Category Archives: 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival

Notes from day three of Hopscotch 2018

As you all know, I spent the entire weekend in Raleigh for the ninth annual Hopscotch Music Festival. My Thursday recap is here. My recap of the Friday day parties is here, and my recap of Friday night is here.
As I have done for the last couple of years, I used Saturday afternoon as a resting period and I skipped most of the day party stuff. Friday was a really long and really busy day, and I definitely needed the time both to write and to reset.

The only day party thing I had on my plate was a solo set by the fantastic drummer Kid Millions. I finally made it downtown at about 3:15, got some late lunch and headed over to Neptune’s for what I thought would be a really cool drumming clinic. He’s the drummer for Oneida and has done a lot of collaborations with a lot of people over the years, including a day party show with harpist Mary Lattimore two Hopscotches ago. What he did wasn’t exactly a “drumming clinic”. He told a long personal story about being in a pretty bad car crash. The story was punctuated by drum fills. It was a little odd, but still really good.

After the Kid Millions thing ended, I immediately went upstairs hoping to catch some of the set by Eric Bachmann out of Archers of Loaf. It was already over by the time I got up there.

It was almost time for the stuff in City Plaza to start, so I headed down there and waited. And waited. It was that weird part of the day when they’re trying to clear everyone out of the plaza from the “open” part of the day before letting people back in for the festivities. They ended up being really late with the gates, and although Zack Mexico was supposed to go on at 5:15, they didn’t start until about 5:45. I had seen the band from Kill Devil Hills, NC at a Hopscotch a few years back, and they sounded different this time than I remembered them being. Their brand of psych rock is inoffensive, but not very exciting to me. For some reason, they have two drummers who play the exact same thing, and that’s totally unnecessary. They had been allotted something like 35 minutes, and despite the late start, they played even longer than they were supposed to. This meant that Speedy Ortiz was waaaaay behind schedule.

Speedy Ortiz at Hopscotch 2018

Speedy Ortiz finally hit the stage about 40 minutes after they were supposed to, but they put on an amazing show. The indie rock quartet from Northampton Mass released their third album this year, and they’ve drawn comparisons to PJ Harvey, Liz Phair, Pavement, and many of the other indie rock greats of the 1990s. You may remember that I’ve gone on and on about how their frontwoman Sadie Dupuis is a ridiculously smart woman. She studied maths and music at MIT for a while, then changed her plan and got an undergraduate degree in poetry from a small college. Then she got an MFA in poetry from UMass. She writes great songs, plays a mean guitar, and knows things. Enough about that, though. The Speedy Ortiz set was fantastic, but I felt like they didn’t play long enough. They played Hopscotch in 2013, but I didn’t see them for some reason. It seems like that was the year that I missed a lot of great stuff.

Liz Phair at Hopscotch 2018

Next up was the much anticipated set by indie rock legend Liz Phair. Her 1993 debut Exile In Guyville set the college radio and indie rock worlds on fire and she has now influenced multiple generations of young female indie rockers. Her next three records were sort of hit-and-miss for me, with 1998’s whitechocolatespaceegg being my clear favourite of those albums not named Exile…. In the aughts, she put out a couple of records that didn’t do much for me, and then a record in 2010 that I didn’t even know about. When it was announced that she was going to go on tour this year and that she would play Hopscotch, I guessed that she would lean pretty heavily on her older catalog, and that’s exactly what we got. Of the twelve songs they played, six were from Exile. I never got to see her in the 1990s, and it was awesome to get to do so now. I had a ton of fun during this set, and I was honestly a little surprised to see so many younger people who were there just for her.

Next was the iconic punk band MC5. Since it’s the 50th anniversary of the band, they’re on the road calling themselves “MC50”. To be honest, the only song of theirs that I know is their trademark “Kick Out the Jams”, and they played that early on. The band these days is made up of founding guitarist Wayne Kramer, Brendan Canty (drums) out of Fugazi, Kim Thayil (guitar) out of Soundgarden, and some others. It was kind of fun, but I didn’t know the songs, and I kind of wanted to move on to the indoor part of the night. Also, somebody near me smelled like a dumpster full of Indian food and cat poop.

