Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Hopscotch Saturday Night (9/6/14)

After a full night and day at this year's Hopscotch Music Festival, I wasn't sure if it could get any better (or how much more I could take :)).  I planned ahead and got a room for the night to chill a bit between day and night shows Saturday, and to have a place close by to crash after it all.  So my take on the City Plaza shows for the evening was, well... nice stage set up, lot of thudding volume. 

Death (at City Plaza)
Mastodon (at City Plaza)
 
Actually, I did get down to City Plaza before Mastodon finished up.  Great metal, but not really my thing.  The surf was up, 6-foot swells.  I probably should have caught some of Death, though.  Their debut album, ...For the Whole World to See, was punk before punk was punk. 
 
More Mastodon

Thus far this isn't much of a Hopscotch report.  But I wasn't really planning on hitting the big City Plaza shows this night.  I was, however, planning on starting my night with locals See Gulls.  So I headed over to Deep South for their 9:00 set, the first club time-slot of the evening.  Turns out, the buzz was louder than I thought (but not undeserved) for this band, and I ended up in line with about a hundred others waiting to be let in.  Deep South definitely had it's share of the Hopscotch crowd for this and other shows.
 
See Gulls... well, the line for them, anyway (Deep South)
Okay, actual band coverage starts... Since I waited in line until See Gulls finished a short set (hell, I'd seen them play earlier in the day; and last weekend, and a couple of weeks before that, etc, etc.), I figured I'd stick around to see Coke Weed.  I don't know, I'd just felt the need to see a band from Bar Harbor, Maine.  Seriously, I'd heard good things about them and really did want to check out their set.  Their more rocking take on Mazzy Star was an at once an intense and pleasant experience.  Dreamy, but still heavy.  Vocalist Nina Donghia was a standout.
 
Coke Weed (at Deep South)

Headed to the next show, I was going to try to see the quirky indie-pop of Krill at Kings on the way to the Pour House (see later).  But again, lines.  It was ridiculous.  Hopscotch may be growing too big for its britches.  Nah, not really.  You just have to plan carefully, and not expect to see quite as many shows if you want to one particular show. 

Besides lines at clubs.  Hopscotch was spilling out into the streets in other ways.  Music was everywhere, from unexpected big-stage day parties, to random set-ups in alcoves. 
The "one particular show" I was planning on seeing this night was the much-anticipated full-band set by local heroes T0W3RS.  So I made sure I was at the Pour House plenty early, and caught the tail end of local DJ Holygrailers.  I'm not very informed about the whole DJ/dance/producer thing.  But having been a fan of Bollywood and Arabic music for years, I appreciated the mix of South Asian samples (at least in the song or two I heard) into Nikhil Shah's jazzy, down-tempo beats.

Holygrailers (at the Pour House)
There wasn't a long line at the Pour House yet as I had thought there would be... but it's a big place, and I arrived early.  Still, as Holygrailers' set continued, the crowd and the excitement grew.  He was a good choice in style and temperament to set the stage for the set to come, which would prove to be the best set of Hopscotch. 
I've written about T0W3RS many times here before, and Derek Torres' sets have always been great; whether in the original 5-piece "rock" band format, or in the more recent, "dancier", solo incarnation he's since adopted.  But Saturday at Hopscotch was to be a coming out of sorts.  In anticipation of the forthcoming album, TL;DR (Phuzz Records), Derek rounded up a band consisting of members of Chapel Hill's Virgin Family Band and others, along with a team of acrobats to complement his own acrobatic dance moves.  This was T0W3RS' new, more electronic/dance-y sound (and songs) with his older, more rock'n'roll, set-up (and then some).
 
It started with three from the older material, including the hypnotizing Scout/ from If All We Have Is Time, the keyboards and repeating beats of which perhaps gave us an early hint of where Derek would be taking his music.  Two silver-clad acrobats joined him onstage (including another Torres, his sister Kaci), creating a slow, shimmering backdrop for the song.  Then, members of the band gradually trickled onto the stage as he moved into his later material.  First were Mobius and Bounty from the Wyatt EP, the last proper T0W3RS collection, released at Hopscotch 2012 (by cleverly hiding tapes of the songs around downtown during the fest).  Then came the newer numbers which, never having heard with a full band (usually performed with pre-recorded music and some guitar and synth), sounded GREAT.  Shoulda figured, since they're great songs.   
 
