It’s the first weekend after the first Monday in September, and while other people celebrate the beginning of (American) football season, this weekend means something totally different for me. It means that the Hopscotch Music Festival is on! This is the seventh year of the festival, and the fifth year in a row that I’ll be here all weekend.
Thursday was a long day, and I took lots of mental notes, some literal pen-and-paper notes, and a handful of low-quality photos. I had a lot of fun, ran into some friends, drank a lot of alcohol, and saw a bunch of bands.
I left work early, ran a couple of errands, and I got to Raleigh around 4:00. After stopping by the hotel for a shower and a change of clothes, I headed downtown.
This was the first year that I bothered going to the VIP opening night party. This year, it was at Whiskey Kitchen, a new bar and eatery that looks, if I’m honest, like a place that thinks it’s fancier than it really is. There was a bit of free food and an open bar for two hours. Although few people even knew it, the DJ who was spinning records was Bob Nastanovich out of Pavement. I enjoyed what I could before heading over to City Plaza to start the night.The first band of the night was Wye Oak. I’ve seen them only once before, at Hopscotch 2012, where they closed the festival at Lincoln Theater. This time, they played a bunch of new stuff mixed in with a small batch of older stuff that I know and recognize. It was a good set, and at some point, while frontwoman Jenn Wasner tuned her guitar, she joked that she didn’t bring her stage banter “A game” with her. Her line was one of my favourite things that I heard all night:
I’m not a comedian, so what do you expect from me?
She also said that Thursday was the one-year anniversary of the day she moved to Durham. I had no idea. In the picture, note that Jenn’s tattoo on her upper left arm is the same one that Amelia Meath out of Sylvan Esso has on her right arm.
After the Wye Oak set, I caught up with some friends and stuck around inside City Plaza for the Wolf Parade set. I don’t know their music at all, and I had forgotten that the band is fronted by Spencer Krug (Moonface, Frog Eyes, Sunset Rubdown, and other bands). They were okay, but my friend Bronce, who knew their music well, complained that the sound wasn’t right. A little too much high end.
During that set, Bronce pointed out to me an older man (about 65 or so) using a cigarette lighter to shed light on his Hopscotch schedule. I guess he didn’t have the Hopscotch app on his phone, or a flashlight on his phone. He probably didn’t have a phone at all. He just went old school. “It’s dark, and I need to read this. I’m gonna flick my bic.”
I walked over to Pour House, hoping to see Sneaks. There was a lot of buzz about her and her new album. She was supposed to go on at 10:00, and when I arrived at about 10:15, there was nothing going on. I stood around and waited… and waited… and waited. Maybe 20 minutes. Nothing happened. I don’t know if she came on early and played a short set, or if she was going on really really late, but either way, I didn’t see Sneaks.I walked the seven or so blocks back to Fletcher to see Quilt. There weren’t many people in the audience at Fletcher for Man Forever, but by the time I returned for Quilt, it was a totally packed house. They’re a band that I know noting about, but I had them pretty high on my list. I liked what they were doing, but I only got to see about four songs. I wish I had just stayed in Fletcher after Man Forever, but I had no way of knowing that the trip to Pour House would have gone the way it did. I also left their set a bit early because I wanted to go see Television, who were playing next door in Memorial Hall.
Television has been around forever. Forty years or so. I don’t know any of their music, but I know that they’re sort of a big deal. Early NYC punk rock pioneers, and all that. So I really wanted to take the opportunity to see them. It was a packed house there, too. It just wasn’t my cup of tea, so I only stayed for two or three songs.I sat down and relaxed for a bit before heading back over to Pour House to see The Snails. They’re a band that I didn’t have on my list at all. Not even a “plan C” list. However, I heard a bunch of people talking about how great that show was going to be. Remembering how much fun I had at What Cheer Brigade a few years ago, I similarly went to The Snails based entirely on the buzz that was about. I needed my VIP wristband to get in there, as it was totally packed. They started on time at 12:00. They came out in their trademark snail costumes, big sunglasses and all that. The crowd went wild. They played a couple of songs, and I actually hated it. I didn’t like the music, I didn’t like the costumes, I didn’t like how crowded it was, and I’ve never really cared for that venue. I got out of there as quickly as I could, but not before running into my friends again.
I decided to head over to Slim’s to catch A Giant Dog. I had them on my short list, but I also knew that it would be a tough show to get in to. It was, as expected, a totally full house in there, and again, I needed my VIP wristband to get in. The long, narrow room gets full pretty quickly, and because the stage isn’t elevated, you can’t see anything unless you’re in the first row. I was way, way back of the room and I tried to get some pictures, but nothing came out. They were loud, fast, and extremely fun. They were having a blast, and a tiny mosh pit broke out at the front of the room. The band is from Austin, and they said that they had played that venue once before to an audience of one person. They also said that during that show, their (former) drummer was handed meth. Another good bit of banter from the band was:
Sometimes you can be a total dick to people, and they’ll still help you out. Those people are your mom
I liked their set more than I was expecting to, and I stayed until about 1:15. By that point, I was getting pretty worn down, so I ducked out and headed back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep.
Overall, the first night was great. The thing I liked the most was Man Forever. The thing I liked the least was The Snails. A Giant Dog was the most fun. There were only a couple of disappointments.
I’ll be back at it today, starting with the Mary Lattimore/Kid Millions day party set at Kings.