Jarne Verbruggen - Never Skatebored. Jesus, not only is this kid amazing, but his trick selection and imagination might be better than anyone else going right now. This whole thing floored me and left me with a giant grin at the same time.
Girl/Chocolate - Yeah Right! Log Tape. Raw footage from the beginning of their filming for Yeah Right. I could watch this for hours, I hope they release more of these. All of the photos to accompany the Hopscotch reviews below are in the photo
journal. Also, baby photos, if you're in- to that sort of thing (aka grandmas).
It's that time of the year again, time to stand around in
the heat and watch bands and wish this festival was later in the year
when it wasn't so damned hot! I've taken photos at every festival, but
this year I would officially be taking photos for the festival.
Basically, the only real difference is I can now get into the photo pit
at the big gigs...well, that and a free pass that works like a VIP pass.
Is it a good thing or a bad thing that my favorite band of the entire event, Wye Oak,
was the very first performance I saw? I'll be optimistic and say it's
awesome that a group I enjoy so much would be my welcome to the next
three days of musical decadence. It was great to see them on the big
stage of City Plaza, hopefully winning over new fans that had never
heard their eighties new wave-inspired indie pop before. They
definitely won me over again, but that out- come was never in question.
If Jenn Wasner was a religion I would be a strict adherent, because she
is infallible. There were lots of songs from "Shriek," a few new ones,
and then they ended their far-too-short set with their greatest track,
"Holy Holy." I had hoped with Jenn moving to North Carolina we would
get more frequent Wye Oak shows - this has sadly not occurred, so every
time I get a chance to see them play is a real treat.
The big City Plaza headliner this first night was Wolf Parade.
Somehow I never saw them live before their hiatus in 2010, but I get to
make up for that now. I have seen a number of their side projects
though, and to be quite honest I might prefer those solo efforts over
the whole of Wolf Parade, and I mean that as no slight to Wolf Parade (I
really REALLY like Spencer Krug's Moonface, in particular). I forgot
to take notes on their set list, but I specifically recall them playing
my favorite song "Dear Sons And Daughters Of Hungry Ghosts,"
plenty of other classics, and at least a couple off of their latest EP,
the imaginatively titled "EP 4." Just like on the recordings their
songs live have a driving, manic energy to them - if it was fun to see
on the giant outdoor stage, I can't imagine how enjoyable it would be in
a small, indoor club. A couple of other super important notes from
this performance: Dan Boeckner not only physically looks like the
Clash's Mick Jones, he looks like he's actually doing an impression of
him; and Spencer Krug plays the keys with one hand raised in the air as if he is constantly competing in a bull riding contest.
The "big" part of the night over, it was time to hit some clubs. I got to the Pour House in time to see Most of
a band I seem to see/think about a lot at Hopscotch as they play often,
and not much otherwise. It doesn't really make any sense because they
are a lot of fun live and should be interesting year round, but brains
work in mysterious ways. The club was packed with a crazy line outside,
luckily this is where the photo pass helps a ton...sorry everyone I
skipped in front of. Once inside, I saw Sam from Future Islands and it
occurred to me the Snails were closing out the night at this
venue...this crowd was just trying to get themselves Future
Islands-adjacent. Or maybe they're just really into bands that perform
in snail costumes. Wing Dam are a little bit slacker pop, a little bit
jangle, a little bit garage rock, a little bit a lot of things actually -
I've probably said it before but they remind me a lot of the
mid-nineties Teenbeat era, Versus and Unrest and Eggs and all that.
Possibly the most noteworthy moment was when Sara Autrey's boobs popped
out of her low cut top in the middle of their set; instead of freaking
out or being embarrassed, she instead asked for solidarity from the rest
of the band and the dudes took their shirts off. She then left them
popped out, and offered to "high five nipples" with anyone back at the
merch table after the set was over (I have no verification if this
actually happened). A damn fun band, I look forward to their set next
year at Hopscotch.
I decided to stay put at the Pour House to see some of Sneaks.
