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Hopscotch 2014 - Day 1

Greetings from your intrepid reporter of the concertgoer experience for WXDU at this year’s Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh.

Days ago, I began to feel a vague, somewhat overwhelming feeling. What was this anxiety? It was the sense that the festival was rapidly approaching and I had done very little to plot out my schedule. This is my first Hopscotch. If not approached with the right frame of mind, I thought, the festival is destined to leave me with a sense of disappointment, as I will be able to attend only a fraction of the shows I would like to see. For example, Thursday’s 12:30 slot was ridiculously strong—and impossibly tempting—with Diarrhea Planet, The War on Drugs, and Tim Hecker playing sets (while Thurston Moore was finishing his). Almost immediately after I started to plot my strategy, I realized that it’s pointless to slavishly plan out my schedule ahead of time. I must leave room for contingencies—such is the fun of Hopscotch!

Case in point: a substantial downpour plagued the army of festivalgoers throughout most of the night and kept this poor reporter—uniquely concerned about protecting the precious recording equipment of WXDU—holed up outside of King’s Barcade during the early part of the evening after experiencing an energetic set by Museum Mouth at Slim’s. But the lull proved to have an unexpected silver lining; Thurston Moore was milling about as well, and we chatted for a couple of minutes. (And for those who were wondering, he has fond memories of the 2006 state fair tour that Sonic Youth did with the Flaming Lips and Ween.)

Realizing that I would not melt in the deluge, and after safely stowing my equipment, I trekked the distance to the Fletcher Opera Theater and caught IIII’s (read “Four”) performance. This shifting lineup (of mostly drummers) is one of the more unique additions to this year’s Hopscotch bill. I didn’t think to count the number of drum kits onstage, but let’s just say the Allman Brothers Band would have been jealous. The percussionists created an incredible racket and the energy was electric.

Cutting out a bit early, I headed over to Cam Raleigh (kind of a hike) to see most of Thurston Moore’s set. Visa issues meant the two non-American members of Moore’s new band did not make the show. Far from a disappointment, the crowd was treated to a tight performance from Moore (guitar, vocals) and his Sonic Youth co-conspirator Steve Shelley (drums). Moore’s opening instrumental bit suggested that we were in for an experimental-leaning show; in reality, most of the tunes were driving and fairly straight-ahead-sounding. Moore sang from a lyric sheet on a music stand in front of him. (Were the lyrics so new that he hadn’t had time to memorize them? Who knows?)

I concluded my evening with one of the night’s best performances (that I saw). Proving that good things can come out of Philadelphia, The War on Drugs is classic rock for the indie rock crowd. Singer/vocalist Adam Granduciel has a voice reminiscent of Dylan and a look like Marc Bolan (at least from where I was standing). The sound was rich: pretty heavy with a great groove. The seemingly capacity crowd at the Lincoln Theater was really into it. So ended my first day at Hopscotch—soaked, tired, and excited for Day 2.

Before closing, I’d be remiss not to mention De La Soul’s set at City Plaza earlier in the evening. They sounded fairly good and it was nice to know that selections from the 25-year-old 3 Feet High and Rising still hold up. Fortunately, the rain held off until near the end of their performance. Posdnuos and Dave disagreed throughout most of the set about exactly “where the party [was] at,” although it seemed to everyone present (me included) that that the party was right there in Raleigh, and so it would remain during this one-of-a-kind musical event.