September 28, 2016 — “Requiem for Hell” by Mono

Mono of Japan

Mono of Japan

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it the truncated version of “Requiem for Hell” by Mono (2016, from the forthcoming album Requiem for Hell).
Mono is a post-rock quartet from Tokyo. To avoid confusion with other bands with the same name, they are sometimes referred to as Mono of Japan or as Mono (Japan). However, the other bands named Mono are either inactive or irrelevant.
Mono formed in 1999 and they’ve released eight proper albums including two “twin” albums in 2014. They’ve had the same lineup the entire time and have been one of the most revered bands of the genre. Like a lot of bands in the post-rock genre, they don’t like that classification, and they prefer to be called something like “modern classical”. Call it what you will. They use traditional rock instruments in a non-traditional way, and they use non-traditional rock instruments to enhance their sound. They’re big, they’re loud, they’re heavy, they’re dark. They’re also bright and gentle. They’re very good at the heavy/light/heavy stuff. And they’re very nonchalant about it. They often seem like otherworldly spirits, both in their sound and in their presentation.

Their 2012 album For My Parents was my #1 album of the year (full countdown here), and when I saw them play in October of that year, I was absolutely floored. I hold that show in the same extraordinarily high regard as the time that I saw Stereolab play a 20 minute version of “Jenny Ondioline”. Utterly gobsmacked.

In 2014, their Rays of Darkness album was my #33 album of the year, and The Last Dawn was my #8 album of the year. You can see the full list here.

A couple of months ago, the band announced that their ninth album Requiem for Hell would be out this year, and as I always do with Mono records, I pre-ordered a physical copy. The album hits the street on October 14, and they’ve already shared a couple of sneak peeks at it. Three weeks ago, they released a slightly truncated version of “Ely’s Heartbeat”, and two weeks ago they released an abbreviated version of the album’s title track. Yesterday, they released a video for the title track via Decibel Magazine.

All of the press on this says that this is Mono’s darkest, heaviest work yet. This is on the heels of everyone referring to Rays of Darkness as “their blackest album ever”.

I don’t know about the rest of the album, but “Ely’s Dream” is the cinematic, arcing stuff that we know and love from Mono. This song, though… This song (or at least the abridged version we’ve heard) is indeed quite heavy and quite dark.

The video, in all its black-and-white glory, is even more sinister, more macabre than the music itself. Of course the music in the video is different to that in the 7:45 Soundcloud snippet. These are different sections of the same song. I haven’t heard the album version of the song in its entirety, but I really like both of these snippets. For different reasons.

First, the Soundcloud bit:
“Requiem for Hell”(edit version) by Mono

This bit is the beginning bit of the song. It starts low and quiet and gradually builds to something bigger, louder, darker, heavier, and meaner. The bit that’s used in the video picks up somewhere close to where the above edit ends. There’s a quiet bit at the start before it goes to a much more sinister place than we went with the audio edit. It’s heavier, more low-end-focused, and just flat dark. Hex value #000000. Pantone doesn’t even have a number for how black this is. This must be glorious to see played live.

The video, which premiered yesterday, plays like a really weird art house horror film. Mysterious and creepier than hell. More psychological terror than blood and gore. And we never even really know just what’s going on. We’re not even sure who the villain of the piece is. But it’s beautiful and it fits.

Here it is:

The video was directed by a Finnish fellow called Harri Haataja, who turned a lot of heads last year with a gorgeous, lush video that he made for an Icelandic metal band called Sólstafir.

Overall, this is a very dark and very heavy song. It seems aptly titled. While there isn’t yet an audio file anywhere of the 18-minute opus in its entirety, you can see a video of the song performed live in its entirety at a Halloween night show in France last year. See it here.

The new album comes out on October 14, and you can pre-order it via Temporary Residence in your choice of formats here.


September 21, 2016 — “Red Shift” by The Emerald Down

The Emerald Down

The Emerald Down

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Red Shift” by The Emerald Down (2001, from the album Scream the Sound).

