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Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hopscotch, Night Three: Covering "Covers" of All Different Kinds

Posted by on Sun, Sep 9, 2018 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge Nile Rodgers at Red Hat Amphitheater - PHOTO BY CAITLIN PENNA
  • Photo by Caitlin Penna
  • Nile Rodgers at Red Hat Amphitheater
Hopscotch Music Festival: The Jayhawks, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Moses Sumney
Downtown Raleigh
Saturday, September 8, 2018

As much as my Friday night experience at Hopscotch was about the unexpected, my Saturday night turned out to be mostly about the expected, at least as far as the performances.

While more delays at both City Plaza and Red Hat Amphitheater meant the big stages were running behind schedule with unpredictable set times, but I managed to catch bits of most of the performances at both. Moses Sumney was an early highlight, as he battled the stifling humidity by conjuring futuristic new realms with his odd, offbeat arrangements and otherworldly falsetto.

Later at Red Hat, Nile Rodgers & Chic strung together a series of huge hits that Rodgers wrote, produced, and/or played on, which was fun and familiar, especially on sing-along fare like the medley of Sister Sledge smashes “He’s the Greatest Dancer” and “We Are Family.” Though Rodgers’ hitmaking streak is unquestionably impressive, when he led his group through tunes like Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” and Duran Duran’s “Notorious,” it strangely felt like a cover band that still involved one of the primary creators of those tunes. My inner cynic won out; after all, if I was going to hear cover songs during Hopscotch, it better be the nightly dose of “Careless Whisper” from the gentleman playing saxophone on the corner of Martin and Fayetteville.

Back in City Plaza, MC50’s run through Kick Out the Jams felt somewhat similar, given that guitarist Wayne Kramer—surrounded as he was by a supergroup of rock musicians—was the sole member from that album, or any era of MC5, on stage. Recreating the furious energy of that seminal live debut would seem like a futile task even if the entire original lineup was around and able to perform and the middle of the set indeed felt lacking in urgency.

Again, I found myself reviewing my own expectations, particularly given that the final act on each of the main stages was more about reviving the past than the forward-thinking efforts with which Hopscotch has often been associated. So in the first of a few hypocritical moves, I decided to make my way over to the Lincoln Theatre, since The Jayhawks—missing, as it were, co-founding singer/songwriter/guitarist Mark Olson—had been circled on my schedule since it had been released. 
click to enlarge Moses Sumney at Red Hat Amphitheater - PHOTO BY CAITLIN PENNA
  • Photo by Caitlin Penna
  • Moses Sumney at Red Hat Amphitheater

Having attended every Hopscotch since the festival began, I was always somewhat judgmental of folks that hunkered down at one venue for all or most of an evening. “Don’t they know the point is to hop around? How can they feel like listening to house music during a set change isn’t a total waste of time and opportunities to see something else?” I would think to myself (and never actually admit out loud but will just now for this blog). But, as I reflected several times throughout the weekend with friends who were also Hopscotch vets, the festival has a unique way of helping us mark our own aging that few other annual experiences can rival. Nearing the home stretch of the festival, I was predictably tired and sore, but more than ever before and I didn’t want to yawn my way through the act I was perhaps most excited to see across the whole lineup.

Of course, it helped that the two preceding acts, classic country revivalist Zephaniah Ohora and alt-country firebrand Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, were on my list as well, and both exceeded my expectations. Ohora’s “High Class City Girl From the Country” echoed Glen Campbell’s version of the John Hartford classic “Gentle On My Mind,” while Shook seemed to have an extra shot of fire in her belly during her tough, sneering originals.

The Jayhawks, though, reversed my cynicism from earlier in the evening as soon as their familiar, golden harmonies and ringing guitars emerged on “I’m Gonna Make You Love Me” and “Tampa to Tulsa,” while they mixed in newer material and their own versions of tunes that remaining principal Gary Louris helped write for others, like “Everybody Knows,” originally recorded by the Dixie Chicks. Though I was more exhausted than “down and out,” the chorus of “Smile” essentially became my mantra as they capped their set with fan (and personal) favorites “Blue” and “Tailspin” before an encore one-two of “All The Right Reasons” and a take on Golden Smog’s “Until You Came Along” that found long-time Replacements roadie Bill Sullivan hopping on stage to help out on vocals.

Maybe, I realized, a little revivalism—even when lacking some of its key contributors—wasn’t something I should turn up my nose at so quickly, just as my not-totally-exhausted body reminded me that sticking in one place to enjoy those moments rather than feeling compelled to hop around was ultimately worth it.

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