Category Archives: 2016 Hopscotch Music Festival

Notes from Hopscotch16 Day Three

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.

Mac MacCaughan

Mac MacCaughan

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.

Rock*A*Teens

Rock*A*Teens

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.

Some girl crowdsurfing during Sylvan Esso

Some girl crowdsurfing during Sylvan Esso

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.

Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley

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.

Andrew Bird with Tift Merritt

Andrew Bird with Tift Merritt

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.


Notes from Hopscotch16 Day Two

I’m back from a very long and very eventful middle day of Hopscotch. Feel free to revisit my notes from Thursday.

Every year on the Friday of Hopscotch, I get up early and watch the Carolina Hurricanes participate in an informal practice. They’re not allowed to have any team personnel present, and they have to rent the ice on their own dime, but it’s always fun to see the boys skate. The season is a month away, and training camp hasn’t opened yet, but those informal practices are pretty much like what they would do during the season. This year, there was only going to be a very small group of guys, and I felt like crap Friday morning, so I skipped that tradition in favor of more sleep and more writing.

Kid Millions and Mary Lattimore

Kid Millions and Mary Lattimore

I finally got downtown at about 12:45, just in time to see drummer extraordinaire Kid Millions play a collaborative day party set with the badass harpist Mary Lattimore at Kings. I didn’t really know what to expect. Of course I saw Kid Millions play with his drum ensemble Man Forever on Thursday night, and I loved it. i just didn’t know how his style would work with a harpist. As it turns out, he played in a very restrained way, while she used all sorts of effects pedals and loops and things like that. Whatever expectations I did or didn’t have were certainly met. And then some. It was a beautiful set. I ran into a couple of old college friends, and that was nice, but by the time that set was over, I was definitely ready for lunch.

I’ve made it a Hopscotch tradition to eat at Beasley’s Chicken and Honey at least twice, and I demolished my chicken and waffles like it was my job.

I walked around a little bit with no real agenda. I walked into Beach House’s sound check, and for some reason, they had a handler who was shooing away anyone who was attempting to take photos.

Thayer Sarrano

Thayer Sarrano

I caught up with my Hopscotch buddies Kyle, Bronce, and Jake at Boxcar barcade, where there were a bunch of day party shows. I had wanted to see Secret Guest again, but by the time I got there, they were done. I played a few arcade games, then stuck around to watch a few sets. First was Fk Mt, an indie punk band, who I think are from South Carolina. Then came psychedelic folk/goth band Thayer Sarrano. That set was exactly what I was hoping it would be. Somehow, I had it in my head that she played Hopscotch last year. It’s not the case. By the end of their set, it was after 5:00, and almost time to head into City Plaza for the big headline show with Beach House at the top of the bill. I didn’t really plan it this way, but I had only had one beer to that point.

Before heading over to City Plaza, I went to my car to change out of my sweat-soaked shirt and into my shirt that commemorates the Mark Kozelek incident from two years ago. I sat in my car for a little while with the AC running while I downed a Gatorade from my stash and snacked on some cheese crackers. I also took that time to make a quick phone call to my girlfriend, who isn’t along for the ride.

The Dead Tongues

The Dead Tongues

First up in City Plaza was the Asheville band The Dead Tongues. I didn’t know anything at all about them, so they weren’t on my radar. I guess you could call them an Americana band. What they were playing was pleasant, but it just didn’t move me at all. Speaking of moving, I was up very close to the front for their set because I kind of wanted to be close for Beach House. I knew that I had zero interest in the middle act Anderson Paak, and I knew that it was going to get very crowded for that, and I just didn’t want to be crammed in there, so I got out of there.

I found my friends again, and we watched Anderson Paak from the back, behind the sound desk. His set has elements of rap, R&B, heavy rock, and some other things. He sings, raps, plays drums, and captivates his audience. I’m not denying his skill set or his charisma, but whatever it is that he’s doing just isn’t for me.

There was a very long pause between the Anderson Paak set and the start of Beach House, and I was getting a bit restless and a bit hungry. I went over to the Jimmy John’s right there in the Plaza and got a quick bite to eat. Then, we waited. And waited some more.

