Element Europe "Hold It Down" - Great video of the Element Euro riders; of particular note are Nassim Guammaz and Ross McGouran, both of whom absolutely destroy. Guammaz should be pro for the main team.
Malls Across America - photos of malls in the eighties by Michael Galinsky. I'm not sure that the photos are that great, but they are greatly interesting and a reminder of the real eighties rather than the sterilized version that gets rehashed these days.
Now We Are Five - David Sedaris recently had a sister die and wrote this great story about his family in remem- berence. It's not maudlin at all, and like many of his stories about his family, both touching and funny. No new Photo
journal entries this time, I'm really getting behind on my band photo editing. .
The Music reviews have really seen a big jump in numbers, due mostly to my reviewing old seven inches as I go through organizing & culling my collection. Of the new stuff I listened to, check out The Kingsbury Manx and the new Oblivians records especially.
Segall, not content with just releasing new records under his own name
multiple times a year, also needed a heavier outlet where he could play
drums - and Fuzz was born. He formed the band with Charlie Mootheart,
added another of Mootheart's bandmates on bass, and luckily for us (or
more importantly, me) hit the road. The buzz on Fuzz was very high as
evidenced by the number of young scenesters at the show. Lots of
interesting outfits (both good and bad) and no shortage of "cooler than you" vibes all
around, but kids are gonna be kids. I magically made my way to the very
front of the stage to take some snaps, which may not have been the best
idea...there was a little bit of moshing, but the big- ger problem is this
same little prick kept stage diving over and over and over. I'd guess he jumped
into the crowd twenty times, and there was pretty much no one else doing it. More problematic was his "jump" was severely lacking in athletic ability and every
time he entered the crowd near me I'd get a good kick from his flailing
legs. It was incredibly annoying and I was worried about him kicking my camera, but as I felt like an interloper in
this cool kid world I just sucked it up and covered up he came ambling into me. Oh yeah, and the band -
they sounded great. That's no sur- prise because everything Segall does turns out fantastic, especially live. Heavy and groovy at the same time - let's just
call them a stoner rock version of the James Gang and leave it at
that. The whole band was very talented, Segall is a plus drummer and
Mootheart laid down plenty of "hott lixx." Their self-titled record is
one of my favorites on the year, and this show definitely lived up to the
They had another Bay Area band called CCR
Headcleaner open for them. I'm honestly not sure if they were good or
bad, but they were somewhat interesting. Most of their music was just lots of
noise that would occasionally turn into songs, but not always. You
couldn't really hear the vocals, but I'm not sure it mattered. They seemed
to hit their stride at the end of their set - which from me means that
is when their noisy songs started sounding the most like actual songs.
I've got no idea who to really compare them to - Pop 1280 maybe, but
not as dark and industrial? Occasionally "Bleach" era Nirvana
just a wee little bit? I need to listen to their record, I'd be curious what
kind of jams they are laying down in a studio.
Chuck Johnson with Libraness and Heather McEntire The Pinhook 9/29/2013
can be tough to motivate and get out of the house for a rock show on a
Sunday night, but when that show involves Libraness all of the sudden I
get a burst of energy and a fire under my ass.
First though was Heather McEntire, best known as the front
woman of awesome local band Mount Moriah. It was just Heather, her
guitar and her amazing voice, performing a small set of songs she said
she wrote in the week before the show while holed up sick at home. The
fact that she can knock out a grip of quality tracks while hopped up on
cold crunchers is equal parts impressive and jealousy-inducing.
Hopefully some of these tunes make their way to future recordings
because I liked them a lot. Maybe Heather needs to get sick more
What made Ash Bowie (best known as one the guitarists and
vocalists of Polvo) decide to bring back his side-project solo moniker
Libraness escapes me, but I'm damn glad he decided to do it. First
time, back around 2000, it was just a release of a record that felt
mostly like a clearinghouse of unused Polvo ideas. But this rebirth
involves a full band and new songs - in fact, I don't think they played
anything from the record. Given Ash's signature voice and guitar style,
it would be impossible to not draw comparisons to Polvo. Surprisingly
though there were also some poppier numbers, almost in a jangle pop
Byrds-meets-Big Star vein - I wasn't expecting that sort of sound, but
it worked. They closed their set with an epic jam that sounded like
Polvo covering a Television song...I would punch my mama in the mouth to
get a clean, studio version of that track, it was pure gold.
The evening's closer was Chuck Johnson. I saw Chuck
a few times back in the nineties with his band Spatula - they seemed to
be a band's band, their shows would be full of local musicians but not a
lot of us regular untalented folk. Chuck has been recording solo
guitar records for a while now, but to be completely honest I've not
paid a ton of attention. It's high quality work, but just never found
it's way to my personal playlist. He kicked his set off with an
Elizabeth Cotten cover (she had just had a plaque dedicated to her in
Carrboro where she was born and raised), and rolled through a number of
tracks on both his regular guitar and twelve string. His finger picking
skill is excep- tional; and while I may not burn to throw his records on
at home, it's quite a treat live.