Oceanator at Hopscotch 2018

I made the long hike over to Deep South because I really wanted to see Oceanator. I try to avoid the long hike over there, but sometimes it’s necessary. This was one of those times. I got there as a band called Vanity Plates was finishing up. The room emptied out and I was able to move close to the stage. That’s another one of the venues that has bad sight lines and a stage that’s only about a foot off the floor. As much as I liked the songs that I heard when I did research, I liked the songs even more when I heard them live. They were so loud and so energetic, and it totally blew me away. I also got a really good sense of how freaking good a guitar player Elise Okusami is. Not to take anything away from her band mates, but she’s the unparalleled star of that show. The original plan was to watch only a few of their songs before making the long hike back to the main footprint of the festival, but I stuck around for the whole set. I enjoyed it so much that I stuck around to say hello and I even bought a t-shirt. I make it a point not to buy merch at Hopscotch, but I had to break the rule for this. Speaking of buying things, you should buy their new record here.

I made the walk back over to King’s for the set by Calgary indie-folk/rocker Chad VanGaalen. I really liked his 2008 album Soft Airplane, but I don’t know any of his other stuff. I was excited that he was on the schedule, and King’s was actually packed for him. I got there after he had already been on for a few minutes, but I didn’t miss much. During his set, he bantered a lot, and he was sort of funny and sort of nervous. He talked a lot about carrots, swimming in lakes vs swimming in the ocean, Baconators, and some more about carrots. He also said that he was star-struck when he met Mac McCaughan, and that he had to muster up courage to say hello to Mac. The CVG set was really good, and although I had contemplated staying put to watch Ought, I decided to walk over to Fletcher to see ambient noisemaker Grouper again.
Indeed the Grouper set was not much like the set she played during the day party on Friday. This time, she had a piano, and she played the guitar much more than she did at the day party. Of course she used her effects pedals and tape loops and all that, and it was completely amazing. It wasn’t a very full house, but everyone was really into it. Because of the nature of her songs, and because of the nature of the venue, it was dead silent in there except for the noises she was making. Even between songs, there was a deafening silence. Nobody made a peep until she was completely done. By the time she finished, it was 1:30, and I was really tired. I was headed for the door when I realized that she was coming back on stage, but I had to call it a night. It was a nice, quiet end to a good day and a great festival.

Although I was eagerly anticipating many of the sets on Saturday night, the Oceanator set exceeded my expectations by a long way, and that was my favourite thing of the day, and one of my favourites of the whole weekend. Make sure you see them when they come to your town.

Notes from day two of Hopscotch 2018

I’ve been very busy at Hopscotch this weekend. I had a thrilling Thursday night, followed by a long and interesting Friday day, and a pretty busy Friday night. Between all of those day party shows at King’s and the things on my calendar for Friday night, there was a gap of about 3 hours. Instead of getting drinks or going into shows that I didn’t care about, I picked up some snacks and headed back to the hotel to freshen up and put my feet up.
I headed back into downtown about 30 minutes before the start of Grizzly Bear. I already wrote about how I always eat at Beasley’s for fried chicken. I also always eat pizza when I’m at Hopscotch. I was saddened that Pie Pushers food truck wasn’t there, so I tried a new place in downtown Raleigh that’s super close to the footprint of the festival. I had a slice at Benny Capitale’s. They have really big slices. One is plenty. Most places that serve giant slices have New York-style slices that are often impossibly thin. This wasn’t too thin, and more importantly, the crust was a little crispy. Anyway, it was good. I would eat it again.

