Ghost Town." From a Soon-to-Be Ghost Town None of Us
Konvoi - Konvoi (Snot) Local(ish) lads done well - the best Fall-like post-punk record to come out this year was surprisingly from a group of young dudes from the mountains of North Carolina. Origin Spinner
Moonface/Siinai - My Best Human Face (Jagjaguwar) This Spencer Krug side project is sounding more and more like Wolf Parade with each passing release, not that I'm complaining. Prairie Boy Risto's Riff
Nada Surf - You Know Who You Are (Barsuk) Pop perfection as always from these one-hit wonders. The couple of tracks posted here are probably my two favorite songs by them since "The Weight Is A Gift." Friend Hospital Rushing
Teenage Fanclub - Here (Merge) Speaking of pop perfection, I would have bet every cent to my name this would make my top records list before I ever heard a single note. I have complete faith in these Scots to always produce quality tunes. I'm In Love The First Sight
Wye Oak - Tween (Merge) Probably more of a compilation than a proper album, but that didn't stop me from listening and enjoying it like a regular full-length. Better (For Esther) If You Should See
You know, stuff I really dug but not as much as the stuff I really really dug. Sample songs provided if I had them easily available aka on my computer and in the correct location so I didn't have to dig around forever looking for them. Listed in alphabetical order.
Dinosaur Jr. - Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (Jagjaguwar) - Goin Down
Great records from previous years! To be fair I barely thought about this section. Every year I plan on noting albums I'm just now feeling despite being re- leased in other years, and every year I mostly forget to do it.
Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom + Pop) (2015) -
See, I don't always hate the shit that's popular with the kids.
It just takes me a while to give it a chance. The Egyptian Lover - 1983-1988 (Stones Throw) (2016) -
Technically the release is from this year but it's a compilation of all
of his songs from the years 83 to 88 (duh). So I'm sticking it here instead of with the other 2016 releases. Total Control - Typical System (Iron Lung) (2014) -
This was actually one of my honorable mentions in 2014, but I listened
to it a ton the first half of this year and felt it
deserved to be mentioned again. If I redid my "best of" for
2014 it would definitely be near the top. 2014 was pro- bably the best year for
new music in ages.
***November Thirtieth Two
Thousand and Sixteen***
There's only one thing on my Christmas list this year. I'll give you one guess what it is.
This video has been out for a couple of months, but I continue to back Hockey, or at least most of the team. Tons of Andrew
Allen footage here. Not enough John Fitzgerald. Still not
sold on Ben Kadow. He's definitely good at falling. I know it's not supposed to matter, but his ridiculous high pants make it really hard to watch his footage.
WKND made a promo vid of their entire team called "Who's To Say" - I may not love everyone they sponsor, but there is plenty of good here to recommend a watch. If you want to cut to the top highlight, Austyn Gillette has a nice section that starts just after the eight minute mark. Goddamn that boy is as good on his skateboard as he is stylish and handsome.
Vans dropped a surprise video "No Other Way" and it's one of the best things I've seen all year. Elijah Berle kicks things off with one of my favorite parts in some time, there's a short montage of other riders, and then Kyle Walker closes with one of the heaviest sections ever created. Seriously, this kid does shit I would have told you is impossible if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, and it looks so easy to him.
In non-skateboarding video news, the greatest living documentarian Errol Morris made a great short film for the New York Times that I'm finally getting around to posting. It's called "Demon in the Freezer" about smallpox, and further proof that the man can make literally any topic interesting.
More band photos again this month, and another set of, well, nonsense this time around in the photo
It was nearly twenty years ago that I saw Guided By Voices
for the first time in this same club, standing only a couple of feet to
the left from where I stood on this night. "Under the Bushes, Under
the Stars" tour if I'm not mistaken - June of 44 opened. It was a damn
good time. These days, Robert Pollard might do a few less high kicks
and drink a few less beers during the performance, but not much else has
changed. The band has nearly always rotated members, and of course
this time was no different - frequent collaborator Doug Gillard made up
one-half of the guitar corp, and the other half was a real treat -
Bobby Bare Jr, an alt-country star with a long solo career who I guess
decided it might be fun to learn 50 or 60 short pop songs. GBV didn't
play any of his songs or anything, but he was still a nice addition to
The band had the set down to a science -
play a couple of new songs, then a classic song, a couple more new
ones, back to a classic or two, etc. In this case "classic" means songs
from what most people consider their golden era - tracks like "Motor
Away," "Game of Pricks," "Teenage FBI," "Tractor Rape Chain," etc; and
"new" songs are not only tracks from the more recent GBV releases from
the last half-decade, but they also mixed in plenty from Pollard's
var- ious other bands - Boston Spaceships, ESP Ohio, Circus Devils, Ricked
Wicky, etc. I'm of course only speaking for myself here about new or
classic - the more knowledgeable fans all around me seemed to know every
track regard- less of era or band. Of particular note was the annoying
middle aged man next to me, who spent the entire perform- ance not only
singing along to every song, but pointing at Robert Pollard aggressively
from start to finish. I was also entertained when he decided to put
earplugs in around an hour and a half into the set. I'm sure that will
make every- thing better, fella. Anyways, they played at least two hours
with three encores; it's impossible to leave a Guided By Voices show and
not feel you got your money's worth.