Schooner with D-Town Brass and See Gulls The Pinhook 9/24/2013
This was the record release party for Schooner's new record "Neighborhood Veins." A record that has been in the works for so long there have been multiple "Chinese Democracy" jokes made to the band by me - my latest favorite is to refer to the new album as "Durhamese Schoonocracy." And that, folks, is why I'm yet to be hired as a comedy writer.
The first band of the night was See Gulls, who I knew nothing about. They were a four piece of local ladies that includ- ed Maria Albani on drums (she can also be found in Organos, helping out with Schooner, and probably a dozen other projects). If what they said on stage is to be believed, this was their first show. Good or bad, there is something exciting about seeing a band's first show - luckily this was one of the good ones. They showed lots of promise of good things to come. My best description of their music would be jangly indie pop, very reminiscent of some of the Teen Beat bands of the mid-to-late nineties. The guitarist was pretty talented and I dug the singer's voice, they were pleasant
to look at and they had their shit together pretty well, especially if
it really was their first show. I'll definitely see them again.
The middle slot was held by D-Town Brass, a band I've heard about and been told I had to see for years, so it was nice to finally make this happen. The band is so damn big they didn't even fit on the stage - I counted fifteen members total, with an entire horn section set up on the floor in front of the stage. The organist was so far on the edge of the stage he actually fell backwards off of it half way through their set (he wasn't hurt). I think I was expecting more of a funk sound for some reason, but the band played the sort of space age jazz that was popular in the nineties - Cocktails, Combustible Edison, and a few other acts (likely signed to Thrill Jockey and/or from Chicago) would be the closest touchstones for my limited knowledge of this genre. They were crazy talented and sounded excellent - a group of this ability should be filling concert halls, so it was nice to see them in such an intimate setting.
As mentioned before, the main draw tonight was Schooner and their release of the long-awaited "Neighborhood Veins." They played the whole set with the already-mentioned Maria Albani helping with backing vocals and a wee bit of percussion whatnot and noise-making doohickeys. Obviously, they were going to play a lot of songs from that record and I hadn't heard the record yet, but this first listen was very satisfying. Schooner has always had a soulful take on the indie pop sound, and these new jams definitely fit their mold. Apparently D-Town Brass recorded on a number of the songs on the new record, so with them on the bill tonight a number of their horn players took the stage for the last third of the show and really gave the proceedings some extra oomph. At the end of the evening I bought a fancy clear blue copy of the new record, and look forward to hearing this long overdue collection of jams.
"Anyway, children, as I was saying, the Hare Krishna's are totally gay."
Fruit Bats - My Unusual Friend. I was bummed when it was announced the Fruit Bats were calling it quits, with almost no fanfare they released some of the best pop music of the past decade. I'm sure Eric Johnson will continue putting out high quality music though. Bonus: Singing Joy To The World. Bonus: The Ruminant Band.
Pontiak - Left With Lights. Not sure why it took me so long, but I finally saw these guys live. Which made me want to listen to their records even more. Bonus: The Expanding Sky.
Rob Crow - Scalped. Rob is in so many bands he accidentally released some songs under his own name. They sound pretty much exactly what you expect his songs to sound like. Bonus: Sophistructure.
Trocadéro Days- Pontus Alv and friends cruising the streets. Yeah it's a commercial for Converse, but this short clip captures the joy of skateboarding about as well as anything ever filmed outside of a Ray Barbee skate part.
Kowloon Walled City- It's quite possible I've posted either this link or somrthing very similar, but you can't read about this place too many times.
The Chelsea Hotel - A collection of photos of the famous hotel, home of Sid killing Nancy, Leonard Cohen inspiration, and more musicians, artists and weirdos than you can shake a stick at.
Three new Photo
journal entries - a chunk of band photos, a walk in Eno River State Park, and a weekend trip with friends and family to southwestern Virginia.
The Music reviews of note for the past couple of months - Whatever Brains, Smith Westerns, Big Boi, and other shit.
Boi was supposed to be one of the headliners at this past Hopscotch
Music Festival, but after hurting his leg he had to postpone his show.
It was a real bummer at the time, but in hindsight having another great
show to go to a couple of weeks later only increased the entertainment
value of Hopscotch. As an added bonus, they gave away a lot of the
tickets for free for this show, to make up for him missing the
festival. I would have gladly paid a king's ransom for the show,
assuming a king's ransom is somewhere no more than fifty bucks or so.