I didn't know a single thing about them other than they recently signed
to Merge, and I like the bulk of the Merge catalog so it was worth a
shot. The band is a duo of young folks, a dude making beats on a
computer and a dudette who rapped/sang/mumbled, occasionally played
bass, and was also wearing plastic pants that made me hot just looking
at them. It was...not for me, to put it kindly. The crowd seemed into
it but I was totally confused. All of the songs were really short, the
instrumentation very sparse, and the vocals were way too low in the mix -
hell, they played two or three songs before I realized they weren't
just dick- ing around doing sound check. I moved on after a handful of
songs, but since each song was about a minute long a handful didn't take
I smartly chose to stop off at the Lincoln to see some of Mutoid Man.
I knew they played metal, had some connection to Converge, and that was
about it. I would best describe them as classic eighties-style thrash
metal, but somehow lighthearted and fun. And I don't mean lighthearted
in regard to the lyrics, cause I don't have a clue what the hell they
were singing about - more so in the actions of the group, as they were
clearly having fun. Smiling even! A metal band smiling on stage, while
simultaneously headbanging, fucking with each other, and more general
antics! Unprec- edented, I say - metal is usually such serious business.
Oh, and they started their set by playing the last half of "Purple
Rain" (song, not album) - I can't think of a better, more fitting intro
to this trio. My only regret is I didn't get to see more of them, as I
needed to get to Television...if it had been nearly any other band in
the entire festival that I was off to see next, I would have probably
skipped it to see more of Mutoid Man.
This was my most anticipated show of the whole festival, a classic band
I've loved for ages but had never seen live. Yeah, Richard Lloyd
wasn't there so it wasn't the true classic line-up...but, and I say this
with all respect to Mr. Lloyd, I was there for Tom Verlaine first and
foremost. Memorial Auditorium wasn't packed but there was a healthy
crowd there, a mix of old fans (like myself) and young kids there to
probably see what all the fuss is about with these "olds" on stage.
After Tom requested the venue turn the lights nearly off (not ideal for
taking photos, obviously), the band launched into an hour-and-a-half
set, playing nearly all of their classic "Marquee Moon" and plenty
more. After the show I heard some complaints that the band was boring
and not very engaging or interesting, but that was not true for me at
all - it probably helped that I was front and center in front of Tom
Verlaine the entire time, com- pletely mesmerized by his effortless guitar
acrobatics. I've probably seen guitarists that were better
technically, but I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone as effortlessly
perfect. To no surprise they ended the set with an epic version of
"Marquee Moon," and as happy as I was to hear the likes of "Prove It"
and "Elevation," finally getting to hear the title track of their
seminal album live was a legit bucket list item for me, and one I was
very happy to finally fulfill.
My only real regret on the first night of Hopscotch is that
Lambchop were playing at the same time as Television, for- cing me to miss
a local appearance by them for the first time in ages. Word is they
were great, to no one's surprise. Lambchop will be back though, most
likely sooner rather than later. Television may never grace these parts
again, but here's to hoping.
The second night of Hopscotch was a big night in
the history of the event - not only was it the first time ever they
would be including Red Hat Amphitheater as a venue, they would be
holding "big" shows both at both Red Hat and City Plaza concurrently.
It was an ambitious move, and might have worked out great...if the shows
had started on time.
Gary Clark Jr
was my first act of the night, at Red Hat. He was opening for Erykah
Badu, but she was having flight problems and was going to be late, and
had her start time pushed back. Because of this, they had Gary start
15-20 minutes later than he was originally scheduled...fortunately, I
was still able to see enough of his set to get a few photos;
unfortunately, I only got to see three or so songs before I had to leave
for the next venue. That was a shame, because his modern blues were
sounding damn good to me at the time, and it's always a pleasure to
watch Mr. Clark mangle a guitar. I would have gladly stayed for a lot
more of his set had it been possible. Plus, from a photographical
per- spective, he makes great faces while he plays. Yes, photographical
is a real word, I looked it up. The internet never lies.
