As you all know, I was at the Hopscotch Music Festival all weekend. It was the eighth year of the festival, and for the first time, the festival went all the way into Sunday night. I’m exhausted, but I had a great time.
Read my Thursday recap here, my Friday recap here, and my Saturday recap here.
All of Sunday’s action took place at Red Hat Amphitheatre, so there was no bouncing around to do. It started early, though, and it made for a long day. Oddly enough, staying in one place was more exhausting than moving around a lot.
After checking out of the hotel, I got downtown around 12:30 hoping to grab some lunch at my favourite spot before heading to Red Hat. Unfortunately, they were totally slammed and there was no chance of me getting in there, even at the counter. Sure I could have gone any number of other places, but I decided to head on in to Red Hat and just get a hot dog there.The music started at 1:15 with a band from Greensboro called No One Mind. I had never heard of them. Their bio calls their sound psych pop, but I think it’s more like post-punk. They were loud and fast and decked out in all black. I liked them. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much memorable about them. Next up was the Raleigh post-punk band Jenny Besetzt. They used to call Greensboro home, and they’ve played at Hopscotch at least three different years. They used to be more of a shoegaze band, but they shifted gears, and either way, I like what they do. I’ve always loved their set. Also, every time I see them, I can’t help but think how much their frontman John Wollaber looks like The Rural Alberta Advantage frontman Nils Edenloff. I could go on and on about the RAA, their lineup change and their forthcoming new album, but this isn’t about the RAA. Next was the Cleveland punk rock band Cloud Nothings. I only have one of their records, and I don’t really know much about them, but this was still high on my list of band to see this weekend. I loved their set. They were really tight and the sound was pretty great. I don’t know if it was intentional, but the bass was heavy in the mix, and I could barely hear the second guitar. No matter, because they were all killing it.
Apparently, the fellas were on a very strange tour. They had been in Butte, Montana on Friday. Then Los Angeles on Saturday. Then Raleigh on Sunday afternoon. That’s a very strange travel itinerary.
I thought they were leaving about ten minutes of their time on the table, but they played a long bit at the end that seemed to have some element of improvisation. I’m not familiar enough with their catalog to know what song it was or if any of it was improvised. No matter what, it was really good. “Mary Timony plays Helium” was next. This was the thing that I was probably the most anticipatory about for the entire festival. Mary Timony is a sort of indie rock goddess. I loved her first band Autoclave. I was a HUGE fan of Helium. The Pirate Prude EP (1994) and the The Dirt of Luck LP (1995) are two of my favourite releases from that glorious decade. In fact, I’ve often said that Pirate Prude is perfect. PERFECT. Their only other album The Magic City (1997) didn’t resonate as much with me, but I still liked it a lot. Also, for some reason, I never fell in love with the Mary Timony solo stuff. Additionally, I’ve never really given her new band Ex Hex much of a chance, but I know that they’re well-liked.
Although I never saw Helium, I did get to see Mary Timony when she was a member of Wild Flag, and that was spectacular. I really wish that band had made more than just that one record.
Anyway, I was very excited to see these Helium songs being played. I kind of wish she had reunited the old band, but she recruited two guys from the band Hospitality and Nicole Lawrence from the band Iyez.
I was hoping for a few songs from Pirate Prude, but I think there was just one. And just a few from The Dirt of Luck. No matter, because it was a really good set. Next up was Mount Moriah. This country-flavoured indie rock band from Durham is fronted by Heather McEntire. She’s a small woman with a big voice and a ton of talent. She’s been in punk bands, and she’s made other types of music, and she’s very quietly become a member of Angel Olsen’s band. She’s most known, though, for being the front of Mount Moriah. In nearly every story that’s written about the band or about her, there’s a comparison to a young Dolly Parton. McEntire’s songwriting is great, but the comparison is mostly about her voice. That’s to say that her voice is big and muscle-bound when she needs it to be, but soft and supple at other times. While she’s the undisputed star of the show, the guitar work of Jenks Miller shouldn’t go unrecognized. He’s recorded a bunch of stuff under his own name and with the band Horseback, but this is his meal ticket.
I had never actually seen Mount Moriah before, so it was a real treat. And they were fantastic. They were scheduled to play for 50 minutes, but they left about 10 minutes on the clock. Next was the Cass McCombs Band. The alt-country/alt-rocker from San Francisco has been around since the early 2000s and has put out a bunch of records since then. He’s sort of a big name, and he’s shared the stage with some enormous names, but I had never listened to anything by Cass McCombs. I didn’t know what to expect and I didn’t know any of his songs, but the band played well. The only song I recognized was their variation on the traditional folk song “Cuckoo”. By the end of the set, I was starting to fade, and I wondered if I was even going to make it to the end of the Angel Olsen set. Finally, at 8:00, the finale of the festival was the much-anticipated set by Angel Olsen. I’m a really big fan, and I had only seen her once before. That was at the 2013 Hopscotch festival, where she played a mesmerizing solo set. I must say that even though I love the newest album, my first impression of it was that it’s too polished. Seems like she’s trying hard to cross over to mainstream. Maybe she will. I thought the same thing of the sound and presentation of her set last night. It was really big. Granted, it was in the big amphitheatre, but I still prefer for the sound to be less big and more like an intimate show. That said, it was a great set with a mixture of older and new stuff. There were even a couple of brand new songs. Just as she was the time I saw her before, she was a little bit giggly and a little chatty. I like that. It’s real. It’s more “real” than the big stage production values. I won’t say that I was disappointed, but it didn’t quite meet my very high expectations. Of course my patience may have been tested because I was very tired after a long week of moving from Greensboro to Durham, then immediately heading out the door for Hopscotch.
I had a great time at the festival, but I sort of wish they hadn’t added that fourth night of shows. Although I went to bed early last night and had absolutely nowhere I needed to be today, I’m still completely wiped out.