Nothing denotes the end of summer better than Raleigh’s annual Hopscotch Music Festival. Your intrepid reporters were on hand once again to bring you our own editorial slant on the festivities.
H.C. McEntire | Real Estate
We kicked things off over at City Plaza with opener HC McEntire of Mount Mariah fame. She brought her brand of jangly electric country, replete with pedal steel. [Love me some pedal steel. -Ed.]
Next up was Real Estate, who showed me that dressing like characters in Napoleon Dynamite is apparently still “in.” It was a very gentle start to a City Plaza show but that is the modus operandi of Jersey’s favorite indie sons. Personally, I’ve already heard the Shins but more power to you, Real Estate. Here’s what our very own Yang had to say about it.
Real Estate had their fair share of fans in the crowd when they took the stage. While I’m a big fan, having seen them twice previously, I couldn’t help but feel as though they’re music would’ve been better suited for one of the larger-sized indoor venues at a later point in the evening. City Plaza, while hosting most of Hopscotch’s marquee acts, often tends to lack energy since it starts that day’s festivities off. That being said, Real Estate’s set was as clean and smooth as their studio work; meshing dreamy, surfy guitar harmonies that pair perfectly with Martin Courtney’s “Ben Gibbard-esque” vocals. They also rebounded quite nicely after dealing with some technical difficulties earlier in the set. The ousting of guitarist, Matt Mondanile, was a tad bit noticeable when it came to the natural flow of the guitars, but was hardly an issue.
Your humble narrator did not stick around City Plaza for the Flaming Lips, though everyone said they were great. I have seen them at City Plaza in the past so I thought I’d leave that to Yang while I slipped away to the Basement (read: a concrete airplane hangar underneath the Raleigh Convention Center) where things were about to get loud.
Even if you’re not the biggest fan, you can’t say a bad thing about their live performances. However, that’s about it when comes to The Flaming Lips. I recall mentioning to fellow RDU Music writer, Negadave, that my fandom for Flaming Lips had been waning for the past several years, as I was not a fan of their more artsier and experimental servings, including a horrendous collaboration with Miley Cyrus. Of course, once they took the stage, I was reminded of the pageantry and theatricality of their live show. Confetti cannons, lasers, inflatable pink robots, giant hamster balls, and balloons which equal out to jingling a set of keys in front of a baby. The majority of the audience was so enamored with trying to bat balloons into the air that they forgot that people were standing around them. As I watching from the back, I saw multiple women bump into other spectators, and continue to do so in hopes they could hit a balloon back into the air. I also had the luxury of being forearmed in the face by a person next to me trying to do the same. As the show progressed, I began to recall their previous headlining performance back in 2011 and basically realized this was a beat-for-beat repeat with the same props and songs. There was nothing wrong with their performance as it served its purpose to set the tone for the rest of the festival, however, I’ve seen it before. (Props to the cleanup crew who had to sweep up all the debris left over from the show. I could feel their collective misery as I walked through city plaza on the way to another show.)
Bedowyn | Grohg
First up was one of Raleigh’s best-kept secrets, Bedowyn, who played to about 50 people in the largest Hopscotch space this side of Red Hat and City Plaza. If you didn’t catch their set, you missed out on one of Raleigh’s finest.
The Basement is simply too big of a venue for just about every act on any night of the bill. So what “should” have been booked there on night one? Metal night? Probably not but it was still a great show, no matter how you sliced it. Bedowyn’s set seemed to be a bit abbreviated while the showrunners waited in vain for the venue to fill up. Good luck. Beyonce would have had a hard time filling that shit.
I still assert that Bedowyn’s Marc is the hardest working drummer in Raleigh this side of Boulevards’s Nicky Bags. Rounding out the Bedowyn rhythm section was new bassist Channing, who looked like he was enjoying every second of his new gig. Both Mark and Alex on guitar were trading off some serious riffage.
Next up was another hidden treasure of Raleigh’s metal scene, blackened metallers, Grohg. Frontman Will’s black corpse paint was dripping in the Southern heat, despite the jacked-up AC in the Basement. It didn’t slow down Grohg’s massively heavy set. Props for the Considered Dead-era Gorguts shirt on bassist Mark.
My most anticipated set of Hopscotch went to Ohio’s Skeletonwitch, gearing up to support this year’s excellent Devouring Radiant Light, opening for System of a Down and At the Drive In this October. To what was arguably less than 100 people, Skeletonwitch kicked the fucking door in and drew another two hundred or so metal fans as they began to shred. They didn’t care if it was 200 or 2000 people they were playing for. They melted faces all the same. Frontman Adam maintained an aggressive amount of eye contact with the crowd, amping up the intensity of their blistering live set.
I can see why the Sleep “comeback” show drew top billing as fans of the seminal stoner-rock band entered in droves. I got hemmed in at the first row real quick and had a hard time getting out despite not wanting to leave to cover other bands. Where else would I rather be than seeing the godfathers themselves?
Guitarist Matt Pike gave Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis a run for his money with the obscene amount of Orange cabs on stage. In other news, Matt Pike still not wearing a shirt. It was weird to see him without a mic as I had grown accustomed to seeing him front High on Fire but Al Cisneros was like hearing an old friend. The whole crowd joined in for some slow headbanging [Like there is any other way to headbang to such dank stoner riffs. -Ed.] as we were all feeling it for the first time in many years. Go check out this year’s follow-up to 2003’s Dopesmoker, the brilliant The Sciences. Thank me later.
In what would be one of our worst coverage choices of the fest, we left Sleep early to hoof it over to Kings, hoping to catch Lee Ranaldo of Sonic Youth fame. While old enough to be most of our dads, Lee was still looking sharp in black jeans, boots, and a hip flannel. He opened the set with 10 minutes of jingle bells and slapping the back of his guitar. The look on Yang’s face was priceless. I was waiting for some actual music and was starting to think I came to the wrong neighborhood but eventually, we did hear some trademarked jangly guitars and some pseudo-spoken-word vocals. If it weren’t past midnight and I wasn’t pushing 40, I’d have been into this latter portion of the set something fierce, but alas, we had to call it a night.