Unfortunately I had to buzz it up the hill to City Plaza to see Anderson Paak,
who seemed to be getting the most buzz heading into this year's
festival. In an ideal world Paak and Clark would have been paired
together and I could have seen both of their sets in full, but dammit no
one asked me. In simplistic terms you would lump Paak into the genre
of hip hop, but he is so much more than that...most importantly, he
plays with a full band, even throwing down on drums himself on a few
songs. Nearly every time I've truly loved live hip hop, it's been when
there was a full band...that's pro- bably the middle aged white guy in me
talking, but the feelings still stand. Despite being from LA he gave
off a nine- ties East Coast/DJ Premier-esque jazz sample vibe to his
sound, aka my favorite era in rap by a large margin. There were many
times where Paak & his band's sound was more funk and soul than hip
hop...at least one song sounded exactly like Curtis Mayfield, and a
number of tracks reminded me a ton of the Brand New Heavies. I barely
knew a thing about Anderson Paak before this performance, but by the end
I definitely left a fan.
After Paak I waited around for Beach House,
who for unexplained reasons were also running late. Tired of waiting
and not really being a huge Beach House fan to start with, I decided to
walk back down to Red Hat to catch the start of Erykah Badu, as her
amended start time was fast approaching. Of course, that was delayed
even further and I ended up waiting there for a while, only to hear
through the grapevine that her plane had just landed, meaning it was
still going to be a while before she appeared on stage. So I went back
up to City Plaza to actually catch some of Beach House, who were finally
playing. As I suspected, after a couple of songs I had had my fill -
the music is mostly fine (if a little boring), sort of a modern take on
the Cocteau Twins, but they're not much for watching. They have as much
fog on stage as Sunn O))), only when you do get glimpses of the band
it's not a bunch of metal dudes in crazy monk outfits, instead
run-of-the-mill indie rockers standing as still as possible. Between
Badu and Beach House this portion of the night was kind of a bust, but
since I wasn't overly excited about seeing either band only my time was
I popped into Fletcher Opera Theater to see what was going on with Kid Millions & Jim Sauter Duo.
Sparse crowd, but given all the schedule fuck-ups with the "big" shows
and the fact that both were still going on that wasn't particularly
surprising - I'm guessing the scene was somewhat similar in the other
small clubs across town. The gig was pretty much what I expected it to
be - Millions pretty much just playing a long drum solo while Jim Sauter
played some skronky atonal saxophone over him. It's the exact sort of
thing I find interesting for about fifteen minutes, and that's about
it. I may not always love everything Kid Millions does, but he's such
an amazing drummer it's always worth checking out any project he's
involved in, I'll like way more than I won't.
were playing next door at Memorial Auditorium, so off I went to see
local lad(s) done well. I'm still not entirely sure about who to call
what here - Boulevards is the band name, but the band is technically
only one person - Jamil Rashad. So is he Boulevards, and do I refer to
him as such, or do I refer to him as Jamil, member of Boulevards?
Regardless, he had two cats playing with him at this live show, one on
drums and the other handling the rest of the music on a computer, so for
the purposes of this gig I will refer to Boulevards as the band. I'd
be lying if I said I've lis- tened to their record "Groove!" all that
much, but you would be damn hard pressed to find a more engaging and
ex- citing live show, and you don't need to know the songs to enjoy it.
Jamil owns the stage, prowling the entirety of the giant Memorial stage
like a caged Tiger, climbing on speakers, jumping into and out of the
crowd multiple times - he was definitely having fun, and so was the
audience. I bet the dude burns 2000 calories over the duration of a
show... hell, I think I lost some weight just watching him move around so
much. Musically it felt like being at a mid-eighties New Jack
Swing/Bobby Brown-esque gig - it doesn't hurt that Jamil looks like he
stepped right out of a 1987 time capsule. If Boulevards is playing in
your town, don't miss it..unless you hate fun, then you should
definitely miss it.
I decided to stay put at Memorial to see what all the
fuss was about, and also because I'm lazy. Not my best decision, as it
turns out. After being 45 minutes late, Young Thug's DJ finally came
out and then proceeded to try hyping up the crowd by playing snippets of
the same songs Thug would be performing only a few minutes later. To
be fair the tactic worked, despite my bewilderment. Another 15 minutes
later Young Thug himself finally came out, along with one hype man and
at least a dozen people who did nothing but mill around on the stage.
