Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Hopscotch Saturday Night - T0W3RS, Versus, Wye Oak, No BS! Brass Band (8/8/12)

Saturday night, the last night of Hopscotch, and I'm already worn out from a several hours of day parties.  What would the night bring? 

Best to start with a sure thing:  T0W3RS, at CAM.  The moment I saw them first play, T0W3RS became one of my favorite locals.  Their recent full-length, If All We Have Is Time, is one of the best releases anywhere in the past year.  They took the opportunity of this year's festival to launch a new EP, Wyatt. "Cassingles" of each song from the EP, with B-sides from 5 other local bands, were strategically hidden throughout downtown during the festival (I found two!).  Having created a lot of buzz playing a day party at last year's Hopscotch, they're more than ready for the night.  Just before this early (9:30) show, a few people were millling around.  But once the Carrboro wunderkind of a band took the stage, a large crowd seemed to magnetically gravitate out of nowhere towards the stage.  Baloons were released, and the party started.  If I remember right, they started with Bounty, a bouncy song from the EP that got the crowd jumping -- or at least I'm sure they played it, and a few others from the new EP.  Besides the new music this night, there are revelations each time I see these guys.  This time -- maybe it was the acoustics of the space -- I realized just how strong a voice Jacki Huntington has (when not playing guitar or banging the tom).  And testament to the energy T0W3RS inspire in their audience?  There probably wasn't one second of the set when every baloon touched the ground.  It looked like the wall-installation at CAM, Exploded Hipster, had exploded into the air... perfect for this show.


So what next?  Tired of trudging all over Raleigh all day, I thought (after crossing downtown one more time) I'd stay put for awhile.  I made for Lincoln Theater and their all-Merge line-up, having just missed Superchunk/Merge Records co-founder Mac McCaughan.  Versus was up next.  I hadn't seen Versus in years, and they were playing back-to-back with the always great Wye Oak.  Early on, I wasn't feeling it.  Festival-fatigue, maybe.  But I grabbed a beer, popped the lens cap, and head to the stage.  Perhaps I forgot how their restrained intensity can build, and their quiets can seamlessly turn into very louds.  I should have known better:  this is the band that taught me the value of restraint in hard rock.  Within three songs, fatigue was a distant memory.  I listened to a lot of Versus back in the day, but I was surprised I didn't recognize most of the songs.  They were probably playing a lot of newer material from their first release in a decade, On the Ones and Threes, which has sat criminally neglected in the nether-regions of my iPod.  Based on this blazing show, I've made a promise to myself to correct that horrendous oversight (hitting "play" NOW).


Wye Oak, I've seen a couple of times, but in smaller venues.   In that setting, the duo of Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner's minimal instrumentation flood the space and make for a surprisingly intense and loud experience.  I was curious how they'd fill the closer-to-arena-sized space of the Lincoln.  Really, they had no problem.  Part of it is probably Jenn's voice, which could fill an arena. 

[just a sec... OKAY, I remember this Versus song from the show! (playing on iPod now):  Into Blue... great one!  Now back to your regularly scheduled review...]

Um, where was I?  Wye Oak, right.  Jenn Wasner's voice is a force of nature, and it had no problem filling this space.  She wailed on guitar and roared that beautiful, penetrating, otherworldly voice.  It went straight past the ears to the brain. Spine-tingling.  Andy accompanied her on drums, simultaneous keyboard, and sometime bass.  As always, a dark, insense, and rocking set...  perhaps even better than usual in the big venue, which I wouldn't usually say of any band. 

Wye Oak...

So it's 1:30 or so.  I walk over to Slim's to catch... DAMN!  I just missed Whatever Brains!  STILL have not caught them. I thought that would be a perfect way to close out Hopscotch.  Never fear.  There must be something left, right?  Back to the Pour House, where I started my day at noon, at the Trekky Records day party... maybe they at least still have iced coffee?

Better!  No BS! Brass Band is still playing!  This was on my list, being from NOLA and all.  Now, I can be a little picky about brass bands, having been raised on the Dirty Dozen, and with the Soul Rebels being the house band at my old haunt back home. But these Richmond, VA, natives held their own.  A lotta chops, and a lotta fun.  They did standards, they took no less than full crowd participation, they covered A-Ha...  Yes, A-Ha (you'd be surprised at what a good brass band is capable of).  Though I only caught 3-4 songs, it was a great way to close out a great festival.  Finishing where I started the day, and "coming home", as it were.

No BS! Brass band...

It's Tuesday night and I'm still recovering.  I can't wait for next year. 

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