Tag Archives: Future Islands

Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Two

As you all probably know, I’m spending the weekend at the eighth annual Hopscotch Music Festival. You can catch up on my adventures from Thursday here. Friday was a little busier. It was a long day filled with some pleasant surprises, some mild disappointment, and just a lot of fun.

I wasn’t in a real hurry to get down to the day party stuff, so I kind of relaxed a little bit at the hotel, and that was probably a great idea. Again, because of my lax approach to prep this year, I didn’t really know what was going on during the day parties other than that I would eventually end up at Kings. At about 1:30, I made it downtown, grabbed some lunch, and just sort of walked around a bit.

I finally started into the action by going up to Kings. Chuck Johnson was there playing his new ambient stuff.
I don’t know anything about that guy, but he’s been a prolific experimental composer with many albums to his credit. His new album Balsams, which is layered and looped pedal steel guitar, has been getting great reviews, and there was a bit of buzz about this performance. It was beautiful and relaxing, but I wasn’t ready to be put to sleep.

I went downstairs and outside to regroup, but I really had no plan at all. I found out they were doing comedy downstairs at Neptunes, so I went down there for a bit. Although it was structured, it was very much open mic-style. All local guys with very little experience doing short sets. I stayed down there for three comedians. One was really awful, one was decent, and one was really good.

Repressed

I headed back upstairs to Kings just before the start of a set by Mac McCaughan out of Superchunk and Kurt Wagner out of Lambchop. They’ve got a new project called Repressed, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. And I couldn’t have dreamed up what I saw. I don’t even know how to categorize it. Mac was operating some electronic bits and Kurt was singing. There was vocoder and/or other heavy vocal effects, and it was a bit weird if I’m honest. There were also two girls on clean backing vocals. After a few songs, I left, feeling confused and out of sorts by what I’d just seen. It was time to head into City Plaza for the night’s main stage event.

Birds of Avalon

Local psych rockers Birds of Avalon started things off. I didn’t know anything about them, and although I’d heard their name before, I didn’t really know what to expect. I really liked them though. They were exceptionally loud, and they had really good energy. They use two drummers on full kits. That kind of thing always interests me. I thought I might do that thing where I only watch for a couple of songs, but I got really into it.

The Make Up

The Make Up was next. They’ve been around for a long time. Ian Svenonius, James Canty and Steve Gamboa emerged from the ashes of DC punk band Nation of Ulysses to form The Make Up. The Make Up were active in the late 1990s before disbanding and reforming twice. I thought I had seen them once in 1998 or so, but now I’m beginning to question my memory. Their rock/punk/gospel/surf rock style is certainly unique, but when they disbanded, Svenonius said it was because everyone was co-opting their style. That style includes wearing matching outfits.
Last night, they all wore sparkly champagne-coloured suits. That style also includes Svenonius’ erratic behaviour. He rants and raves and generally acts like a person who is either on drugs or is suffering from mental illness. I’m convinced, though, that although he has some extreme views, he’s just playing a character. Either way, they had a ton of energy, and Svenonius interacts with the crowd a lot and has this incredible bravado on stage. It’s something to behold. I really liked their set, and even more than that, I was impressed by the experience.

Future Islands

Future Islands was next. I saw them a couple of years ago at Hopscotch, and while I appreciate their stage presence, and while I appreciate the fact that they love playing in North Carolina, they just don’t do much for me. I watched for a few songs, then headed out to the club shows.

Aunt Sis

I headed over to Neptunes to catch the Asheville four-piece Aunt Sis. I didn’t really know much about them other than the songs that I listened to in the name of “hopscotch research”. I really liked their set. They had a bit of a sad bastard vibe mixed with a bit of noise. They really had the quiet/loud/quiet thing working. I was reminded a lot of Red House Painters. They may or may not be named after a boutique salsa company in Western North Carolina.

