Tag Archives: Jenny Besetzt

Recapping Hopscotch17 Day Four

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.

No One Mind

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.

Jenny Besetzt

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.

Dylan Baldi of Cloud Nothings

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 and Nicole Lawrence

“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.

Mount Moriah

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.

Cass McCombs Band

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.

Angel Olsen

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.


Recapping Hopscotch 15 Day Three

Saturday was the final day of the sixth annual Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh. I had a great time, and at the end of it all, I had a mixed bag of emotions. I was completely exhausted, but I was really happy. The last performance I saw ended up being my favorite thing from the whole festival.

I got my day off to a bit of a late start. The initial plan was to wake up at 8, have some breakfast, do some writing, call my friend Amanda, make it to downtown by 12, start the day party action at 12:30, meet Amanda at some point, and enjoy some daytime music with her before going to the official festival things.

I didn’t wake up until almost 10, skipped breakfast, rushed my writing, texted (instead of called) Amanda, and I didn’t make it downtown until about 1. In my haste, I ended up leaving my memory card back at the hotel, so I was limited as to what kinds of photos I could get. My camera has only a tiny bit of on-board memory, and I ended up not using it at all.

On the outdoor stage right next to the deck where I always park, Jenny Besetzt was playing. I saw them at the 2012 festival, and I liked them a lot. They list my home of Greensboro as their hometown, but they’re sort of from “all over”. I watched them and really enjoyed their set. I didn’t have much on my schedule, so I made it my plan to just wander around.

Amanda met me sometime around 2, we had some coffee, then we walked into and out of a few sets. Nothing notable. Eventually, we had some food at Beasley’s (for the second time in as many days), where I ended up running into some friends. Amanda considered buying a City Plaza ticket so she could see Dwight Yoakam, but in the end, she couldn’t justify the ticket price.

I knew that my night was set because I wouldn’t have to do very much walking. I was going to the City Plaza for X and Dwight Yoakam, then my plan was to spend the majority of the evening right behind the Plaza at Fletcher.

X was scheduled to start at 7:15, but they actually started at 7. There was a forecast for rain, and the skies were threatening. They said they were going to play as many songs as they could as fast as they could so Dwight Yoakam could get out there before the rain. They were great. I’m not a big X fan, and I don’t even know their stuff, but they played well, and the crowd loved it. They finished at about 8, and I assumed that Dwight Yoakam’s crew would rush things along. I went to grab a sandwich, and waited. And waited. And waited. Dwight and his band were scheduled at 8:45, but they didn’t hit the stage until almost 9.

I had already made up my mind that I was going to bail on Dwight Yoakam no matter what, because I wanted to see Ian William Craig, Elsa Ambrogio, and most importantly, Katie Crutchfield. They were playing back-to-back-to-back sets in Fletcher. If time permitted, I also wanted to see some of the Chelsea Wolfe set at Lincoln, but I really my plan was to stay put at the seated, quiet venue. And that’s exactly what I did.

Ian William Craig’s set was exactly what I thought it would be, but it was a little too sleepy for some of the audience. Vocal loops, tape loops, clicks and pops. After his set was over, he sat in the theatre for a bit with a drink, and I went over to say hello. As it turns out, he’s an Oilers fan. He told me that although he’d never played anywhere in the United States, he already knew about Raleigh because of the 2006 Stanley Cup finals. I knew that he was a native Edmontonian, but there was no reason to assume that he liked the Oil. That just made him a little cooler.