Until I saw the listing in the Pinhook calendar, I hadn't thought of Ted Leo
in ages. I knew he had a band with Aimee Mann that played
occasionally, but otherwise he had sort of disappeared, at least from my
radar. I decided why not go see him perform and find out what the hell
he's up to these days? It was a solo gig, no Pharmacists in sight -
just him, his electric guitar, and a super fancy microphone running
through a very elaborate amp set-up. I'm assuming the mic was fancy
based on how good his vocals sounded - that is, exactly like the
record. If the songs weren't slightly different, you'd almost think he
was lip-syncing they sounded so much like the records. He would talk to
the crowd a bit, play a classic song or two, talk to the crowd some
more, play a new (or newish) song or two, more talking...you get the
idea. Any time he played one of those classic songs the crowd treated
it like a singalong, and even though that often annoys me I might have
been guilty of it myself in this case. What can I say, the dude has
written a lot of damn catchy songs! He even played a Chisel song that
someone in the crowd "requested" aka yelled out ("The Town Crusher" if I
remember correctly) - if it had been a while since I had thought about
Ted's solo work, I really REALLY hadn't though about Chisel in a long
time. Probably the funniest moment of the evening is when a clearly
over-eager fan standing right in front of the stage yelled out what
gauge strings he was using - this both confused and amused Leo, who
after answering the question went own to plead for a sponsorship from
D'Addario, because he's tired of buying his own strings after all the
years. Whether I knew the songs or not, the man is a very engaging
& capable performer.
The opener tonight was Baltimore's Outer Spaces,
a trio that I was nearly as excited for as the headliner Ted Leo.
Their full-length debut "A Shedding Snake" is excellent (as is the EP
the preceded it), and they were great the last time I saw them a year or
two ago at Nice Price Books in Raleigh. I struggle to find a
comparison for this band - it's mid-tempo pop with a nineties tinge, a
lot of piano (which takes the typical spot of the bass in this trio),
and fantastic vocals by bandleader Cara Beth Satalino. They played a
number of tracks from that record as well as a couple of new ones - it
was a fairly subdued performance and reception, as I'm not sure this
crowd of mostly Ted Leo superfans really knew anything about them prior
to this gig. Hopefully they won over some new fans though, as more
people should treat themselves to this great, underrated act.
"You know, they say when you talk to God it's prayer, but when God talks to you, it's schizophrenia."
Limes - Handsom. Memphis garage rock that mellows out more often than it gets aggro. You can definite hear a lot of influence from these guys in local lads Spider Bags...speaking of which, where the hell have those guys been? Into a Tree
The Men - Another Night. Somehow this band went from a post-hardcore sort of act to one knocking on the door of alt-country / Springsteenery in the matter of two records. Different Days
Reigning Sound - Falling Rain. Reigning Sound put out a new album too...a couple of years ago. It's totally possible (or rather probable) I've already posted some tracks from "Shattered". My My Never Coming Home
Kyle Walker is almost too clean on his skateboard. So clean he makes the tricks look easy and less impressive than they actually are. Here is a short vid of him and his friends. One of those friends is Ishod Wair, so it's worth watching for his tricks too.
Raven Tershy went to Europe and Lakai made a video about it. Cody Chapman went too but I don't know enough about
that dude to get excited about him just yet - definitely some promise
there though. If I could skate like one person Raven would be on my short list of options.
Speaking of Crailtap, to introduce the two new Girl riders Simon Bannerot and Tyler "Manchild" Pacheco they released a short vid of the team skating in Washington, imaginatively titled Girl Skates Washington State.
Here is a decent short doc on Andrew Allen, a nice combination of talking and skating. I still don't know why he left Antihero, but he'll always be great to watch regardless.
Some band photos, some baby photos, and some phone photos from our trip out west are all included in this edition of the photo
journal. Subscribe today!
Superchunk With Skylar Gudasz Dorton Arena 10/19/2016
folks that used to handle the music booking for the North Carolina
State Fair made a great decision last year - instead of throwing a lot
of money at washed-up and never-has-been rockers, country crooners, and
family friendly fare, give a little money to a local agency who can book
local musicians and actually support local North Carolinians, one of
the main reasons to even have a state fair. The hard work of local
scribe Grayson Haver Currin probably help- ed them make this decision to
change by digging up just how much money the Fair folks were losing on
the crappy, mostly unwanted acts they used to book - it was going so
wrong, why not try something else? Long story short, a bunch of shit
changed behind the scenes at the State Fair and now I get to see
Superchunk in Dorton Arena for free after walking around eating junk
food all day.
