Monday, September 9, 2013

Show Review: Hopscotch Music Festival 2013, Day 1

Kurt Vile & The Violators @ The Lincoln Theater
I say it each year, but I truly don't know how Grayson and Greg will be able to top themselves next year. Although this year's festival was plagued with last minute cancellations of some big named artists, the show still went off without a hitch. Artists like Action Bronson pulling out last minute made for brilliant, once in a lifetime moments like Big Daddy Kane's set at The Lincoln. And while many thought the cancellation of Big Boi could harm this festival, considering he was their marquee act, the addition of A-Trak and Holy Ghost! made Friday night's City Plaza set far more wild than Big Boi ever could have. While the hip-hop icon will certainly tear down the house on Sept. 21 when he plays his rescheduled show, few lineups in Hopscotch history have meshed as well as Friday's events.

So after seeing 35 bands in three days and amassing more hours of live music than sleep, I've slowly begun to take in everything that I checked out over the weekend. From the good to the weird, I can honestly say there weren't really any sets that I couldn't find something to enjoy. For those that frequent festivals like this, that's a true testament to the power of this lineup. When you've got as many bands as Hopscotch does on your lineup there's bound to be a few duds, but if they were around this year I certainly didn't get the chance to see them. As a matter of fact, I stumbled upon more surprisingly fantastic sets than I did disappointing.

Rather than lambast you with a gigantic, novel-esque post that encompasses all of these acts that I've seen throughout the weekend, I've chosen to give day-by-day reviews for all of this year's festivities. So indulge yourself in day one and be on the lookout for the Friday review tomorrow!

While most of Thursday afternoon was spent at Wristband City DJing and interviewing for WKNC, I did get the chance to pop out and check out Naked Gods at Slim's. Though I've seen the band numerous times at this point, their vivacious set at Slim's has been the best yet, the tightly packed crowd was brimming with excitement for these local favorites and wildly energetic sing-alongs ensued. Boone's Naked Gods powered through an evenly mixed set of older and newer material, engaging the audience just enough to bring the intimate venue to a frenzy. Though I'd hoped to stick around for Lonnie Walker, I had to head off to interview Lapalux for the radio station and end my Day Party outing early.

Body Games @ The Pour House
However, any sets that I missed on Thursday during the day were more than made up for with the nighttime sets. As Body Games took the stage at The Pour House I knew I was in for an absolute treat. The trio is driven by Dax Beaton (formerly of Lake Inferior) and his electro-heavy pop tunes, but the nuances brought out by Derek and Kates respective beats and harmonies allow for these songs to take form as fully fleshed out bits of pop mastery. In case you needed any proof of this fact, towards the end of their set they pulled out an absolutely incredible cover of Michael Jackson's "Will You Be There" (yes, the Free Willy song...complete with visual accompaniment). Body Games set the bar high, but the night was young and there was still plenty more to be seen.

I hit Fletcher Opera Hall for a dose of Angel Olsen's gripping alt-country, which was one of the finer decisions of the night. While most of my Thursday evening was filled with electronic-based bangers and psychedelic swirls, Olsen's powerful vocals commanded Fletcher's attention, silencing the room for the duration of her set. After catching a few of Olsen's songs it was off to Memorial to catch Sylvan Esso. Sylvan Esso had an unrealistic amount of hype placed on them for this set, but I must truly say that they went above and beyond expectations.

Sylvan Esso @ Memorial Auditorium
Though Memorial may have been a bit awkward of a venue--the two would have been better suited to a packed out club show rather than an empty-feeling auditorium--Sylvan Esso acclimated brilliantly to their set-up. From the second that Amelia Meath began singing their sensational single "Hey Mami," it was clear that this set was going to be one of the festival's highlights. Tension was raised to absurd heights during the opening verse of "Hey Mami" and once the thickly packed bass punched in, the rest was a bit of a blur. Sylvan Esso powered through a slew of new tracks, filling my chest with immense amounts of bass and my ears with dazzling vocal melodies.

I left Sylvan Esso early for what I thought would be Lapalux, but due to Dauwd's cancellation I walked in on the early parts of DJ Paypal's set. Not my style. Paypal's skittering vocal samples and high bpm'd dance music was certainly not the scene I was planning on walking into, so I spent most of his set on the steps of The Pour House recovering from the already hectic evening. However, once Lapalux took the stage my disappointment with the local DJ turned into a slight disappointment from one of my most anticipated sets of the festival. Maybe I'd built Lapalux up to higher standards, but his minimalistic stage set-up and lack of intensity left a bit to be desired. While the Essex based producer was churning out some seriously brilliant music, the energy fell a bit flat, even when he pumped out a "Shimmy Shimmy Ya" remix. So alas, it was off to The Lincoln to check out the remainder of the evening's shows. Marnie Stern was finishing up her set as I entered the crowd and I'd clearly missed a wild bunch of frenzied rock tunes. Stern was shredding away when I walked in and fans were beaming with excitement. Plus after the set ended her puppy came on stage and everyone collectively lost their shit.

But the evening was drawn to a close with the dazzling sounds of Kurt Vile & The Violators. This Philadelphia based musician has been heralded as an indie-rock king, he's a beacon of light in guitar-rock when electronic based music is rising to the forefront. Vile's stoner-rock tracks are lined with clever lyricism and easy-flowing melodies. After he pulled out "Peeping Tomboy" a subdued slacker anthem driven solely by Vile's acoustic, I was absolutely sold. I'd gone into Kurt Vile relatively ignorant of his brilliance, but I walked away from his set as a brand new fan. I truly can't wait until this crew makes it back out to the Triangle.

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