Opening the show was Killer Mike. He played
Hopscotch last year and wasn't even scheduled at this year's festival,
so a free show out of him was extra super awesome icing on the already
tasty cake. He was one of my highlights that year and this was a very
similar performance - just him and his man DJ Trackstar, lots of songs
from his album "R.A.P. Music," and a crowd eating it up. He performed
his hit song "Reagan" accapella, and climbed into the crowd contin- ually
to spread his gospel. I use the word gospel intentionally, because
seeing Killer Mike feels like attending the service of an excitable
preacher. But if church were more like his shows I might actually go.
seeing Big Boi at Moogfest a couple years back on accident because Devo
cancelled, I vowed to never miss him live again. It was the single
best hip hop performance I had ever witnessed, with a full band and
back-up singers and a dance troupe and he played every Outkast and Big
Boi song you'd ever possibly want to hear. This appearance wasn't quite
on that level, but it was really damn close. He still had a live band
but not as many members; he still had dancers, but only a couple; but he
still played every Outkast and Big Boi song you'd ever want to hear,
including plenty of songs from his most recent (fantastic) record
"Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours." One addition this time was a
giant gold throne in the middle of the stage for him to sit in
occasionally because of his hurt leg, but he didn't use it nearly as
much as I was expecting. He also had his kids on stage the entire time,
standing on either side of the throne, just bobbing their heads and
shuffling their feet in time with the music. What a trip it must be to
be standing on stage with your father as he performs. Anyways, it was a
damn good time and hopefully I don't have to wait a few more years to see him again. And while we're hoping, let's get Outkast back together for god's sake.
Pontiak with Golden Void & Nate Hall with the Poison Snake Blackout Effectors 9/1/2013
It's rare but sometimes there is a good show happening when I'm up in the mountains visiting the family. Blackout Effectors is a guitar pedal manufacturer in Asheville, but sometimes they have shows in their back room. The ad- mission was cheap and they had free beer! I don't even drink but I can admire a good value.
Nate Hall opened the show. Or more specifically, Nate Hall with the Poison Snake, his new live band (drums and bass) for his solo endeavors from US Christmas. It appears his next generation of solo material will be more than him and an acoustic guitar, based on this show. Honestly it just seemed like a slightly stripped down US Christmas, and since Nate writes the songs for both acts I don't know how he now decides what songs belong to which group, maybe there's a spreadsheet or something. I do know the bassist of this group is Richard Kirby, former pro skateboarder for Santa Cruz, which is pretty cool. Does this qualify the band as skate rock? Either way, it sounded good and he's been promising a new solo record for a while so hopefully that gets released soon. Supposedly all the new songs played on this evening are to be on that record.
Golden Void were the middle band. I knew absolutely nothing about them other than they were from the Bay Area, my former stomping grounds. For lack of better terms, they played "boogie metal," a term I've coined for music that is equal parts stoner rock, seventies metal, and butt rock the likes of BTO or Deep Purple or Steppenwolf. I guess some of the members are or were in other acts like Earthless, Assembled Head in Sunburst Sound, and Roots of Orchis, or so
the internet tells me. They were pretty damn good, though they
played a little long in my opinion. The lead guitarist absolutely destroyed, solos for days. If I could play like that I don't think I would ever set the guitar down.
The final band of the night was Pontiak, and I would finally see them live (and the subsequently see them again at Hopscotch just a few days later). It somehow seems fitting that my first viewing of this band of brothers and their southern gothic kraut metal would be in a dark room in the back of a store on a rainy night instead of a proper rock club.
I often refer to bands being tight aka playing really well together,
very in-sync and at a high skill level, but I'm not sure another
band exists that sound as together as these guys. Is it because
they're brothers? I gotta think that plays a part in it. I was already a big fan of these guys, but seeing them live bumped my fanhood up ten fold. They went from "good music" to "never to be missed live again."
Superchunk with Parting Gifts The Cat's Cradle 8/24/2013
I saw that the Parting Gifts were opening for this Superchunk show, and decided I didn't need to get to the Cradle in time to see their set. But then I walked in and saw who was on stage, and my stupid brain all of the sudden remem- bered who the Parting Gifts are - one of Greg Cartwright's side projects! Man I felt stupid for forgetting this, and bummed I'd already missed at least half of their set. I've seen Greg solo, with the Reigning Sound and (as of Hop- scotch 2013) with the Oblivians, but this was my first time in this configuration, paired up with the Ette's Coco Hames. It still mostly sounds like a Greg Cartwright project, his voice and guitar work being so distinctive, but occasionally Hames
would take the lead on vocals. She's both nice to listen to and
nice to look at, so it was a nice addition. They played mostly songs off of their one full-length record, but also threw in a cover of the Beach Boys' "Don't Worry Baby." If you're a fan of Cartwright's other projects you'd be a fool not to check the Parting gifts out, and hopefully if you go see them live you make it to the gig on time.
I've seen Superchunk dozens of times over the last twenty years (probably somewhere between the two dozen and three dozen mark if I were to wager a guess), but this was my first time not seeing them with Laura Ballance. I've had a crush on her for over half my life, and not seeing her on stage with the band pogoing up and down while playing bass leaves a hole in my heart. Filling in for her was Jason Narducy, who amongst other acts is currently working with Bob Mould (as is Chunk drummer Jon Wurster). He did a fine job, clearly a professional, but I was really missing Laura - I
was standing right in front of where she should be! The band
still sounded fantastic, despite this change. I'm not going to go into great detail on what they played as the set list is surely online somewhere, but they played for nearly two hours with two encores, and played a lot of their great new album "I Hate Music." Some other highlights included "Punch Me Harder," "Water Wings," "Detroit Has a Skyline,"Precision Auto," "On the Mouth"...basically, everything they play I love. Most importantly they played their cover of the Magnetic Fields' "100,000 Fireflies," a song they don't play live all that often but at this point I consider it more theirs than Magnetic Fields.