The Emerald Down is a shoegaze band from the Seattle area. They formed in 1995 in Olympia, Washington. Founding frontwoman Rebecca Basye (vocals/guitar) was playing as The Emerald Down with two other band members. At a show one night, some guys from the audience asked her to join their band, but she doubled their request by telling them that they should join her band. Jason Markin (drums) took her up on that offer, and they have been the core of The Emerald Down ever since. They put out one album — Scream the Sound — in 2001 and a couple of EPs. At some point, they moved to Columbus, Ohio and changed the lineup a bit with Basye and Markin as the mainstays.

Although that debut album was well-received, they were on the wrong side of the Atlantic as far as shoegaze was concerned. They were also a few years too late as far as shoegaze was concerned. The album was, unfortunately, quickly forgotten. I had actually never heard of the band or the album until very recently.

The band decided to take an extended hiatus in 1993. At some point during this hiatus, Basye was diagnosed with breast cancer. Understandably, she shifted her focus from making music to staying alive. She’s now living in Germany and has gotten back into the fray.

It was announced earlier this year that Saint Marie Records was going to reissue Scream the Sound on CD and that they would also release it on vinyl for the first time. Check out those details here.

It was also recently announced that Basye and Markin have ended the hiatus and have got two new band members. They’ve signed with Wrong Way Records and are scheduled to release a new album called Songs from Saturn next year. You can read a bit about that here. As of now, details are sketchy at best, but they say they’ll release a single called “Lucas” very soon. This isn’t about that.

As I said, I didn’t even know about The Emerald Down until very recently when I stumbled upon them by way of a conversation in the comments of a friend’s Facebook post about how it’s easier for people in their 20s to discover new music than it is for people in their 30s and 40s. A click here and a click there, and I ended up on the Soundcloud page for The Emerald Down. This song, which I mistook for a “new” song, by a “new” band got me very excited.

“Red Shift” by The Emerald Down

There’s something about the chiming guitars and all the effects that simultaneously reminds me of Blue Bell Knoll-era Cocteaus and Smile-era Ride. Those two reference points don’t really resemble each other, but this song tastes like both of those things. And it’s just the guitars I’m talking about anyway. There’s something in the vocal harmonies that makes me think of some lost Slowdive b-side. In other words, this is ticking a bunch of boxes for me.

The re-relase date of Scream the Sound got delayed a bit, but it should be happening in the extremely near future. For now, you can pre-order here.


September 16, 2016 — “Degraded” by Preoccupations

Preoccupations

Preoccupations

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Degraded” by Preoccupations (2016, from the album Preoccupations).

Preoccupations is a post-punk quartet from Calgary. They were formerly known as Viet Cong, and they released a stunning eponymous record under that name in January 2015. The album was met with very favourable reviews across the board, and even the impossible to please Ian Cohen over at Pitchfork loved it. It was so well-liked that it ended up making the shortlist for the 2015 Polaris Music Prize. I wrote about the band in advance of the release of that album here and correctly predicted that it would be one of my favourite albums of 2015.

Viet Cong was receiving a lot of high praise, and the band were playing a lot of shows, but they were also getting a ton of negative feedback about their name. Amid cries of racism and just plain tackiness, and after some venues cancelled shows because of their name, they announced last September that they would be rebranding themselves. It took months, though, and finally in April of this year, they announced that they had officially changed their name to Preoccupations.

Although there were some tough times in the band, they kept plugging away, and they worked hard on the new record. Some of the new songs are about the unintended consequences of their former name. One of the songs is actually about the transitional phase. The band had enjoyed a great deal of praise before their 2015 album, and they lived up to the advance hype. For myriad reasons, there was just as much, if not more anticipation about this new album.

I had access to advance copies of the new album, but for whatever reason, I never got around to giving it a spin. Until today, which happens to be the release day. To be completely honest, I haven’t yet given it a thorough listen, but I’ve really liked it based on one spin. It’s still dark and icy like Viet Cong, but there’s just a slightly different feel to it.

After just one spin, there were a few tracks that really stood out. This is one of them:

“Degraded” by Preoccupations

There’s that wonderful bass that brings Peter Hook’s bass to mind. There are bits of terrific feedback squall and fuzz that remind me a bit of A Place to Bury Strangers. And there’s still something that very oddly reminds me of Arcade Fire. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s ticking a lot of boxes for me.