One guy spent the entire time checking his phone; another filmed the
entire show on the biggest iPad I've ever seen, it was the size of a
damn cookie sheet; a number of others just smoked and drank (probably
lean, or at least they wanted to appear that way) out of Styrofoam
cups. I'm not even sure what to say about the music...dude half-slurs a
ton of his lyrics on record, they're even less intelligible live. His
music is generally interesting, but there was way way WAY too much
bass...to be fair that could be on the venue as much as it's on Young
Thug, although both Big Boi and Killer Mike sounded great here a few
years back, so probably not. Long story short, it just wasn't for me.
The very young crowd was loving it though, so despite my sour reception
it seems like a smart booking choice.
After a lot of
Hip Hop and R&B for most of the night, there was only one sensible
way to end things - metal. I had hoped to see some or all of Cobalt,
but due to Young Thug being so (unnecessarily) late, I saw an entire two
minutes of their very last song. That happens at Hopscotch sometimes,
life goes on. Luckily I was able to get there in time to see Yob,
my main reason for walking to the Pour House anyways. I've seen them a
couple of times, as well as lead man Mike Scheidt solo, so I knew
exactly what to expect - really heavy stoner metal bordering on doom,
minus the Cookie Monster vocals that turn me off from so many metal
bands. This was probably the best I've ever seen them, the band was
tight and Mike was destroying his crazy looking custom Monson guitar.
It wasn't butts to nuts in there, but the crowd was healthy - I guess I
wasn't only one who thought ending the night with some riffy metal was a
great way to finish off the second day of Hopscotch.
The third day of Hopscotch is always the
toughest to motivate for, at least for this middle-aged, out-of-shape,
lazy bas- tard. The first day runs on excitement; the second day runs on
adrenaline; and the third day runs on...determination. It didn't help
that of the three days this one had the line-up of bands for which I was
least excited, but there were still some gems in there.
I'm not going to lie, I really only showed up early enough for Vince Staples
at City Plaza because I thought I might get some interesting photos,
what with my pass-assisted access to the photo pit in City Plaza.
Without that, I probably would have shown up just early enough to catch a
couple of songs at the end of his set. I did get a couple of decent
snaps so I guess it was worth it, but I can't say Vince's music ever won
me over. Just not my kind of hip hop, and I don't think I could even
tell you why - neither his rapping style or his music really engaged
me. Also, the audio quality seemed all over the place - one track would
be normal and clear, and the next would have so much distorted bass I
had a flashback to high school when all the rednecks (as well as one of
my good friends) had those huge speakers in the trunk of their cars. I
once bribed my friend with a t-shirt he wanted to get him to turn his
speakers down, it was so loud I thought it was making my heart beat
improperly. Anyways, I did eat a tasty chicken and cheese pita during
his set, so that was cool.
impressive that the biggest turnout and most rambunctuous crowd I've
seen in the seven years of Hopscotch was for local favorites
It feels like it was only a couple of years ago they were opening for
the Rosebuds at Memorial, and now they're drawing thousands of people as
a festival headliner...wait, it was just a couple of years ago. I've
seen them a few times since that Memorial outing, but this was the first
gig I've seen where they actually played new songs, songs not on their
self-titled debut. They still played most of the songs from that record
too, and of course the crowd went nuts for each one of them, including
me when they played their best song "Hey Mami" at the end of the set.
Who would have guessed that if you write super catchy pop songs and set
them to an electronic beat it would be so popular?
From electronic pop to mellow folk, I made my way to Fletcher Opera Theater to catch a little bit of Maiden Radio.
I'd never heard a single note by them, but read that Joan Shelley was
in the group and she has a magnifficent voice so it was definitely worth
a shot. The band was a trio of females playing banjo, guitar and
fiddle (in various combinations) and singing solo or together (in
various combinations). I only caught about half of their set, but it
seemed like it was mostly covers of old mountain folk songs - how much
these songs resembled the originals or were complete reimagin- ings, I
have no idea. As to what Maiden Radio sounded like, think about all the
Gillian Welch/Emmylou Harris/Alison Krauss tracks from the "Oh Brother
Where Art Thou?" soundtrack and you're on the right path. It sounded
great, two thumbs up from this dude.
I would have gladly stayed for the entire Maiden Radio set if I didn't need to get next door to Memorial Auditorium to see Eric Bachmann.
