I’m back home after a long and exciting weekend at the 2016 Hopscotch Music Festival. You can read my notes from day one here, my notes from day two here, and my post about how Diet Cig blew me away, even though there were some jackasses in the crowd trying to ruin it all here.
Saturday is always the most grueling day. I’m always exhausted before the day even starts, and I usually give up the notion of bouncing all over the place trying to catch everything that I’m interested in. I opted for the course of action that was the least work.
I started the day at Kings for the day party at 1:00. Sneaks was scheduled as the first performer of that party. I missed her show at Pour House on Thursday night, and I later found out that she played for exactly twelve minutes. That explains why there was nothing going on when I got there at 10:15 for her 10:00 set. That was disappointing, but at least I could see her day show. Or so I thought.As I was walking from the parking deck over to Kings, I spotted Mac MacCaughan out of Superchunk walking very quickly in that same direction. I thought it was because his label Merge Records had a hand in organizing that day party. As it turns out, he was in a hurry to get there because Sneaks had backed out and he had agreed to step in to perform at 1:00. He played a great set that featured a bunch of songs that weren’t familiar to me, a couple of familiar Superchunk songs, and a couple of covers. At one point, he said “I want to thank Merge Records for having me here”, which I thought was hilarious. Because, you know… He owns the label.
Next up was some band who I forgot the name of. They were a decent enough indie rock band, but I was a little annoyed by the fact that the singer counted them in on every song. Every song. There were even some songs where he counted them in during the middle. Once I noticed that he was doing it, I couldn’t un-notice it, and it annoyed me even more. I have the same reaction when I notice a laugh track on a teevee sitcom. It makes it hard to appreciate the actual art.By this point, I was already a couple of beers in, and I was starting to think about getting some food. I stuck around a bit, though, because I wanted to see at least a little bit of the set by the legendary Atlanta indie rock band Rock*A*Teens. I was having a hard time getting into their set, so I ducked out to go get some late lunch. By about 4:00, I was down at The Pit, where I got some barbecue, sweet tea, and water. I sat there for a while talking with some other festival goers while I got a little bit of air-conditioned rest.
As I walked out of that place in search of some other day party events, I realized that I needed some more rest. I found a little patch of grass and had a bit of a lie down. After about ten minutes of that, I started walking back towards the epicenter of the festival where I thought I was going to catch up with my Hopscotch pals. I ended up going back to my car for a Gatorade and an extended lie down.
I still felt a little low on energy, but 5:30 rolled around, and it was time to head over to City Plaza for the main event. I didn’t have any interest in Tuskha or Vince Staples, who were opening for Sylvan Esso, but I didn’t have a better idea. I got into the Plaza and sat down on a bench for about 30 minutes while Tuskha played. Suddenly, right at the end of Tuskha’s set, I was washed over with a feeling of refreshment. It was like a switch went off. I bounced up and was ready to go. I grabbed a beer and found my friends over by the sound desk, which is about 100 feet from the stage. As much as I have liked to be in the very front row, I’ve learned to love that sound desk area. Less crowded, and it’s very close to the beer stands.
None of us had interest in Vince Staples, but we hung out, had some laughs, and drank a few beer while talking about our plans for after Sylvan Esso. We all had some interest in seeing Andrew Bird, but I was the only person who had anything else drawn up. They all decided that they would go with me to Maiden Radio, then we’d all go to Andrew Bird.After a considerable wait, Sylvan Esso finally took the stage. They were, as expected, phenomenal. Amelia Meath has an immeasurable amount of stage presence. Nick Sanborn’s programming and beats and all that are amazing. His energy behind the desk is worth writing home about, but it really is all about Amelia. They played a bunch of new songs, which all sounded great. Maybe six or seven of them. They also, of course, played the majority of the songs from their debut album. The crowd was really into it. I’ve seen Sylvan Esso once before (in a club), and it was the same thing. She gets out there and makes you have a good time. Everyone was dancing, everyone had their hands in the air. There was a lot of singing along, and there was even a little bit of crowd surfing.
In my group of people, we all agreed that the Sylvan Esso set was the best City Plaza show of this festival, and one of the best City Plaza shows ever.We all headed over to Fletcher to see Maiden Radio, who had just started. As I’ve said a million times, Fletcher is a fantastic venue. It’s beautiful, it’s fairly large, it’s seated, and it’s well air-conditioned. Although they typically schedule acoustic stuff and other quieter stuff there, it’s always the case that the audience is dead quiet during the performances. Unfortunately, our group had grown to include a few people who I didn’t know, and a couple of the newcomers decided not to play by the unwritten rules of Fletcher. They wanted to talk and giggle during the performance, which upset and embarrassed me. After a while, though, they settled down and got quiet. The Maiden Radio set was exactly what I thought it would be. Beautiful, tender, and relaxing. I really enjoyed it, but I had to stand up and move around a little bit before going back in for a set by Maiden Radio frontwoman Joan Shelley.
It was hard to tell the difference, though. During the “Joan Shelley” set, she invited her Maiden Radio bandmates to play along with her. So it really ended up being two Maiden Radio sets. One was their usual selection of traditional Kentucky Appalachian folk music, and the other of Joan Shelley songs. We stayed all the way to the end, then walked next door to see Andrew Bird at the massive Memorial Hall.By the time we got in to the Andrew Bird set, I was really exhausted. He played a bunch of stuff that I didn’t recognize, which means that it was stuff from the most recent three albums, or the ones that came before The Mysterious Production of Eggs. About halfway through the set, he invited Raleigh native Tift Merritt on stage. She’s somewhat of a local legend, and a big enough star on her own. I stayed until about 11:45. My new friends were going to go back over to Fletcher to see Lavender Country, but I was done for the night.
As I always do, I walked over to grab a couple of slices from the Pie Pushers truck before driving back to the hotel and calling an end to my weekend.
There were a few other things that I would have liked to have seen throughout the night, but –and I can’t stress this enough– I was really tired. I opted for less walking and more sitting.
For at least the two previous years, my Hopscotch ended with a big bang, but this year it kind of fizzled out after the amazing set by Sylvan Esso. That was the highlight of the day, and certainly in my top three favourite things from the festival weekend.
I say the same thing every year. I’m not thrilled about having to return to the “real world” tomorrow, but there’s no way I could take another day of that. I’m happy and sad that it’s over. Soon, I’ll be counting down the days til Hopscotch 17.