The band is about to embark on the second leg of their 2016 world tour, which puts them on the road until the end of November. Unfortunately, they won’t be playing close enough for me to drive to a show.

The album came out today via Jagjaguwar, and you can buy it in your choice of physical formats here. You can also buy a download via Bandcamp here.


September 14, 2016 — “Lifecries” by Svankropp

Svankropp

Svankropp

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Lifecries” by Svankropp (2016, from the “Lifecries” standalone digital single). The song will also, presumably, be on the forthcoming debut album this October.

Svankropp is an indie pop quartet from Norway and Sweden. They classify themselves as “a Scandinavian cyber-punk phenomenon”. There’s elements of shoegaze, noise pop, and synth pop. They say that they’re also influenced by goth, 80s glam rock, and science fiction. The band’s name translates literally from Norwegian to English as “body tail”, and I don’t know what that means. Svan translates to “swan” and kropp translates to “tail”. Mash them together and it means “body tail”. I don’t know. A vestigial tail? That’s all I can think of.

I got something in the mail bag about them a few months ago, then something else just a couple of days ago. When I got the original email, I didn’t realize that they were part of the Riot Factory family. More often than not, the new releases from that wonderful Norwegian shoegaze/dream pop label are very much in my wheelhouse. This is no different.

The two emails that I got were specifically promoting music videos that went to different songs. They’re both great songs, and the videos are both, um… strange. For me, though, it’s more about the music, and I really dig this song. If you really want to know, though, the first email was about a video for the song “Blush”. The song is good, and the video features a famous “dancing sign language interpreter” called Tommy Krångh. You can view that here. The more recent email was about a video for the song “Symphony no. _ _”. It features a bunch of footage from 1980s bodybuilding competitions. You can view that one here.

As I said, though, I’m most interested in just the music, and this song really works for me:
“Lifecries” by Svankropp

I like the samples of the bagpipes in the intro and the really drone-y guitar bit that runs throughout. It reminds me of a few of their label mates. There’s also the tumbling drums in the second half of the song. And, of course, the vocals of Emilie Storaas. I’m such a sucker for that high vocal that’s lighter than air and ever so slightly obscured by guitar effects. There’s something in her voice that makes me think of the magnificent, but very short-lived and quickly forgotten UK indie-pop/shoegaze band The Charlottes.

You can snag a download of “Lifecries” via bandcamp here. At current exchange rates, €1 is about $1.13 USD.

The only thing I know about the forthcoming debut album is that it comes out on October 7, 2016. There’s no mention of it on the Riot Factory page or on their webstore, but there’s an album teaser here. Just keep your eyes peeled, and bookmark the Riot Factory page.


Notes from Hopscotch16 Day Three

I’m back home after a long and exciting weekend at the 2016 Hopscotch Music Festival. You can read my notes from day one here, my notes from day two here, and my post about how Diet Cig blew me away, even though there were some jackasses in the crowd trying to ruin it all here.

Saturday is always the most grueling day. I’m always exhausted before the day even starts, and I usually give up the notion of bouncing all over the place trying to catch everything that I’m interested in. I opted for the course of action that was the least work.

I started the day at Kings for the day party at 1:00. Sneaks was scheduled as the first performer of that party. I missed her show at Pour House on Thursday night, and I later found out that she played for exactly twelve minutes. That explains why there was nothing going on when I got there at 10:15 for her 10:00 set. That was disappointing, but at least I could see her day show. Or so I thought.

Mac MacCaughan

Mac MacCaughan

As I was walking from the parking deck over to Kings, I spotted Mac MacCaughan out of Superchunk walking very quickly in that same direction. I thought it was because his label Merge Records had a hand in organizing that day party. As it turns out, he was in a hurry to get there because Sneaks had backed out and he had agreed to step in to perform at 1:00. He played a great set that featured a bunch of songs that weren’t familiar to me, a couple of familiar Superchunk songs, and a couple of covers. At one point, he said “I want to thank Merge Records for having me here”, which I thought was hilarious. Because, you know… He owns the label.