First though was Skylar Gudasz,
their opener for the night. I got to the venue in time to see most of
her set, getting slightly delayed because I stopped first to eat a
cinnamon roll half the size of my head. One of my better life
decisions. She was fronting a six-piece band featuring two keyboardists
(one of which was sometimes Skylar) and the drummer from Flesh Wounds
(I'm not sure what bands the other members are from, but they all looked
familiar). Most of Skylar's performance focused on her debut album
"Oleander," but there was a couple of new songs as well - if those are a
pre- view of her next release, I predict another gem. Her voice was as
strong as ever, and sounded damn good in Dorton - I've always heard
folks say the sound in there was subpar, but it seemed pretty dialed in
this night. It should be noted that she doesn't sound quite as much
like Karen Carpenter in person as she does on record...though it would
be totally fine if she did.
After not getting to see Superchunk
for a couple of years, this would be my second time in three months.
That's great and all, but it's still not as often I'd like - once a
month would be a lot better. You could tell they were excited to play
such a legendary venue - drummer Jon Wurster even posted a selfie on
Instagram in the backstage shower where "Gene Simmons might've had
2-minute workmanlike sex in 1976." For whatever reason they leaned
heavily on their classic hits this night, putting together what might be
the strongest set list I've ever seen by them. The highlights includ- ed
"For Tension," "Detroit Has a Skyline," "Skip Steps One & Three,"
"Driveway to Driveway," "The First Part," a very rare appearance of "Her
Royal Fisticuffs," "Nu Bruises," "Cast Iron," a cover of the Magnetic
Fields' "100,000 Fire- flies," and they ended the night with "Throwing
Things." That's basically every single one of my favorite Superchunk
songs minus "Animated Airplanes Over Germany" and "Why Do You Have To
Put a Date on Everything." Due to pro- fanity rules from either Dorton
Arena or the State Fair officials, for the first time in forever they
didn't play "Slack Motherfucker" so as not to offend any old church
ladies or small children or old church children or small ladies that
might have wandered into the free show. Fuck it though, they would have been a little better off in life to hear a little live Superchunk, curse words or not.
Nada Surf with Amber Arcades Cats Cradle 10/3/2016
The last time I saw Nada Surf
live was back in my SF days (aka pre-2008) - much to my dismay, the
band doesn't seem to have much love for shows in North Carolina. This
is especially surprising since Matthew Caws has family in the state, and
some were even at this show, at least according to his stage banter.
Perhaps their reticence to play is the crowd, or lack thereof. My
(often poor) estimate is there were probably a couple hundred people
there, but I was truly shocked that the place wasn't full, or close to
it - sure it was a much more comfortable environment, but Nada Surf
deserve better. They're probably second best pure pop band working
after Teenage Fanclub.
They're a pro outfit - every song
sounds impeccable, they had their own fancy light rig synced up to the
music, and you can tell by the way they interact with the crowd that
they're very comfortable on stage. To my surprise Doug Gillard is now
in the band - I guess this happened a few years ago, but like I said, I
haven't had the chance to see Nada Surf live in quite a while. This is
at least the third band I've seen him with - Guided By Voices and
Superdrag being the two others (for some reason I feel like there is one
more, but my brain just can't recall). They played for probably an
hour and a half, hitting nearly everything you might want to hear -
there were classics ("Always Love," "Blonde on Blonde"), new favorites
("Friend Hospital," "Rushing"), and they even played their nineties hit
"Popular," which I don't think I've ever heard them perform before.
They closed out the night with a totally acoustic (as in no
amplification at all) version of "Blizzard of 77," complete with a
robust crowd sing-along. There might not have been as many people at
the gig as there should have been, but those that did show up were very
I caught about half of the set by openers Amber Arcades,
who I knew not a single thing about. They were a five piece with a
female singer who reminded me of Mac DeMarco for some reason - visually,
not musically. I think it was the hat she was wearing, or maybe I'm
just an idiot (or both). Musically they made me think a lot of the
Aislers Set, a clean shoegaze/jangle pop hybrid, and I quite liked it.
When I'm dictator more bands will sound like the Aislers Set, per
official decree. Oh, and then after the show I googled the band and it
turns out they're Dutch, it's primarily the work of the singer Annelotte
de Graaf, and she has two law degrees and works for the international
war crimes tribunal. I wonder if I play nothing but Amber Arcades
around my daughter she will turn out that awesome?
