Tuesday, October 30th, 2018 @ The Ritz
The RDU Music extended family turned out in full force to witness rock legends (and one of Lan’s personal favorites), Clutch. This was a rescheduled date due to illness from a few weeks prior.
As our 5-man crew was pregaming Newcastle browns at Lan’s place prior to the show, we made the executive decision to skip Tyler Bryant & the Shakedown after spinning part of their most-spun track on Spotify. Sorry, boys. Ain’t nobody got time fo dat. [Though their 50k monthly listeners on Spotify would beg to differ and likely call me something uncouth and indecorous. -Ed.]
After a short trek to a drive-thru-less McDonald’s so that Greg and Rick could fuel up, we walked up to the Ritz where we were met by a bevy of security personnel. All nice, by the way. Though I was confused about one of them explaining to me that vaping was not allowed in the Ritz. In other news, water: still wet.
After Greg’s $6 blue Gatorade – poured into a cup, as is customary [Thanks, Live Nation. -Ed.] – and my G&T [Heavy on the T. :/ -Ed.], we were ready for a band that Yang and I hadn’t seen since Ozzfest ’98: Sevendust. Apparently since then, the band has achieved gold status on 3 consecutive records and sold millions of units worldwide while still maintaining their uncanny knack for forcing me to incessantly check my watch during their set.
I could talk shit on Sevendust for days [Which I will do a fair amount of here, presently. -Ed.] but I wanted to lead off with a compliment. Vocalist Lajon Witherspoon is the real deal as a front man. Stage presence and strong pipes for 25 years. Though he will get no points for his leather bracers. Negative 5 to charisma, if you ask me.
Apparently, there is a fashion prerequisite for being in Sevendust. One must either own a backwards baseball cap or grow dreadlocks, the latter of which is a feat that drummer Morgan Rose failed at but thought that twisting his hair into Korn-style braids was good enough. [It wasn’t. -Ed.]
Lan described Sevendust’s sound thusly: “I feel like I am watching a military commercial.” Yep. That is about right. Music for guys with tribal/razorwire tattoos on their pythons. I feel like they were a poor choice to open for Clutch but I wish them the best with their new record, which reached a respectable #28 on the US Billboard 200, so fuck me, I guess.
After a couple more overpriced drinks and a trip to the smokers patio that was a masterclass in beards and embarrassing makeouts, we were treated to one of the best purveyors of riffs to ever grace a stage. The quality level of a band like Clutch is immediately recognizable. Say what you want about Sevendust, but I’m positive that any band would hate opening for such wizards of rock, for fear of being outclassed well before the first chorus.
Drummer extraordinaire, Jean-Paul Gaster, appeared effortless, just chewing gum and laying it down better than anyone in the biz. I am shocked that he isn’t awarded with Drummer of the Year accolades from various publications after each new Clutch release. Or maybe he is and it is so commonplace that it is not even newsworthy at this point. Alongside bassist Dan Maines, I have been saying that Clutch has the tightest rhythm section in rock for at least 20 years.
Neil Fallon’s charming banter was a sign that the band is still having fun after all of these years. “We’re gonna do one more new one and then a long line of #1 hits. Just kidding. We don’t have any of those.” Which might be precisely what is wrong with this country. [That and Trump. Go vote, kiddos. We gotta right this ship. -Ed.]
The only complaint I could have possibly had was that Clutch took so long to play something off of The Elephant Riders, but they closed with “The Soapmakers” so I was golden. I’ve seen Clutch countless times and will never pass up an opportunity to see them whenever they come to town.
Hopscotch Day 3 caught up to our near-40-year-old bones real quick but we soldiered on, knowing that we would soon be seeing musical royalty.
First up, at City Plaza, was Zack Mexico. Two drummers and lots of poor fashion choices, ranging from dad-style with a t-shirt full of Schnauzers to a guy that looked like he drummed from Foreigner in 1986. The latter was rather majestic, I must say. Flowy shirt, open all the way to the 5th button with snow white pants and a mullet. Naturally. They also had a bassist who looked like he’d rather be surfing. All of that visual stimulus came together with some jangly guitar rock.
