This is the second and final—for this year at least—of a little series in which we asked music-savvy folks to give us five Hopscotch picks. We gave them a bit of latitude, though, so they could give us anything from five essential acts to five memories or five suggestions. If you didn't catch part one, which we ran yesterday, it's right here.
Hopscotch, by the way, starts in just a few hours. And now, lists:
Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees are one of the best career bands going. They're on their sixth incredible album in four years or something ridiculous like that. Somewhere between Strawberry Alarm psychedelia, krautrock repetition and classic Converse-on-a-PBR-sticky-floor body music, this is giddy ecstasy jammage with brighter, bolder melodies than an opium den full of zooted Carly Rae Jepsens.
This Melbourne guitarist can make a drone that will turn your spine to gravel. His latest record, Sagittarian Domain, is like ghostly feedback haunting and endless motorik that rides the autobahn to nowhere for 33 minutes straight. But who knows what he's going to be up to: He's released six CDs this year, and he can just as easily bonk off into creepy freak-jazz or clinical drizzle or free metal.
Lush, luxurious disco that's equal parts reverent, retromaniacal and future-funking. Dudes know their way around some Ohio Players records, but also know the rap records that sample them. Every second is like two parties at once.
Spirituals for drum nerds. He's basically Albert Ayler, Beefheart and Fennesz on a trap kit.
Ben Greenberg is making some of the best music in Brooklyn. He can wheedle like a metal god, but he uses it to build minimalist skyscrapers to heaven. Plus he produces records and might have made your favorite band not sound terrible.
First of all, if you're a music lover (and you must be or you wouldn't be reading this, right?), you would be best served spending the next three days in Raleigh at the Hopscotch Music Festival. In three years it's become one of the biggest and best music events in the southeast.
That said, there's a distinct Carolina flavor in my Hopscotch picks for 2012.
Shovels and Rope is a husband-and-wife duo based in Charleston, S.C., not an aisle designation at an old-fashioned hardware store. Cary Ann Hearst and Michael Trent each had solo careers before coming together as a band. Their new album is called O' Be Joyful. It's loaded with songs that feature tight harmonies, walloping drums and various guitars, banjos, fiddles and even some horns. Topics cover some of the dark corners of the South and some of the hazards of life on the road.
Field Report: There must be something in the water up there in Wisconsin because Chris Porterfield's project springs from the five-year period after his time in DeYarmond Edison. He was in that band before they left Eau Claire to move to the Triangle; he didn't make the move. His songs are mostly quiet and personal, but they sometimes build to an epic crescendo not unlike those of his pal Justin Vernon (Bon Iver). It's always beautiful, though, and occasionally heartbreaking—as in the song "Circle Drive," about pacing outside the hospital while his wife was seriously ill inside. He says she's fine now, and you will be, too, when you see him and his band.
Which brings me to Megafaun also friends with the above fellows but happily ensconced in North Carolina. It shows in their music: Three-part harmonies, gorgeous songs and hilarious stage banter make this an easy choice. I love these guys. Someone described them as spacey, alt-country, jazz-tinged, folk-rock... sort of.
Finally, I have to go with The Roots. If this group doesn't feature the greatest rhythm section in the world, I don't know who does. I saw them do Prince's 1999 album start to finish on December 31, 1999, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music and was pretty much destroyed. And I'm a Prince fan, so that wasn't a given. They back Booker T. Jones on his latest CD (how cool is that?) and you can see them every night on some TV show that's on way past my bedtime. But see them on their own. You'll never come down.
Bull City Records
Five must-see bands is a little too hard for me to sit down and type today. Already my brain has been flipped into over-anxiety mode just thinking about all the bands I need to pack into the weekend. I honestly can't think of a festival that has better combined the fringe garage with the experimental/avant—usually two things that do not get lumped together—into one distracting weekend, and this has me racing. Hopscotch is a music nerd's best nightmare.
Jokingly a buddy said she'd like to know what my most anticipated merch tables might be. Who's going to have the stuff worth drooling over as far as this nerd is concerned? Laugh if you want, but this is a very real concern of mine. That being said, my top five (in no particular order) merch tables for the Hopscotch Music Fest...