Next, I walked over to Pour House to see King Woman. The band is fronted by Kristina Esfandiari, who used to be in the San Francisco shoegaze band Whirr and the doomgaze band Miserable. King Woman is something totally different, and it’s definitely closer to the doomgaze stuff she’s done in the past. This is loud, sludgy, dark, and a bit aggressive. I was at the side of the room where the double-tiered benches are, sitting on the top. Some dude came along, sat practically on my feet, and immediately fell asleep, sort of using my legs as a pillow. It was super weird, and I hopped up and got out of that spot. I don’t know how he managed to sleep with the intense noise, but he did. Just at that point, Esfandiari asked the crowd to clear a spot so she could set up shop on the floor. It was a great set, and I stayed for most of it.

Mourn

I left that set a little early so I could make the long hike over to CAM so I could see Mourn. They wore matching paint-splattered outfits, which made them look more youthful than they already are. I knew that they’re teenagers, but I was shocked by how young they all look. No matter, because they’re a really good indie rock band with loads of potential. This band is way better than they should be at their age. I had to leave after a few songs because I had a lot more to see, and a bit of a hike to get back to the main footprint of the festival.

For the rest of the night, I only saw bands who I will describe using “formerly known as …”.

Very high on my list for the festival was Preoccupations. The Calgary post-punk band formerly known as Viet Cong, so I headed over to Lincoln to catch as much of their set as possible. Unfortunately, I’m limited by the equipment that I have, and I couldn’t get even a halfway decent picture.
As expected, the band was loud and energetic, but something about it fell short of my expectations. They have a slightly different sound now as compared to what they did on the eponymous Viet Cong record. Frontman Matt Flegel was more screaming than singing, and something else was slightly less than I hoped it would be. Which made it easier for me to leave after four or so songs. Even though it was getting late, I still had two more bands to see.

Songs: Molina

I strolled over to Fletcher because I really wanted to catch Songs:Molina. This is more or less the band formerly known as Magnolia Electric Co. The founder of that band, Jason Molina, passed away in 2013 due to organ failure.
He was in a lot of bands and a lot of solo projects with a lot of different styles. Alt-country, folk, indie rock.
One of his “bands” was Songs: Ohia, after which Songs: Molina is obviously named. Many of his projects had revolving members, but Magnolia Electric Co was consistent. And, to my knowledge, Songs:Molina is pretty much the same as Magnolia Electric. Anyway, they were playing a beautiful, heart-felt set, and they talked a bit about how much they all missed Jason. I couldn’t stay very long, though.

Ó

Last up was Ó. The Brooklyn indie rock quartet band formerly known as Eskimeaux. Fronted by Gabby Smith, the band features Felix Walworth (Told Slant) on a minimal drum kit set really low to the ground. They were absolutely sensational. They were so energetic and they were really enthusiastic about the festival. I know a lot of bands stop through here while they’re on tour, and they can’t stick around, but it’s always a plus for me when I know that the performers are out there enjoying the festival. These guys clearly are. All of that aside, they totally impressed me with their set. I had it high on my list, but I sort of expected it to be a vanilla performance. Plain, but reliable. What we got was some really deluxe flavour of ice cream. I left there in a really good mood. I was reminded of how I felt when I left the Diet Cig show last year.

All in all, it was a great night, and there’s still a lot more Hopscotch to go.


Recapping Hopscotch13 Day Two

You’ve already read my recap of the first night of Hopscotch 2013. You might also follow my personal twitter account, which I kept updated throughout the festival. You might be a subscriber to my brand new This is That Song YouTube channel. Now, it’s time for my detailed account of my second day at the festival.