It was just him and two backup singers, local phenom Skylar Gudasz and
another gal named Avery, but I didn't catch her full name. Bachmann was
in a snazzy suit, the ladies were in matching sparkly dresses, and the
crowd was seated and impeccably silent...of the dozens of times I've
seen Bachmann play either solo or with a band, I've never seen him quite
like this. I took some snaps for a couple of songs, and then just sat
down and lis- tened intently for the rest of the set. He played most of
his new self-titled record, which makes sense as so many of those songs
feature backing vocals, and these two ladies weren't on stage just to
show off their sparkly outfits. Of the couple of older songs he trotted
out, I remember "Bad Blood" was one of them, a classic to be sure. I'm
not sure if the rest of the crowd was totally engrossed (like me),
asleep, or just staring at their phones, but I was impressed with how
quiet and attentive everyone was. Easily one of the shows of the
festival for me, but like the Wye Oak performance on the first night, I
knew this would be the case before he even played the first note.
Even though I had sorta just seen her with Maiden Radio, I popped back in next door at Fletcher to see Joan Shelley play solo. Well, sorta solo, as she had a dude supplying guitar
accompaniment the whole time, plus the other two gals in Maiden Radio
came on stage occasionally to add some additional instrumentation or
vocals. I suppose the the big difference between the two sets was
during this gig Joan was playing her own songs instead of covers of old
mountain folk ditties. I don't really know any of her music well, I
just know her voice - but it was real damn pretty and I stuck it out for
a few songs before I got itching to move on. Nothing against Joan, but
I was needing something a little more rock- ing than the delicate folk
I've seen over the last three acts.
Walking down the street, I met a few friends that talked me into going to see Soldiers of Fortune
at the Lincoln Theatre because Cheetie Kumar from Birds of Avalon would
be sitting in with them. I didn't know a single thing about the band
(noticing a theme with my lack of preparation this year?) but if Cheetie
was participating it would be worth checking out. Turns out they're
some NYC supergroup featuring Kid Millions and others from Oneida, a
dude from Endless Boogie, another dude that plays with Interpol
apparently, and plenty more vets (some that were here, some that were
not). Their set was just one long song, seemingly improvised or at
least mostly so, which is not shocking because of the level of talent
present on stage. Kid Millions was handling the vocals from the drum
kit, but I have no idea what he was saying and I'm not sure it
mattered. I'm not even sure how to really describe the sound - sort of a
repetitive kraut rock vibe, fairly heavy but never venturing into metal
territory, and a shitload of guitar shreddery, espec- ially from the
guest star Cheetie. I probably could have just said it sounds like a
crazier/bigger version of Oneida. For something I randomly decided to
go to, this was a nice find, and further proves the old adage "always
trust the Birds of Avalon." At least I'm pretty sure that is an adage
was playing next at the Lincoln and since that who I was planning on
seeing anyways, it made for a short commute. Not only did I not have to
exert myself and walk to another venue, but I was in a great spot to
get photos of the final act of Hopscotch. I saw Baroness play a number
of years ago, but honestly don't remember a ton about it - I certainly
don't remember them being as polished as they were on this night. They
were heavier and gruffer before - now, I'd almost call them pop metal.
That sounds like an insult and I don't mean it that way, but their songs
have hooks and harmonies that you usually don't get in a typical stoner
metal setting. Also, how did I miss the news that Sebastian Thomson
from Trans Am is now their drummer? I knew their old drummer quit the
band after their horrific bus crash a few years back (they were actually
supposed to play Hopscotch right after that crash, but that appearance
was ob- viously cancelled since almost the entire band nearly died), but I
had no idea Sebastian was now their stickman. Anyways, yadda yadda
yadda, they put on an amazing show, it was basically an entirely
different band than I saw so many years ago, and I enjoyed it immensely -
I was planning on only staying for a couple of songs but ended up
watching most of the show. I like this version of Baroness a lot more,
for the record - what can I say, I'm a pop fan at heart - make the metal
songs catchy and all of the sudden I'm feelin' it.
went home satisfied (and extremely tired) after my three day experience
at Hopscotch 2016. Probably my favorite festival since 2013 or so.
I'm already excited for next year.
