Hopscotch Music Festival was a great time! Kind of like running a marathon of music, walking the streets of Raleigh for three days, hopping from venue to venue. Here’s how my journey turned out.
Ought: 7pm @ City Plaza
The clouds rolled in and just an hour prior to the Montreal post punk quartet got under way kicking off the festival, the rain came, clearing up in time for the band to start 15 minutes late. A late addition to the bill, Ought didn’t exactly fit the shoes of the missing Deerhunter. However, with some dead pan Fugazi meets David Byrne vocals they kicked off the festival with enough dissonance and off time signatures to satisfy a slowly brewing crowd.
Godspeed: 8:30 @ City Plaza
Headliners for Thursday, the rain came again during their opening song – the entirety of their latest forty minute odyssey Asunder, Sweet. The rain blew out third guitarist Mike Moya’s amplifier, and unfortunately he had to sit out the rest of the first song while general chaos ensued both on and off the stage. Moya returned after the first song, and finished the set barely missing a step.
Godspeed You Black Emperor’s! instrumental prowess has always seemed like more of an elemental force than anything else, and for a while during the first song it seemed as if the music itself were battling the gods. In this case, Godspeed was the clear victor as they finished off the show mixing older favorites like Moya, and the Cowboy, with newer unreleased material.
Playing a relatively short 90 minute set, the band never fails to put on an inspiring show.
Advaeta: 10:30 @ Lincoln Theatre
Advaeta are a local Brooklyn band breaking out on the national scene after having their latest single reviewed by Pitchfork and their new album Death and the Internet coming out. They’re an all-girl trio with two guitarists, Sarah and Amanda and drummer Lani, who rock with heavier grungey riffs meeting rousing vocals traded off between the three girls. As a long time follower of the band, it’s good to seem breaking out and getting bigger.
Forn: 11:30 @ Pour House
Heading over to the metal bar for the first time was interesting. A recommendation by a friend of mine, Forn are a doom metal band from the Baltimore area, and played a powerful set, full of evil vocals, absolutely crawling detuned riffs, and violent headbanging.
The riffs were all simple one or two notes in wildly slowed down time signatures. My favorite part of the stage show was the theatrical use of a bottle of red wine. It was silly but totally metal.
Battles: 12:30 @ Lincoln Theatre
Going back to the Lincoln Theatre to see New York’s math rock band Battles, it was clear that they were one of the headliners for a reason. Their show was packed, and was the closest all weekend to a dance party. An instrumental trio, the band opened the set with their single “Ice Cream” off of their last album Gloss Drop and they had the whole crowd hooked.
Playing a mostly instrumental set from their new album La Li Lo, the band managed mix math and dance rock, lead by John Stanier’s infectious beats and Ian Williams’ keyboard and guitar riffage.
Last time I saw these guys, it was Bonnaroo 2008 and Tyondai Braxton was still a member of the band. Now, 7 years later, it was interesting to revisit them as a completely different band.
Speaking of Braxton, the band finished off their set with the Mirrored hit, Atlas, with Braxton’s vocal melody sampled by Williams. It was a good way to end the night, and perhaps the best dance party of the entire festival.
Day 2 @ Hopscotch
Tycho: 7:15 @ City Plaza
The crowd generally picked up for Friday, with better weather and the biggest name on the lineup, TV On The Radio headlining. Tycho played an excellent, if oddly placed, set, fraught with technical difficulties.
Two things worked against the band – 1) the time of their set was at dusk, and his excellent light show lost a lot of its power with the sun 2) the power blew out halfway through the set and they had to take a long break before it got going again. For me, it was an excellent time to get start drinking.
Apologizing for the difficulties, the 4 piece electronic band soldiered through their set, and played a peaceful ambient set with some killer drum work. It was a good mix of electronic and post-rock overtones somewhat like Four Tet, before Four Tet went electro.
I enjoyed the songs I recognized from their two latest albums Awake and Dive.
Lost Trail: 9:00 @ The Hive
I’m not actually a fan of TV on the Radio, so I opted to eat dinner at The Hive instead. At the Hive I caught the first half of Lost Trail. It was okay soundscape music, but took a long time to develop. It acted as a good background, however, for my burger.
Wizard Rifle: 10:30 @ Pour House
Heading over to the metal bar Pour House for the second day, I caught the duo Wizard Rifle who were a shirtless duo from Portland, Oregon playing a stonery thrash metal. It was a fun show to a packed house, but it also felt like a warm up for the next two acts, Tombs and Old Man Gloom.
Moon Duo: 11:30 @ CAM
Leaving the Pour House and heading out to the streets, I trekked 7 blocks, but had trouble getting in to see my friends from Brooklyn, Pill play to a packed crowd at the small bar Deep South. It was unfortunate, but I’ve seen Pill loads in Brooklyn.
So I quickly made my way to CAM for Wooden Shijips side project Moon Duo who is one of the most exciting names on the bill for me. And they delivered in a big way.
Playing in front of a white wall and trippy projector screen, Moon Duo mesmerized with kraut rock inspired keyboards and loosely played out psych jams via Erik Johnson’s crystal clear guitar tones. I just remember getting lost looking into the diamonds that kept contracting and expanding.
One of my favorite albums of the year, songs off Shadows of the Sun was invitingly danceable. The excellent “Wilding” or “Night Beat” had a skeptical crowd moving, and the moving rarely stopped. Sanae Yamada’s triple keyboard set up gave more than enough hypnotic grooves locking in with their touring drummer.
I’d suspect that a lot of the crowd was there to get a good spot for the legend Roky Erickson, but for me Moon Duo were a must-see. They rocked it for their 45 minute set and it was one of the highlights of the festival.
Old Man Gloom: 12:30 @ Pour House
The hardest scheduling conflict of the festival was between 13th Floor Elevator psych legend Roky Erickson, and metal super-group Old Man Gloom. I chose the metal and man does my neck regret it; which is to say, I made a good decision.
Old Man Gloom’s lineup boasts an impressive “convergence” of Isis frontman Aaron Turner, Converge’s Nate Newton, and Cave In bassist Caleb Scofield. It’s like a who’s who of modern experimental metal, and their albums Christmas and No are already canonized (in my head, at least) as some of the most interesting and progressive metal that American sludge and doom have to offer.
Last year’s double album The Ape of God was one of the heaviest things I’ve had the pleasure to listen to in a while, and that type of energy was excitingly brought alive on stage to an oddly small-ish crowd. The scant crowd didn’t bother me, as it allowed me to be front and center and headbang my little brains out.
Winding through dense time signatures and seriously detuned and dissonant riffs, Old Man Gloom didn’t leave the stage until almost 2am. This was only after destroying the crowd with feedback and screams and guitar tones that dug into your skull and forced your head to bang uncontrollably. A great way to end day 2.
Article: Steven Klett