Monday, September 16, 2013

Hopscotch Music Festival 2013 (Raleigh, NC, U.S.)

The Triangle (the Raleigh - Durham - Chapel Hill area in North Carolina, aka "home" for most of our adult lives) has always been a surprisingly fantastic place for music. There's a vibrant local music scene, and sitting roughly midway between D.C. to the north and Atlanta to the south(east), bands doing the whole East Coast tour thing often put in an appearance... in smaller venues and for much more reasonable prices than you'd catch them for in the big cities. Coming back to the Triangle, we were thrilled to find that, in our absence, the collective interest in live shows has amassed into an eclectic music festival called Hopscotch.

Over 3 days in September, venues all over downtown Raleigh host nearly 200 bands of all shapes and colors and styles. Nathan Bowles's banjo pickin' brought us back to the land of bluegrass, a fitting homecoming for our first stop. Checking in with longtime local rockers The Kingsbury Manx next door was soured by the poor acoustics and the distracting media. Photographers from various news outlets and websites (do 'zines even exist anymore?) flitted about the open pit obnoxiously, angling for up-the-nose close ups and then abruptly turning their backs on the band when they got the shot. Smaller outfits gave us the opportunity to peek into venues that have sprung up since we moved out of the capital city, er, *cough* 7 years ago. From the Bon Jovi tributes on the wall, it's doubtful we'll be back at Deep South Bar, but we were eager to visit the old indie hangout Kings Barcade, risen from the ashes (aka the city demolished it for a parking lot) and reborn in Martin Street Music Hall's old digs. Unfortunately, the wall-of-sound-or-is-it-just-noise? act Merzbow had us high-tailing it out of there. In contrast, Angel Olsen's strange vocal stylings (I thought war-time radio/Edith Piaf, Rich thought female Johnny Cash) were pure enjoyment, and Local Natives's exuberant and super-tight set was one of the festival's highlights.

The main stage in City Plaza also had some great moments. I was thrilled for my old neighbors in their new band Gross Ghost as the opening act (and hearing them promote the show on the NPR station earlier in the day). N.C.-boys-made-good Future Islands played a synthpop set that got everyone in the crowd to boooogie, even with the lead singer's weird crooner-turned-demonic voice. The dance party continued with Holy Ghost! and A-Trak, who Rich thought looked familiar from his Duck Sauce video Barbra Streisand. As a connoisseur of electronica, Rich had a few bones to pick with him, but I couldn't tell if he was just playing to the audience's slightly more mainstream expectations. At any rate, there will be plenty of time for that sort of critique if we end up at one of the other North Carolina festivals - Mountain Oasis Electronic Music Summit or Moogfest!

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