One odd thing that did stand out that I personally had never seen before - the band came back out and played their second encore after the house music had already come back on. Usually that music (plus the lights coming on) is the universal sign that it's time to leave, so I'm not sure if the sound man messed up turning it back on too early or if the band surprised him by coming back out. Either way, it was a truly surprising encore, and if my brain serves they played the classic "Throwing Things." And now when bands finish their sets and the house music comes on, I'll be second guessing whether or not it is time to leave...
Birds of Avalon with Tonk and The Lollipops Kings 8/23/2013
It was Kings 3rd anniversary this weekend - I was there for the opening weekend (Bandway!!!) and have probably been to this club more times in the last three years than everywhere else in the triangle added together. I'm a big fan of the venue, the owners, and most of the bands they have play on their stage, and that was no less true for this anniversary gig.
When I got in the club Tonk was already into their set. Not sure how much I missed, but everything I did get to hear was damn good. When I first saw this band most of their set was covers, but now they're playing mostly originals (I actually didn't recognize any covers, but that doesn't mean there wasn't any). Apparently they even have a record coming out soon that I look forward to hearing. No matter who is writing the songs though, they all fit that Tonk seventies-style country mold. We're talking "tear in your beer" country, and they're damn good at it.
To be perfectly honest I wasn't really feeling the Lollipops the first time I saw them, but this second viewing has me rethinking that opinion. They've definitely got some catchy pop songs, and I've always been a sucker for bands that set up their own dramatic lighting. They have a sorta ramshackle Guided by Voices sound crossed with more upbeat radio-friendly fare like MGMT. The bass was way too loud though, and this from someone who usually complains there
isn't enough bass. I'm not sure if this was intentional or just
the night's mix, but it was slightly annoying. I'd def- initely be up for seeing them again though, not something I said after the first show I saw by them. I should probably listen to their record on bandcamp too, the thing is free after all.
I don't even know what to say about Birds of Avalon at this point. They were always good but now they are SO GOD- DAMN
GOOD. I swear they're five times better every time I see
them. It's a psych-kraut wonderland, with stellar guitar shreddery and a pretty much perfect rhythm section. As an added bonus Missy Thangs, best known for her work with Love Language but who also seems to be a member of at least eighteen other bands, was adding some keyboard to the action. I'm not sure if her addition is just a temporary thing or in the band's long-term plans, but it worked pretty well. These kids make some swell records and I'm really looking forward to what they put out next, but seeing them live is where it's really at. More Bird of Avalon shows! I demand it!
"You kick in the door to my house all ants in your pants, sucking my left
nut to get a TiVo scrap for the 3rd runner-up 'sexiest man alive'
1998... And you're asking if I'm SERIOUS?"
Coachwhips - Extinguish Me. They played all the time when I lived in SF and their live shows were a hot mess. The recordings are much better IMO. Bonus: Thee Alarm.
Ed Schrader's Music Beat - Airshow. One of the best things to happen in my life these past couple of years was discovering the awesomeness of Ed Schrader live. Bonus: Rats. Bonus: Sermon. Bonus: Traveling.
Grape Street - A Date With You. I adored the band Harlem but their break-up appears to have been beneficial to music fans (and more importantly me) as it resulted in two new awesome bands - Grape Street and Lace Curtains (see below). Both released some of my favorite records of the last few years. Bonus: Kawnee. Bonus: Threw It All Away.
Thousand and Thirteen***
Hopscotch 2013 - Day Three
with The Breeders, Spiritualized, San Fermin, Low, and Sleep
Tonight, on the final night of Hopscotch, I would
finally be partaking of the big scene at City Plaza. It seemed a lot
mel- lower than in past years; this is surely bad for the promoters but
it's great for me, as it was quite easy to get right to the front
before the Breeders
started their set. As a form of a soundcheck they kicked off their set
with a cover of the Guided by Voices song "Shocker in Gloomtown" - a
strange beginning but a great song so why not? The band then proceeded to
play their classic album "Last Splash" in it's entirety and in the same order of the recording from start to finish. Kim Deal would often comment about particular pedals or synths or whatever
that they had used when record- ing the record, and how they had gone to the trouble to make sure and use those
same parts live. I last saw these gals (and guy) play at Lollapalooza
nearly 20 years ago, just after "Last Splash" was released, before a chunk of the crowd was born, and they
were one of my favorite acts of that festival. To this day I still
listen to that record fairly often, so it was a real joy to hear those
songs live again. The performance occasionally sounded sloppy and I don't know if the band was really putting on all that good of a
show, but nostalgia kicked in and it didn't matter, I was having too
much fun to care. After they finished playing all of "Last Splash," they rounded
out their set with a Beatles' cover ("Happi- ness Is a Warm Gun") and a
few tracks from their other record "Pod." It was almost disconcerting
how smiley and happy Kim Deal seemed on stage, you don't usually see
that much smiling at a rock concert. There was no shortage of smiling in the crowd
I thought it odd that Spiritualized
were the City Plaza headliners - it seems like the Breeders would
have the larger fan base. But the Breeders don't rely on dramatic
lighting the way Spiritualized does, so it makes sense for their set not
to start until it is dark out. Based on when I saw the band at the
Cradle last spring,
I thought I had set myself up just right to get photos of Jason
Pierce...and then the stage crew placed his gear where he would have his
back to me the whole show. A minor issue, and the band sounded fantastic
even through the back of his head was mostly all I saw of Pierce. The touring band this time was a
seven-piece, featuring two back-up singers and the legendary Kid
Millions of Oneida on drums. Their set hit across a wide swath of
Spiritualized albums, though surprisingly nothing (that I re- member) from "Songs in A &
E." Some highlights included "Hey Jane," "Lord
Let It Rain on Me," "Oh Baby," and of course, one of the greatest songs
ever written in the history of mankind or even alien-kind, "Ladies and
Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space." I was exceedingly glad to see Spiritualized live again - can we continue this trend of them performing locally every year?