Built to Spill with Hop Along Cat's Cradle 9/22/2016
It's a pretty simple - if Built to Spill
comes to town, I go. It doesn't even require any thought, the ticket
just gets bought the second I see them available for sale. God knows
how many times I've seen them at this point, but I never leave one of
their gigs disappointed. I'm not sure if it's the first time I've seen
the band as a trio, but it's definitely been a long time - since the
early days when Scott Plouf and Brett Nelson first started playing with
Doug Martsch, back when his plan was to have a different rhythm section
every record (this didn't last long). These days it's the pair of young
dudes that have been touring with him the last few times Built to Spill
came to town, and they do a fine job. I did miss (occas- ional touring
guitarist/Caustic Resin founder/all around rad dude) Brett Netson's
added guitar playing though - luckily, if anyone can hold down all of
the Built to Spill guitar parts by himself, it's Doug. I mean, he did
The first third (or so) of Built to Spill's
set was dominated by this couple standing next to me rubbing on each
other constantly. I don't mean off-and-on either - for the entire 30-45
minutes they were next to me, the movement and rub- bing was constant,
like a sack full of dry eels. This would have been less of an issue had
the Cradle not been so packed, and I wasn't pressed right up next to
them, thereby encountering unwanted accidental rubbing myself. Ick.
Eventually one or both of them likely climaxed and moved elsewhere, and
things got a whole lot better, or at least more comfortable, from there
on out. Doug, personable as always, almost never spoke to the crowd
even when he was tuning his guitar...the occasional "thanks" counted as a
verbal outburst. Tons of classics in their set: "The Plan," "Hurt a
Fly," "Reasons," "Kicked It in the Sun," "Big Dipper," "Carry the Zero,"
"Car" plus one of the best songs from their newer material "Hindsight,"
and their cover this time (there's always at least one cover) was the
Creedence Clearwater Revival track "Effigy" - a song that sounds so much
like something Doug would write that I'm sure some of the younger folks
in the crowd who might not have been familiar with the original
probably didn't bat an eye, thinking it was just a new Built to Spill
Typically, the openers for Built to Spill
shows are Boise/Idaho acts that are friends with the band. Also
typically, I never get to the show in time to see these openers, which
bit me in the ass this time. The band was called Hop Along,
are apparently from Philly and putting out records on Saddle Creek, and
like so many of the kids these days, are doing their damnedest to
reinterpret the sounds of the nineties for a modern audience. The crowd
seemed way into it, so much so that it's possible a chunk of them might
have been there primarily to see Hop Along, not Built to Spill. I'm
not sure what an apt comparison would be, maybe Dinosaur Jr meets
Courtney Barnett, or at least something in that gen- eral ballpark. If
they come back again I'll try to see more than two songs.
"This is pitiful. A thousand people freezing their butts off waiting to
worship a rat. What a hype. Groundhog Day used to mean something in this
town. They used to pull the hog out, and they used to eat it. You're
hypocrites, all of you!"
Jarne Verbruggen - Never Skatebored. Jesus, not only is this kid amazing, but his trick selection and imagination might be better than anyone else going right now. This whole thing floored me and left me with a giant grin at the same time.
Girl/Chocolate - Yeah Right! Log Tape. Raw footage from the beginning of their filming for Yeah Right. I could watch this for hours, I hope they release more of these. All of the photos to accompany the Hopscotch reviews below are in the photo
journal. Also, baby photos, if you're in- to that sort of thing (aka grandmas).
It's that time of the year again, time to stand around in
the heat and watch bands and wish this festival was later in the year
when it wasn't so damned hot! I've taken photos at every festival, but
this year I would officially be taking photos for the festival.
Basically, the only real difference is I can now get into the photo pit
at the big gigs...well, that and a free pass that works like a VIP pass.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my favorite band of the entire event, Wye Oak,
was the very first performance I saw? I'll be optimistic and say it's
awesome that a group I enjoy so much would be my welcome to the next
three days of musical decadence. It was great to see them on the big
stage of City Plaza, hopefully winning over new fans that had never
heard their eighties new wave-inspired indie pop before. They
definitely won me over again, but that out- come was never in question.
If Jenn Wasner was a religion I would be a strict adherent, because she
is infallible. There were lots of songs from "Shriek," a few new ones,
and then they ended their far-too-short set with their greatest track,
"Holy Holy." I had hoped with Jenn moving to North Carolina we would
get more frequent Wye Oak shows - this has sadly not occurred, so every
time I get a chance to see them play is a real treat.
The big City Plaza headliner this first night was Wolf Parade.
Somehow I never saw them live before their hiatus in 2010, but I get to
make up for that now. I have seen a number of their side projects
though, and to be quite honest I might prefer those solo efforts over
the whole of Wolf Parade, and I mean that as no slight to Wolf Parade (I
really REALLY like Spencer Krug's Moonface, in particular). I forgot
to take notes on their set list, but I specifically recall them playing
my favorite song "Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts,"
plenty of other classics, and at least a couple off of their latest EP,
the imaginatively titled "EP 4." Just like on the recordings their
songs live have a driving, manic energy to them - if it was fun to see
on the giant outdoor stage, I can't imagine how enjoyable it would be in
a small, indoor club. A couple of other super important notes from
this performance: Dan Boeckner not only physically looks like the
Clash's Mick Jones, he looks like he's actually doing an impression of
him; and Spencer Krug plays the keys with one hand raised in the air as if he is constantly competing in a bull riding contest.
