|Spiritualized @ City Plaza|
Winston-Salem's fuzzed-out rockers Estrangers kicked off the day for me, so while half of this attendance was for the free booze the other was most definitely to see this fantastic band. Their debut full-length Season of 1000 Colors (you can check out my review in Creative Loafing Charlotte today!) was released earlier this summer and proved to be one of my favorite local releases of the first half of the year. It's unfair to make Love Language comparisons of any local act that's got reverb-washed, classic pop stylings--but frankly the comparison is apt when it comes to Estrangers. Phillip Pledger's unrestrained vocals are liable to turn on a dime, ranging from delicate croons to passionate wails.
Immediately after Estrangers came a solo set from Hi Ho Silver Oh and it was one of the few sets this year that absolutely blew me out of the water. Everyone packed upstairs for the quaint show, but Casey Trela held nothing back in a powerful set that slowly evolved into a riveting full-band display with locals Joah Tunnel and Josh Kimbrough joining Trela for fully fleshed-out interpretations of his raw, attention-grabbing tracks. Trela's folk inspired melodies took form over a looped guitar that added depth and complexity to his bone-chilling vocal delivery. I walked in oblivious to this former North Carolinian's act and immediately left with the desire to immerse myself in their work. A stellar set that set the bar high throughout the day.
|Gross Ghost @ Kings Barcade|
The dudes in Jamaican Queens were crashing at my place over the weekend, but I certainly didn't see their set out of obligation. Their music displays an entrancing new sound that I'm absolutely obsessed with. Their live set blends acoustic guitars with drum samples, thumping bass and lively percussion. Frenetic songs brilliantly meld melodic vocals with screaming hi-hats and chest rattling bass drums to make for an incredible live experience. They're like Animal Collective on uppers. After Jamaican Queens, it was off to catch out some of Mandolin Orange's set. I stayed for a good bulk of the set, taking in some of their fantastic new tunes and showing up just in time for the album standout "Morphine Girl," because obviously drug-induced songwriting sprees are the best.
|The Breeders @ City Plaza|
I darted over to Tir Na Nog first to catch some of Saints Apollo's wonderfully catchy acoustic pop music and made it just in time to hear the adorably quirky "Share My Walker" from We Are Ghosts. A bulk of their set came from the new album, displaying the rich nuances that the band has developed throughout their brief career. Striking vocal harmonies and moaning strings breathe life into these tracks and experiencing them live was a great treat. But I had to jet early to catch out The Dead Tongues' set at Memorial Auditorium, which was one of the best decisions of the night. As I previously stated, Memorial's seats are possibly the greatest addition to Hopscotch, but The Dead Tongues' is nothing that you should just sit down and take in as background music. Gustafson's brilliant performance ranged from lively takes on tracks like "No Intention" to Dylan-esque solo performances with just an acoustic and harmonica. I was worried about Memorial swallowing the sounds of Gustafson, but rather the venue was an excellent fit for this incredibly talented musician.
|The Dead Tongues @ Memorial Auditorium|
After San Fermin I was contemplating on attempting to get into The Hive for Majical Cloudz, a set I was immensely looking forward to, but my weekend's attempts at checking out shows there had been spotty at best. Thus, I trekked all the way to Deep South to see a few songs from Torres before heading back out to Kings. Torres' set was a fantastic affair, but everything paled in comparison after seeing San Fermin at the gorgeous opera hall. But Kopecky Family Band's set at Tir Na Nog was a welcomed--albeit crowded--addition to my evening. I caught the first four songs from the band's set and they displayed a fantastic mixture of low-key folk sentiments combined with unfiltered rock influences. The incessant beckoning for drunken whistling and hoots and hollers made for a nice turn of events from San Fermin and Torres and it actually made the transition into my next set a bit easier.
Closing the festival with Gent & Jawns at Kings was arguably my best and worst decision of the year. While their music is superbly different from San Fermin, that makes it incredibly hard to hold them to the same high standard. However, that incredible difference meant that I'd best be ready to go buckwild to their screaming hi-hats and chest-rattling bass. Gent & Jawns was easily the wildest show I saw at all of Hopscotch, after a few songs the majority of the crowded dance floor had taken to the stage upon the duos request. But later on the dance floor got quite packed again to make for a sweaty, groove filled affair that was filled with some stellar remixes of both new and old remixes. "Knuck If You Buck" found its way into a set that contained the standard Trinidad Jame$ and Watch The Throne remixes, and while diversity wasn't the bands strong suit they have most definitely mastered the craft of compelling crowds to shake their days of fatigue away and lose themselves to dance.
All in all after reflecting upon this year's festival it's hard not to feel like we've got one of the nation's best events taking place right in our backyard. Between the geek-outs over Thurston Moore at Beasley's and the handfuls of unique collaborations (I'm looking at you Merzbow) and stellar last-minute replacements like Big Daddy Kane, it's clear that this festival has the potential to blossom into one of the finest weekends of music all year. It's already become that for many North Carolina residents, but with each subsequent year the artists get more impressive and the crowd comes from farther away to experience their own taste of what North Carolina has to offer. Massive thanks to Greg Lowenhagen and Grayson Currin are in order as always, despite the growing success they continue to provide a place for rising locals to share stages with iconic acts. They provide a level playing field for artists and festivalgoers alike. Whether you're a music snob or a casual listener, the three days of Hopscotch Music Festival will leave you with a unique sense of elation. Your feet are sore, your ears are ringing, you're most likely hungover--but you're filled with an anxious desire to do it all over again.