The 2014 Hopscotch Music Festival is over, and I’m back home in one piece, with no bumps or bruises to show. I’ve been checking in, and you’ve seen my recap of Thursday, and my recap of Friday, as well as my coverage of Sun Kil Moon frontman Mark Kozelek’s tantrum at Lincoln Theatre, in which he was aggressive and rude to a stage hand, combative towards the audience, and just a general dick. That “fucking hillbilly” incident is being talked about by Pitchfork as well as some other big music media.
I’ll say again that while the Lincoln is a good venue, it was a terrible choice to schedule SKM there. Everyone agrees that they should have played at Fletcher, and I’ll touch on that more later.
Now, it’s time to recap Saturday’s good times.
On Friday, I did the bulk of my drinking during the day, and only had two beer after dark. This means that I slept well and woke up feeling great. My friends who I’d been hanging out with all weekend went at it pretty hard on Friday, so they slept in and played golf instead of going to the day party stuff. I took my time heading into downtown for the day party stuff, but still got down there before 12:30. I didn’t have anything boldfaced and underlined on my day party agenda, so I sort of roamed. I did see a couple of cool bands, including SoftSpot, who were playing an official Hopscotch show later in the night, but I knew that it would be tough for me to make it.
I also saw Free Clinic upstairs at The Hive. Good beer selection, good-looking bar staff, but it’s an awful, cramped space for shows. I refuse to go to night-time shows there, but they day party shows have always been great there. That’s where I saw Torres during the day parties at last year’s Hopscotch.
Free Clinic were really great and really goofy. At one point, the 21-year old frontman teased us more mature audience members by saying “why do you guys look so old?”. I enjoyed their set.
I saw those two bands right off the bat, and didn’t really see much else I walked around a lot, made myself have lunch, and I wandered in and out of several different sets, but didn’t see anything else remarkable.
I wasn’t really planning on going to the City Plaza shows last night. Valient Thorr is really good at what they do, and they absolutely own any stage that they play on, but metal just isn’t my thing. Still, I went into the plaza because there was nothing else to do, and I wanted to be in the Plaza for the set by Death. By now, we’ve all seen the documentary about them, and I just really wanted to see them. Their set was good, not great.
A really great part of being in the Plaza is that I ran into an old friend who I haven’t seen in at least seven years. I ran into a couple of other friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, but that one was especially cool.
Mastodon was headlining the Plaza, and I didn’t have even the smallest desire to see them. Still, though, with no official shows going on yet, and none of the doors open at the clubs, we kinda had to sit there for a while.
We walked over to Kings, where we were intrigued by the description of Charlottesville band Y’all as “kraut rock”. That description fell well short of the mark, and while we didn’t hate the band, we weren’t feeling it very much.
I really wanted to see Coke Weed, and we used our VIP wristbands to bump ourselves to the front of the one in-one out line. We got in quickly, but it was just too crowded, so we had to resort to an alternate plan.
Both of us wanted to sit down anyway, and I had a lot of interest in seeing Alexandra Sauser-Monnig over in Fletcher, so that’s where we went. She’s one-third of the Appalachian Folk singing trio Mountain Man. They only put out one record (2010’s Made The Harbor), and I really love it. It’s seeped in old-timey-ness. Alexandra was also a guest vocalist on the brilliant record by Sylvan Esso. That band is made up of Amelia Meath (also of Mountain Man) and Nick Sanborn of Megafaun.
Anyway, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig hasn’t put out an album of her own, and she’s not played very many solo shows before. None of that mattered because she was amazing. Her lightly strummed guitar complimented her delicate, bird-like singing on the folk songs. On a couple of songs, she went a capella. The audience was dead silent except for the rowdy applause between songs. You could have heard a clock ticking it was so quiet in there. It’s always that way in Fletcher, and that’s why Sun Kil Moon should have been there.
At some point during her set, she asked the audience what time it was so she could gauge how much time she needed to fill. A lone person in the full house shouted out “Just play thirteen more songs”, which was pretty much how we all felt. The reality was that she only had time enough for two more. That was a touching moment and another reminder of why Fletcher is a great, intimate place to see a band. It was also reinforcement on the criticism about not scheduling Sun Kil Moon there.
I left that place thinking that Alexandra Sauser-Monnig’s Appalachian folk song set was in my top five favorite shows of the festival.
There were a lot of bands that I wanted to see throughout the rest of the night, and they were mostly playing at the same time in different venues.
We ended up meeting up with the rest of our crew at Slim’s to see Nest Egg. This is a band who was correctly described as “krautrock”. We were really enjoying the show, but we also knew that we needed to get over to Kings so we could grab a space for the massive (and massively charismatic) brass and drum band What Cheer? Brigade. They made an appearance, marching through City Plaza after the Spoon show was over on Friday, and they impressed the hell out of the onlookers with their enthusiasm. It wasn’t initially on my agenda, but after I saw and heard them march though City Plaza, and after I heard rumors that they had a way of absolutely dominating festivals even when they didn’t play a scheduled show, I knew that I had to re-design my plan.
We headed to Kings about 30 minutes before What Cheer was scheduled to start. There was a huge line for the one in-one out policy, and we once again used our VIP wristbands to move to the front of the line. Within a minute, we were in, but I know that most of the people in the regular line never made it in. That makes the extra expense of the VIP wristband worth it. Part of the reason we headed early was to make sure we could get in. Part of it was that I wanted to be able to see at least a few songs of the White Octave set. I went to school with one of those guys, and I really wanted to see his band. They haven’t played in more than a dozen years, so it was kind of a big thing for them to be on the stage.
What happened next really blew my mind. As I said, I saw the What Cheer? Brigade march through City Plaza, marching band style after Spoon, and it was amazing. My initial plan was to close the festival by seeing Eternal Summers for a second time, but lots of things added up and I ended up closing it out with What Cheer.
That was a fantastic decision because the What Cheer set was far and away the best thing I saw all weekend. And a big, big surprise.
I’ll write a separate post about What Cheer. Look for that in a few minutes.
Apart from the stupidity at Sun Kil Moon, I didn’t see or even hear about any bad vibes, but after the What Cheer show spilled out into the street, John Law showed up and put a couple of audience members in cuffs. Nobody knows why that were arrested, but it seemed excessive.