My next stop was Fletcher with the intention of getting a good
seat for Low no matter what. I was so concerned about this that I got to the
venue an entire band early and ended up seeing a New York act called San Fermin that I knew nothing about.
They were an eight-piece including folks on violin, trumpet, baritone
sax (aka the really big ass sax), and two lead singers (one male and
one female) who didn't play anything but their vocal chords. Every band member
was young, well-dressed, and attractive - specifically the female singer, who on a scale of
one to ten was about a twelve. That
combined with their racial and gender make-up gave off the appearance the band was
put together by a thinktank trying to create the perfect pop group.
Regardless of all that, they were extremely talented, every one of them,
almost too talented maybe as the music sounded so spotless. World's worst
criticism, I know. The two singers more or less took turns singing
lead, with pretty different results. When the guy sang, his deep voice insured they pretty
much sounded just like an orchestral version of the National; when the
girl sang, it was more like an American Idol participant on their first
tour after winning the contest. I could really get into the dude's
songs, but the girl's songs were just a little too earnest for me,
though clearly well crafted and performed. I didn't regret seeing them
by any means, but I've not yet decided what I really think of their
music. They actually have a free EP you can download if you're curious, and make up your own mind.
It had been years but I was finally going to get to see Low
again. I saw them perform live all the time when I lived in California, but
since moving back to NC I don't think they've played here once. I had
this master plan that I would watch about 45 minutes of Low's set and
then go try and get into the Sleep show, but after just a couple of
songs it was clear nothing short of a bomb scare was going to get me out
of that theater before Low finished their set. Song after song it was
like I had written the set list - I can't remember everything but I do
recall "Dinosaur Act," "Monkey," "Canada," "That's How You Sing Amazing
Grace," "Holy Ghost," and "Sunflower." Basically, everything I'd ever
want to hear other than "The Plan" and "Over the Ocean" off of my
favorite record "The Curtain Hits the Cast." The sound was per- fect,
almost beyond perfect if such a thing were possible - you would think
Fletcher Opera Theater was built specifically with this band in mind. The crowd also helped a ton by
keeping silent, minus folks occasionally shuffling in and out - I know I
usually talk a lot of shit about my fellow concert goers, but good job
to all not fucking up this amazing live ex- perience. I have no trouble proclaiming this was the best show of the entire
festival. Apparently the people behind the music blog NYC Taper was there recording a lot of Hopscotch
shows to put up on their site, so let's all hope they got this one
and will upload it eventually because I'd love to hear this set again.
My final show of the night, and the entire festival, was Sleep.
After sticking around so long at Low I was expecting a crazy line to
get into the Lincoln Theatre, and couldn't believe my luck as I was able
to walk right in the venue and work my way near the front of the stage
just a few minutes before the band started playing. The stage was
literally covered with amps - between Ampeg, Mesa and Marshall, there
were probably eight to ten double and single cabinets. I was a little
worried my brain might explode from volume. In the end it was very
loud, but not nearly as loud as I was expec- ting; but the bass, my god
that bottom end was absolutely vibrating my innards from start to
finish. Matt Pike was shirtless and shredding his guitar from start to
finish, the instrument resting on his ample belly. Someone next to me noted he'd
never seen Pike play with a shirt on, perhaps out of fear that his
guitar playing would set his clothes on fire. Al Cisneros has one of
the strangest bass playing styles I've ever seen, all of the action with
both hands happening on the neck. I couldn't tell you any specific
songs they played, but the setlist is probably somewhere online. I can
tell you it melted my brain, and was a perfect ending to this musical
Until next year Hopscotch, let's do it again!
uploaded more photos of each act here
if you're interested.