Finally, Beach House came on a few minutes after their scheduled start time of 8:45. Because we were so far away, because there was a lot of stage fog, and because I don’t have a proper camera, I wasn’t able to get any good photos of them. Victoria Legrand came out wearing a hooded cloak, and she kept it on for a while. With the smoke, the dim lights, and all that, there wasn’t much to see. The sound, however, was fantastic. As great as they sounded, and as excited as I was to see them, I was also anxious to get the night moving along.

Just as we were moving out of City Plaza, some dude walked past us and totally fell out. I don’t know what happened, but police were there immediately, some of his friends were there, and some strangers were there to help out. Literally within seconds, people were handing him bottles of water and sandwiches. He was down for a little while, but sat up, and was talking, and seemed lucid. I think it must have been just like what happened to me three years ago at Hopscotch.

Kid Millions and Jim Sauter

Kid Millions and Jim Sauter

At about 9:45, I ducked out of there and headed over to Fletcher to see Kid Millions (again, I know). This time he was playing with noisy saxophonist Jim Sauter. He’s in a freeform/improvisational band called Borbetomagus. There’s another saxophonist and an electric guitar in that band. They’ve put out a ton of records since 1980, but I’ve never heard of them. Sauter played through some effects pedals and created a bunch of feedback. Kid Millions did his thing on the drums. It was pretty amazing. I had to leave early, though, because there was stuff that I wanted to see.

Beach Slang

Beach Slang

Beach Slang and Car Seat Headrest were playing back-to-back at CAM. Mary Lattimore, Adia Victoria, and Julien Baker were playing back-to-back-to-back at Nash Hall. I really wanted to both. They were both a pretty long walk from Fletcher, but the walk to Nash is a little further. The walk between those two venues is so long that it would preclude bouncing back and forth. I had also promised a friend at home (who is a huge Beach Slang fan) that I would see Beach Slang for him, so I opted for the two sets at CAM. Normally, I avoid that place because the sound has been really awful there in the past, but there weren’t any problems this time.

Beach Slang was everything that I expected them to be and then some. Their longtime drummer quit (or was asked to leave) the band earlier this year, and later on there was also a rumor that they were breaking up, but they’re very much together, and very good. They were energetic, tight, and a bunch of fun. It’s often said that they sound A LOT like The Replacements, and I’m fully on board with that. They actually played a show recently where they covered the entire Pleased to Meet Me album, and I’ve learned that they frequently end shows with a cover of “Can’t Hardly Wait”. They didn’t do that on Friday, but they did a cover of The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven” midway through their set. At the time, that was the most fun set of the night.

Next was Car Seat Headrest. I was pretty excited about that, but I was only able to stay for about three songs. They were good, but I wasn’t into it enough to keep me there. I had other things to do.

When the Hopscotch lineup was announced, I was really excited about Diet Cig. I decided that I was going to see them no matter what. I made the short walk over to Deep South, which is often filled to capacity. I didn’t have any problems getting in, but it was a pretty packed house. I’ve listened to Diet Cig’s Over Easy EP about a million times, and it always puts me in a good mood. The songs are quick, bouncy, and fun. It’s all reminiscent of cuddlepunk bands and punkgaze bands of the early 1990s.

Diet Cig

Diet Cig

As much as I like listening to their EP, seeing them perform was so much better. Frontwoman Alex Luciano was bouncing all over the stage, smiling, and radiating good vibes. Unfortunately, because of all her bouncing, and because I was near the back of the crowded room, and because she’s so tiny, I couldn’t get a good photo. Anyway, she looked like there was no place on earth she would rather be. She said she was having a great time in Raleigh, she was enjoying the festival, and she said she had some shrimp and grits that “changed (her) life”. As an audience member, you can’t help but get caught up in that kind of enthusiasm. Their loud, fast, bouncy songs and her exuberance fed the crowd, and that was a good thing. Until it became a little too much. I’ll write more about this in a separate post, but in the interest of wrapping this up, I’ll just say that things almost got out of hand. I stayed for their whole set, then lingered for a bit to say hello to them. It was, by far, the thing that I’ve liked the most so far.

On my walk from Deep South back to my car, I found $5 on the ground, which eased the pain of the fact that they’re actually charging people to use the parking deck this year.

I continued my Hopscotch tradition of stopping by the Pie Pushers pizza truck for a couple of slices before driving back to the hotel.

All in all, it was a really great night.

In a short while, look for some details about the events that transpired at the Diet Cig set.


Notes from Hopscotch16 Day One

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.

Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak

Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak

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.”

