Now ain't that some shit? Late last year, Greg Lowenhagen—then an ambitious (and extreme, I might lovingly add) account executive at the Independent Weekly—asked me to draft a fantasy list of bands I'd like to see play one long weekend in Raleigh. During these last 10 months, some variation of that list became the roster for the inaugural Hopscotch Music Festival. Simultaneously, however, I became more than the guy who just picked the bands. So, as the musicians I wanted in my city are playing the music that made me want them here in the first place, I'll be strapped with some sort of walkie-talkie, rushing about from club to club, making sure bands and fans are happy. Never trust someone who promises to fulfill your fantasies, I guess.
But that doesn't mean I can't have dreams. If I were hopscotching with the rest of you, my nights would sound a lot like the itinerary that follows. Rest assured, though, that I've been vouching for almost every band on Hopscotch's schedule for more than a year. For me, there are no losers—just bands that don't necessarily win their time slot.
Pro tip: ALL TINY CREATURES play the free party for their record label, Hometapes, on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m., so go to Five Star early, and see what DEAKIN of the Animal Collective offers. For the first time, he's bringing a small band to augment his galactic thumps. Zone out, and then race: Pay respects at Lincoln Theatre for MAX INDIAN's final gig, but get to Kings fast. On the forthcoming Crystal World, the Chicago trio LOCRIAN grinds metal into noise to make something at once dreamy and disturbing. Bounce to Berkeley for the over-amped, bass-led, straight-confrontational art punk of DOUBLE DAGGER. Next, BEST COAST's best pop is perfect, and SLEEPY SUN gets seriously bent live, but why not go to the stage where two big, bearded bros destroy D'Angelo's "Untitled"? See PATTERN IS MOVEMENT at The Hive and get amazed.
The night's biggest challenge, really, comes at the end. I never thought I'd see monumental doom band OCEAN in North Carolina, while COLLECTIONS OF COLONIES OF BEES and AKRON/FAMILY not only both made two of my favorite records of the last decade but generally stun folks from stages. Plan: Start dark with Ocean at Kings (playing Schoolkids Wednesday, by the way), get lifted by the Bees at Tir na nOg and then rage with Ak/ Ak at The Pour House until the last chant is chanted.
Between RYAN GUSTAFSON at The Pour House and JON MUELLER at Kings, there's plenty of reason to skip out early during Panda Bear's set. Don't: When I last saw Noah Lennox perform live in a festival setting, his singular, bold approach and his steady, subtle movements between melodies, beats and gleeful noise bursts paid dividends through attention. As soon as his set ends, however, get to Kings for Jon Mueller, the Collections of Colonies of Bees drummer who, when playing solo, similarly rewards your patience with fascinating textures. And then it's my personal conflict of the weekend: Brooklyn's SIGHTINGS versus Brooklyn's SHARON VAN ETTEN versus Georgia's HARVEY MILK. I'd catch Van Etten at Trekky's Day-Dream party tomorrow at The Pour House and split the hour between the menacing glow of Harvey Milk, who barely tour anymore, and the sputtering darkness of Sightings, who hardly ever tour here. Stay at Kings for BEN FROST, a sound artist based in Iceland who understands the importance of push and pull with volume better than any other avant-garde artist on the bill. Pro tip 2: THE WAR ON DRUGS, headlining tonight at Tir na nOg, are pretty much my favorite rock band in America right now. Think Tom Petty on a Spaceman 3-sized bender. Tonight's FUCKED UP bill is the ballyhooed one; for me, this is the essential one.
On the disclosure front, I live with and once ran a business with Brad Cook, one-third of MEGAFAUN. It should come as little surprise, then, that a bill we booked cooperatively would be one of the weekend's personal highlights. Combining some of the best explorers of slow, luxurious drone in the world (GREG DAVIS and KEITH FULLERTON WHITMAN) and some radical jazz improvisers (NED ROTHENBERG's horn will break your expectations; Raleigh expat JEB BISHOP will scramble them), this seamless night of music builds outward from the gothic folk of MARISSA NADLER. Megafaun will open with an improvisation and close with a full set of its Americana extrapolation. If I were going to camp somewhere all weekend, it'd be here, at Kings.
That'd be missing a lot, though. AQUARELLE, at Lincoln Theatre, is a bright young light of drone and stately sound art, while PONTIAK, at Slim's, is one of the country's best rock bands, thickening and twisting blues into unfamiliar patterns. Toronto's FIRST RATE PEOPLE—one of the most charming pop bands I've heard in years—makes its live American debut at Deep South, just before Brooklyn's WOODS washes The Pour House in the drifting afterglow of the Grateful Dead's American Beauty. If these three days of jumping and running have you tired, be a Kings dweller. If not, you'll do well on the streets, too.