Next up was some band who I forgot the name of. They were a decent enough indie rock band, but I was a little annoyed by the fact that the singer counted them in on every song. Every song. There were even some songs where he counted them in during the middle. Once I noticed that he was doing it, I couldn’t un-notice it, and it annoyed me even more. I have the same reaction when I notice a laugh track on a teevee sitcom. It makes it hard to appreciate the actual art.

Rock*A*Teens

Rock*A*Teens

By this point, I was already a couple of beers in, and I was starting to think about getting some food. I stuck around a bit, though, because I wanted to see at least a little bit of the set by the legendary Atlanta indie rock band Rock*A*Teens. I was having a hard time getting into their set, so I ducked out to go get some late lunch. By about 4:00, I was down at The Pit, where I got some barbecue, sweet tea, and water. I sat there for a while talking with some other festival goers while I got a little bit of air-conditioned rest.

As I walked out of that place in search of some other day party events, I realized that I needed some more rest. I found a little patch of grass and had a bit of a lie down. After about ten minutes of that, I started walking back towards the epicenter of the festival where I thought I was going to catch up with my Hopscotch pals. I ended up going back to my car for a Gatorade and an extended lie down.

I still felt a little low on energy, but 5:30 rolled around, and it was time to head over to City Plaza for the main event. I didn’t have any interest in Tuskha or Vince Staples, who were opening for Sylvan Esso, but I didn’t have a better idea. I got into the Plaza and sat down on a bench for about 30 minutes while Tuskha played. Suddenly, right at the end of Tuskha’s set, I was washed over with a feeling of refreshment. It was like a switch went off. I bounced up and was ready to go. I grabbed a beer and found my friends over by the sound desk, which is about 100 feet from the stage. As much as I have liked to be in the very front row, I’ve learned to love that sound desk area. Less crowded, and it’s very close to the beer stands.

None of us had interest in Vince Staples, but we hung out, had some laughs, and drank a few beer while talking about our plans for after Sylvan Esso. We all had some interest in seeing Andrew Bird, but I was the only person who had anything else drawn up. They all decided that they would go with me to Maiden Radio, then we’d all go to Andrew Bird.

Some girl crowdsurfing during Sylvan Esso

Some girl crowdsurfing during Sylvan Esso

After a considerable wait, Sylvan Esso finally took the stage. They were, as expected, phenomenal. Amelia Meath has an immeasurable amount of stage presence. Nick Sanborn’s programming and beats and all that are amazing. His energy behind the desk is worth writing home about, but it really is all about Amelia. They played a bunch of new songs, which all sounded great. Maybe six or seven of them. They also, of course, played the majority of the songs from their debut album. The crowd was really into it. I’ve seen Sylvan Esso once before (in a club), and it was the same thing. She gets out there and makes you have a good time. Everyone was dancing, everyone had their hands in the air. There was a lot of singing along, and there was even a little bit of crowd surfing.

In my group of people, we all agreed that the Sylvan Esso set was the best City Plaza show of this festival, and one of the best City Plaza shows ever.

Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley

We all headed over to Fletcher to see Maiden Radio, who had just started. As I’ve said a million times, Fletcher is a fantastic venue. It’s beautiful, it’s fairly large, it’s seated, and it’s well air-conditioned. Although they typically schedule acoustic stuff and other quieter stuff there, it’s always the case that the audience is dead quiet during the performances. Unfortunately, our group had grown to include a few people who I didn’t know, and a couple of the newcomers decided not to play by the unwritten rules of Fletcher. They wanted to talk and giggle during the performance, which upset and embarrassed me. After a while, though, they settled down and got quiet. The Maiden Radio set was exactly what I thought it would be. Beautiful, tender, and relaxing. I really enjoyed it, but I had to stand up and move around a little bit before going back in for a set by Maiden Radio frontwoman Joan Shelley.

It was hard to tell the difference, though. During the “Joan Shelley” set, she invited her Maiden Radio bandmates to play along with her. So it really ended up being two Maiden Radio sets. One was their usual selection of traditional Kentucky Appalachian folk music, and the other of Joan Shelley songs. We stayed all the way to the end, then walked next door to see Andrew Bird at the massive Memorial Hall.