Grizzly Bear at Hopscotch 2018

I headed in to Grizzly Bear just as they were starting. I had never seen them before, but I absolutely love their records. Shields was my second favourite album of 2012, and the others would also have been in the top five of their respective years. Although the sound was a bit too heavy on the low end, they sounded great, and they seemed really excited to be at the festival. Because I wasn’t there at 5:30, I wasn’t as close to the stage as I normally like to be, but I could still see the stage really well. Because it’s been a while since I’ve spent significant time with their records, I kind of forgot how bloody brilliant they are. There’s no need for theatrics or elaborate lighting. Just a really good show.

Just as they wrapped up, I started to hustle out of there to get back to King’s because I really wanted to see Empath. On the way out, I unexpectedly bumped into one of my old Hopscotch pals who hasn’t been able to go for the last couple of years. I chatted with him for a couple of minutes, then headed down the street to King’s. There was a pretty packed house, and Empath was already on stage playing a loud, energetic set. In a live setting, some things about them become more evident than they are on recordings. The songs are good, and they have so much energy and so much fun, but there’s just a little missing in the skill department. I only had time to spend about 20 minutes there because I needed to haul ass over to Pour House, where I was planning to use as home base for the rest of the night.

Spirit of the Beehive

Pour House is a mystery to me. It’s accessible by a narrow walkway in an alleyway, and the venue is really cool, but it’s always either jammed to capacity, or nearly empty. I used to hate it because it’s kinda grimy, and when it’s packed, it’s not much fun, but the sound is always really great, and they’ve had some great bands there for the last couple of festivals. So it went from being one of my least favourite venues to one of my very favourites.
I was expecting a full house for Philly noise rockers Spirit of the Beehive, and it was a good house, but not at capacity. This meant that it was easy to order a beer and easy to move around.
Spirit of the Beehive were fantastic. They exceeded my expectations. Unfortunately, they only played about five songs, which left a big gap between them and the next band.
Because of the gap between bands and because it cleared out a little, and because I was a little annoyed by some of the kids who were near me, I went upstairs to the viewing area. If you can get a seat on the railing up there, it’s a perfect place to watch, but if you can’t, it’s terrible.
I had a dilemma. On one hand, I really wanted to go see Julie Byrne, who was playing at Nash Hall a couple of blocks away. On the other, I needed to be back at Pour House for Swearin’ in an hour, and I should probably stay put. Also, I made a really silly mistake in my planning.
When the lineup came out, I saw “Molly Burch”, and I mistook that for Anna Burch. So I was also thinking that I had a lot of interest in seeing Anna Burch, which meant that I should stay put. As soon as Molly Burch came on stage, I realized my error. I was annoyed, but I decided to roll with it and stay put.
Molly Burch is from Austin, and the band sort of reminds me of a Texan version of Cowboy Junkies. They also remind me of the kind of band that Matt Saracen and Julie Taylor would have gone to see on Friday Night Lights.

Allison Crutchfield of Swearin’

I stayed put in my perch in the upstairs lounge, and the house started to fill up for Swearin’. As you know, Swearin’ is headed up by Allison Crutchfield, who is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield out of Waxahatchee. They play on each other’s records and they often support each other on stage. Yesterday, I lamented the fact that Allison didn’t join Katie on stage during the Waxahatchee set, and I wondered if Katie would be around during Allison’s set. During the intermission, I spotted Katie chatting with Allison’s bandmates, and I thought that I might get my wish. Spoiler alert: that never came to pass.

Last time both Crutchfield sisters were at Hopscotch was 2013, and I had to pass on Swearin’ because of a time crunch. I did, however, see Allison play a solo show a couple of years ago. During that show, Katie came on stage to help her sister do a magnificent cover of The New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant”. It gave me goose flesh. The point is that I had never seen Allison with a full band. Certainly not with so much noise.

Allison and her band roared through an amazing set of new songs from the forthcoming album along with some older ones. I absolutely loved every second of it. It was a wonderfully noisy, enery-filled ending to what was a long but fairly sedentary night.