"Cat in the wall, eh? Okay, now you're talkin' my language! I know that game."
As a slight break with the usual, one full album and one full single in addition to the normal random tracks.
Mercury Birds - Saxitar Cosmosis. Kids these days don't know! Highly underrated classic band from Greensboro in the late nineties. Hell, they were stupid underrated when they were actually around. Some of the dudes ended up moving to Portland and joined a bunch of other bands over the years, one of which was the now-popular Red Fang. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Gold Lion (single). I don't have any good reason for including this entire single, other than I was listening to it the other day. "Modern Romance" is still a great song, and TV on the Radio's cover of "Modern Ro- mance" is even greater. Clinic - Bubblegum. I'll forget to listen to Clinic for a long time, and then be all like "Clinic is awesome" for a couple of weeks, and then forget to listen to them again. Orangutan
Nada Surf - Friend Hospital. The new Nada Surf album is awesome, to no one's surprise. I haven't gotten to see them live in ages though, but that will all be changing...tomorrow. Photos in future updates. Rushing
Hey, look at me, I'm famous! Or, not really. A magazine called The Local Palate used a photo I took of Cheetie from Birds of Avalon in an article about her restaurant Garland.
If Antihero puts out a new video, it gets posted here - that's just good science. This one is called "Chesnut Hill." Dann Van Der Linden is the most exciting new kid to come on the scene in years.
And yet another Antihero video, this one called "The Vickie Report." I'm not sure what's gotten into these guys and why they're so productive lately, but I couldn't be any happier about it.
I'm not entirely sure what Dime is - are they just a clothing company or something more? - but whatever is going on, they put on the best contests skateboarding has ever known. I think the speed challenge is my favorite part, since they have to wear wraparound sunglasses while skating. Brilliant.
We spent a good chunk of the middle of the month on a vacation out west; subsequently, that resulted in five photo
journal entries documenting the trip. It was a good time. Vacations are awesome, right?
Bull City 11th Anniversary Party with Superchunk, Pipe, Last Year's Men, and Daniel Bachman
Ponysaurus is located just a few blocks from the more "newly
developed" parts of downtown Durham, but it's like a different world -
boarded up buildings, blight, and the typical trappings of inner city
poverty abound. You can see the changes creeping that way though, that
new money slowly overtaking block by block in the same fashion kudzu
covers everything it encounters. I suppose Ponysaurus itse;f would be
one of those agents of change themselves. I'll leave it up to the
reader to decide if this a good or bad thing (or as is almost always the
case in these situations, both), I'm just painting the scene...
I got there and Daniel Bachman
was already well into his set. Just him and his guitar performing
really pretty, intricate instrumental music. He also played this
weirdly shaped lap guitar that I'm going to assume was a dobro until I'm
told different. He's really damn young! Way younger than you'd
probably expect given his talent level...his recordings make you would
assume he's a much older cat, or at least that applied to me. Maybe he
just has an old soul, whatever that means. These instrumental guitar
dudes are really hot right now, right? It feels like there are a lot of
them. Daniel is as good as any of them if not better.
I was pretty excited
Last Year's Men
were playing this party, because I was pretty sure they had broken up.
Maybe it was just a "hiatus," but either way they sorta fizzled out and
I believe it had been quite a while since they last per- formed live.
Does this gig signal that the band is back for real or was this just a
one off, a favor for Bull City Records? I guess time will tell. They
were as good as ever, playing a number of tracks from their great album
"Sunny Down Snuff" as well as that second record they released only as
MP3s that I must confess I haven't really heard. I was into the jams
anyways though. One noteworthy change was Montgomery was back in band -
before their previous hiatus (or whatever it was) he was no longer with
the group, instead focusing all his attention on Flesh Wounds. It was
nice to see him back in the fold. I hope I get to see them again, and
soon, because they're one of my favorite local acts.