Opening Red Hat was Raleigh’s premier funksmith, Boulevards. He and his air-tight band were funk personified. We’re talking, born-in-the-wrong-generation funky. The guitarist looked like he studied music theory but totally knows how to get down on weekends, despite what it shows on his face. It was all about that slap bass though, playing its siren song of funk. Boulevards was genuinely having a blast. All smiles, glistening sweat, and dancing. This man loves Raleigh and it’s only a matter of time before all of Raleigh reciprocates.
I missed this excellent set. Luckily, Yang was there to tell us about it.
What a welcome surprise to see and hear. Felt like I had stepped out of a time machine into 90’s alternative. A good throwback that seemed to have more authenticity to the genre than Liz Phair’s performance. While my plan was to see a few songs then meet up with the rest of the RDU Music crew, I ended up staying for the whole set. It was hard not to be captivated by lead vocalist, Sadie Dupuis, who had a angelic yet ferocious set of pipes. While they certainly had a style that belonged to them, I couldn’t help but hear things that reminded me of Veruca Salt, Pixies, and even L7 and Babes in Toyland. Needless to say, they made a fan out of me that evening.
Nile Rodgers and Chic
Boulevards mentioned that Nile Rodgers taught him how to funk. Nile showed all of Raleigh that he still has a thing or two to teach the rest of us.
He came out on guitar, draped in bold yellow camouflage alongside 2 keyboards, a trumpet, a sax, a bass, and 2 backup singers in flowy, tiger stripes. He did a whole portion of the set solely for songs he wrote for other artists: Diana Ross, David Bowie, Lady Gaga, and more. There was lots of crowd participation because these were all solid gold hits that we knew by heart. I remember one particular sax solo making me wet, and I don’t even have a vagina. [It’s true. I checked. -Ed.] It was nice to see the young and the old come together to fly the banner of funk.
It’s hard to imagine writing a song that will stand on its own for 50 years. MC50 brought that one and more to a frenzied set where they looked like they were having as much fun as the crowd. Let’s hear what Yang has to say about it.
What can you say when you see the best collection of rock royalty on one stage playing the songs of one of rock’s most polarizing bands? I’m still trying to find the words. MC50 marks the 50th anniversary of “Kick Out the Jams.” OG guitarist and vocalist, Wayne Kramer, was backed by Kim Thayil of Soundgarden (guitar), Brendan Canty of Fugazi (drums), Billy Gould of Faith No More (bass), and Marcus Durant of Zen Guerilla (vocals) to perform MC5’s classic album. The crowd was a great blend of older and younger, showing the reach and influence that MC5 had in their short tenure. The age of the crowd showed its face when a younger audience member complained why they would play the song “Kick Out the Jams” so early and not save it for last, to which I had to remind the young lad that it was the second song on the album. The look on that kid’s face was precious. The icing on the cake of what was an amazing performance.
Hopscotch 2018 Day 3 winner: Nile Rodgers and Chic and MC50.
Day 2 found the staff of RDU Music remembering why we have been slowing down in recent years. We’re all pushing 40 and it sure is soupy out in the Southern heat. But we soldiered on, just for you lovely readers. [All 7 of you. -Ed.]
We kicked it off over at Red Hat for M8alla, self-described in Indy Week as singing “for immigrant women with American degrees and bottom grillz.” Her band brought some rocking guitars and 4 dancers with gold-plated (spray-painted?) assault rifles.
Mipso | Thundercat
Due to some “weather,” forcing Red Hat to kick everyone out of the venue, we bounced over to City Plaza to catch that venue’s first two acts of the night. Kicking it off was Chapel Hill’s Mipso, bringing some soft, dreamy Americana with violin, mandolin, and upright bass. Their frontman’s McConaughey-good-looks will open some doors [Legs? -Ed.] for the band in the future. Watch the official video for “Moonlight” here.
Next up was Grammy-winner Thundercat, whose far-out bass shredding was too much for RDU Music’s Yang. I described it as soul singing on top of a less avant-garde Mr. Bungle but Yang had this to say: If you ever wanted to experience an epileptic seizure without having to bite down on a pencil and incur ruthless medical bills, then this Thundercat performance was catered just for you.