The "big" part of the night over, it was time to hit some clubs. I got to the Pour House in time to see Most of
a band I seem to see/think about a lot at Hopscotch as they play often,
and not much otherwise. It doesn't really make any sense because they
are a lot of fun live and should be interesting year round, but brains
work in mysterious ways. The club was packed with a crazy line outside,
luckily this is where the photo pass helps a ton...sorry everyone I
skipped in front of. Once inside, I saw Sam from Future Islands and it
occurred to me the Snails were closing out the night at this
venue...this crowd was just trying to get themselves Future
Islands-adjacent. Or maybe they're just really into bands that perform
in snail costumes. Wing Dam are a little bit slacker pop, a little bit
jangle, a little bit garage rock, a little bit a lot of things actually -
I've probably said it before but they remind me a lot of the
mid-nineties Teenbeat era, Versus and Unrest and Eggs and all that.
Possibly the most noteworthy moment was when Sara Autrey's boobs popped
out of her low cut top in the middle of their set; instead of freaking
out or being embarrassed, she instead asked for solidarity from the rest
of the band and the dudes took their shirts off. She then left them
popped out, and offered to "high five nipples" with anyone back at the
merch table after the set was over (I have no verification if this
actually happened). A damn fun band, I look forward to their set next
year at Hopscotch.
I decided to stay put at the Pour House to see some of Sneaks.
I didn't know a single thing about them other than they recently signed
to Merge, and I like the bulk of the Merge catalog so it was worth a
shot. The band is a duo of young folks, a dude making beats on a
computer and a dudette who rapped/sang/mumbled, occasionally played
bass, and was also wearing plastic pants that made me hot just looking
at them. It was...not for me, to put it kindly. The crowd seemed into
it but I was totally confused. All of the songs were really short, the
instrumentation very sparse, and the vocals were way too low in the mix -
hell, they played two or three songs before I realized they weren't
just dick- ing around doing sound check. I moved on after a handful of
songs, but since each song was about a minute long a handful didn't take
I smartly chose to stop off at the Lincoln to see some of Mutoid Man.
I knew they played metal, had some connection to Converge, and that was
about it. I would best describe them as classic eighties-style thrash
metal, but somehow lighthearted and fun. And I don't mean lighthearted
in regard to the lyrics, cause I don't have a clue what the hell they
were singing about - more so in the actions of the group, as they were
clearly having fun. Smiling even! A metal band smiling on stage, while
simultaneously headbanging, fucking with each other, and more general
antics! Unprec- edented, I say - metal is usually such serious business.
Oh, and they started their set by playing the last half of "Purple
Rain" (song, not album) - I can't think of a better, more fitting intro
to this trio. My only regret is I didn't get to see more of them, as I
needed to get to Television...if it had been nearly any other band in
the entire festival that I was off to see next, I would have probably
skipped it to see more of Mutoid Man.
This was my most anticipated show of the whole festival, a classic band
I've loved for ages but had never seen live. Yeah, Richard Lloyd
wasn't there so it wasn't the true classic line-up...but, and I say this
with all respect to Mr. Lloyd, I was there for Tom Verlaine first and
foremost. Memorial Auditorium wasn't packed but there was a healthy
crowd there, a mix of old fans (like myself) and young kids there to
probably see what all the fuss is about with these "olds" on stage.
After Tom requested the venue turn the lights nearly off (not ideal for
taking photos, obviously), the band launched into an hour-and-a-half
set, playing nearly all of their classic "Marquee Moon" and plenty
more. After the show I heard some complaints that the band was boring
and not very engaging or interesting, but that was not true for me at
all - it probably helped that I was front and center in front of Tom
Verlaine the entire time, com- pletely mesmerized by his effortless guitar
acrobatics. I've probably seen guitarists that were better
technically, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone as effortlessly
perfect. To no surprise they ended the set with an epic version of
"Marquee Moon," and as happy as I was to hear the likes of "Prove It"
and "Elevation," finally getting to hear the title track of their
seminal album live was a legit bucket list item for me, and one I was
very happy to finally fulfill.
My only real regret on the first night of Hopscotch is that
Lambchop were playing at the same time as Television, for- cing me to miss
a local appearance by them for the first time in ages. Word is they
were great, to no one's surprise. Lambchop will be back though, most
likely sooner rather than later. Television may never grace these parts
again, but here's to hoping.
The second night of Hopscotch was a big night in
the history of the event - not only was it the first time ever they
would be including Red Hat Amphitheater as a venue, they would be
holding "big" shows both at both Red Hat and City Plaza concurrently.
It was an ambitious move, and might have worked out great...if the shows
had started on time.