PIPE PIPE PIPE PIPE PIPE. That's really all the review of this band
should be. I've seen them dozens upon dozens of times and it's always
the same...the band rocks out to pretty much the same songs they always
play, holding shit down in a straight-forward but necessary fashion;
singer Ron Liberti, Robert Pollard's long lost twin, puts on a
per- formance that is somewhere between pantomime, modern dance and your
favorite drunk uncle; the crowd throws beer cans at the band; I smile
and laugh the entire time. They played a lot of great hits, including
two of their best "Biscuits" and "Yr Soaking in It" and a cover of Joe
Jackson's "One More Time." At one point Ron caught one of the beers
thrown at him, took a drink from it, and then threw it back at the crowd
as if the whole thing was choreographed. He also sang at least one
song standing under a giant plastic tarp like he was wearing the world's
most suffocating ghost costume. Pipe is everything rock bands should
aspire to be.
In a lot of ways what I said about Pipe also holds for Superchunk,
minus the difference in antics of the respective singers - about the
most you get from Mac is a jump off of the drum riser and/or some
windmill guitar work. Like Pipe, I've seen Superchunk dozens upon
dozens of times, they play a ton of songs I've seen them play a more
times than I can count, and they're incredibly dependable. Unlike Pipe,
they've actually continued to write songs and release albums since the
nineties, and their material is a lot more fun to sing along to (sorry
Pipe, I still love you). In the run-up to this show the band mentioned
that this is the first time they've played locally since Merge 25 in the
summer of 2014, which makes sense because I've been grousing about not
getting to see them for a good two years. There's not a whole lot I can
say about these guys at this point, just know that other than Laura no
longer playing with them live, they've not lost a step.
Lydia Loveless - Can't Change Me. I'm working backwards with Lydia's catalog - here are a couple of great tracks from her bluegrass-inflected first record. More Like Them
The Mountain Goats - Choked Out. It took me a while to get around to the most recent Goats' record that is all about wrestling...despite the silly concept it's as good as most anything else John Darnielle has made. Luna
Stevie Perez got a new pro shoe on Lakai, and put out a promo vid to promote/celebrate the event. I was kinda in- different to this guy when he first came on the scene, but the last year or so everything he has released has been gold.
Sam Chao released a new short video of SF ripping called All Damn Day. I have no idea who he is, but he has a bunch of Crailtap dudes in there ripping so you go Sam. Stick around to the very end to actually see the extremely rare sight of Rick Howard skating!
Peter Hewitt released a new part for Spitfire. Excellent tranny skating from start to finish, but my god that last trick... an alley oop eggplant over a channel? It's hard to fuckin' comprehend.
journal entry again, this from our recent yearly trip to Topsail Beach to hang with the family.
Jenny Besetzt with No One Mind, Enemy Waves, and Konvoi
It had been forever since I'd been to a show...two months
maybe? Probably Moogfest was my last outing...apparently I only go to
shows in Durham now. And what better way to throw yourself back in to
the scene than to attend a four band show, and be there from the very
start? Actually, there are a lot of better ways, but that's what I
The reason for getting there so early? Konvoi,
an actual good band from Boone. The idea of there being a group from
Boone that I would ever give a shit about was a foreign concept growing
up just down the road from that hippie haven, where most of the live
entertainment involved groups with names like Mushroom Gravy Funk
Concern, Quilted Pants Family Band, and Patchouli Joe & the Broken
Volkswagen Transmissions. Instead, you get a four piece of young dudes
who are more (early) Whatever Brains than Widespread Panic. They had a
dark vibe to them as well, reminiscent of Ex-Cult or Pop. 1280...lots of
distorted vocals and minor chords. Some call it art punk I guess.
They've only released a cassette so far, and I no longer own a cassette
player since selling my old Subaru, but you can listen online if you're
so inclined...and I'll definitely be seeing them again.
would probably count as the main reason I left the house tonight. For
whatever reason, every time they play it's opposite other plans I have
or I'm out of town or some such shit - luckily tonight worked out in my
favor. Three-fourths of Enemy Waves might be made up of Birds of Avalon
members, but you would never confuse the two groups from their sound -
this outfit is instrumental and pretty goddamn jazzy. Jazzy in that
mid-90s Thrill Jockey sort of way mind you, not classic hard bop or
anything. Their sets used to feel a lot more freeform, but it had been a
while since the last time I saw them live and now the performance is
much more structured. They started and ended their night with more
traditional "rock" jams (with a bit of a kraut backbone), but in the
middle they had both saxophones out, squawking a very fanciful
fashion...sounded great. Those dudes really know how to blow a horn.