I’ve seen nearly everything that I’ve wanted to see, and it’s been a wonderful festival so far. There’s still a ton on my schedule tonight, and it looks like I’m going to bouncing around quite a bit.

Notes from Hopscotch 2018 Friday day parties

The middle day of Hopscotch means that there’s a lot of day parties going on. There’s also a lot of eating and drinking. Because this is what I do during Hopscotch, I got my Friday lunch at Beasley’s. Because it’s the best fried chicken. I could go on for pages and pages about them, but this isn’t about that.
I’m always very pumped for the Three Lobed day party, which always takes place on Friday and always takes place at King’s. There’s usually at least two bands that I’m very interested in at that party. While there are other day parties going on, the smart money is to stay put if possible. Today, I arrived to that party just in time to see a collaborative performance from Mac McCaughan out of Superchunk and the harpist Mary Lattimore. She’s a Hopscotch regular, and I caught her two years ago doing a day party collaborative set with drumming phenom Kid Millions.

Mary Lattimore playing with Mac at Hopscotch 2018 day party

Like every time that Mac does a collaborative set, I didn’t really know what to expect. He came out with a lot of bleep bloop stuff and Mary did her thing by adding effects pedals and loops to her harp. Although it took me a while to get into it, I really loved it.

Long Hots playing day party at Hopscotch 2018

Next was a band who I didn’t know anything at all about. Long Hots. They’re a punk trio of young women from Philly. They played last year during a day party, but I didn’t see them. I had no expectations at all, but they were pretty great. The drummer plays with the most minimal kit I’ve seen in a while: just a snare and a floor tom. In some ways, they reminded me of the really early stuff by Throwing Muses, when they were a punk band. Like that untitled 1986 album.

Meg Baird was up next. She’s a veteran of the industry, but I didn’t know much about her other than that she’s a folk musician from California. As it turns out, she has done some collaboration with Will Oldham, Sharon Van Etten, Kurt Vile, and others. She’s a really good guitar player, and I enjoyed her set.

Wet Tuna was the next band. I didn’t know anything about them. A couple of stoners playing experimental psychedelic rock mixed with something else. I would not have sought out their set, but because I really wanted to see things that were at King’s both before and after, I just stayed put.

Liz Harris (Grouper) playing a day party at Hopscotch 2018

For me, the entire point of going to the day parties was to see the set by Grouper. I had heard that she was going to do a day party set that was completely unlike the set she was planning to play on Saturday night. I had heard that she was just going to have a guitar and none of her tape loops and all that. I was really looking forward to it either way. In the end, the set she played was exactly what I would have expected. It was a Grouper set. I had never seen her play, but I love her records and I’ve heard a lot of stories. Vocals, guitar bits and a bunch of prerecorded stuff looped and run through effects pedals. I loved it. It wasn’t long enough, but I loved it anyway.

By the time Grouper ended, it was about 5:30. I didn’t have anything on my schedule until 8:45, so I went back to the hotel for a bit of a rest, a snack and a change of clothes.

In a short while, I’ll be posting the stuff from the shows on Friday night.

Notes from day one of Hopscotch 2018

It’s the weekend after Labor Day in the US, and that means that I’m at the Hopscotch Music Festival in downtown Raleigh. This is my seventh year covering the whole festival, and I’ve been to at least some of the festival all nine years. It’s always very exciting and very exhausting, but well worth it. I always have a few big surprises and a few disappointments.

This year, I got to town just as things were kicking off in City Plaza. I had Durham icon Heather McEntire on my list, but I really wanted to partake of the free food and drink at the VIP pregame party. I did that for about 30 minutes and headed over to City Plaza. By the time I got there, they were between sets, and Real Estate was about to start their 7:15 set. Although I have three of their records, I’ve never spent very much time with any of them, and I really know almost nothing about the band. That said, their set was pretty much exactly what I was expecting. As always, I was somewhere near the very front, and about halfway through their set, I looked to my right and spotted my across-the-street neighbor and his daughter. I had no idea, but the neighbor is a huge Flaming Lips fan. And that’s really why everyone was there.

