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***September Eighteenth Two Thousand and Thirteen***

Hopscotch 2013 - Day Three
with The Breeders, Spiritualized, San Fermin, Low, and Sleep
Downtown Raleigh

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 though.

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 weekend.  

Until next year Hopscotch, let's do it again!

I uploaded more photos of each act here if you're interested. 

Seventeenth Two Thousand and Thirteen***

Hopscotch 2013 - Day Two Night Shows
with Sannhet, Dan Friel, Alpoko Don, Big Daddy Kane, and Mikal Cronin
Downtown Raleigh

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 the front. 

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 comparatively. 

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. 

Tenth Two Thousand and Thirteen***

Hopscotch 2013 - Day Two Day Parties
with Pontiak, Stems, The Beets, and Swearin'
Downtown Raleigh

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 live.  And
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
southern metal. 

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.  I'm
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. 

My 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. 

I uploaded more photos of each act here if you're interested. 

Ninth Two Thousand and Thirteen***

It's Hopscotch Music Festival time again...time to start "publishing" some poorly written reviews couple with poor-to-
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
Downtown Raleigh

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 electric
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 can't
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), and
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
albums out. 

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. 


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