Secret Guest

Secret Guest

I headed out of City Plaza early to make it over to King’s for Secret Guest. When I was doing my Hopscotch homework, they sort of reminded me of Sonic Youth. However, in person, they reminded me much more of Built To Spill. Or maybe I just thought that they would have great fun playing a set of Built to Spill songs. I was enjoying their set, but I didn’t have time to stay. I really wanted to make my way over to Fletcher for Man Forever.

Man Forever

Man Forever

Initially, I didn’t have Man Forever on my short list, but as I did more and more Hopscotch homework, I started inching them up the list. I got there when their set was already in progress. All I really knew about them was that they were really drum-centric. I didn’t realize that it was just drums. One guy on bongos, one guy on a snare, and “Kid Millions” on a small kit. Kid Millions is playing later in the festival, and I had that on my radar, but I just didn’t know that Kid Millions was Man Forever. In addition to a Friday night show, he’s also doing a Friday day party collaboration with harpist Mary Lattimore. Anyway, the set was fantastic, and though the initial plan was to only stay for a little while, I just couldn’t tear myself away.

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.

Quilt

Quilt

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.

The Snails

The Snails

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.


September 2, 2016 — “Cardboard” by Diet Cig

Diet Cig

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Cardboard” by Diet Cig (2015, from the Over Easy EP).

Diet Cig is an indie pop/cuddlepunk/twee duo from New Paltz, New York. You may recall that I wrote about them last January in advance of the release of their debut EP. I said that the song “Scene Sick” reminded me of Camera Obscura. At the time, I hadn’t heard the rest of the EP, but I correctly guessed that it would be one of my favourite EPs of the year. The rest of the EP is less twee, more cuddlepunk, and I really loved the whole thing. It’s reminiscent of loads of early 1990s cuddlepunk bands. I’m reminded of Tiger Trap, and to a lesser extent, Tsunami. And if you knew me in 1994, you know that I absolutely wore out that self-titled Tiger Trap album.

Alex Luciano (vocals/guitar) and Noah Bowman (drums) may not be the most gifted musicians, but whatever they lack in raw talent, they make up for in charisma. They’re scrappy, energetic, and really fun. It’s authentic. I’d much rather see that than some really gifted but uninteresting band. Oh, and they’re also adorable.

When the Hopscotch lineup for this year’s festival was announced, I was almost as excited to see Diet Cig on the list as I was to see Beach House and Sylvan Esso. They immediately went to the short list. The “I’ve got to see them no matter what else is going on in that time slot” list. As it turns out, there is a bit of a decision to make. Diet Cig is playing Friday night at midnight at Deep South. Meanwhile, Julien Baker will playing at midnight over at Nash Hall. I really want to see both. In the footprint of Hopscotch, those two venues are about as far away from each other as they could possibly be (five blocks over and four blocks up), so there’s no likelihood of doing both.

Anyway, here’s today’s song:
“Cardboard” by Diet Cig

At just a shade under two minutes in length, it’s on par with the other songs on the EP. The brief breakdown at about 1:10 sort of reminds me of a similar brief breakdown just past the halfway point of the Tiger Trap song “Super Crush” (which was always my favourite Tiger Trap song). The bouncy and loud/calm and quiet/bouncy and loud structure is just part of what makes it so much fun.

You can buy a digital download of Over Easy via Bandcamp here.

Hopscotch is next week! Check out the full lineup here, the schedule here, and all of the ticketing information here.


August 25, 2016 — “Charlie’s Neat” by Maiden Radio

Maiden Radio

If you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Charlie’s Neat”, as done by Maiden Radio (2015, from the album Wolvering).
Maiden Radio is an Appalachian folk/old-timey trio from Louisville. Although they all three play a lot of instruments and wear a lot of hats, the frequent setup is: Joan Shelley (vocals/banjo), Cheyenne Mize (vocals/fiddle), and Julia Purcell (vocals/acoustic guitar). That’s the setup on this song, anyway.

You may remember that I recently wrote about Joan Shelley here. Both she and Maiden Radio will be playing sets at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh from September 8-10.

Since 2010, the trio has released three albums of glorious old-timey music. Most of their songs are traditional Appalachian folk songs, and more specifically traditional Kentucky folk songs. Their newest album Wolvering has three original songs, but everything else is “traditional”.

