All about What Cheer? Brigade at Hopscotch14

I had a blast at Hopscotch, and you’ve seen my recaps of Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. And my two cents on the now legendary tantrum that Mark Kozelek pitched on Friday night. I mentioned in the recap of Saturday that I wasn’t even planning on seeing the What Cheer? Brigade. They weren’t even on my long list. I had other plans that were etched in stone. The band comes from Providence, Rhode Island, and their name comes from the town motto of Providence. They’ve been around since 2005, and they have one album, but I don’t think very many people knew about them. They’re like a marching band that performs in bars instead of in parades. Trumpets, trombones, tubas, a few drummers. No flute and no xylophone, but for all intents and purposes, they are a marching band. Their influences include eastern European folk music, hip hop, rock, and New Orleans second line parade. I read about them when I was doing research for Hopscotch but I decided that it wasn’t for me. That all changed on Friday. As everybody was filing out of City Plaza following the Spoon show, they literally paraded through the Plaza and out into the street, where they made an announcement about their Saturday show. Actually, they had already made at least one other appearance when they set up outside the VIP party on Thursday afternoon. I wasn’t there for that, but when I saw and heard them on Friday, I was sold. They had generated a lot of buzz, and rumors started to circulate that when they play shows, they have a habit of leading the audience out into the parking lot or the street or whatever and continuing to play out there. This made a lot of people curious to say the least. There were also stories about how they had shown up at a festival once and even though they weren’t on the schedule, their pop-up performances dominated the festival. Like I said, the line was really long just to get in the club, but the benefit of the VIP wristband is that you hop to the front of the standby line. Without this shortcut, I would have never gotten in. The band’s full lineup consists of 18 members, and I don’t think there were that many there, but it was still a lot of people. They immediately lived up to all the hype. If you were in the building, you didn’t have a choice of whether you were into it or not. They MADE us be into it. And there was no standing around with arms crossed. They made us bounce around, they made us dance, they made us throw our arms in the air. They made us love them. Whether they were technically “good” isn’t even the point. They’re just so much fun. They packed the small stage, but by the third song, they were already down on the floor, interacting with the crowd. By the end of the show, they had members standing on the bartop. This is a common occurrence in their shows, and it’s part of what makes them so much fun. When the band is as into it as they are, you don’t have a choice as an audience member but to feed off of their energy. Maybe it doesn’t transfer well to video, but there was an incredible amount of energy in the room. The band and the audience feeding off of each other. Here’s a video that our friends from The Stagger made.  : Actually, this is the exact opposite of how the performer and audience fed off of each other in a very negative way at the Sun Kil Moon show. The above video was at the very end of the show as the band marched down the stairs and into Martin Street. What happens next is the kind of thing that has gotten them into trouble at other festivals. They poured into the street with the audience in tow and continued for several more minutes. Keep in mind, this is going on at 1:45 in the morning. If you know what you’re looking for, I’m easy to spot in this second video.  Again, this video came from the folks at The Stagger: Subscribe to The Stagger YouTube channel, and see more of what they saw at Hopscotch here. After all of this, the Raleigh PD showed up. We assumed that they had an issue with the band being in the street and also being really loud way after the noise ordinance came into play. They were too late to do anything about that, but it looked like they felt like they had to arrest somebody. They singled one girl off of the sidewalk and brought her into the street for some line of questioning. She wasn’t combative or uncooperative. She was very calm the whole time, but they found some reason to put cuffs on her and put her into the back of a squad car. Nobody there had any clue what had happened. This was a fantastic end to a great festival weekend. The previous two nights, I drove back to the hotel utterly exhausted. Because of how Saturday night ended, I was full of energy and I could have gone on for a few more hours. However, I don’t think this could have ended any other way. I sincerely thought that it was the coolest thing that happened all weekend. I realize that it was the perfect time and place for that show and What Cheer capitalized on the hand that they were dealt. If this had been a show in a different venue, or if it had been on Friday at 9, I might have judged it differently. If you ever see this band on a festival roster, or if you see them coming to your town, you should definitely go see them.

About dlee

North Carolina born and bred. I'm a restaurant guy who spends free time listening to music, watching hockey and playing Scrabble. I have a bachelor's degree in political science and I will most likely never put it to use. View all posts by dlee

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