Just as I did last year, I woke up early on the middle day of the festival to go watch the Carolina Hurricanes participate in an informal workout. Training camp doesn’t officially open until this week, but some of the boys have been skating together for a couple of weeks. They’re not allowed to have contact with the coaches or trainers, and they rent the ice time themselves. For many years, this pre-camp was colloquially known as “Camp Brind’Amour”. When NHL legend and longtime Hurricane Rod Brind’Amour was still playing, he was known for his fanatical approach to fitness, and he was the guy who took charge of these workouts. After he hung up his skates, little Chad LaRose stepped into his role of taking charge of the informal workouts. Since LaRose is no longer with the team, the new guy in charge is defenseman Jay Harrison. “Camp Harry”, I guess. So I watched the boys skate and scrimmage for an hour and a half, went back to the hotel for a little while, then headed downtown for some of the day parties.

“Day parties” at Hopscotch are awesome. Some of the bands who are already on the bill play daytime shows, or maybe they take the opportunity to play solo shows or do some weird stuff. Some bands who aren’t on the bill play shows, and there’s always been a lot of collaborative shows. This year certainly featured a lot of that. The day party shows don’t require a wristband or ticket or anything like that. So it’s a good opportunity for people to see some free music. And of course, it’s a great chance to do some day drinking.

I didn’t really have a plan for the Friday day parties. I wanted to try to see Thurston Moore (from Sonic Youth), who was playing a solo show during the day party. He wasn’t on the main Hopscotch lineup card, and that odd middle of the afternoon show was his only scheduled appearance. I kind of wandered around for a while, ate some barbecue, drank a couple of beers, and ended up at King’s. I spent a lot of time there during the Hopscotch12 day parties, so I thought I’d go back up there. I don’t know who was playing when I got there, but I ran into some friends (one of whom I had never actually met in person), and a new acquaintance. They convinced me to head over to the Contemporary Art Museum with them to see local metal band Valiant Thorr play. I’m not into metal at all, but because one of the guys described them as “a punk band who doesn’t take themselves too seriously”, I was intrigued.

We went down to see Valiant Thorr, where I ran into an old friend from college. It was nice to be around friends who I’ve known for varying lengths of time ranging from 20 minutes to 20 years.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, metal isn’t “my thing”. At all. I kind of despise metal. My friend was right, though. They don’t take themselves overly seriously, and they put on a very entertaining show. Later on, a different friend likened a Valiant Thorr show to a GWAR show. Not that the two bands sound alike. Just that they put on an entertaining show that even a non-fan can enjoy. He said something like “You don’t go to a GWAR show because you like GWAR. You go because they’re entertaining as hell.”

After that, those guys went to do something else, and I went to try to catch some of the Thurston Moore set. It was one in/one out at King’s, and I didn’t really want to stand there on the sidewalk waiting, so I sat down for a while before heading over to City Plaza for the big show.

I wasn’t interested at all in the big act that night, but I wanted to see local garage pop band Gross Ghost, who were first on the bill. I liked them enough, but didn’t think that there was anything to write home about.
My friends convinced me that I wouldn’t want to miss Future Islands, who are local boys currently living in Baltimore. I don’t know how to describe them. Synth-y pop with a bit of soul and I don’t know what. While other people claimed that it was the best set of the whole festival, it just wasn’t up my alley. I stuck around for most of their set, then headed over to Kings.

Thurston Moore and Merzbow

I thought I was getting to Kings just in time for a punk-infused garage rock band from Raleigh called Black Zinfandel. I’d never heard them before. Not even in my exhaustive Hopscotch13 research. When I got there, I was surprised to see a pretty big line and thought that they must have a fanatical following. The one in/one out line moved very quickly, and once I got in, I quickly realized why it was one in/one out. Thurston Moore was still on stage. He had wrapped up his set and was at the very end of a collaborative set with Japanese noise-rock icon Merzbow. I was lucky enough to catch about 12 minutes of their incredible improvised set. They were killing it. Both shredding their guitars. Merzbow was actually playing one strange stringed instrument after another. They all looked like they were things that he cobbled together in his workshop. And he probably did. Anyway, it was a VERY noisy, brilliantly beautiful, overwhelming wave of noise. Big, beautiful noise.

I was kind of blown away by those few minutes, which I only caught by accident. Incredible, really.