With most traditional Appalachian folk songs, there have been numerous interpretations over the years, and numerous different versions with sometimes wildly different lyrics. This song is no different. It’s my understanding that “Charlie’s Neat” is a traditional song based on another traditional song called “Over the River Charlie”. I think it’s usually done by a solo artist with nothing but a banjo and vocals. And it’s usually played a bit faster than this. What these gals do, though, with their three-part harmony, is magical. They remind me a lot of Mountain Man. Except that Mountain Man was doing their three-part harmonies a capella. Remember before Amelia Meath became half of the ├╗ber-sexy duo Sylvan Esso? She was one-third of the Vermont-based Appalachian folk trio Mountain Man. Their only record to date — 2010’s Made The Harbor— knocked my socks off. Also in that band was Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, who blew me away at Hopscotch 2014. Enough about Mountain Man, though…

The aforementioned three-part harmonies in the chorus are fantastic, and Joan Shelley does the lead vocals in the verses.

The story goes that Maiden Radio recorded their third album Wolvering in the dead of winter 2015 in a cabin in the woods in a really remote part of northern Michigan. Apparently, they were sort of stranded there and were low on supplies, including heating oil. According to legend, the roads were flooded and frozen solid. Once the heater ran out of fuel, their only source of heat was the fireplace in the cabin. They say you can hear the crackling of the fire on the master tapes. I can’t hear it on this song, but that’s how the story goes.

This is that song:
“Charlie’s Neat”, as done by Maiden Radio

Also, check out this video of the girls playing “Charlie’s Neat”. It’s worth pointing out that the length of each girl’s pants is inversely proportional to the height of her footwear (or lack of same). Cheyenne: short pants/cowboy boots. Joan: high-water pants/flat shoes. Julia:full length pants/no shoes.

A reminder about Hopscotch. It starts two weeks from tonight. Maiden Radio and Joan Shelley are playing on Saturday night at Fletcher Theater after the Sylvan Esso set on the main stage at City Plaza. Maiden Radio plays at 9:30 and Joan Shelley at 10:30. I plan to be there for both sets. Even if I have to leave Sylvan Esso early for the short walk over to Fletcher.

It’s not too late to get your Hopscotch tickets. You can buy passes here.

You can buy the Maiden Radio record via Ol Kentuck Recordings in your choice of format here.


July 24, 2016 — “Stay on My Shore” by Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley

IF you only listen to one song tonight, make it “Stay on My Shore” by Joan Shelley (2015, from the album Over and Even).

Joan Shelley is an indie-folk singer/songwriter from Louisville. She’s one-third of the old-timey/Appalachian Folk trio Maiden Radio (who we’ll hear from later), but as a solo artist she’s a little bit different. Outside of that band, she’s released a few solo records. She’s also released an album with Daniel Martin Moore, who also produced her newest album. Daniel Martin Moore has also recently done some collaborations with Jim James out of My Morning Jacket, Haley Bonar, and with a few others who are mostly part of the Louisville scene. The connections go on and on, too. This newest record also featured Kevin Ratterman in the studio. You may not recognize his name, but he’s worked with everyone in Louisville including but not limited to Rachel Grimes, My Morning Jacket, and Rodan. He’s also worked with Flaming Lips, Dean Wareham, and Andrew Bird.

The newest Joan Shelley album features a bunch of guest appearances. The aforementioned Rachel Grimes plays piano on five tracks. Will Oldham (better known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy) sings on three songs including tonight’s song. Daniel Joseph Dorff plays on a few songs. James Elkington and Nathan Salsburg were also contributors.

To be fair, I didn’t know any of this before today. I hadn’t heard of Joan Shelley (or Maiden Radio) until the 2016 Hopscotch lineup was announced a couple of months ago. In my initial round of homework and research, I put both Joan Shelley and Maiden Radio onto my long lists of bands to see, but I didn’t make the connection until earlier today.

I’ve spent a bit of time today listening to Shelley’s solo stuff, and this is one of my favourites:

“Stay on My Shore” by Joan Shelley

Those harmonies are magnificent. As dulcet as Shelley’s vocals are on their own, Oldham’s harmonies push this over the top. There’s something in these harmonies that reminds me a bit of the perfect harmonies of Daniel Littleton and Elizabeth Mitchell out of Ida. There’s also something about this song that reminds me of my favourite Basia Bulat song: “Sparrow”.