Elisa Ambrogio was next. I’d heard a few songs, but I didn’t know anything about her. I wasn’t even entirely sure what to expect. I knew that her music was sort of indie rock, sort of punk, sort of “experimental”, sort of weird. I always think of Julie Doiron as a reference marker. I saw her play a day party collaboration with Tashi Dorji, and it was, in a word, weird. So I had no idea what to expect. What we got was the “this is sort of like Julie Doiron” thing, and I really loved it. Her band played for about 45 minutes, but I would have loved to have seen another 45 minutes.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say again. Fletcher is a great venue, and there’s always an atmosphere of respect. It’s dead quiet in there except for applause. There’s no conversations in the audience, not really even any whispering. Except for the photographers who are working the event, very few people use any devices during the performance. No cell phones, no cameras. Nothing. This isn’t because the artist or the venue requests this. It’s just what happens organically at Fletcher. Two years ago, I made a pretty great video of Angel Olsen playing “Creator Destroyer” at her solo performance in Fletcher, but since then, I haven’t dared do anything like that. I see lots of great stuff at Fletcher every Hopscotch, but I’ve kept my phone and my camera in my pocket. Out of respect for the audience.

Katie Crutchfield wasn’t even on the original Hopscotch lineup. That Saturday midnight set was supposed to belong to Owen Pallett. He was also supposed to be the “improviser in residence” all weekend long. Unfortunately, he had a family emergency and had to back out at the last minute. Greg Fox stepped in as “improviser in residence” and Katie Crutchfield (Waxahatchee) stepped in to fill Pallett’s Saturday night shift. The festival announced this on Wednesday, but I didn’t catch wind of it until Thursday night. Katie joked that she didn’t even know about until Friday.

Two years ago, when Waxahatchee played Hopscotch, I was delayed getting to that set, and I was only able to catch two songs. They were great, but I was really disappointed. This set was something special. It wasn’t the full Waxahatchee band. It was just Katie and an acoustic guitar. Because of the very late change to the schedule, I think a lot of people who would have loved this show didn’t know about it. Either way, it wasn’t as crowded in there as I thought it might be. However, as soon as Katie got started, I knew that we were in for something really special. She played for a little over an hour, and a nice mix of songs from each of her three albums, plus a breathtaking cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Greenville”.

The first Waxahatchee album —American Weekend(2012) is mostly solo, and the songs are great, but the production quality is pretty bad. On the 2013 album Cerulean Salt, the songs were bigger and a little less dark. And played with a full band. And the sound quality was exponentially better. That trajectory continued through this year’s Ivy Tripp. The new songs are big and loud. As big and loud as they are, though, when they’re stripped down to an acoustic guitar and Katie’s voice, they’re really beautiful. And all those older songs that are dark and sad are much more dark and much sadder. What’s even better is Katie’s voice. When she’s singing with full band, she howls and growls with a raspy voice. Solo, she doesn’t have to strain, and her voice is much prettier. I got caught up in the beauty of the songs, and I got a little teary-eyed. Okay. More than “a little” teary-eyed.

Over the last couple of years of Hopscotch, I’ve seen some really great things at Fletcher. Angel Olsen, Low, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig. This Katie Crutchfield set topped all of those. In fact, it was my favorite thing of the whole festival. Waxahatchee (full band) will be touring soon, and I really want to see them, but this was a very special experience.

Although I could have headed over to catch the tail end of Jessica Pratt just around the corner at Kennedy, I decided to let the festival end on a perfect note. I couldn’t imagine anything putting me in a better place than that Katie Crutchfield set.

For the third night in a row, I walked over to the Pie Pushers pizza truck and got a slice before going back to the hotel. This morning I woke up to find myself back in the real world. 52 more weeks until Hopscotch 16.


Recapping Hopscotch — Day one

You’ve read my prologue to my Hopscotch Music Festival recap. Now it’s time to get down to the real business. The music.

I tried to take a couple of notes and a couple of pictures at every band that I saw. All the pictures you’ll see in this post are pictures that I took. I must apologize for the quality of my photography. If I knew what I was doing, my camera would produce better pictures. Better than nothing, I guess. Click on them if you want for the larger image.