Andrew Bird with Tift Merritt

Andrew Bird with Tift Merritt

By the time we got in to the Andrew Bird set, I was really exhausted. He played a bunch of stuff that I didn’t recognize, which means that it was stuff from the most recent three albums, or the ones that came before The Mysterious Production of Eggs. About halfway through the set, he invited Raleigh native Tift Merritt on stage. She’s somewhat of a local legend, and a big enough star on her own. I stayed until about 11:45. My new friends were going to go back over to Fletcher to see Lavender Country, but I was done for the night.

As I always do, I walked over to grab a couple of slices from the Pie Pushers truck before driving back to the hotel and calling an end to my weekend.

There were a few other things that I would have liked to have seen throughout the night, but –and I can’t stress this enough– I was really tired. I opted for less walking and more sitting.

For at least the two previous years, my Hopscotch ended with a big bang, but this year it kind of fizzled out after the amazing set by Sylvan Esso. That was the highlight of the day, and certainly in my top three favourite things from the festival weekend.

I say the same thing every year. I’m not thrilled about having to return to the “real world” tomorrow, but there’s no way I could take another day of that. I’m happy and sad that it’s over. Soon, I’ll be counting down the days til Hopscotch 17.


How the Diet Cig show was nearly ruined by some knuckleheads

Yesterday was a long and exciting day at Hopscotch. You can read all about my Day Two adventures here. The takeaway is that I’ve seen Kid Millions three times this weekend, that Beach House sounded Great, that Beach Slang really impressed me, and that Diet Cig was my favourite thing of the festival so far. And it’s not even close.

As I’ve said, I really love the Diet Cig EP Over Easy, and I had already decided that I was going to see Diet Cig no matter what else happened. I had very high expectations, and they were actually exceeded.

Alex was bouncing all over the stage. She seemed to be bouncing higher than she is tall, and with an unbelievable amount of energy. I haven’t seen that kind of bouncing since the 1990s. She was clearly having a good time, and the audience was certainly feeding off of her enthusiasm. This means that the crowd was bouncy. And then a bit moshy. Yes. Another mosh pit broke out.

There was a lot of banter. At one point, she said that they were loving it here, and that she had eaten some shrimp and grits that changed her life. Later, she thanked the crowd for being so enthusiastic. She said something like “You guys are great because you know that moshing is cool as long as it’s safe”.

As their set progressed, and as Alex continued to bounce all over the stage, people were getting increasingly into it. Unfortunately, there were three bozos who were there together and a fourth guy who was by himself who were taking it too far. They were all about ten feet away from me. It was beginning to get rowdy. There was a lot of pushing, and it wasn’t the good kind. Bouncing and bumping into each other is one thing: incidental contact is just part of that game. Aggressively shoving people is quite another.

Then, I saw something that I haven’t seen since I saw Ian MacKaye stop a Fugazi show in 1996 to address some rowdy audience members. Alex stopped right in the middle of a song to specifically address those knuckleheads. She said words to the effect of “I like that you guys are having a good time, and I know I said I like moshing, but you’re being too rowdy. Don’t ruin it for everybody else”. The rest of the room appreciated that, and the ogres seemed like they got the message. Spoiler alert: They didn’t.

Only a few minutes later, they were at it again with the aggressive shoving and all that. The female bartender had had about enough, and she climbed up on top of the bar to deal with those miscreants. She grabbed the solo guy by his neck and gave him some sort of tongue lashing. Still perched on top of the bar, she got the attention of one of the three rabble-rousers, and she gave him some sort of lecture that ended with “Do you understand me?” She also got nose-to-nose with another one of the three. But she never did confront the biggest and most aggressive of the three. The crowd gave the bartender a big round of applause for her efforts. All the while, the show went on.

By the end of the set, the bartender had actually come all the way over the bar into the crowd, and was boldly standing right in the middle of those three troublemakers. One of them was trying her patience a little bit, but they remained pretty calm for the rest of the set. It looked like one of the guys actually apologized to her. The way the bartender handled that, I figure she must have a couple of boys at home.

At the end of the set, I did overhear one of those dudes mumble something like “What a bunch of pansies”

Those guys were selfish, and they weren’t even thinking about how their antics were annoying the rest of the audience. Not to mention, dangerous. Despite the distraction that those knuckleheads created, it was an amazing set, and I don’t think I’ll see anything better on Saturday.

