Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival - Friday (9/8/17)

My Friday Hopscotch started the same-bat-time, same-bat-place as my Thursday, the last day party show at BoxCar.  Like ET Anderson on Day 1, Zack Mexico are also a band of friends, and often share stages (sometimes as the same band, see ET Mexico).  Zack Mex was great as usual, and I'll report again on both of these bands' shows at the Pour House's Saturday day party.  Their fan base is growing, and they drew a solid day party show crowd.... of course, nothing like what they'll be drawing when they open for Future Islands on a European tour starting in October.

Zack Mexico...
Gotta say, Jamie, kudos on the sunglasses...

To formally start the evening's festivities, I head over to City Plaza to check out Future Islands' set, and caught the end of the Make-Up's set, who I was mildly interested in seeing.  Okay, very retro.  I got the same feeling I had after the Brian Jonestown Massacre set the night before:  a lot of people sure seem to wanna go back to the UK circa 1967.  Hey, I felt that way once.  

The Make-Up...
Onto the mighty Future Islands!  They made no secret of the fact that as much as they consider themselves a Baltimore band, they call North Carolina home.  They've played many a Hopscotch, on progressively bigger stages.  But Sam Herring has always kept that connection with the fans.  Ferocious and friendly onstage, he had the crowd mesmerized and energized, as usual.   

Future Islands...
Next up, I walked back to Neptune's for what was another of my most-anticipated sets, Asheville's Aunt Sis.  One of the great things about Hopscotch is I "discover" NC bands that I haven't gotten around to seeing (even as many shows as I go to).  They have a Pavement-y feel, but more rootsy, with some great guitar pickin'.  I also hear a hint of Mountain Goats, the Verlaines...  Sounding rather mellow on record, their live show was (as is often the case) amped up, giving a whole new perspective on their sound.

Aunt Sis...
I didn't stay very long for Brooklyn's Bellows.  Not because I wasn't interested, but you know... Hopscotch choices.  I liked what I heard though.  They were sort or in the same vein as Aunt Sis, maybe a little mellower live.  Their drummer kicked ass.

Bellows...
So the choice was that I wanted to see Canada's Preoccupations, followed by Afghan Whigs, over at the Lincoln.  WOW!  Preoccupations sound so angular and math-y on record (though I do like their reecorded stuff).  Live though, they're an explosion; much more visceral.  The usual thing, live more amped up... but to another degree here.  And talk about drummers kicking ass, no one can hold a candle to this guy.  He's a monster!  Preoccupations are like Interpol if Interpol was still good.  

Preoccupations...
Afhgan Whigs came to show the kids how it's done.  They seemed to play mostly newer stuff... and why not if you're continuing to make good music (and the Whigs have never really stopped).  Too bad they didn't bring along upfront/backup singer Steve Myers, a fellow zinester and KLSU DJ from back in the day.  But the show was great.  They DID bring up Har Mar Superstar to sing along on a tune!  He had just done a set at the massive Basement, which I hear it was great.  

Afghan Whigs...
Whenever the hell I get around to it (prob at least not until the weekend... yes, two full weeks after Hopscotch), I'll follow up with posts on the Saturday shows, day and night.  Gimme a break!  I work for a livin'!! :)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hopscotch Music Festival - Thursday (9/7/17)

My first night of Hospcotch 2017 featured sublime bedroom pop and fun-as-hell rock'n'roll sandwiched between full-blown trippiness on both ends.  But before the formal festivities began, I rushed from work and managed to catch the last day party show at Boxcar, Columbia's ET Anderson.  They were great as usual; more on them with Saturday's day parties.  