The Lips were great. I had seen them two times before, but not since about 2001. The first time I saw them was in 1995, and they were opening for Throwing Muses at the Cat’s Cradle. The second time was in April of 2000 at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem. That’s another club that had a capacity of about 500. I didn’t see the Lips last time they played Hopscotch, and I haven’t seen them in any other venue. All of this is to say that I had never witnessed the confetti cannons and the glitter, and the hamster wheel, and all of the inflatable stuff. It was really something to see for the first time. I really like the Lips, but to tell a truth, I haven’t been that crazy about anything they’ve released since At War with the Mystics in 2006, and I don’t even own any of the records after Embryonic. I was hoping that they would have a set heavy with stuff from the early catalog, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Wayne with Yoshimi

Wayne came out wearing some sort of harness, and an eye patch. There were lots of inflatables including balloon letters that spelled out “Fuck Yeah Hopscotch”. Of course there were all of the other signature items, and I really enjoyed seeing all of that for the first time. The beach balls, the confetti, the glitter, the giant inflatable Yoshimi, Wayne’s hamster wheel, the big hands that shoot lasers. All of it. It was such a fun experience, and the set they played was perfect for me.

Wayne in his hamster wheel

I was really taking it all in. I especially enjoyed their cover of “Space Oddity”. I guess that’s one of their signatures now to play that song and to have Wayne get in his hamster wheel during it.
If I have a complaint about that set it’s that Wayne worked the crowd a little too much and he told a story or two that went on far too long. Apart from that, it was a great set, and I’m glad that I checked “the Flaming Lips experience” off the list.

After the exciting but somewhat exhausting set by the Lips, I took my time getting over to King’s because the first thing I really wanted to see in the clubs was Brisbane dream pop chanteuse Hatchie at 11:00. Because I had a lot of time, and because I wanted to make sure that I got a good spot, I headed on in and caught the last few songs of the set by Brooklyn band Erica Eso. They’re not a band that I would normally have any interest in seeing, but they fit into my schedule. I can’t quite make out what they’re doing. It’s sort of a smooth jazz-infused indie pop with lots of synths and lots of electronic beats. In a weird way, I was reminded of what it might sound like if someone was making an unsuccessful attempt at paying tribute to Everything But the Girl

Harriette Pilbeam of Hatchie

Hatchie was really high on my list, and they were great. They actually surprised me a bit. The band was much louder than I was expecting. The songs that I already knew were pretty much Harriette solo, and the sound was much different with a full band. The sound was really bright and really big, and less gauzy than the songs I knew. I was really enjoying the set, and I wish I could have stayed longer, but I had other things on my schedule.

Deaf Wish

I had to make the short trek over to Slim’s to see another Aussie band, Deaf Wish. I’m not wild about that venue because the stage is only about five inches off the floor, and because of the narrowness of the building, it gets really full really quickly. If you’re not right at the front of the stage, you won’t be able to see a thing. So I had to make sure I got there in time to get in and have a chance to actually see the band. The Melbourne post-punk/noise rockers were exactly what I was expecting. Maybe even better. They were loud, fast, and energetic. On that tiny stage, and with the lighting rig that they have, there’s not much you can do, but they were really good. One of the guitar players dumped a full beer over his head for some reason, and that probably sucked for him later. The drummer played with very heavy hands, as if the kit owed him money or something. The bassist has a Black Flag tattoo. The whole thing was very punk rock. They were really enjoying themselves, and so was the crowd.