Thousand and Thirteen***
Hopscotch 2013 - Day Two Night Shows
with Sannhet, Dan Friel, Alpoko Don, Big Daddy Kane, and Mikal Cronin
Since Big Boi cancelled (apparently because he
broke his leg) and Hopscotch subsequently booking a couple of dance acts
to fill his spot, I didn't even both with the first City Plaza show of
the festival. Sure, I missed Future Islands, but I've seen them a
thousand times and they'll be back through town plenty more
(hopefully). Between Hopscotch and the monthly First Friday crowd,
downtown was an insane clusterfuck, and it took me forever to get to
Slims to see Sannhet.
And since I got there late I didn't actually "see" them, because if
you're not one of the first few people near the band at Slims you might
as well be listening to the jukebox. They appeared to have an elaborate
light show as I could see them flashing, even if I couldn't see any
band members. They played really heavy instrumental metal, and as I've
always loved the music of metal but often disliked the vocals this
seemed like an ideal band for me. The first comparison that comes to
mind is Pelican, but Sannhet is much heavier and not as "long winded" as
Pelican and their epic songs. Even if I couldn't see the band they
sure sounded great, hopefully they come back and play on a larger
stage...or I can at least get to the gig earlier and stake out a spot in
From Slims I decided just to walk upstairs to the Hive and see a little bit of the set by Dan Friel.
Like Slims the place was already packed, only this time a large chunk
of the crowd was a bunch of glowstick fuckhead ravers acting like
shitheels. Hopefully they were on a lot of drugs and that wasn't their
natural state of existence. Are these people still called ravers?
Probably not but I don't feel like looking up the new name for these
clowns I pushed past them and somewhat close to the front, though not
close enough to take pics. No matter really - it was just Friel doing
some electronic futzing and his companion dude projecting some manner of
lights on the wall in time with the music. Unlike the knob twiddling I
saw from Jamie Stewart/Xiu Xiu the night before, this electronic music
was built around melody and song structure and I would have enjoyed it a
little bit longer had those glow stick drunks not pushed their way to
being right in front of my face. It was time to leave.
Down the street at the Lincoln Theatre there was some hip hop
going on, and I find it is in my best interest to see at least a little
hip hop every Hopscotch. I knew nothing of Greenville, SC rapper Alpoko Don before a few days ago, when I searched out some youtube videos of his music. I was really feeling his video for the song "Talk to God,"
it's just him sitting on his porch rapping over a beat he's knocking
out on the railing of that porch. I wasn't sure how this would
translate live - turns out it would translate quite well. His stage
set-up was a table with a mic laying on it, and Don sat in a chair
knocking the beat out on the table while he rapped into another mic. It
was very raw and sorta stun- ning really, much more intimate than you
ever expect in live hip hop. His voice reminds me a lot of Scarface,
but his sound is very Memphis/dirty south/whatever the hell you call
it. He performed this same way for a few songs, and then wrapped up his
set performing a couple of tracks traditional-style, prowling the stage
rapping over a prerecorded track. Dude is just getting started and
hopefully he finds an audience, because he deserves to be heard.
Action Bronson was supposed to be the next act, but
he had to cancel last minute due to hurting his back (there were a lot
of cancellations, probably the only negative of this year's fest I can
think of). As a last minute replacement the folks at Hopscotch booked Big Daddy Kane
to stand in. Like most people my age I dug me some Big Daddy Kane back
in high school, but hadn't given the dude much thought in at least a
decade if not longer. After Alpoko Don I had a good spot up front and
decided to stick around and see what exactly 2013 Big Daddy Kane show
might be all about. I suppose I was expecting an older guy not quite on
his game but getting by on the fumes of nostalgia. I was 100% wrong.
His DJ warmed the crowd up for about fifteen minutes playing bits and
pieces of a lot of nineties' classic jams, and then Kane came out like a
spitfire, instantly reminding me and probably others why he was so
popular in the first place. His rapping was on point and perfect, and
he played the crowd like a fiddle. The place was pretty damn full, and
everyone was losing their goddamn minds the entire time I was there.
Nobody seems to rap like this anymore, with Kane's level of ferocity and
speed...most of the new crop sound like they're permanently trippin' on
codeine. I didn't stick around for him but I really feel sorry for
Earl Sweatshirt having to follow what Big Daddy Kane left on that stage,
there is no way he didn't come across as a hot pile of garbage
I walked up the street to the Pour House for my final gig of the night,Mikal Cronin.
He was one of the acts I was look- ing forward to most this fest - his
most recent album "MCII" is one of the great pop records of the year,
nearly every song on it a catchy son-of-a-bitch. His live show was a
lot more rockin' than his recordings with tons of guitar shreddery, but
the hooks were still there. That guitar work was especially impressive
given Cronin was playing his hot leads on a hollow body twelve string. I
thought the drummer looked very familiar, turns out she also drums for
Ty Segall (no big surprise there)...I'm not entirely sure why I'm
pointing this out, but there it is. The club was packed, so I wasn't
the only one who had the bright idea to end his night here...even saw
Big Daddy Kane at the back of the club! I guess he chose to come up to
the Pour House instead of hanging around for Earl Sweatshirt. I'm
wracking my brain to think of some- thing more interesting to say here
other than "good show old chap" but really, that sums it up. It was
more or less exactly what I expected, and quite enjoyable. I
uploaded more photos of each act here
if you're interested.