Gary Clark Jr
was my first act of the night, at Red Hat. He was opening for Erykah
Badu, but she was having flight problems and was going to be late, and
had her start time pushed back. Because of this, they had Gary start
15-20 minutes later than he was originally scheduled...fortunately, I
was still able to see enough of his set to get a few photos;
unfortunately, I only got to see three or so songs before I had to leave
for the next venue. That was a shame, because his modern blues were
sounding damn good to me at the time, and it's always a pleasure to
watch Mr. Clark mangle a guitar. I would have gladly stayed for a lot
more of his set had it been possible. Plus, from a photographical
per- spective, he makes great faces while he plays. Yes, photographical
is a real word, I looked it up. The internet never lies.
Unfortunately I had to buzz it up the hill to City Plaza to see Anderson Paak,
who seemed to be getting the most buzz heading into this year's
festival. In an ideal world Paak and Clark would have been paired
together and I could have seen both of their sets in full, but dammit no
one asked me. In simplistic terms you would lump Paak into the genre
of hip hop, but he is so much more than that...most importantly, he
plays with a full band, even throwing down on drums himself on a few
songs. Nearly every time I've truly loved live hip hop, it's been when
there was a full band...that's pro- bably the middle aged white guy in me
talking, but the feelings still stand. Despite being from LA he gave
off a nine- ties East Coast/DJ Premier-esque jazz sample vibe to his
sound, aka my favorite era in rap by a large margin. There were many
times where Paak & his band's sound was more funk and soul than hip
hop...at least one song sounded exactly like Curtis Mayfield, and a
number of tracks reminded me a ton of the Brand New Heavies. I barely
knew a thing about Anderson Paak before this performance, but by the end
I definitely left a fan.
After Paak I waited around for Beach House,
who for unexplained reasons were also running late. Tired of waiting
and not really being a huge Beach House fan to start with, I decided to
walk back down to Red Hat to catch the start of Erykah Badu, as her
amended start time was fast approaching. Of course, that was delayed
even further and I ended up waiting there for a while, only to hear
through the grapevine that her plane had just landed, meaning it was
still going to be a while before she appeared on stage. So I went back
up to City Plaza to actually catch some of Beach House, who were finally
playing. As I suspected, after a couple of songs I had had my fill -
the music is mostly fine (if a little boring), sort of a modern take on
the Cocteau Twins, but they're not much for watching. They have as much
fog on stage as Sunn O))), only when you do get glimpses of the band
it's not a bunch of metal dudes in crazy monk outfits, instead
run-of-the-mill indie rockers standing as still as possible. Between
Badu and Beach House this portion of the night was kind of a bust, but
since I wasn't overly excited about seeing either band only my time was
I popped into Fletcher Opera Theater to see what was going on with Kid Millions & Jim Sauter Duo.
Sparse crowd, but given all the schedule fuck-ups with the "big" shows
and the fact that both were still going on that wasn't particularly
surprising - I'm guessing the scene was somewhat similar in the other
small clubs across town. The gig was pretty much what I expected it to
be - Millions pretty much just playing a long drum solo while Jim Sauter
played some skronky atonal saxophone over him. It's the exact sort of
thing I find interesting for about fifteen minutes, and that's about
it. I may not always love everything Kid Millions does, but he's such
an amazing drummer it's always worth checking out any project he's
involved in, I'll like way more than I won't.
were playing next door at Memorial Auditorium, so off I went to see
local lad(s) done well. I'm still not entirely sure about who to call
what here - Boulevards is the band name, but the band is technically
only one person - Jamil Rashad. So is he Boulevards, and do I refer to
him as such, or do I refer to him as Jamil, member of Boulevards?
Regardless, he had two cats playing with him at this live show, one on
drums and the other handling the rest of the music on a computer, so for
the purposes of this gig I will refer to Boulevards as the band. I'd
be lying if I said I've lis- tened to their record "Groove!" all that
much, but you would be damn hard pressed to find a more engaging and
ex- citing live show, and you don't need to know the songs to enjoy it.
Jamil owns the stage, prowling the entirety of the giant Memorial stage
like a caged Tiger, climbing on speakers, jumping into and out of the
crowd multiple times - he was definitely having fun, and so was the
audience. I bet the dude burns 2000 calories over the duration of a
show... hell, I think I lost some weight just watching him move around so
much. Musically it felt like being at a mid-eighties New Jack
Swing/Bobby Brown-esque gig - it doesn't hurt that Jamil looks like he
stepped right out of a 1987 time capsule. If Boulevards is playing in
your town, don't miss it..unless you hate fun, then you should
definitely miss it.
