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[nextpage title=”Intro” ] Hopscotch Music Festival, 2018
In Spring 2016, after watching a screening Heart of a Dog at the Big Ears Festival in Knoxville, Tennessee, Laurie Anderson graced the audience with thoughtful answers to audience questions, amusing anecdotes, and an interesting lamentation on the lack of attention to the arts from presidential candidates.  This was at the time of the presidential primaries when Americans were just starting to realized that we were about to live through an interesting and unprecedented nine months unlike any other in our history.
Ms. Anderson calmly shared a concern that none of our potential leaders uttered a word about music, arts, and other creative expressions that helped bring people together as a community.  Those are words I have shared with friends and peers numerous times in the past two years, touched by the importance of joining together to enjoy artistic expression in any form.

The 2018 Hopscotch Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina, beyond bringing together over 100 diverse artists, bonded a music-loving community with performances to be remembered and boasted for their entertainment and excitement.  With 12 venues and shows scheduled nearly 14 hours a day, the number of lineups an individual could attend tallies an uncountable sum.  This sampling of recalled experiences will hopefully paint a picture of what Hopscotch 2018 was, and could have been, for anybody in attendance.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Day Parties” ] Hopscotch and its partners sponsored free shows during daylight hours at a number of clubs and outdoor stages in Raleigh.  These events did not require festival wristbands and were offered to the community as an opportunity to glimpse a few of the festival performers and promote others with ties locally and with nearby recording labels.  A few highlights include:
Kid Millions: Oneida fans such as myself have relied on social media and road trips to follow Kid Million’s progress from being injured in a severe automobile collision in February through recovery, a recent Oneida tour, and his first ever U.S. solo drumming performance at Hopscotch.  He used the forum to discuss pain, healing, and revelations (and solidarity of enjoyment for the Lou Reed / Metallica “Lulu” album) through voice and percussion, sharing life and joy with an attentive and appreciative audience.
Mary Lattimore & Mac McCaughan:  Combining Mary Lattimore’s ever-beautiful harp playing with Mac McCaughan’s pulsing and noisy electronics, this set was fascinating in its subtle composition, allowing both artists to be individually creative while intersecting musically as quickly as it felt like they were drifting away from each other.
Grouper: On a bright stage that would not quite capture the mood that she would present about 32 hours later, Grouper provided a glimpse into the darkness and beauty her Saturday night show that the Fletcher Opera House would deliver.
Eric Bachmann:  Thoughtful and intense tunes from Bachmann’s latest album, released the day of the show, and recent favorites filled a short set for an attentive audience. This being the first time I ever saw him perform with a band who were not the Archers of Loaf, I felt compelled to drink the tap water in hopes it somehow spawned so much North Carolina-home talent I watched over the weekend.
Chocolate Rice:  Raleigh’s own creative DJ composed a complex set above the dance floor at Wicked Witch, keeping the small but energized crowd dancing while mixing in haunting rhythms throughout the mix.
Daniel Bachman:  with friends opened Friday’s day party at Kings with a methodical drone composition of percussion, strings, harmonium, and various noises.




A few others worthy of description, but l would invite you to invest, include Indigo De Souza, Flasher, Zensofly, Tegucigalpan, and Joyero.
[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Into the Night” ] Decision time for festival attendees started at sunset when as many as 10 bands were overlapping performances.
The Sludge and the MetalSleep was the heaviest highlight on the opening night of the festival, performing a full set matching shows from their recent tour (sans the encore of Dopesmoker) to a headbanging crowd in a comfortably cool convention center basement. Loud and tight, this set kept diehard stoners and the curious happy throughout, and more than one of the audience members could be seen after the show rolling up their black t-shirt to compare their stomach to Matt Pike’s.  Vacant Company, an energetic Raleigh local hardcore band opened a four-band metal set at the Lincoln Theater on Friday night, quickly drawing a large crowd as lead vocalist / guitarist Jason Wornoff split time between on-stage and pounding chords on the club floor.  Later that evening, Sweden’s Monolord powered through a set of fuzz and doom, blistering songs from their latest album, Rust, proving that the future of sludge and metal is in good hands.

