For the three nights of Hopscotch 2012, I'll have the luxury of running Fletcher Opera Theater and Memorial Auditorium, two of the gorgeous and relatively grand rooms in the performing arts center that sits opposite of the State Capitol on Fayetteville Street. Simply put, this means I'll be responsible for making sure that shows by acts who made a few of my favorite records of the last decade—SUNN O))) and DEERHOOF, THE MOUNTAIN GOATS and LAMBCHOP, MATTHEW E. WHITE and THE WEATHER STATION—happen without incident. More or less, that will be my actual view of the festival. But since last October, I've been fantasizing about how I might actually spend my time with the 175 bands at Hopscotch 2012, with the necessary caveat that each show at Memorial and Fletcher trumps most else for me. Still, here's how it might look.
It seems fitting that PHIL COOK, by a matter of happenstance, officially opens Hopscotch 2012: Since moving to North Carolina, the Wisconsin native has embraced and espoused the sounds of his adopted South, turning out country blues and fingerpicked beauties by himself before using such as fodder for Megafaun's wide-eyed extrapolations. If you want a solid foundation for the next three nights, here it is. When Cook ends, CHUCK JOHNSON shows that, since leaving the state years ago, he's turned into one of the country's leading acoustic men; his serpentine compositions reveal radiance and grace. Catch the back half of DEERHOOF's energetic glee, exit Memorial and turn right. In Fletcher, MATTHEW E. WHITE and more than 30 guests will soon be invoking all of Big Inner, a sea swell of spiritual and secular majesty that shapes one of the year's best records. This is the only time it'll be performed in its entirety. Don't miss it, and don't be too dazed to see LIARS next door when it's done.
Take it easy during the day parties; it's going to be an intense night. In Raleigh City Plaza, NICK ZAMMUTO, formerly of The Books, turns the bedazzling, befuddling pop of his self-titled solo debut into a stage show. Crawl into Doug Martsch's guitar tone with BUILT TO SPILL, witness the roar of THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, and bounce early to see late festival additions THE PSYCHIC PARAMOUNT at the Lincoln Theatre. They're a psychedelic blast with a brilliantly efficient light display. See the first half of VATTNET VISKAR, an exhilarating young black metal troupe from New Hampshire, at Kings, and rush to the Long View Center for the great Wisconsin songwriter FIELD REPORT. DAVID PAJO, playing Berkeley Cafe, is probably the most overlooked indie rock icon; don't miss this rare show. The rest of the night is, as my pal and WXDU DJ Kelly Davis, puts it, a toss-up between metal fans and MOUNTAIN GOATS fans who like heavy metal: If it's metal you want, Ireland's ALTAR OF PLAGUES are one of the most immersive, interesting bands doing it right now. If it's Mountain Goats you want, John Darnielle will be doing two sets at Fletcher Opera Theater—acoustic guitar rarities and his first-ever covers set, featuring only heavy metal tunes done on piano. Also, ZOLA JESUS shares a bill with KILLER MIKE, and DAN DEACON shares a bill with CORROSION OF CONFORMITY and PALLBEARER. Fantasyland stuff, y'all.
When I was still in high school, my mom dropped me off to see THE ROOTS play the House of Blues in Myrtle Beach. We were on vacation, and it was awesome—a spectacle of musicality and force, a confluence of energy and conviction that few other bands match. See this whole show in Raleigh City Plaza, and treat it like the party it's meant to be. ESCORT is a disco band, after all. The night's headlining show ends at 10 p.m., or about the time one of the best drone bills I can imagine begins. Chicago's KEVIN DRUMM is a warrior of steadfast tone and deliberate movement; he's followed by Australia's OREN AMBARCHI, one of the most prolific and inventive improvisers working right now. And to be blunt, one of my favorite bands ever, the all-encompassing drone metal of SUNN O))), closes the night and the fest. Though it's painful to miss ARNOLD DREYBLATT with MEGAFAUN or DANNY BROWN with FLOSSTRADAMUS or the insane WHATEVER BRAINS bill at Slim's, come over to Memorial. We'll shout "Goodbye" together.