Much like a good buffet, Hopscotch serves up a mixed bag of bands. On night two, some flavors were better than others, but none quite so bad as the particularly foul finish of Sun Kil Moon at the Lincoln Theatre.
A WEIRD FRENCH CHEESE St. Vincent, City Plaza
Much of the criticism St. Vincent earned on recent tours has keyed on the heavily choreographed routines that rule the shows, and that complaint stood in Raleigh, too. The music was good, and the guitars were loud, but the set lacked the spirit and spontaneity that make live music so much fun. It was artsy and ostensibly "cool," but ultimately not compelling. The theatrics were more eyeroll-inducing than interesting. And no, Annie Clark, my favorite word is not “orgiastic.”
Spoon, City Plaza
“Saltines” really does say it all. Spoon’s set felt like standard Indie Rock Music—bland and fine and OK. Too much of it, and you’re dying of thirst for something more. That’s all well and good, but tonight’s headliner was hardly thrilling.
Canine Heart Sounds, Fletcher Opera Theater Durham foursome Canine Heart Sounds delivered the best set I've ever seen them play early in the night. A moderately sized yet attentive crowd populated Fletcher, helping set the aura of the evening at ease with silly, encouraging hoots and hollers between songs. Canine Heart Sounds wander toward jam band territory, but they get reeled in with dreamy harmonies and sharp guitar licks. It was downright delightful.
CHICKEN IN A BISKIT CRACKERS
Celestial Shore, Fletcher Opera Theater
The tunes that this trio cranked out were a bit more flavorful than standard rock 'n' roll, but not quite enough to lift them much above their dude-rock peers. The young outfit from Brooklyn wasn’t bad at all, but it didn’t bring much to the songwriting table. And though the setting was nice, Celestial Shore would have worked much better in a standard rock club than the spacious Fletcher.
Loamlands, Lincoln Theatre
Another Durham quartet shone just a few blocks down at the Lincoln Theatre. Loamlands consistently delivers substantial rock tunes with just the right amount of Southern flair. They get a little crunchy at times, but they're not afraid to dig into deep slower jams.
Mark McGuire, Lincoln Theatre
This solo set was a sweet primer for what I’d expected to be an emotionally intense, heavy set from Sun Kil Moon. McGuire’s electronic songs are light, airy and just the right kind of uplifting, making you feel like it’s going to work out all right. The set made me wish I’d played his latest record, Along the Way, a lot more this summer.
A WET, SAND-FILLED TUNA SALAD SANDWICH
Sun Kil Moon, Lincoln Theatre
Ah, yes, the grand, miserable finale of Friday night’s shows. There were problems before the band even took the stage. Something was awry with the microphones; the band came on and left several times, and Mark Kozelek, the man behind the outfit, angrily pointed at someone or something offstage. And because the show was at the Lincoln Theatre, people were chatty, as all Lincoln Theatre crowds will be. Kozelek was displeased with this, and let the crowd know it by demanding that the "fucking hillbillies" shut the fuck up before he'd strum a single note. Feathers ruffled, the crowd continued to clash with Kozelek, who didn't stop with his demands for people to be quiet but did try to appease with a maybe-not-even-half-hearted “apology,” where he explained the hillbilly comment was a joke. For a sensitive songwriter type, he doesn't pay much mind to tone, does he?
The crowd shushed each other to pacify Kozelek, but the resulting noise just sounded like a horde of cicadas. There was also the occasional blood-curdling scream from the back of the bar for people to shut up, which also seemed counterproductive. Tension and bad vibes ruled the set, so I left early. It seems that the flap could have been prevented had the show been in a more reverent space like the nearby Fletcher; it felt like a massive failure on the part of Hopscotch organizers not to have booked the show elsewhere. This was my most-anticipated Hopscotch show for the year, but it ended up being the most disappointing one in the festival's five-year run.