Jenny Besetzt

I started my Hopscotch Festival at White Collar Crime, and the first band was Jenny Besetzt, a band from Greensboro. I got to the club a little early, relaxed with a beer, and just waited for the show to start. For some reason, I wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be. I’m not sure what it was. I just couldn’t get into it. Since I was still trying to do everything, I left their set about four songs in, and headed over to the next one on my list. For what it’s worth, I only went to one other show at that venue, and I didn’t like that set either.

Lilac Shadows

I made it over to Kings Barcade while Lilac Shadows were a couple of songs into their set. I was immediately impressed by what I saw. The sound was great, they were having a great time, and there were was an amazing light/dark show. I took time out to tweet something like “Lilac Shadows are killing it!”
With the quality of the picture, it’s sort of hard to make out, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Almost in complete darkness is the guitar player. Right of frame, there’s his shadow on the wall, and to the left of that, the shadow of the head of the bass guitar. It was much cooler to see in person, and I wish I knew how to control my camera better to show the shadows better. One of these days, I’ll learn. As an aside, In the dark, I was under the impression that the club was much spacier than it really is. I stayed until the end of their set, and it was right then when it was going to get tricky.

By now, it was already 10:20, and the plan was to catch some of Altos at The Lincoln Theatre and some of Free Electric State back at Kings. They were both playing at 10:30, and the venues are about a five minute walk apart from each other. That would be doable. And I also wanted to catch at least a few songs of Deerhoof. They were playing a two hour set, and I would have plenty of time for that. So I thought.

Altos

At some point before any of the music started, I had a twitter exchange with Altos, and that tiny little thing made me start there before splitting that 10-11 slot and moving on to Free Electric State. As I watched Altos set up, I was pretty amazed at how quick and efficient they were at getting their stuff on stage and in place. I knew that they were a 12-piece band, but I was still kind of blown away by the fact that there were so many of them. Sometimes a large band like Godspeed You! Black Emperor will travel with a pared down version. Not these kids! As soon as they started playing, I knew that there was no way I was going to leave their set. Too bad for Free Electric State. Too bad for Deerhoof. In fact, I took time to tweet:

Fuck a bunch of Deerhoof. Anyone who’s at Hopscotch and isn’t at The Altos right now is missing out. Get your ass here!

Violins, violas, trumpets, guitars, more guitars, more violins, drums, another drummer, more drums, more violin, more guitars, a cello, keyboards, more guitars. Everybody singing. Everybody switching instruments. Everybody having a great time. They do a lot of things that would independently make me happy. They do a bunch of them at the same time, and that makes them a dangerous band. A dangerously good band. When their set was over, I tweeted:

The Altos just blew me the fuck away. Can JAMC top that tomorrow? It’ll be tough

Julia Holter

By the time they got done, there was a small gap before the scheduled start of the next thing that I wanted to see. I could have walked around and caught one or two songs of Hacienda, and I really wanted to catch a song or two of Boy Friend, but it just wasn’t going to happen. I walked over to the Long View Center, which is a church. Julia Holter was playing there at midnight. I got there in time to sit down in one of the pews and relax a bit before she took the stage. Something wasn’t right about it. The sound was good, and it was almost appropriate for her music to be coming out of a church. But sitting in a pew wasn’t right. And there wasn’t anywhere else for us to be, unless we climbed the stairs to the altar. The lighting was a bit strange, too. Still, even if it was an uncomfortable pew, it was still nice to be off my feet for a while. I stuck around for almost her entire set.

Originally, Exitmusic was scheduled to play as the last band of the night at Kings, and I was very excited about that, but a week or so before the festival, Exitmusic backed out. Aleksa had some acting obligation, which I assume was Boardwalk Empire, but whatever it was, it meant that they had to back out. I was, and still am, bummed that I didn’t get to see them. Had they played, I would have only seen a song or two of Julia Holter and I wouldn’t have seen any of Donovan Quinn.