Katie Crutchfield

I contemplated staying for the whole set, but I left after about four songs because I wanted to see the Waxahatchee set over at Fletcher in its entirety. That was really high on the list of “see this no matter what”. As I sometimes do on the first night of the festival, I got turned around. I walked the wrong way for about a block before I realized it, but I still got to Fletcher during the first song of the Waxahatchee set. Although it shouldn’t have surprised me, it did that it was a totally full house. I had to go up to the balcony and found a nice cozy seat. I was also surprised to see Katie playing some solo. After a few songs, her “band” came on stage, but she still played with an acoustic guitar. I never really know who’s a “member” of the band, but they played for a few songs, then left. Katie played the rest of the set solo. Some of her solo songs and some Waxahatchee songs, and one cover. The Waxahatchee songs sound amazing when they’re stripped down, and although I was expecting a full electrified band, I enjoyed this much more. I half expected Katie’s twin sister Allison to come out at some point, but she didn’t. Allison plays tonight at the Pour House, and I will sort of expect to see Katie there.
As she always does, Katie put on a phenomenal set that was a great end to the first night of the festival. Although I could have scurried over to the Lincoln Theatre to see the Love Language, I decided to call it a night and head back to my hotel.

I’m fully rested and ready to head back downtown for the day party festivities. I should be at King’s all day and part of tonight.

September 3, 2018 — “Carpet” by Empath


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Carpet” by Empath (2018, from the Liberating Guilt and Fear EP).

Empath is a noisy band from Philly. They have elements of hardcore punk, experimental noise, pop-punk, and even some flavor of shoegaze. It’s really quite hard to pin down their sound, but there’s lots of energy, lots of distortion, low production values, and the drums a little too big in the mix. I could make a long laundry list of bands that I’m reminded of, bands which are more different than they are alike. That disparate list would include The Wedding Present’s early stuff, Bleeding Rainbow, and a bunch of mid-90s Olympia queercore stuff like Team Dresch. It’s more fun, though, to say that though the band only formed a couple of years ago, the members of Empath have collaborated with the well-known likes of Katie Crutchfield (out of Waxahatchee), All Dogs, and Perfect Pussy.

I had never heard of Empath until I started to do a little bit of final research for my upcoming weekend at the ninth annual Hopscotch Music Festival. I think they may have been a late addition to the lineup or a substitution for one of the bands who had to drop out. They weren’t on my initial radar, but I clicked through their song today, and immediately put them on my short list.

What this lacks in technical proficiency, it definitely makes up for in fun. This song accomplishes much more in 94 seconds than most songs do in four minutes.

“Carpet” by Empath

Even in the span of only a minute and a half, this song manages to pull off the loud/quiet/loud thing quite well. Granted, the “quiet” part is only a few seconds, but it’s definitely there. And even though the drums are a bit too big in the mix, I love what they’re doing with that. They’re relentless and furious and a little chaotic, but they’re sort of magnificent.

You can buy the Liberating Guilt and Fear EP from the Get Better Records bandcamp page here.

Hopscotch is this coming weekend, and Empath will be playing on Friday, which is the middle night of the festival. They have the 10:00 slot over at King’s, which should be starting up just as Grizzly Bear is winding down on the City Plaza main stage. I’ve got a lot on my plate all three nights, but I’ll figure a way to see most of the short list.

Check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and the schedule here. Ticket information is here.

July 25, 2018 — “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’


If you only listen to one song today, make it “Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’ (2018, from the forthcoming album Fall into the Sun).
Swearin’ is an indie pop/cuddlepunk quartet from Philadelphia. The band is fronted by Allison Crutchfield, who is the twin sister of Katie Crutchfield. Katie is, of course, the front of the magnificent Waxahatchee. You’ve heard the story a million times about how they grew up in Alabama and played together in a band called P.S. Eliot. I won’t rehash that story.

Swearin’ put out an album in 2012 and another in 2013, then they took a break. The two Crutchfield sisters played with their respective bands at Hopscotch in 2013. Scheduling problems forced me to miss most of the Waxahatchee set, and I had to skip the Swearin’ set.