I decided to stay put at Memorial to see what all the
fuss was about, and also because I'm lazy. Not my best decision, as it
turns out. After being 45 minutes late, Young Thug's DJ finally came
out and then proceeded to try hyping up the crowd by playing snippets of
the same songs Thug would be performing only a few minutes later. To
be fair the tactic worked, despite my bewilderment. Another 15 minutes
later Young Thug himself finally came out, along with one hype man and
at least a dozen people who did nothing but mill around on the stage.
One guy spent the entire time checking his phone; another filmed the
entire show on the biggest iPad I've ever seen, it was the size of a
damn cookie sheet; a number of others just smoked and drank (probably
lean, or at least they wanted to appear that way) out of Styrofoam
cups. I'm not even sure what to say about the music...dude half-slurs a
ton of his lyrics on record, they're even less intelligible live. His
music is generally interesting, but there was way way WAY too much
bass...to be fair that could be on the venue as much as it's on Young
Thug, although both Big Boi and Killer Mike sounded great here a few
years back, so probably not. Long story short, it just wasn't for me.
The very young crowd was loving it though, so despite my sour reception
it seems like a smart booking choice.
After a lot of
Hip Hop and R&B for most of the night, there was only one sensible
way to end things - metal. I had hoped to see some or all of Cobalt,
but due to Young Thug being so (unnecessarily) late, I saw an entire two
minutes of their very last song. That happens at Hopscotch sometimes,
life goes on. Luckily I was able to get there in time to see Yob,
my main reason for walking to the Pour House anyways. I've seen them a
couple of times, as well as lead man Mike Scheidt solo, so I knew
exactly what to expect - really heavy stoner metal bordering on doom,
minus the Cookie Monster vocals that turn me off from so many metal
bands. This was probably the best I've ever seen them, the band was
tight and Mike was destroying his crazy looking custom Monson guitar.
It wasn't butts to nuts in there, but the crowd was healthy - I guess I
wasn't only one who thought ending the night with some riffy metal was a
great way to finish off the second day of Hopscotch.
The third day of Hopscotch is always the
toughest to motivate for, at least for this middle-aged, out-of-shape,
lazy bas- tard. The first day runs on excitement; the second day runs on
adrenaline; and the third day runs on...determination. It didn't help
that of the three days this one had the line-up of bands for which I was
least excited, but there were still some gems in there.
I'm not going to lie, I really only showed up early enough for Vince Staples
at City Plaza because I thought I might get some interesting photos,
what with my pass-assisted access to the photo pit in City Plaza.
Without that, I probably would have shown up just early enough to catch a
couple of songs at the end of his set. I did get a couple of decent
snaps so I guess it was worth it, but I can't say Vince's music ever won
me over. Just not my kind of hip hop, and I don't think I could even
tell you why - neither his rapping style or his music really engaged
me. Also, the audio quality seemed all over the place - one track would
be normal and clear, and the next would have so much distorted bass I
had a flashback to high school when all the rednecks (as well as one of
my good friends) had those huge speakers in the trunk of their cars. I
once bribed my friend with a t-shirt he wanted to get him to turn his
speakers down, it was so loud I thought it was making my heart beat
improperly. Anyways, I did eat a tasty chicken and cheese pita during
his set, so that was cool.
impressive that the biggest turnout and most rambunctuous crowd I've
seen in the seven years of Hopscotch was for local favorites
It feels like it was only a couple of years ago they were opening for
the Rosebuds at Memorial, and now they're drawing thousands of people as
a festival headliner...wait, it was just a couple of years ago. I've
seen them a few times since that Memorial outing, but this was the first
gig I've seen where they actually played new songs, songs not on their
self-titled debut. They still played most of the songs from that record
too, and of course the crowd went nuts for each one of them, including
me when they played their best song "Hey Mami" at the end of the set.
Who would have guessed that if you write super catchy pop songs and set
them to an electronic beat it would be so popular?
From electronic pop to mellow folk, I made my way to Fletcher Opera Theater to catch a little bit of Maiden Radio.
I'd never heard a single note by them, but read that Joan Shelley was
in the group and she has a magnifficent voice so it was definitely worth
a shot. The band was a trio of females playing banjo, guitar and
fiddle (in various combinations) and singing solo or together (in
various combinations). I only caught about half of their set, but it
seemed like it was mostly covers of old mountain folk songs - how much
these songs resembled the originals or were complete reimagin- ings, I
have no idea. As to what Maiden Radio sounded like, think about all the
Gillian Welch/Emmylou Harris/Alison Krauss tracks from the "Oh Brother
Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and you're on the right path. It sounded
great, two thumbs up from this dude.
I would have gladly stayed for the entire Maiden Radio set if I didn't need to get next door to Memorial Auditorium to see Eric Bachmann.