ET Anderson... 
Onto the night shows... but first, a quick bite at Garland, upstairs from where I would catch my favorite shows (Neptune's).  Everybody should make this place a Hopscotch standby, or anytime before a big show upstairs (Kings) or downstairs.  I didn't try the boozy snow-cones, but one had watermelon!  Next time...
To the opera!  One of the shows I was anticipating most was seeing Zack Mexico frontman John Saturley's solo set at Fletcher Opera Theater.  I had no idea what to expect, which frankly, excites me... especially knowing that someone with talent is about to stretch their boundaries.  Given the wild psych-indie of his band, you'd think an opera theater an odd setting for John.  Not necessarily.  His solo material ranges from downbeat versions of Zack Mex-type stuff to long-form spacey aberrations (and this space is a great one for experimental).  John didn't let down.  His set leaned towards the latter; it was definitely an experiment!  He and local music scenester and mutual friend Jesse Tecpilticani came out in gas masks and colorful muumuus (yes I said gasmasks and muumus).  As John crouched by a set of knobs and switches, he began to make droning, swerving sounds that filled the big room.  Jesse merely sat down and read.  But every now and then, he'd get up and read aloud (or really, just emote) unknown words in Spanish.  That was it, and it was great.  If I was one who smoked pot (and was high during), I'd probably have loved it even more.  If I was one who did acid (and was tripping during), I'd probably still be huddling in a fetal position somewhere, terrified, alone.  It was dark and ethereal, like a warped indoor Disney ride.  Wonderful.

"Gasmasks and Muumus".  There's a band name for ya.

John Saturley (w/ Jesse Tecpilticani)...
This is what it looked like...
This is more what it felt like...
More weirdness before moving onto the "normal/music" sets, local dance/music/experimental duo Reflex Arc began what would be a slate of great acts lined up at Neptune's all weekend.  I only caught the last few minutes, but Ginger Wagg was writhing through the crowd, making full use of the space, and generally making people uncomfortable (but in a good way, again, stretching boundaries) while Crowmeat Bob provided sax and guitar accompaniment.  People can't have been too uncomfortable though; as always during a Reflex Arc set, there were plenty of smiles during and after.

Reflex Arc...
Another of my most-anticipated sets came next, still at Neptune's.  Moon Racer is Autumn Ehinger of Cassis Orange and the Love Language.  Mostly because I'm selfish, I'm always on her for never releasing enough of her own wonderful, dark-yet-soothing bedroom pop.  Likewise, she doesn't play often.  So all the more anticipation for her set.  This time, she came packing a drummer!  Will Hackney's percussion fleshed out the quiet keyboards well.  This was a great way to really settle into three nights of Hopscotch music.

Moon Racer...
Next, I had to make my first hard choice of Hopscotch:  Oh Sees or the Tills?  Both spend a lot of time in the garage, though the Tills are a little more psychy.  I had to dig up my blog posts from 5 years ago to see what I thought about the then "Thee" Oh Sees when they played CAM during Hopscotch 2012.  They were good, but maybe not up to the hype.  I liked what I heard of their new album, Orc, though.  But I felt it was too long since I'd seen the Tills.  And when the choice gets tough, I'm always gonna lean towards the local band (Asheville) and the local label (Winston-Salem's Phuzz Records).  And was I glad I did!  I had forgotten how much fun this band could be!  The music was great, and frontman Harry Harrison was all over the stage (and the drums, and the crowd...), as the photos below attest.

The Tills...
So it turned out I had a little time to catch the end of Oh Sees' set after the Tills.  This new Hopscotch venue, "The Basement" (of the Raleigh Convention Center), is HUUUGGE!  It seems like ten CAMs could fit inside it.  You'd probably never fill it to capacity (gotta break all the fire codes), but even with 20% of the floor filled, gathered at the stage, the place felt packed.
Oh Sees were good again, but I didn't really see enough of them this time to really take it in.

Oh Sees...
I stayed at the basement for Brian Jonestown Massacre after Oh Sees.  Not a band I'd kill to see.  But nothing else jumped out at me for my Thursday night closer, and their reputation made me curious.  They were, well, about what I expected.  A bunch of seasoned vets cranking out well-done retro-psychedelia.  A very different kind of trip than the one that started my night at the Fletcher.  Made you almost feel like you went back to 1968, which I guess is the idea. But my guess is the best Thursday night show at the Basement was actually Asheville's Nest Egg, just before Oh sees.  I really wanted to see them, too, but... well... Moon Racer and the Tills.  Rule #1 of Hopscotch:  No Regrets.

Brian Jonestown Massacre...
So after my pre-Hopscotch post saying "camp out at one venue all night!", I ended up seeing 7 acts at 5 venues.  Hey, at least I stayed for (parts of) successive acts at a couple of venues!  But that's Hopscotch for ya.  Bring snacks, stay hydrated, plan your locations, and looks for pedicabs! (I think those are Rules # 2, 3, 4, & 5)

Next up:  Friday night shows (and eventually, Saturday and some videos).