The point is, you should have fun. But you should know that there are limits. When you’re preventing other people from having fun, you’ve gone too far. If a performer stops the show and addresses you specifically and asks you to calm down, you should calm down. And you should be embarrassed rather than indignant. If a bartender asks you to cut that shit out, you should cut that shit out. That rule applies any day of the week.


Notes from Hopscotch16 Day Two

I’m back from a very long and very eventful middle day of Hopscotch. Feel free to revisit my notes from Thursday.

Every year on the Friday of Hopscotch, I get up early and watch the Carolina Hurricanes participate in an informal practice. They’re not allowed to have any team personnel present, and they have to rent the ice on their own dime, but it’s always fun to see the boys skate. The season is a month away, and training camp hasn’t opened yet, but those informal practices are pretty much like what they would do during the season. This year, there was only going to be a very small group of guys, and I felt like crap Friday morning, so I skipped that tradition in favor of more sleep and more writing.

Kid Millions and Mary Lattimore

Kid Millions and Mary Lattimore

I finally got downtown at about 12:45, just in time to see drummer extraordinaire Kid Millions play a collaborative day party set with the badass harpist Mary Lattimore at Kings. I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course I saw Kid Millions play with his drum ensemble Man Forever on Thursday night, and I loved it. i just didn’t know how his style would work with a harpist. As it turns out, he played in a very restrained way, while she used all sorts of effects pedals and loops and things like that. Whatever expectations I did or didn’t have were certainly met. And then some. It was a beautiful set. I ran into a couple of old college friends, and that was nice, but by the time that set was over, I was definitely ready for lunch.

I’ve made it a Hopscotch tradition to eat at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey at least twice, and I demolished my chicken and waffles like it was my job.

I walked around a little bit with no real agenda. I walked into Beach House’s sound check, and for some reason, they had a handler who was shooing away anyone who was attempting to take photos.

Thayer Sarrano

Thayer Sarrano

I caught up with my Hopscotch buddies Kyle, Bronce, and Jake at Boxcar barcade, where there were a bunch of day party shows. I had wanted to see Secret Guest again, but by the time I got there, they were done. I played a few arcade games, then stuck around to watch a few sets. First was Fk Mt, an indie punk band, who I think are from South Carolina. Then came psychedelic folk/goth band Thayer Sarrano. That set was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Somehow, I had it in my head that she played Hopscotch last year. It’s not the case. By the end of their set, it was after 5:00, and almost time to head into City Plaza for the big headline show with Beach House at the top of the bill. I didn’t really plan it this way, but I had only had one beer to that point.

Before heading over to City Plaza, I went to my car to change out of my sweat-soaked shirt and into my shirt that commemorates the Mark Kozelek incident from two years ago. I sat in my car for a little while with the AC running while I downed a Gatorade from my stash and snacked on some cheese crackers. I also took that time to make a quick phone call to my girlfriend, who isn’t along for the ride.

The Dead Tongues

The Dead Tongues

First up in City Plaza was the Asheville band The Dead Tongues. I didn’t know anything at all about them, so they weren’t on my radar. I guess you could call them an Americana band. What they were playing was pleasant, but it just didn’t move me at all. Speaking of moving, I was up very close to the front for their set because I kind of wanted to be close for Beach House. I knew that I had zero interest in the middle act Anderson Paak, and I knew that it was going to get very crowded for that, and I just didn’t want to be crammed in there, so I got out of there.

I found my friends again, and we watched Anderson Paak from the back, behind the sound desk. His set has elements of rap, R&B, heavy rock, and some other things. He sings, raps, plays drums, and captivates his audience. I’m not denying his skill set or his charisma, but whatever it is that he’s doing just isn’t for me.

There was a very long pause between the Anderson Paak set and the start of Beach House, and I was getting a bit restless and a bit hungry. I went over to the Jimmy John’s right there in the Plaza and got a quick bite to eat. Then, we waited. And waited some more.

