Thursday was a long day for me. I worked from 7am to 5pm, then left directly from work. After chilling at the hotel for a bit, I headed downtown.
The first thing on my agenda was the Durham ambient rock band Ama Divers. I’ve never seen them before, and I only had time to watch the first 20 minutes of their set. It was great, but I really needed to head over to where Angel Olsen was playing. After all, she was the artist I was most looking forward to seeing on the first night.
I got to the venue, a seated theater, a little bit early and watched the last couple of songs of Nathan Bowles’ set. I don’t know anything about him, and while I didn’t dislike his stuff, I was there for one reason.
I had never seen Angel Olsen before, but her 2011 EP Strange Cacti has been in very heavy rotation around my house for a while now. If you’ve been around these parts before, you’ve probably noticed me mention her before a few times. Please see the post I wrote back in July.
Apparently, she usually plays with a full band behind her, but at Hopscotch, it was just her and her guitar. I probably prefer it that way. The sound in the venue was a little bit “not right”. The room is maybe too big. And I really think there needed to be the sound of beer bottles tipping over. We didnt’ get that. She was amazing, and my little preferences for a more “intimate” sound notwithstanding, it was a mesmerizing set. Maybe I was just mesmerized by her looks and her charm. She bantered quite a bit, talking quite a lot about food.
I wasn’t able to get any high quality photos, but a got a good (but slightly shaky) video of her playing my favorite song of hers: “Creator, Destroyer”, which includes a tiny bit of insight about who the song was written about.
Sorry for all the movement and all that, but I’m still happy with it.
After I left her set with a smile on my face, I headed over to where Greensboro shoegaze band Eros and the Eschaton was playing. They live in my town, and they play here pretty frequently, but I still had never seen them before. I got to Slim’s while they were about halfway through their set, and the venue is one of those really narrow, long spaces. I couldn’t see a thing, but they sounded great.
Down the street I went from Slim’s to Berkeley. This would be a frequent trip. Between those two places is where I spend most of my time. The next band on my agenda was Company (or Co.). I meant to write about them, but I don’t think I ever did. I enjoyed their set more than I thought I would.
I made the long walk to Five Star to see Water Liars, and they surprised me with how noisy they were. I was familiar with the folky tunes that they do, but not the louder ones. I enjoyed the set, and stayed for the whole thing.
After that, there was some deciding to do. I could have stayed put at Five Star and seen The Shilohs. I have friends who were there and they said it was a great set. I tried to do something different, and I went back down to Slim’s to see blues/avant rock band Jonathan Kane’s February. While drummer Jonathan Kane was really something to behold, the band’s traditional approach to heavy, repetitive blues riffs, with all three guitars doing the exact same thing left me utterly bored. I got out of there about three songs in and called it a night.
I went into Thursday night with eight bands on my “in a perfect world” scenario. I saw five of them, and added Jonathan Kane’s February on a whim.
I really was hoping to be able to see Grouper, and she was playing directly after Angel Olsen in the same venue. It would have been really easy to just stay put, but I was seriously afraid that I would fall asleep if I stayed for her set. Plus there were all those other bands to see, and a short time to see them.
As I hoped, Angel Olsen was the highlight of the night and one of my highlights of the entire festival.
Something that had not been on my radar that night was Merzbow. The Japanese abstract noise-rock legend. I’d never heard any of his music, and for some reason, I just decided against giving him a shot. The word on the street the next day was that he played a mind-blowing set. The word on the street was also that he was going to end up making guest appearances with other bands throughout the weekend. I knew I would eventually see him. And I barely did. That’ll be part of tomorrow’s “Day Two” update.” Tune in this time tomorrow night for that update.