Allison made a solo record called Stranger in This Town, which was released last January. She toured in support of that album, and last February, on a very strange night, I went to see her. Although it was no surprise, it was awesome to see her sister come on stage to help her do a marvelous cover of The New Pornographers’ “Letter from an Occupant”.

You may remember that the 2015 Waxahatchee album Ivy Tripp was my #3 record of that year, and that was a banner year for new releases at my house. You may also remember that Katie pinch hit for Owen Pallett at Hopscotch in 2015 and absolutely knocked my socks off.

This year, when the Hopscotch lineup was announced, I was very happy to see both Crutchfield sisters on the card. Waxahatchee plays on Thursday night and Swearin’ on Friday night. I’m not going to miss either one. In addition, both bands have new releases coming out in the autumn. Waxahatchee’s Great Thunder EP will be out on September 7, and the Swearin’ album Fall into the Sun will be out on October 5. Both will be released by my hometown label Merge Records.

So far, I’ve only heard one song from the Swearin’ record, and I really love it. This is that song.

“Grow into a Ghost” by Swearin’

This is, as expected, wonderfully fuzzy indie pop. I’ll say again, as I always do, that I’m reminded very much of That Dog. With that said, it’s a little convenient that my favourite That Dog record is Retreat from the Sun, and this new Swearin’ record is called Fall into the Sun. While it’s fuzzy and wonderful like the previous releases, this is much more polished. It’s better production values, better playing, and simply just better. The previous releases are raw and energetic, full of unchecked emotions, and probably done with limited studio time and limited feet of tape. This song is a bit more sophisticated. All of the values are better and it’s clear that more attention was paid to making it sound great.

One thing I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the chorus. The line is

I watch you
I watch you
I watch you

Grow into a ghost

Because she sings these lines with no spacing, and because she puts emphasis on I, rather than on watch, it sort of sounds like she’s singing


That silly mis-hearing doesn’t change the fact that I love this song, and I’m really looking forward to the new record and to finally seeing Swearin’ at this year’s Hopscotch.

You can and should pre-order Fall into the Sun via Merge here. They say physical copies come with a pair of 3D glasses. From the looks of the gallery, there’s a 3D photo on the back cover of the vinyl and in the liner notes of the CD. There might be something else. Merge promises more details on what the 3D glasses are for.

You should also pre-order the Waxahatchee EP here.

Check out the Hopscotch lineup here, and check out the ticket options here.

July 18, 2018 — “Inhuman” by Oceanator

Elise Okusami (Oceanator)

If you only listen to one song today, make it “Inhuman” by Oceanator (2018, from the Lows EP).

Oceanator is the indie rock solo recording project of Brooklyn-based Elise Okusami. She’s been playing guitar since she was nine years old, and she’s played in bands for several years, but this is her pet project. The first Oceanator EP, simply called EP came out last year, and she followed it with Lows in April of this year. Her influences range from 80s synth pop to surf rock to folk rock to 90s alt-rock and grunge. On this record, I hear a lot of 90s indie rock influences, and I’m frequently reminded of Guided By Voices. Especially on today’s song.

This is another project that I had never heard of until I started my Hopscotch research. It’s a really good lineup this year, and while we don’t know the full schedule, we know that Oceanator is playing on Saturday night. She’s one of many on my short list of bands to see on the last night of the festival. My short list for that night includes Liz Phair on the main stage plus club shows by Grouper, Chad VanGaalen, Ought, Still Corners, and Oceanator. Plus a few others on the long list/”plan B” list. Of course there’s bound to be a conflict or two over the course of the weekend, but Grouper is the only one of that lot that would take precedence over Oceanator if such a conflict exists on Saturday.

While I haven’t spent a lot of time with this EP, I like the whole thing, and today’s song jumped out at me the most. This is that song.