Grizzly Bear has been a gold standard of indie rock since the mid-2000’s with landmark albums Yellow House and Veckatimest. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them multiple times during that span. Their headlining performance on the City Plaza stage marked the first time in at least 8 years that I’ve seen them live. Unfortunately, I had to join the show at the last half while covering other acts but walked up to a crowded City Plaza. Much like Wolf Parade from 2016’s Hopscotch, I was happy to see that time had passed these indie stalwarts by when it came to sound and crowd support. The little I saw was enough to know that they haven’t lost a step when it came to performing their older material and making fans of their more recent offerings.
I forsook Grizzly Bear’s set – leaving the coverage in Yang’s capable hands – to head back to Red Hat so that I could see what all the fuss over Miguel was about. It wasn’t 5 minutes into the set when I realized why all the girls were screaming for him. Whatever “it” is, that boy has it in spades.
He opened atop a giant, white staircase on stage. The presentation was legit: smoke, lights, vid screen with golden booty, and actual live instrumentation. Miguel must have studied the classics of showmanship, learning from masters such as Michael, Prince, and Marvin as he enthralled the audience from the start. His falsetto was also on point, which is always hard to do live. Early in the set, Miguel tried his hand at some stage banter. “I was told that Raleigh had a lot of babes. Is that right?” The response was a depressingly tepid cheer from the crowd so I guess poor Miguel will never know.
It Looks Sad.
RDU Music didn’t do as much club hopping this year at Hopscotch, choosing to focus more on the big venues but we did manage to catch a hidden gem in Charlotte’s It Looks Sad. over at the Pour House. They brought some jangly Midwestern emo with a little neo-shoegaze tinge that was expertly executed. There’s just something about an earnest, yet not classically “good” singer that tickles my fancy. Hopscotch has a whole other side of the festival that this band encapsulates. Earnest indie kids pouring out their hearts, which is not to be confused with scene kids phoning it in. A big difference exists there, one that It Looks Sad. has a firm grasp upon. I can’t wait to hear their upcoming full-length, Sky Lake, due out in November on Tiny Engines.
I never thought I would get the chance to see rock legends, The Revolution, live in concert but 2018 has turned out to be an excellent year as they headlined Day 2 of Hopscotch at the Basement. Bassist Brown Mark handled the Prince vocals admirably, often letting the focus remain on the band as they sliced their way through an interesting setlist that didn’t simply churn out Prince’s greatest hits. What I always thought of as the lone throwaway track on Purple Rain, “Computer Blue”, featuring prominently at song 2. Wendy and Lisa still sounded good while keyboardist Matt Fink turned up in his classic surgeon’s outfit, making for a fun trip down memory lane.
In RDU Music’s 2nd terrible coverage choice of the festival – oddly also Sonic Youth-related – we left The Revolution to swing by the Fletcher Theater to catch Kim Gordon’s new project, Body/Head. They employed a very minimal setup of just a few amps and a large film projector, all to simply make squawking noises that barely amounted to music. I had gotten turned around looking for the men’s room so I stopped to ask a middle-aged usher for directions. The look on her face was one of pure incredulity mixed with disgust at the sounds coming from the stage. Sadly, we shared her sentiment and called it a night.
Hopscotch 2018 Day 2 winner: Miguel and It Looks Sad.
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.
Hopscotch 2018 Day 1 winner: Skeletonwitch
Hopscotch 2018 is this week!
Join RDU Music, “Raleigh’s favorite music blog” [Source: The Editor in Chief of RDU Music] as we embark on another Hopscotch Music Festival! Wristbands are still available here to see some big-name acts such as The Flaming Lips, Real Estate, Grizzly Bear, Miguel, MC50, Liz Phair, and Nile Rodgers & Chic, alongside dozens of other acts spanning across a dozen venues. (We’re most excited for Sleep and Skeletonwitch.)
In case you haven’t read our stellar work [Cough. -Ed.] from previous years of Hopscotch, check them out here. Also, peep us on the Instagram for live shenanigans and some real-time epic photography by our very own photog extraordinaire, Lan.