Of course I stuck around for the Black Zinfandel set. They were really good. On any given night, I might have said that it was a happy last-minute choice. But the Thurston Moore/Merzbow set overshadowed it.

From there, I headed over to Berkeley, where I spent most of the rest of my night. I had a bit of interest in seeing Raleigh indie pop/dream-pop band WOOL, but the biggest draw of the night for me was Houses, who were the third band on the Berkeley bill that night. I had no real interest in seeing Rose Windows, who played between WOOL and Houses. However, since Berkeley is such a small, narrow place, my decision to stay put had more to do with securing a spot for Houses than anything else. And it turned out to be wise. I was running on fumes all night, and it was nice not to have to walk anymore.

WOOL really impressed me. I liked them way more than I thought I would. They remind me of the dreamy, jangle-y Brit-pop from the mid 1990s. Before it was ruined by bands who care more about image than substance. They were probably the biggest surprise of the festival for me. I hope to see more of them sometime soon.

Rose Windows is one of Sub Pop’s new babies. They are what they are. A whole lot of Seattle kids who looked like they just stepped out of 1977. Psychedelic stoner rock. I don’t have much of an interest in that genre, and while I didn’t exactly dislike their set, it’s not the kind of thing I would pay money for.

Houses

Houses was up next, and they were probably the band that I was most excited to see. That’s including The Breeders and Low. I simply can’t get enough of their new album A Quiet Darkness.

As the kids from Houses unpacked their gear, set up their laptops and their MIDI controllers, it was clear that something wasn’t right. Whether there was something wrong with the club’s electrical system or something wrong with the software on Dexter’s laptop, they couldn’t get their rig to work properly. They were supposed to start at 11:00, but they didn’t actually play until almost 11:45. Despite the long delay and a few other technical problems, they still sounded great, and I stayed for every minute of their set. Plus a few minutes after they were done just to say hello.

That long delay meant that I really had to haul ass over to Kennedy Theater to catch the last little bit of Waxahatchee. She was really high on my list, and if everything had gone according to schedule, I would have seen about 40 minutes of her set. As it played out, I only caught two songs. The band sounded fantastic, but I was really disappointed that I missed the bulk of her set. As an aside, I was also hoping to catch a bit of her twin sister’s set. While Katie Crutchfield is the front of Waxahatchee, twin sister Allison Crutchfield is the front of Swearin’, who played earlier in the night. I had to opt out of Swearin’ because it would have meant leaving Berkeley after WOOL just to catch a bit of the Swearin’ set, and then turn right around and go several blocks back to Berkeley.

After the Waxahatchee set, I had a notion to go back over to King’s to watch the end of Pere Ubu’s set, which was supposed to be followed by a collaborative set with Merzbow. I saw Pere Ubu once in 1992, when they opened for Pixies. It was painfully loud. That’s all I remember about the show. I don’t know their music, but I knew that it would be pretty amazing to see Merzbow hit the stage with them. As I was walking there, I changed my mind and called it a night.

When I got back to the hotel, it was about 1:30 in the morning, and I tweeted about backing out of my attempt to see Pere Ubu/Merzbow. Minutes later, a total stranger tweeted back at me “Pere Ubu isn’t even close to being done with their regular set”. And I knew that I had made the right choice to hit the sack.

I went at it pretty hard with seeing a lot of bands on Friday. I had eight bands on my “short list” that night, and I only saw half of them, but I did see five others for a total of nine. I wouldn’t say that I drank a lot of beer, but I wouldn’t say that I drank “just a few” either. I did, for the record, stop drinking early enough in the night to ensure that I was safe to drive.
Although I did a lot of walking around on Friday, I also did a lot of stopping and sitting down. I ate enough, and I somehow managed to stay hydrated. This would not be the case on Saturday.

Stay tuned tomorrow for the “Day Three” update, and maybe the “Mac and Cheese” update. Later this week, look for the special post about “the incident”.


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