It was just him and two backup singers, local phenom Skylar Gudasz and
another gal named Avery, but I didn't catch her full name. Bachmann was
in a snazzy suit, the ladies were in matching sparkly dresses, and the
crowd was seated and impeccably silent...of the dozens of times I've
seen Bachmann play either solo or with a band, I've never seen him quite
like this. I took some snaps for a couple of songs, and then just sat
down and lis- tened intently for the rest of the set. He played most of
his new self-titled record, which makes sense as so many of those songs
feature backing vocals, and these two ladies weren't on stage just to
show off their sparkly outfits. Of the couple of older songs he trotted
out, I remember "Bad Blood" was one of them, a classic to be sure. I'm
not sure if the rest of the crowd was totally engrossed (like me),
asleep, or just staring at their phones, but I was impressed with how
quiet and attentive everyone was. Easily one of the shows of the
festival for me, but like the Wye Oak performance on the first night, I
knew this would be the case before he even played the first note.
Even though I had sorta just seen her with Maiden Radio, I popped back in next door at Fletcher to see Joan Shelley play solo. Well, sorta solo, as she had a dude supplying guitar
accompaniment the whole time, plus the other two gals in Maiden Radio
came on stage occasionally to add some additional instrumentation or
vocals. I suppose the the big difference between the two sets was
during this gig Joan was playing her own songs instead of covers of old
mountain folk ditties. I don't really know any of her music well, I
just know her voice - but it was real damn pretty and I stuck it out for
a few songs before I got itching to move on. Nothing against Joan, but
I was needing something a little more rock- ing than the delicate folk
I've seen over the last three acts.
Walking down the street, I met a few friends that talked me into going to see Soldiers of Fortune
at the Lincoln Theatre because Cheetie Kumar from Birds of Avalon would
be sitting in with them. I didn't know a single thing about the band
(noticing a theme with my lack of preparation this year?) but if Cheetie
was participating it would be worth checking out. Turns out they're
some NYC supergroup featuring Kid Millions and others from Oneida, a
dude from Endless Boogie, another dude that plays with Interpol
apparently, and plenty more vets (some that were here, some that were
not). Their set was just one long song, seemingly improvised or at
least mostly so, which is not shocking because of the level of talent
present on stage. Kid Millions was handling the vocals from the drum
kit, but I have no idea what he was saying and I'm not sure it
mattered. I'm not even sure how to really describe the sound - sort of a
repetitive kraut rock vibe, fairly heavy but never venturing into metal
territory, and a shitload of guitar shreddery, espec- ially from the
guest star Cheetie. I probably could have just said it sounds like a
crazier/bigger version of Oneida. For something I randomly decided to
go to, this was a nice find, and further proves the old adage "always
trust the Birds of Avalon." At least I'm pretty sure that is an adage
was playing next at the Lincoln and since that who I was planning on
seeing anyways, it made for a short commute. Not only did I not have to
exert myself and walk to another venue, but I was in a great spot to
get photos of the final act of Hopscotch. I saw Baroness play a number
of years ago, but honestly don't remember a ton about it - I certainly
don't remember them being as polished as they were on this night. They
were heavier and gruffer before - now, I'd almost call them pop metal.
That sounds like an insult and I don't mean it that way, but their songs
have hooks and harmonies that you usually don't get in a typical stoner
metal setting. Also, how did I miss the news that Sebastian Thomson
from Trans Am is now their drummer? I knew their old drummer quit the
band after their horrific bus crash a few years back (they were actually
supposed to play Hopscotch right after that crash, but that appearance
was ob- viously cancelled since almost the entire band nearly died), but I
had no idea Sebastian was now their stickman. Anyways, yadda yadda
yadda, they put on an amazing show, it was basically an entirely
different band than I saw so many years ago, and I enjoyed it immensely -
I was planning on only staying for a couple of songs but ended up
watching most of the show. I like this version of Baroness a lot more,
for the record - what can I say, I'm a pop fan at heart - make the metal
songs catchy and all of the sudden I'm feelin' it.
went home satisfied (and extremely tired) after my three day experience
at Hopscotch 2016. Probably my favorite festival since 2013 or so.
I'm already excited for next year.
"Cat in the wall, eh? Okay, now you're talkin' my language! I know that game."
As a slight break with the usual, one full album and one full single in addition to the normal random tracks.
Mercury Birds - Saxitar Cosmosis. Kids these days don't know! Highly underrated classic band from Greensboro in the late nineties. Hell, they were stupid underrated when they were actually around. Some of the dudes ended up moving to Portland and joined a bunch of other bands over the years, one of which was the now-popular Red Fang. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion (single). I don't have any good reason for including this entire single, other than I was listening to it the other day. "Modern Romance" is still a great song, and TV on the Radio's cover of "Modern Ro- mance" is even greater. Clinic - Bubblegum. I'll forget to listen to Clinic for a long time, and then be all like "Clinic is awesome" for a couple of weeks, and then forget to listen to them again. Orangutan
Nada Surf - Friend Hospital. The new Nada Surf album is awesome, to no one's surprise. I haven't gotten to see them live in ages though, but that will all be changing...tomorrow. Photos in future updates. Rushing