Thousand and Thirteen***
Hopscotch 2013 - Day Two Day
with Pontiak, Stems, The Beets, and Swearin'
I decided to only go to day parties on the second day of
Hopscotch. There was one major reason I chose this day,
and that reason was Pontiak. I've been
listening to the band for a few years now, but only recently saw them
it was after that first live viewing that it was decided I would make
every effort to never miss seeing them live again
anytime they ever played near me. I got to CAM a few minutes
early and was getting worried because the museum
was nearly empty, and if any band deserves a crowd it's this trio of
brothers. Then right before Pontiak started playing,
all of the sudden a lot of people piled into the space; and on
Pontiak's first note, the crowd all went right to the front of
the stage, as if I was controlling them with my mind. Thankfully
too, as I didn't want to awkwardly be the only person
standing by myself in front of the band with no one else around.
From start to finish Pontiak completely slayed my
eyes, ears, mind, and camera. I thought they were good when I saw
them a few days ago in Asheville - they were
twice that on this day. Was this helped by the fact that I was
skipping work to see a great band in the middle of the
day? Maybe. Regardless, I'm not sure there is a better band
on the planet that plays their brand of sludgy, psychedelic
My next few bands were going to be at Slims for the Churchkey Records
party, but first I stopped next door at Chucks
for a cheeseburger. I know I'm really going out on a limb, but
goddamn do they make a good burger. The problem is
as soon as I got into Slims (after surprisingly having to wait in
line), I found they had multiple trays of free Bojangles
biscuits! I repeat - FREE BOJANGLES. I wasn't even hungry
but ate some anyways, because turning down free Bo-
jangles is a punishable offense in North Carolina.
Anyways, the next band up was Stems. I didn't know dick
about them, and only with a little research while writing this
up did I realize they were even local (Durham apparently, unless the
internets is lying). They were a three-piece band
with two guitars and a drummer, with both male and female vocals from
the two guitarists. Let's talk about that
drummer for a second - I've never seen a set-up like he had in my
life. He was playing a four-piece kit with two floor
toms, no cymbals, and what looked like a Chick Tract taped to the head
of the snare. Being a show on the back patio
of Slims the sound wasn't great, but they seemed to be going for a
scuzzy slack rock sort of thing, like maybe a garage
rock version of Pavement. Being local I'll definitely try to see
them again, they could develop into a real musical treat.
The main reason
I was at this particular day party performed next on the inside stage -
the Beets from New York.
guessing Queens specifically, based on the banners that were flying
behind the band. This three-piece had a very
elaborate stage set-up, a wall of banners and lots of different lights
and apparently even a dude dedicated to running
the light show, who hid behind the banners (no idea if this hiding is
normal or just because the Slims stage is small).
Their music is crazy catchy, infectious, jangly and a little sloppy,
sounding like early Jonathan Richman and the Modern
Lovers mixed with Half Japanese and Papas Fritas. They might have
spent more time setting up and breaking down
all their crazy decorations than actually playing music, but I still
enjoyed the shit out of the Beets.
final band of the day parties was Swearin'.
Again, I knew nothing of these guys (and gal) but had enough friends
saying that they wanted to check them out that I figured it would be a
band worth sticking around for. There was a
delay in their set as the band hadn't arrived at Slims yet, but I was
very impressed that within five minutes of their van
pulling up they were rocking out, one of the joys of bands sharing a
backline. It's been well documented that the sounds
of the nineties are alive and well with the kids, and Swearin'
definitely falls in line by sounding a lot like Jawbreaker.
The female vocals also prompt me for a comparison to Jejune and Ashes,
though Swearin' isn't nearly as emo. This
was definitely one of the best surprises of the whole fest, it's not
often a band I know nothing about blows me away like
these kids did.
uploaded more photos of each act here
if you're interested.
Thousand and Thirteen***
It's Hopscotch Music Festival time
again...time to start "publishing" some poorly written reviews couple
mediocre photos. Let it begin!
Hopscotch 2013 - Day One
with The Dreebs, Nathan Bowles, Angel Olsen, Sylvan Esso, Survival, Xiu Xiu, The Rosebuds, Purling Hiss,
and The Oblivians
Another year has passed and Hopscotch has rolled back around
again. I saw a shitload of bands. Here we go...
I kicked the night off with the Dreebs at the Kennedy
Theater, a new venue for this year's festival that is located behind
Memorial Auditorium. Like last year I was going to try to focus
on out-of-town bands and acts I'd never seen before,
and the Dreebs fit both criteria. I really didn't know shit about
them going in, just briefly listened to a couple of tracks
online. Turns out they're a three piece - drums, guitar and
violin - the same set-up as the amazing Dirty Three. They
don't particularly sound like the Dirty Three though, more like a
hybrid of Liars and Tune-Yards. The guitarist spent a
lot of time playing his instrument using what looked like a
screwdriver, or at least some sort of metal rod...that kinda
gives you an idea of the sort of band the Dreebs are. It was
interesting enough for a few songs.
