Hopscotch Music Festival – Day 1
September 10th, 2015
Downtown Raleigh —

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
City Plaza, Downtown Raleigh —

Every time I think of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, I am reminded of that line by Seth Rogen in Pineapple Express:

“It means that you are gonna go to college next year. You’ll get into Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the fucking Shins. And you’ll blow a bunch of dudes and become a lesbian.”

Further perpetuating the eternal question of whether art imitates life or vice versa, as I was waiting for GY!BE to go on stage, I found myself standing next to 2 collegiate lesbians who were both really excited to see GY!BE and shared a penchant for public displays of affection. I didn’t get a chance to ask the two lovers if they had seen that movie because the rain started to come down in large, chilly drops before the band even had a chance to build their opening song to its apex. But then again, GY!BE takes about 35 minutes to build a song. I swear it rains every year during Hopscotch, especially right in the middle of the City Plaza headliners. A good portion of the crowd walked briskly toward cover, your humble storyteller included. I happened to run into some friends of the program who helped me wait out the storm.

*/5 stars = ?
The rain pretty much spoiled GY!BE for me. That and the fact that City Plaza is not an ideal venue for a weird, instrumental, post-rock band, so I will withhold my rating due to act of God.


Lincoln Theater, Downtown Raleigh

We then vacated the area and hoofed the short distance to Lincoln Theater. I was excited to see Sannhet again (last time was an excellent set at King’s Barcade on April 4th, 2015, opening for a disappointing Liturgy) while my buddies were interested in Battles. Lucky for us, they were playing back-to-back at Lincoln so we got there early enough to stake out some prime balcony real estate for the entirety of the evening. Only one band stood in our way: Brooklyn’s Advaeta. They were a 3-piece consisting of a drummer and 2 guitarists, all three sharing vocal duties. Their sound was fuzzy and loud but they weren’t able to muster much enthusiasm or pizzazz. The drummer mentioned that they were all recovering from being sick. I assume battling one of the various strains of crud that gets passed around from dirty house mics and lack of hand-washing on tour.

2/5 stars = Meh
I’d be interested to hear how they sound on wax but the live show didn’t do much for me or the 1/4 full Lincoln crowd.


Lincoln Theater, Downtown Raleigh

Sannhet set up at the very front of the Lincoln Theater stage, with drummer Christopher Todd’s translucent amber kit being the main focal point. Early on in the set, it was apparent why: Todd gave one of the single best live drum performances I have seen in quite some time. He killed it, dug a hole, buried it, exhumed it, then desecrated its remains.

The lights were kept so low that they were borderline nonexistent in order to allow bassist AJ Annunziata’s visuals to be projected over the entirety of the stage. The only true lighting besides strobes consisted of 3 ultra-bright lamps positioned behind each band member that were used sparingly. Sannhet managed to set a dark and eerie tableau that complemented their fervent mix of heavy, instrumental, avant noir metal. Sannhet’s audio/visual onslaught was best captured backstage by drummer Greg Fox (performing with Zs at the Hive on Saturday) in an Instagram vid below. (If you look closely, you can see yours truly sitting at the far right of the balcony. Look at me, ma! Top of the world!)

Gonna jump up and get heavy with these @sannhetbk dudes in a minute #hopscotch2015

A post shared by Greg Fox (@gdfx) on

Greg Fox even came out at the end of Sannhet’s set to bang the skins of the mysterious second drum kit that had been set up behind Todd for a dual drum assault while Annunziata and guitarist John Refano toyed with feedback near their stacks.

5/5 stars = Excellent
As I flirted dangerously with a strobe-induced seizure, I could think of no band that I would rather have bludgeon me with such a monstrous wall of sound than Sannhet. A sonic incursion of epic proportions.


Lincoln Theater, Downtown Raleigh

I was only marginally familiar with Battles before seeing them play the Lincoln on Thursday night. I knew that John Stanier played in Helmet and Ian Williams played in Don Caballero but I have never really had a place in my heart for bleeps and bloops like Tar Tar Binks does. [Editor’s Note: I’m still waiting on your first piece btw. It’s like I don’t even pay you or something.] Little did I know that Battles’ rockin’ brand of bleeps and bloops was accentuated by some unbelievable drumming courtesy of Mr. Stanier.

Looking at Battles’ unique rig (including the world’s tallest ride cymbal, a vertically-aligned keyboard, and a plethora of guitar pedals), I wasn’t sure what to expect. The Lincoln Theater headcount steadily increased starting around the halfway point of Sannhet’s amazing set to the point where the the crowd on Thursday for Battles was one of the largest I’ve seen at Lincoln in recent memory.

The set began with a painstakingly crafted loop (that seemed to take forever to get just right) that made me wonder if there was still time for me to sneak out and catch Iron Reagan at the Pour House. As much as I would have enjoyed seeing Iron Reagan lay waste to that venue, as soon as Stanier kicked off a funky, odd-time beat, my interest was piqued. In fact, I was enraptured for the entirety of the set. Which is no easy feat at 1am on a school night. There was magic in the air and the best part was that I had no idea what was happening. It was like the two guitarists weren’t even playing guitars but rather .50 cal laser rifles while Stanier activated at least 3 additional go-go-gadget arms. (I’d love to ask him exactly when he had the epiphany that his ride was 4 feet too low and that raising it to the sky would just feel right.)

4/5 stars = Great
Battles was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise to end a night of predominately instrumental bands. They performed as a completely cohesive unit of laser beam looped weirdness and drum hysteria.


On deck for Day 2 of Hopscotch:

  • Tycho & TV on the Radio @ City Plaza
  • Tombs & Old Man Gloom @ Pour House

(Subject to change without notice depending on how drunk, rain-soaked, irritated at crowds, or sleepy I may get.)