Alan Bishop / Bill Orcutt / Chris Corsano Trio: King's Barcade, Friday, Noon.
The Cheater Slicks: Deep South, Friday, Midnight.
I will make a poor decision around midnight on Friday night and buy whatever the Cheater Slicks have laid out on their table that I do not yet own. Long ago, after a good pout, I came to the acceptance that I would most probably never find the opportunity to see one of my most favorite feedback-charged garage bands. The noisy and brilliantly buffoonish Cheater Slicks, from Columbus, Ohio, have been together since the late 1980s and at some point gave up on touring too far outside of their home area. I've really only lived in the South or Colorado for most of my show-going years, so I stopped checking for tour dates near me a good while ago. As soon as Hopscotch booker Grayson Currin sounded the call one night that they would be playing Hopscotch 2012, I'm pretty sure I let out an audible shriek. Grayson instantly achieved best-friend status that night. The Guinea Worms open, so their table gets lumped into this challenging mess. Cheater Slicks, I will be coming for your merch table and I want your vinyl.
The Spits: Slim's, Saturday, 11:30pm.
I'm not sure if the Spits will be carrying anything with them that I do not have, but I am extremely hopeful for some little remembrance piece of limited, tour-only merchandise. Actually, I do not yet have a Spits T-shirt, so I've got that going for me. This is the point of the weekend when most of us will be dog-tired, which will make merch tables an extremely uninhibited, dangerous hangout spot. Last year the Spits released the amazing, futuristic sci-fi-spiked, alcohol-addled Spits V on In the Red Records; it clogged many a year-end garage punk list. It was one of my favorite records, and they're consistently one of my favorite bands. It has been about eight or nine years since I last laid eyes on the Spits' merch table, so I'm ready.
Thee Oh Sees: CAM, Thursday, Midnight.
The Oh Sees seem to always tour with limited splits, 7"s and/or tapes. How do we know this? Because eBay swells with limited Oh Sees merch with every tour. Ugh. Sometimes we get lucky at the record store and anything left over post-tour gets released to our distributors who in turn flood our shelves. This is good. I do not condone the buying of merch for instant online flipping, but I highly condone the buying and hoarding of anything Oh Sees related into everyone's personal collection. Bridging the worlds of fuzz-powered garage-heads, psychedelic rockers, flailing spazz-rock college radio champions, genre-curious indie rockers and hyper record collectors, Thee Oh Sees command a devout, stretched audience of loyal fans. This is for good reason as they're reportedly one of the best live bands kicking around these days. In my nine-year love affair with the band, this will be my first chance to see them live. Is this embarrassing? Yes. So please do not get in the way as I get in line.
Chuck's: 426 S. McDowell St., All Weekend.
If I'm not spending money at a merch table or bar, you can probably count on me being hunched over a burger at Chuck's. I have not been there yet and have it on good faith (from just about everyone) that it's one of the best around the Triangle. Last year I stumbled into Beasley's Chicken + Honey at some point, also run by Ashley Christensen, and became an immediate convert. This year I'm coming for the burgers.
RUNNER-UPS: Odonis Odonis put out a ridiculously amazing CD on FatCat about a year ago which was not released domestically on vinyl for whatever reason. I'm planning to hit up their table for a hopeful wax-pressing of their reverb-drenched, surfy post-punk Hollandaze LP. Amen Dunes might have some form of limited, tour-only recordings and potentially some out-of-print vinyl releases, so I'll definitely be a fly around his merch table as well. His two Sacred Bones releases are great (Murder Dull Mind 12" and Through Donkey Jaw LP) and I happened to completely forget to keep a copy of his now out-of-print DIA LP on Locust Records, so... I'm hopeful. See ya there!
Program director, WXDU
My Nightly highlights:
On Thursday I’ll start my evening with Chris Forsyth & Koen Holtkamp. Their LP, Early Astral, was a favorite at WXDU this year among fans of krautrock-inspired heavy-psych. At the end of the night I’ll be bouncing around with the crowd at Thee Oh Sees. I saw them last winter in Winston-Salem at one of the most energetic shows I’ve seen in years.
