Whither Festivus: Hopscotch 2012 Recap

Y'all. Let's talk about Hopscotch. Hopscotch last year was great. And Hopscotch this year was great. Raleigh is a great place for a festival. And the bands on this year's bill were beyond great. I would hope you're getting the gist. I'm beginning to think this festival can do no wrong. Here's the scoop on my time at the 2012 installment of one heck of a festival. 

I started things off the Friday of Hopscotch at Neptunes, the space below one of my favorite spots in Raleigh, King's Barcade, for part of the Thrill Jockey day party. I had the pleasure of seeing some Man Forever for the first time, and found myself caught in their whiter shade of brutal, swirling, endless noise. During their "pretty fun forever drum thing" (thanks, Brian), I noticed something that just so happens to be one of my favorite things about Hopscotch: the wonderful mix of people. You've got scene folks, media folks, and local folks all just taking things in and having a grand old time doing so. It's that open attitude that makes for such a delightful festival-going experience. 

After some Man Forever fun, I wandered through the balmy night to City Plaza to catch some of the Jesus & Mary Chain's set. They seemed to be starting pretty late, so in order to keep to my schedule of club shows I only caught a scant few songs of their set. But what I saw ("Snakedriver," "Head On," "Far Gone and Out") reaffirmed my faith in how happy I am at this band and their songs exist. City Plaza was vibrating with the sheer volume and power of their sonic fuzzery, and they really did show the young kids how it's done.

It was then time to switch gears and decamp to the beautiful confines of the Fletcher Opera Theater, a lovely edifice for the arts and a perfect spot to observe the sets I was fortunate enough to observe. I soaked up the air conditioning as I soaked up some sounds. First, The Weather Station's quietly, gently angelic rusticity. The songs sounded like the turning of leaves and the hush and rustle of branches, sheer loveliness. The crowd was impressively respectful, rapturously quiet during the set, engrossed and perfectly polite. 

Hiss Golden Messenger wowed me darkly countrified rock, soulful and earthy and full. It took just one song for me to fall in love, and as a rule of thumb, friends, you know a band has to be good if both of the Megafaun Cook brothers are involved. There was a purity to the songs that really struck me, and watch this space for more on Hiss Golden Messenger

And then, then came the unbelievable awesomeness that involved The Mountain Goats and metal covers. "I love you John," someone in the crowd yelled as Darneille sat behind his grand piano. He grinned and replied, "You say that now." Seated at that piano, he began with Ozzy Osbourne. By this point, the Fletcher was filled, and rightly so. There was something so gloriously camp and over the top about the set, and something priceless, too, hearing such careful, delicate treatments of songs that are usually anything but. "This was really a lot of fun," Darnielle said of the covers, and I couldn't agree more. Quite possibly the highlight of a pretty fine day.

Day the second dawned with breakfast with a good friend, and continued to be a good time thanks to Hopscotch. My first stop was the Hair of the Dog party, thrown by the Georgia Theatre and the good people at Team Clermont, at the aforementionedly awesome King's Barcade. It wasn't just the gratis mimosas that had me in a good mood. Airstrip started things off, and I really dug their heavy haze wrapped in some steamrolling psych. It was very 90s in a way, but very de rigueur in today's scene. I also enjoyed my one McLamb (as in Stuart of The Love Language) sighting, which happened at King's right as Old Bricks was preparing to play. I nearly swooned, friends.

Old Bricks I enjoyed verily, an almost reverential air pervaded their loud and lovely songs. They were heavy but catchy, very atmospheric and quite possibly good mood music. Some of the songs ventured into the washes of old Verve songs, which obviously tickled me pink. A blown amp solidified their rock and roll set. I managed to see some of Jane Jane Pollock's set, and their layered kaleidoscopic contortions reminded me a lot of Islands, eccentric and quirky and kooky and really cool. Interesting. Very interesting. 

I finished off my Hopscotch adventures with a pair of bands at White Collar Crime, another venue I had made friends with at Hopscotch 2011. Baltimore's Roomrunner was sharp and loud and I liked it. They brought big, badass riffs and an aggressive slant that really floated my boat. Not to mention their sense of humor ("This next song is called "Weird" and it's about this weird wristband I'm wearing"). Charlottesville compadres The Invisible Hand tore things all sorts of up with their poppy rock tones and cheeky stage antics (such as the encouraging "drink some beer and buy us one" offered up during their set). Those boys really do Virginia proud, and I was glad to see them during their Hopscotch takeover.

Hopscotch really feels like one big warm fuzzy hug of a festival to me. It's run well by good, music-loving folks, and I can't see this festival losing steam anytime soon. If you can make it to Raleigh next year, I'd go ahead and say you should consider doing so.           

[photo of Airstrip by Megan Petty]


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