Finally, Beach House came on a few minutes after their scheduled start time of 8:45. Because we were so far away, because there was a lot of stage fog, and because I don’t have a proper camera, I wasn’t able to get any good photos of them. Victoria Legrand came out wearing a hooded cloak, and she kept it on for a while. With the smoke, the dim lights, and all that, there wasn’t much to see. The sound, however, was fantastic. As great as they sounded, and as excited as I was to see them, I was also anxious to get the night moving along.

Just as we were moving out of City Plaza, some dude walked past us and totally fell out. I don’t know what happened, but police were there immediately, some of his friends were there, and some strangers were there to help out. Literally within seconds, people were handing him bottles of water and sandwiches. He was down for a little while, but sat up, and was talking, and seemed lucid. I think it must have been just like what happened to me three years ago at Hopscotch.

Kid Millions and Jim Sauter

Kid Millions and Jim Sauter

At about 9:45, I ducked out of there and headed over to Fletcher to see Kid Millions (again, I know). This time he was playing with noisy saxophonist Jim Sauter. He’s in a freeform/improvisational band called Borbetomagus. There’s another saxophonist and an electric guitar in that band. They’ve put out a ton of records since 1980, but I’ve never heard of them. Sauter played through some effects pedals and created a bunch of feedback. Kid Millions did his thing on the drums. It was pretty amazing. I had to leave early, though, because there was stuff that I wanted to see.

Beach Slang

Beach Slang

Beach Slang and Car Seat Headrest were playing back-to-back at CAM. Mary Lattimore, Adia Victoria, and Julien Baker were playing back-to-back-to-back at Nash Hall. I really wanted to both. They were both a pretty long walk from Fletcher, but the walk to Nash is a little further. The walk between those two venues is so long that it would preclude bouncing back and forth. I had also promised a friend at home (who is a huge Beach Slang fan) that I would see Beach Slang for him, so I opted for the two sets at CAM. Normally, I avoid that place because the sound has been really awful there in the past, but there weren’t any problems this time.

Beach Slang was everything that I expected them to be and then some. Their longtime drummer quit (or was asked to leave) the band earlier this year, and later on there was also a rumor that they were breaking up, but they’re very much together, and very good. They were energetic, tight, and a bunch of fun. It’s often said that they sound A LOT like The Replacements, and I’m fully on board with that. They actually played a show recently where they covered the entire Pleased to Meet Me album, and I’ve learned that they frequently end shows with a cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait”. They didn’t do that on Friday, but they did a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” midway through their set. At the time, that was the most fun set of the night.

Next was Car Seat Headrest. I was pretty excited about that, but I was only able to stay for about three songs. They were good, but I wasn’t into it enough to keep me there. I had other things to do.

When the Hopscotch lineup was announced, I was really excited about Diet Cig. I decided that I was going to see them no matter what. I made the short walk over to Deep South, which is often filled to capacity. I didn’t have any problems getting in, but it was a pretty packed house. I’ve listened to Diet Cig’s Over Easy EP about a million times, and it always puts me in a good mood. The songs are quick, bouncy, and fun. It’s all reminiscent of cuddlepunk bands and punkgaze bands of the early 1990s.

Diet Cig

Diet Cig

As much as I like listening to their EP, seeing them perform was so much better. Frontwoman Alex Luciano was bouncing all over the stage, smiling, and radiating good vibes. Unfortunately, because of all her bouncing, and because I was near the back of the crowded room, and because she’s so tiny, I couldn’t get a good photo. Anyway, she looked like there was no place on earth she would rather be. She said she was having a great time in Raleigh, she was enjoying the festival, and she said she had some shrimp and grits that “changed (her) life”. As an audience member, you can’t help but get caught up in that kind of enthusiasm. Their loud, fast, bouncy songs and her exuberance fed the crowd, and that was a good thing. Until it became a little too much. I’ll write more about this in a separate post, but in the interest of wrapping this up, I’ll just say that things almost got out of hand. I stayed for their whole set, then lingered for a bit to say hello to them. It was, by far, the thing that I’ve liked the most so far.

On my walk from Deep South back to my car, I found $5 on the ground, which eased the pain of the fact that they’re actually charging people to use the parking deck this year.

I continued my Hopscotch tradition of stopping by the Pie Pushers pizza truck for a couple of slices before driving back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a really great night.

In a short while, look for some details about the events that transpired at the Diet Cig set.


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