My Friday has a tricky start. The Psychic Paramount will be playing at the same time as The Jesus and Mary Chain rather than opening for them like most stops on their tour. I’ll decide at the time which way to kick off my night. After catching as many metal bands as possible, I’ll end the night with a highly anticipated set from Ireland’s atmospheric black metal group Altar of Plagues.
Saturday holds a pair of sets I’m most excited about! I never thought I would get a chance to see Polish composer Michal Jacaszek perform. I’m always curious to see what musicians look like while creating such unique sounds. By the end of Saturday my ears will already be shot. I might as well finish them off with a pummeling from Sunn O))). I expect the drone-doom trio fronted by Mayhem vocalist Attila Csihar to give my body a fully immersive sonic experience unlike anything else happening at Hopscotch this year.
Go to the day parties
You can use the day parties as a way to hang out with your friends; try to catch bands that you will miss in the evening; or finally see that local group you keep missing. I’ll catch hell at WXDU if I don’t mention our party co-presented with Three Lobed Recordings on Friday at Kings. It features performers from this year’s lineup along with some favorites from last year. Say hi if you stop by!
Five final pointers
See bands that you like! Don’t fret over rare performances or sets you’ve been told you ought to see. If your favorite local band is playing, go see them and have a memorable time. Be happy wherever you are. No matter what, you are going to miss some great performances this weekend. Let go of that mindset and immerse yourself in what is happening around you. Don’t worry about fashion. Comfortable shoes and clothes and a lightweight rain jacket will allow you to stay focused on what’s important: enjoying the music. Let yourself break free from the group. Be OK with seeing different bands from your friends. This is a huge party and we’ll be tumbling over one another all weekend. Make a new friend. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you in the crowd. You never know who they might be or what tips they might have.
Samantha Crain has been one of our favorites for a long time. We love her particular combination of roots-folk-soul music and that voice, that voice.
Wye Oak has an understated intensity, streamlined stab-you-in-the-heart lyrics, beautiful harmonies, and the mysterious enchanting-ness of singer Jenn Wasner (also playing a solo set as Flock of Dimes). One of our favorite bands this year.
Altos is made up of 12 people and we are suckers for big giant bands. There is something inexplicably moving about a large group of people singing and playing together when it's done well, and this group, from Wisconsin, really pulls it off with a streamlined, authentic sound.
How have we not heard Baobab before? They sound like a handmade present; one-of-a-kind, beautiful and intentional, in the form of smart cybernetic folk, and they are based right here in the Triangle.
Lambchop through all the years keep making great songs, and we're looking forward to closing out the whole Hopscotch 2012 with their unique existential brand of hopeful moodiness.
Owner, Local 506
Five acts I’m hoping to see for the first time....
Jesus and Mary Chain
Thee Oh Sees
...and five acts I’ve seen at 506 that I think are worth seeking out:
Shovels and Rope
I often argue that shows are compared to your expectations of the show, instead of some objective guidepost. If you are a fan of a band’s albums, then you likely have higher expectations of their live performance. So sometimes the best shows are the ones that catch you by surprise because you aren’t already familiar with the band and their music. Shovels and Rope and locals T0W3RS both blew away any minimal expectations I might have had of them before I saw them live. Similarly, both Wye Oak and local act The Toddlers developed into amazing live bands; neither were great the first time I saw them, setting the bar lower for future performances—only to have them continually raise that bar with each subsequent show. And then there is Trash Talk. I watched the Fugazi documentary “Instrument” this weekend and was thinking, why aren’t more bands this great live. Of course, the X factor in Fugazi is the reckless, unpredictable stage antics of co-frontman Guy Picciotto. Let’s just say, I think every member of Trash Talk saw this documentary and thought the same thing I did!
Of course, by writing this, I’ve invariably helped raise each act’s bar a bit...so maybe you should pretend you didn’t read this...and go see these bands with no expectations. If you can do that, then you won’t be disappointed.