I started the Friday of Hopscotch by taking advantage of the fact that I was in Raleigh to do something else that I’m passionate about. As you may know, I’m a huge fan of the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League. Every year, in the first couple of weeks of September, the team holds informal practices. The players are there at their own risk, but many of them take it as an opportunity to get back up to game speed before camp officially opens. This year, even with a potential lockout threatening the start of the 2012-13 season, they still went about the business of practicing.
As luck had it, the team’s practice facility is less than a mile away from the hotel where I was, so it was a perfect opportunity to take advantage of my time. By the time their ice time was over, I could have gone directly downtown and gone to some of the free Day Party stuff at Hopscotch. I needed food and I needed to have some down time, so I took a few hours for that.
I was meeting a friend who wanted only to see The Jesus and Mary Chain. I had, though, convinced her to get a day pass so she could see, among other things, Zola Jesus. I met her shortly before 5, and we had time to grab some quick dinner before we needed to get to City Plaza. I was anticipating a mob scene, and for us to be about 20 deep in the crowd. As it turns out, we were among the first people there.
Just like yesterday, the pictures that I’m including today are my own. I wish they were better shots, and it’s not the camera’s fault.
A band from Vermont called Zammuto got things started in City Plaza on Friday night. I didn’t know anything about them, and they were entertaining enough, and they had some devoted fans. For me, though, they were just something that was happening immediately before Built To Spill and JAMC. We needed to be there to secure our excellent spot in the crowd.My friend Jennifer, with whom I went to college, says that she didn’t and still doesn’t know who Built To Spill is. I was surprised that even after they played some of the stuff from There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, she still had no idea. I was thinking that TNWWL was a 1993 release and that it was really hot on our college radio station while we were both still there. I was sure, for that reason, that she would remember it. Turns out, my memory was screwy, and TNWWL didn’t come out until the fall of 1994.
Right out of the gate, they were playing a lot of the old jams. A lot of There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, and a lot of Keep it Like a Secret(1999). They played a couple of songs that I didn’t recognize, but I don’t have either of their last two albums, so that explains that. I’d seen Built to Spill a few times before, but not in about ten years. It was great.I’d never seen The Jesus and Mary Chain before, but my friend Jennifer saw them in 1989. This is something that she’s rubbed in my face for as long as I can remember. I was really excited to see them, and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. They opened with a song that neither Jennifer nor I recognized, and I’m still not sure what it was. I’ve never been keen on Honey’s Dead, so it could have been one of those songs. Or it could have simply been a song that neither of us has heard in a while. Or, it could even have been a “new” song. The sound was a little weird during that first song, but it got much better after that.
We had prime spots. Front row, center. While it wasn’t an issue during Built to Spill, some people were really pushing to get closer during the JAMC set, and we all got a little intimate by the end of it.
They played a lot of Automatic, and only a couple of songs each from Psychocandy and Darklands. In all, it was much less feedback-laden than I was expecting and hoping. I guess now that Jim and William are in their 50s, they don’t do that anymore. Still, though, it was good stuff. Their set was over before it started, but I was really glad to have seen them. During “Taste of Cindy”, I nearly broke down. And it was very nice to hear the ever-popular “Sidewalking”, which never appeared on a proper album.When that was over, Jennifer ran into some old friends of hers, and we all stood around chatting for a while. In my head I was thinking “we need to go, go, go”, and we might have gone to see the last songs of Field Report or Big Troubles. Instead we talked for a while. One of Jennifer’s friends asked what I knew about Odonis Odonis. I said that I had written about them and that I remembered really liking their song, and that I wanted to see them, but that I didn’t know much about them. Surf-y noise pop from Toronto. And as a bonus, they were in the same venue, one slot before Zola Jesus. She said “wow, that’s a long hike” (meaning that the band had traveled a ways to get here). I misunderstood what she meant, and in what was the most unintentionally funny thing I’ve said in a while, I said “We don’t have to walk to Toronto. Only to the Lincoln Theatre. It’s just a couple of blocks”
We got there just as Odonis Odonis was starting, and I immediately knew that we had made a great choice. Sure, I wanted to see Azure Ray, but Odonis Odonis was simply killing it. They were having so much fun, and they were playing well, and the crowd was getting really into it. If I didn’t already own their record, I would have bought one. I thought about it anyway.Next was Zola Jesus. This is why I “made” my friend get a day pass instead of a ticket for only the JAMC main event.
I’ve been a big fan since a friend pointed me in the direction of Stridulum II shortly after it was released in 2010, so I was really looking forward to this. I didn’t know how her music would play out live, but I knew that it was going to be awesome. I knew that she was small in stature, but I wasn’t prepared for how tiny she is. Maybe five feet. Maybe. Folks who know me know that I have a special place in my heart for tiny women.
I was also unprepared for how big Nika Roza Danilova’s voice was. Obviously, I’ve listened to the records a bunch of times, and I knew that she could really belt that shit out, but I didn’t know how big it would be live. I was completely entranced by it all. Her stature, her voice, the incredible music. Her set, suffice to say, was not a disappointment.
Near the end of her set, (I think during the song “Seekir”), she climbed down from the stage and went into the audience. Before I knew it, she was right up on me. And I mean on me. It lasted about a second before the sea parted enough for her to keep moving, but it was pretty amazing. She worked her way through the crowd to the back of the room, and then back to the stage. I’m not naive enough to think that she did that just for us, but it was still pretty awesome. I’m sure it’s something that she does every night, just like Leslie Fiest standing on the piano during “Lover’s Spit” or Annie Clark from St. Vincent stage diving during “Krokodil”. Still, though. It’s badass to see.
Anyway, when that set was over, there were still a few things that I wanted to see, but I walked Jennifer back to her car, and decided to call it a night. I could have caught the last bit of the Mountain Goats metal set, but I was tired, and already at my car. I knew that I also had a very long day ahead of me on Saturday. More on that later.