Silk Hope/MPDB, Elasticity, Instillation, and a few more of the newer songs were interspersed with the great older ditty, Eee!, and even a little Don Henley! (yes, there was a singalong about some boys and the season)  Philip Pledger from Estrangers and Phuzz Records joined the band onstage for MPBD.  Josh Moore and Josh Kimbrough were also up there.  They closed with what's become a crowd favorite, The Situation.  I mention "the old stuff" a lot up above.  But really, since T0W3RS went solo and shifted gears, I haven't liked the music any less.  Torres is just a great songwriter and performer who is (hopefully) positioned to break way beyond the Triangle with the upcoming release of TL; DR. 
 
T0W3RS (at the Pour House)
Okay, it's a lot of photos.  But hey, it was a spectacle.  Towards the end, the acrobats even took to the rafters...
Here's a still from a video posted earlier, Derek enjoying his dual drummers...
...who jammed and drove the whole set.
Advantage of being close to the stage?   A free pick with every beer!
T0W3RS' set took what remaining energy there was at Hopscotch, blew it up, and scattered it all back into the crowd in a flurry of baloons, bubbles, and dancing.  We were all spent and satisfied.  But I wanted to keep my brass band-closer tradition going (2012:  No BS! Brass Band, 2013:  Slavic Soul Party!), and time was running out to get over to Kings Barcade for that.  However, the wonderful Eternal Summers was hitting the Pour House stage (once the T0W3RS army broke everything down), so I had to hang around for at least a song or two. 
Plus, I had to keep my indie quota up. 
 
Eternal Summers (at the Pour House)
Okay, barely made it to Kings for a song or two (thankfully, no more line).  Apparently, I missed the part where What Cheer? Brigade had worked the joint into a frenzied mass of maniacal bouncing bodies... so that was going on.  Not the New Orleans kinda bounce, but the kind that could very well have brought us all down two floors into Neptunes.  BTW, what is it with brass band names and errant exclamations? NOLA brass bands don't do that!  "Rebirth! Brass Band" "Soul? Rebels!"  Nah, doesn't sound right.  But these horns sounded right.  Punkier and jumpier, and with a lot more percussion than their New Orleans cousins.  But every bit as much fun.  And, as befitting any proper brass band, they took their set out to the street to close with an impromptu parade or sorts. 

What Cheer? Brigade... Oh, and of course, Hopscotchbunny (at King's Barcade)
By the time the band jumped on the bar, it was just to crazy for me to focus. 
Here's a sampling of the controlled chaos What Cheer? Brigade brought to the stage at Hopscotch.
video
And here's a bit of the parade's result... cops didn't like the ruckus spilling out onto the street (especially when somebody threw a drink at them). 
video
Ferguson-style chants aside, it all dissipated pretty quickly.  In the end, a good time was had by all (except maybe the girl who threw the drink).  Hopscotch needs to make a point of booking a brass band at the end of every Saturday... I think one of the previous years was on an earlier night.  Maybe make next year's a New Orleans one?  But What Cheer? Brigade were great; and from Rhode Island, no less!  They epitomized the variety of what was probably the most diverse Hopscotch to date. 
 
I was feeling somewhat burned out on music the week before Hopscotch (it's a periodic malady; I'm getting treatment), and worried I just wasn't gonna be up for it this year.  I had just caught most of Merge 25, which would be hard to beat, and seen maybe one too many great local shows lately.  But after the first few minutes of St. Vincent's Friday show, that feeling dissipated, and by the end, I found myself already anticipating next year. 
 
How Strange It Is... Hopscotch 2014 Summary
Best Set:
1) T0W3RS (Pour House)
2) Tie - St. Vincent (City Plaza) & Zack Mexico (Deep South),
3) Free Clinic (the Hive, day party)
 
Best Day Party (okay, the only 3 I saw, but there was a reason):
1) Phuzz Sounds 3rd Annual Day Party (the Hive)
2) Spazzscotch III (Slim's)
2) Negative Fun, Self Aware, and Cherub records Let Feedback Ring! Day Party (Legends)
Honorable mention)  Potluck's 2nd Annual Rock'n'Roll Pizza Party Thursday (couldn't make it, but the lineup alone merited at least this)
 
Best Hopscotch Venue:
1) Slim's
2) The Hive
3) Deep South
 
Biggest regret... Nah, no regrets.... show I most wish I had caught:
Dent May (Deep South)
This guy's Brian Wilson-in-a-dance-club bedroom/chamber pop is on my constant playlist these days.  Hopefully, he comes back next year, or sooner. 


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