Donovan Quinn

Next was the long walk from Long View to Five Star to see Donovan Quinn. By the time I got there, I was completely wiped out. I arrived at 12:45, but he didn’t start until about 1:00. Maybe it was the long walk, maybe it was the strange venue. Maybe it was knowing that I still had an even longer walk ahead of me to get back to my car. I wasn’t really able to get into it. There were chairs, and I wasn’t shy about using one of them. I stayed for about five songs, but I was quickly running out of steam, so I headed back to the car.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember which one of the smaller parking decks I had parked in, and it took a few minutes of walking around once I got to the general area. By the time I got back to my hotel, it was after 2am.

I stayed up to mess around with the pictures that I took (there were many more) and to send some emails to friends of mine who decided to go to a wedding instead of to Hopscotch. I reminded them that they were missing a very good time and I specifically went on about how much I liked Altos.

By the time I got to bed, it was after 3am, maybe even close to 4, and I hadn’t had much to eat all day. I’ll know next time to make sure I eat more.

Anyway, that was my day one.


September 6 — “Hours We Could Have Spent…” by Jenny Besetzt

Jenny Besetzt

Today, we continue our series on bands who will be playing at this weekend’s Third Annual Hopscotch Music Festival. The three-day festival starts today! This is the first year that I’ll be attending the entire festival. I only went to one of the City Plaza shows the first year. Last year, I had every intention of going to the whole thing, but I had an unexpected life change that threw a wrench in that plan. This year, I decided that I was going to go to the whole thing no matter what. As it turns out, I even get to cover the festival as a member of the “media”.

So the festival starts today, and while there are FREE day party things going on all afternoon, the real action kicks off after the sun goes down. By 9:30pm, there will already be 14 different venues with bands on stage, and it all happens in a radius of like five city blocks.

Anyway, one of the first bands to play tonight will be Jenny Besetzt. They’re a five-piece indie band from my current hometown of Greensboro, North Carolina. For all I know, they could be my next door neighbors.

The band isn’t named for a person. It’s like Bettie Serveert. There is no Jenny Besetzt, but it probably doesn’t stop people from calling the girl in the band “Jenny”. As it turns out, besetzt is a German word. They claim that it means “demoniacally possessed. Batshit possessed”. Aside from being able to ask how much something costs and how to count to three, I don’t speak German. The internets do, though. I checked it out, and what I’m being told by the interwebs is that “besetzt” actually translates to “occupied. busy”. You would tell someone that you couldn’t go to the movies with them because you were “besetzt”. Again, I don’t speak the language, but I think “besessen” is closer to their “batshit crazy posessed”. But who am I?

There’s almost no available information about this band other than the stuff on their Hopscotch page. I’m pretty much regurgitating that here.

Anyway, until a couple of weeks ago, I’d never heard of this band who describe their sound as “sparkle-core” or “dream-punk”. There’s only three of their songs out there on the interwebs, and I like them all. It’s easy to see why they’ve been given spots supporting the likes of Memoryhouse and No Age. Some people say tha they’re a bit like Beach House, and I can certainly understand the comparison.

Also, if you only listened to the first 25 seconds of today’s song, you might think that they’re hugely influenced by Joy Division and that this was their attempt to write a Joy Division song. Listen for yourself:
“Hours We Could Have Spent Fucking With The TV On” by Jenny Besetzt

I like it. I don’t know what else to say. There’s a pause near the end of the song, and I don’t know if it’s in there on purpose as a false ending. You know how much I love a false ending. I have a sneaking suspicion that it isn’t in there on purpose. I think it might be the product of sloppy digital transfer or a corrupted file or something like that. Either way, it’s still a good song.

The band say that they have an album coming out very soon. They had hoped to have it ready to go before Hopscotch, and I don’t have any idea whether they have it ready or not. An easy way of finding out will be to go to their show tonight at White Collar Crime. They’re the first band on that stage, and they’re scheduled to start at 9. You can definitely find me there. Single day and three-day passes are still available. Go here for tickets.


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