In the first verse of this song, Shelley sings:

Stay on my shore
And don’t desert me
And if you go
The wind will blow you back to me
And if your boat is broken out on the rocks
It wasn’t anger, but a longing

Not exactly the same as what Basia Bulat sings in “Sparrow”, and it’s actually quite a different sentiment, but it still reminded me of this. And this bit always slays me. Every time.

One day the one you battle might be me
Let your bird go lost
I will bring her back to you in spring
She won’t change at all
Let your sparrow fall to what might be

And when you’ve done your howling
and done with everything
If she is gone for months again
Will you still say you watch for sparrow wings

In Shelley’s song she’s saying “I’m gonna let you go because I know you’ll be back” while in Bulat’s song, she’s saying “let me go and I’ll probably be back”. Very different, but the way Shelley used that line “the wind will blow you back to me” is precisely what reminded me of the brilliant Basia Bulat song.

You can buy the Joan Shelley record via Bandcamp here.

Check out the Hopscotch lineup here and the schedule here.

Joan Shelley will be playing on Saturday night September 10. The last night of the festival. Her band Maiden Radio will play at 9:30 in Fletcher, followed by Shelley’s solo set at 10:30. There’s a lot going on that night, but I’ll probably be there for those two sets. I really do like to spend time at Fletcher on the Saturday night each year. Who could forget last year’s impossibly beautiful solo set by Katie Crutchfield? The Alexandra Sauser-Monnig set in 2014? The amazing Low set in 2013? Those were all highlights of their respective festivals, and they were all Saturday night Fletcher things. I still stand by my claim that the Katie Crutchfield set in Fletcher last year was in my top two things I’ve ever seen at Hopscotch,

I’m hoping that the Joan Shelley set and the Maiden Radio set can be added to that list of amazing things that have happened on Saturday night in Fletcher.

You can buy Hopscotch passes for the whole weekend, single day, or you can even get tickets just for one of the main stage events. All of the ticketing info is here.


July 16, 2016 — “Juniper” by Amanda X

Amanda X

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Juniper” by Amanda X (2015, from the Hundreds and Thousands 7″ record).

Amanda X is a cuddlepunk/twee punk/post-grunge trio from Philadelphia. They formed in 2012 on a whim and they released their first EP — Ruin The Moment— later that year. Since then, they released a single in November of 2013, their debut album Amnesia in July of 2014, the Hundreds and Thousands 7″ EP last August, and the “New Year” single last Christmas.

They sound like they would have been perfectly at home on the K Records label back in the mid-late 1990s. They bring to mind many of those wonderful bands on that label and other bands from the Pacific Northwest during that era. For a more contemporary comparison, I might mention them in the same breath with Alvvays. At the end of the day, though, I’m mostly reminded of the short-lived mid 1990s Vancouver cuddlecore band Cub. Years before she became a famous musician, Neko Case was the drummer in Cub for a short while.

I had never heard of Amanda X until Hopscotch announced the lineup for this year’s festival. As always, the festival is in downtown Raleigh on the weekend after Labor Day. This year, it’s Something like 130 bands in 12 venues. The fun starts Thursday night and goes through Saturday night. As always, there are also loads of free “day parties” taking place all weekend long. Sometimes, those day parties are almost as great as the official festival events.

Anyway, after they announced the lineup a couple of months ago, I started doing my Hopscotch homework, and I put Amanda X high on my list of bands to see. They’re playing Saturday night at 10:30 at Lincoln Theatre. There are a couple of other things that I’d like to see at other venues at the same time, but this is my plan A.

Today’s song comes from the 7″ record Hundreds and Thousands. There’s just two songs on the record, but they’re calling it an EP rather than a single. It was released via Self Aware Records, which is based in Charlotte. This release was limited to 300 physical copies, and each copy allegedly comes on “random mixed colored vinyl”. It’s my understanding, though, that they’re all on translucent purple. Anyway, this is the song from side B. This is that song:

“Juniper” by Amanda X

I love that it’s got a little bit of fuzz, a little bit of grit, a little bit of noise, but not A LOT of any of those things. As much as I love noise and overwhelming amounts of fuzz, there’s something really great about when there’s just a hint of those things.

I like this song a lot, and I like everything I’ve heard from them. I’m really looking forward to seeing them at Hopscotch.

Tickets for Hopscotch are still available. Three-day passes and single day passes can be bought here. Later this month, they’ll release tickets for the City Plaza shows.


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