The Experimental and the FunkGudiya, a North Carolina artist who blends Indian raga elements with noise and high-tempo beats, performed a composition to an artistic video presentation while immersed in a peaceful setting that absorbed the crowd in the basement bar Neptune’s Parlor.  Yamataka // Sonic Titan, who define themselves as a Noh-Wave prog collective, a black-and-white (and sometimes red) theatre company, an operatic psych cult, and the speculative prophets of humanity’s impending doom, demonstrated all of that and more in a dramatic set full of intense musicianship that expanded the difficulty of labeling them to any genre with each song.  Saturday night at The Pour House, Nicolay and the Hot at Nights took the word “funk” and turned it into a forty-minute absorption of grooves and extraordinary musicianship that was only matched by the enjoyment the quartet was obviously having on stage (and perhaps worth mentioning, caused me to walk to the merch table and request “give me one of everything” regarding the pile of their collective releases).



The Noise and the Beauty:  Closing out Friday night was Kim Gordon and Bill Nace’s collaboration, Body/Head, who turned feedback and harsh, droning notes into a symphony that found a perfect balance between bliss and torture.  There was no amount of preparation by listening to Mind Over Mirror’s Bellowing Sun to prepare for the onslaught of energy and dimension that its live performance would elicit.  Filling the large Fletcher Opera House entirely with instruments, Mind Over Mirrors rotated between percussion, noise, and beauty to rattle the atmosphere and audience ears. Shortly thereafter, surrounded by a grand piano, effects table, and electric guitar, and under a dim light and soft illumination of the Hopscotch “H” logo, Grouper patiently and unassumingly darkened the house with mesmerizing drones and her soft, haunting voice.  As the last show I would see on a fun but exhausting weekend, I (honestly) started hallucinating shadowy figures who were pointing at either me or the sky during her hypnotic set, convincing me she was actually raising the dead during her performance.  I suspect I’ll never know if this was true or an illusion.


 





[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”Main Stage Shows” ] Main Stage Shows
Headliners at Hopscotch filled the City Plaza and Red Hat Amphitheater each day from late afternoon into early evening.  To ears drawn to experimental, metal, and drone music, these performances were comfortable presentations before the perpetual race around Raleigh’s extensive club-circuit to catch as many performances as possible.
Flaming Lips, who I am somewhat embarrassed to say I have not seen perform in over a decade, poured so much confetti over the city streets that it wouldn’t surprise me if I found a shard or two during the 2019 festival.  With unicorns, balloons, disco balls, and Wayne Coyne, seeming the happiest man on earth, bouncing around the crowd in a giant ball, I will forever know that my life should be forfeit the day the Lips can’t make me smile.

MC50: The zero added to Wayne Kramer’s band name appeared to represent the sum added to the age of his performance and energetic band as they tore through songs without hesitation. I left the set early to see Nicolay and The Hot at Nights, but not before I saw the original performer of “Kick Out The Jams” diminish so many cover versions of the tune that I have heard over the years.

Real Estate and Liz Phair, each of which never crossed my radar over the years, made so many fans around me smile that it was easy to enjoy the performances.  They, like Hopscotch, simply made the world a slightly happier place, which was fine by me.

[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”What Could Have Been” ] Any good music festival can be measured not only by the artists one saw perform, but also those that were missed due to scheduling conflicts.  Reviews and social media highlight these lost opportunities; here are a few of mine from the 2018 Hopscotch weekend.
Lee Ranaldo (a painful choice to miss in conflict with Sleep); Hailu Mergia, Gang Gang Dance, No Age (who I haven’t seen since the 2009 All Tomorrow’s Parties with Bob Mould), Circuit Des Yeux (who I caught the last two songs and convinced me I might have missed the resurrection of Nico) , Mary Lattimore & Meg Baird (made slightly easier having seen Mary Lattimore during the Friday Day Party), and the solo percussion performance from Joe Westerlund (who I saw for five minutes and soon thereafter searched and purchased his online releases).
[/nextpage] [nextpage title=”…And, Raleigh” ] …And, Raleigh
My first trip to this iconic music-focused city would have me draw attention to a few points of interest:
For the non-meat eaters, try Fiction Kitchen and Living Kitchen.
For those seeking museums, consider the History Museum (currently exhibiting a fine collection of paintings from Ernie Barnes) and the Natural Science Museum.
For those in need of vinyl, try Sorry State Records who boasts a modest but diverse collection with a welcoming vibe.
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