It’s Hopscotch weekend again. My favourite weekend of every year. The only “vacation” that I take every year. It’s filled with tons of good music, a lot of beer, and seeing friends. This year, life is happening to a bunch of the guys who I normally hang out with all weekend long, and none of them were able to make it. This means that I’m flying solo for the weekend. So I’m much less likely to get talked into (or out of) seeing certain bands.
As is usual, I made a “perfect world” list of the bands that I want to see this weekend, and some of them involve scheduling conflicts. Some necessitate leaving sets early or staying put in a venue to ensure that I can get a spot. I did well this Thursday.
I had grand plans to arrive in Raleigh early today and partake of some of the day party stuff. I wasn’t early enough for that, but I was here well before the real festival started.
I started with a couple of fancy beers at Busy Bee while I waited for things to get going. A brief but heavy rain came through, which delayed the first show of the night over at the City Plaza main stage. The doors opened late for Ought/Godspeed. They got started about 20 minutes late, but it didn’t cause any problems.Ought was a substitution for Deerhunter, who canceled a whole slew of late summer shows. The truth is that I wasn’t all that excited about Deerhunter anyway, and before I headed in, I thought that Ought was an upgrade. They played a good, energetic set, and they actually exceeded my expectations. Mostly stuff from the new record, which I’ve been enjoying quite a bit. Next up in the outdoor City Plaza main stage was Godspeed You! Black Emperor. The Canadian post-rock icons have been going strong for more than 20 years,and they keep putting out great records. I’ve seen them three times before, and on a different blog I wrote very elaborate posts about the time I saw them in Chapel Hill back in 1999, and also the time in 2003 when I drove to Athens, Georgia to see them with a girl I met on the internet. Those are both some pretty crazy stories. If you have a few extra minutes, I invite you to read them. I saw Godspeed again in the autumn of 2012, and it was, as the other two times were, amazing.
Since Ought started late, Godspeed also started late. Not long after they started, another rainstorm rolled in. They had to move a bunch of their gear from the front of the stage further back, and that caused a small delay. They sounded good, but I was short on time, and I had to leave after they’d been on stage for only about 45 minutes. I stopped on my way out of the Plaza and got something to eat and made it over to King’s just in time for Wildhoney. Their album is locked into a year-end top five position at my house, and they were one of my highest priorities for the weekend. When I arrived, King’s was packed, but the crowd started to thin out, and I got a great spot. The band scorched their way through an incredible 25-minute set, taking no prisoners. They played well, and they owned the stage with their bouncy energy. As happy as I was to see them, I was a bit disappointed when they said goodnight at 10:25. Disappointed and confused. And it left me with a bunch of extra time on my hands, and I didn’t have anything circled until the Mamiffer set at 11:30. I had a bit of serendipity though, when I headed on over to Kennedy early. I arrived there at about 10:50 during what was supposed to be a set by John Chantler. He wasn’t on my radar at all, but when I got there, it was obvious that the person on stage wasn’t John Chantler. He had a travel visa issue, and was replaced by New York experimental/synth-dream pop artist Eartheater. I still don’t know anything about her, and it wasn’t until her set was over that I even learned who she was. I loved her set, but I was confused the whole time. That was the bit of serendipity. Next up was Mamiffer. This was one that I was really looking forward to, and there was no disappointment there. It was much louder than I thought it would be. Not super-noisy, but the sound was really deep. The kind of low-end loud that makes the whole room vibrate, and you feel it in your teeth and bones. Although I had high expectations, I liked it even more than I thought I would. And now I’m much more keen on taking in their day party set Friday afternoon at King’s. There’s a bunch of cool stuff going on at King’s, as there always is.
I ditched the initial plan, which was to see 25 minutes of Mamiffer and leave early so I could see 15 minutes of Jenny Hval. I was enjoying it so much, I stayed for almost the entire Mamiffer set. I left just a little bit early because I wanted to give myself time to get to Bully. That was another one that was a very high priority for me, and since the venue is small and narrow, I wanted to get there early. It didn’t matter. I was there early, but the venue was at capacity. One in-one out. The VIP line was about 12 deep, and the “regular person” line was about 20 deep, but it wasn’t moving at all. It wasn’t going to happen with or without a VIP wristband.With great disappointment, I moved on to plan B, which was to see Battles at Lincoln. My friend Bill, who couldn’t make it this year, had been urging me to see Battles instead of Bully anyway. Lincoln was also at capacity, but the line moved quickly, and I was inside before their set started. I’m not a Battles fan, but my friend Bill is a huge fan, so I was really there for his sake, and to satisfy my curiosity about their drummer. John Stanier played drums for Helmet from 1989 to 1998. His trademark is that when he plays with Battles, his ride cymbal is about 6 feet off the ground. I didn’t believe it when I heard about it, but it’s really something to watch him play that kit. Unfortunately, about three or four songs in, I started to feel weak and a little light-headed. Instead of trying to fight through it like I did two years ago during Spiritualized, I heeded my body’s warning signals, and I got out of there, got some food, got some Gatorade from my car, and called it a night.
It was a long day and a very good day. I’m upset that I didn’t get to see Bully, and I was disappointed that the Wildhoney set was so short, but a couple of sets surpassed my expectation of them, and Eartheater was a surprise that came out of nowhere. Today will be full of day party action, but the night schedule isn’t as packed for me as it was last night.
At the end of the day, my favorite thing so far has been Mamiffer.