“Inhuman” by Oceanator

It starts off with some gentle strumming and a bit of echo on the vocals. It builds a bit, slowly, and then there’s a pretty heavy shift at around 1:19 when everything crashes in pretty heavily. Up to then, it totally reminds me of GBV. It shifts back to “quiet” for a while, and then back to “loud”, but it doesn’t follow a predictable pattern. The second “quiet” part is a bit louder than the first, and the third “quiet” part has really muted drums. When the chorus comes back around again for the third “loud” part, it’s significantly louder and much more intense, with many more layers than before. From 3:42 all the way to the end, it’s sheer, beautiful noise. Controlled chaos. Of course it comes to an almost full stop right there at the very end, and that’s another thing that makes this amazing.

Oceanator is on Tiny Engines Records along with Illuminati Hotties, which is an amazing solo recording project with what is either the dumbest name or a clever name. That label also features Spirit of the Beehive, who will be playing Hopscotch on Friday, the middle night of the festival.

You can buy Lows via Bandcamp here. While you’re at it, support the label by buying the latest record by The Spirit of the Beehive here, and the amazing debut record by illuminati hotties here.

For details about this year’s Hopscotch lineup, check here. For ticket options, go here.

July 11, 2018 — “FFS” by Deaf Wish

Deaf Wish

If you only listen to one song today, make it “FFS” by Deaf Wish (2018, from the forthcoming album Lithium Zion).
Deaf Wish is a noise rock/post-punk quartet from Melbourne. They’ve released four albums to date, and they have a new one called Lithium Zion coming out on July 27 via Sub Pop. On today’s song, and on many of their other songs, they sound very much like Sonic Youth. There are some songs that sound more like Black Flag or something of that ilk, but it’s really mostly Sonic Youth.

Although I go through phases when all I can write about is Australian bands, and I go through phases when all I can write about is bands in the vein of Sonic Youth, this is a band that I had never heard of until very recently. Deaf Wish is on the roster for the 2018 Hopscotch Music Festival, and as I always do, I’ll be doing a bunch of research and a bunch of writing in advance of the festival so that I’m very familiar with the lineup. Although there will be more bands named later and some inevitable changes to the lineup, this is where it stands right now. We don’t know the schedule yet, and it’s usually posted in August, but we do know that Deaf Wish is scheduled for Thursday night, the first night of the festival. As long as they’re not playing at the same time as Waxahatchee, or in the same time slot as Sonic Youth guitarist Lee Ranaldo, I’m putting these guys high on my list of bands to see. Those are the only potential conflicts that I can imagine that night. Click through this second wave of artist announcements and scroll all the way down for the day-by-day lineup, which includes some names not on the “main list”.

By now, you all know how much I love Hopscotch and how much fun I have every year, so I’m looking forward to another great autumn kickoff.

As I said, I hadn’t ever heard of this band until I was doing more Hopscotch research, but it didn’t take long at all for me to put them way near the top of my list. So far, I’ve only heard two songs from the forthcoming record, and I love them both.

“FFS” by Deaf Wish

The Sonic Youth comparison is an easy one on this song, but there’s also something that makes me think of The Wedding Present’s wildly interpretive cover of the Bow Wow Wow song “Go Wild in the Country”. Take some time to check out the Weddoes blistering cover here compared to the poppy original here.

Back to the matter at hand, one of the many things that I love about “FFS” is the full stop at the end. That’s no surprise to anyone. Another thing that should come as no surprise is that I really love that they play with the stereo field a little bit. The intro is really heavy in the right channel until the drums kick in and the balance is more even. Also, Sarah Hardman really does sound like Kim Gordon.
I love this song, and everything else that I’ve heard from these guys. I’ll look forward to the release, and I encourage you all to pre-order Lithium Zion via Bandcamp here.
Also, the video is worth checking out because it’s really basic, but really awesome:

Remember: Hopscotch is just two months away. Time to buy your tickets and start making your plans.

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