I walked around the building and to Fletcher Opera Theater, where Nathan Bowles was still
performing. I got to see
a couple songs of his solo instrumental clawhammer-style banjo
work...he's damn talented. One dude playing a banjo
without the help of vocals shouldn't be able to hold anyone's attention
as well as Bowles does. I would have liked to
have seen more of his set.
After a brief break Angel Olsen took the
stage. Like Bowles she was also solo, only she was wielding an
guitar instead of a banjo. She looked a lot like Brie Larson,
something only notable because I have a huge crush on
Brie Larson so it was basically impossible that I wasn't going to like
Ms. Olsen. She paired those looks with an amaz-
ing voice and it was winner winner chicken dinner, I was sold 100% on
her. She looked very serious while performing
her songs, but then after each one was finished she would give a
subtle, wry smile...killed me every time.
I continued my musical sampler tour by heading next door to Memorial
Auditorium to see the much-hyped Sylvan Esso.
They're a local duo but honestly I'd never heard of them before I
started researching who to see at Hopscotch. Every-
one was talking about their set as being one not to miss. The
dude half of the duo was mostly just playing music from
a laptop, dancing, and occasionally singing while the gal half of the
duo handled the bulk of the vocals while grooving
in her giant platform shoes. The music was extremely catchy
electronic pop, or as a friend noted "Sleigh Bells except
good." Every song sounded like it could be a hit and/or featured
on an Apple commercial. I would not be surprised in
the least if this pair blew up, not just locally but nationally - they
seem to be keyed in to exactly what it is the kids want to
hear these days.
After staying a
spell at the Sylvan Esso dance party, it was over to the Lincoln
Theatre for a little math rock, um, non-
dance party. I liked what I heard of Survival online, and felt it
imperative to see them live. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix of
Liturgy plays guitar in the band, but as he's not really the frontman
I'm not sure if you'd call it a "side project," though
surely his involvement is part of the draw for a lot of folks.
There was definitely a heavy mid-to-late nineties math rock
vibe to them, but more than anything they really reminded me of the
long forgotten & underrated band Party of Heli-
copters. I dug the music and would have bought their record but
didn't want to carry it around the rest of the night.
The trials and tribulations of show hopping at a festival...
I intended to
then pop back into Kennedy to see some of Sal Mineo, a collaboration
between Jamie Stewart of Xiu
Xiu and Eugene Robinson of Oxbow. It turns out the Eugene
couldn't make it - this was announced on the Twitters but
I don't pay the most attention there. I showed up anyways and it
was just Stewart...I guess that means it was Xiu Xiu
performance? It was just him in front of a table full of
electronics and some cymbals, and the results were all noise and
no melody to these ears. I suppose it was interesting for a
little while, but this sort of music just isn't my bag. I just
tell what is good and what is bad with this genre, which is probably a
sure sign this isn't for me.
Finally, it was
one of the big shows of the night - the Rosebuds in Memorial
performing Sade's "Love Deluxe." The
band had previously recorded their own version of the album and offered
it up on bandcamp for free (see here),
apparently they decided it would also be a good idea to perform the
classic soul release live. They fleshed the group
out to an eight piece including an incredibly talented sax man and one
of my best friends on guitar. I've known the
Rosebuds for years and have never been exactly impartial towards them,
but now even less so. If you already listened
to their recorded version of the album you knew what to expect at this
show - just like with that release they kept it pretty
faithful to the original, minus Ivan obviously not sounding like
Sade. I was very impressed with how tight and well prac-
ticed they sounded knowing the band had only been together performing
these songs for about a week off and on.
I managed to see the bulk of their set before moving on, and it was a
damn good time.
I hadn't planned
on seeing Purling Hiss, but I got to CAM
early enough to catch a few songs. The band is from Philly,
which seems to be one of the major hotbeds of the modern psych-rock
movement, and they certainly fit in well this
movement. They also wrap their sound in a lot of garage rock
snarl and fuzz, which is a-ok with me. I'd never really
listened to the band before, but after the handful of songs I got to
see & hear I'll being making a point of checking their
My final band of
tonight's marathon would be garage punk legends the Oblivians. They were
one of the most impor-
tant bands for me to see this year, and they did not disappoint.
I might slightly prefer Greg Cartwright's work in the
Reigning Sound, but I'll gladly see him play in any formation, plus I
never saw the Oblivians the first time around. The
band might be getting older but they were full of spit and fire from
the start. Sure, they may have flubbed a few of their
songs but nobody really cared because they were having too good a
time. In reference to the errors, around the
middle of their set Greg noted that the band was one-third music and
two-thirds comedy, which drew a nice laugh.
CAM wasn't packed but there were a lot of people there, all pressed
near the front to see these legends. It was a
great finish to the first day.
I uploaded more photos of each act here
if you're interested.