I'm really stoked it finally worked out that I got to see them again.
I didn't know anything about
No One Mind,
the third band of the night. My friend Paul said "It's the Toddlers,
basically," but I'm not sure if that was a reference to their sound, the
band members, or maybe both. To be honest I don't really remember the
Toddlers but I'm pretty sure I saw them live a time or two, they played a
ton a few years back. Once they took the stage I did notice Missy from
Love Language and Birds of Avalon (and god knows how many other bands)
in the group, but that was the limit to my knowledge. The band turned
down the lights, manned their own per- sonal light show set up at their
feet, and then proceeded to play what I would most generically describe
as dark indie pop. Not that the band was generic, just my effort of
describing them. My first reaction was it reminded me of Arcade Fire,
and I know to a lot of people that might sound like an insult but fuck
it, that first Arcade Fire record was damn good. No One Mind seems like
an act to keep an eye on, wouldn't be at all surprised if they got a
little buzz behind them.
At this point, it was time for the last act Jenny Besetzt,
and goddamn was I tired. They were there to celebrate the release of
their new full-length "Tender Madness," and I loved everything I heard
but after a few songs my ass had to bow out before I collapsed from
lazinessitis and old leg syndrome. They're a good pairing with No One
Mind, both are in the general frame of dark indie pop, with keyboards
playing a large role in each band. One of the most
noticeable/ interesting aspect of Jenny Besetzt are the deep, almost Ian
Curtis-like vocals; they kinda have a classic Echo & the
Bunnymen/Psychedelic Furs vibe. What's not to like about that? Next
time I see them hopefully they won't be the fourth group of the night.
Stephen Malkmus And The Jicks - Houston Hades. Pavement is an all-time favorite but I don't listen to Malkmus' solo work as often as I should, considering it sounds just like Pavement with a tad more guitar histrionics. Lariat
Sturgill Simpson - The Promise. There's a reason Sturgill has been getting so much hype the last couple of years... it's well deserved. Dude is on another plane. Turtles All the Way Down
Swearin' - Dust In The Gold Sack. I'm not sure if Swearin' is a still a thing or not, now that singer Allison Crutchfield is
signed as solo artist with Merge, but I expect good things from
her in the future regardless. Swearin' was great live. Here to Hear Unwanted Place
Teenage Fanclub - Catholic Education 2. Fanclub's first record gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, it's a little more shoegaze slacker rock than the perfect pop band they would become...but I still love it. Just not as much. Everything Flows
Them - Don't Look Back. Hot take of the day: Van Morrison was much better with Them than he ever was solo. Gloria
I have no idea who Eniz Fazliov is, but this part from the "Where We Come From" video is pure gold. Dude goes fast,
big, and has great trick and spot selection. The song as great as
well. Just skip the first two minutes unless you like footage of pointless partying.
Almost as good as new part from Grant Taylor is a ten minute compilation of some of his best footage over the years, courtesy of Thrasher Magazine.
Michael Mackrodt is back with yet another of his skating/tourism videos, this one called "Fishing Lines Tunisia." This one is a little heavier on the skating than the tourism, but still great. Dude has some crazy quick feet.
One large photo
journal entry from our April trip to the Outer Banks. Do with that what you will.
Here are my show reviews: I didn't go to any damn shows last month. Lazy, old, all of the above.
American Aquarium - Man I'm Supposed To Be. Local lads done well...it's not often I think a band gets better as they age, I almost always prefer the early work...but their latest record is the best of the bunch. Southern Sadness Wolves
Despite their love of subpar filming equipment and cheeseball synth pop, Pyramid Country continue to kill it with every video they release - their latest offering Distant Mind Terrain is no different.
Boulevard Skateboards, on top of the world right now, released a new video called Quinto full of mostly Brazilians and a few stragglers from other countries just killing every spot they happen upon. Carlos Iqui had the best (and last) part, unsurprisingly, but the real treat was Danny Cerezini, who I've never really cared about, having probably the sec- ond best.
journal entries - one is the total set of Moogfest photos (see reviews below); the other is some snaps of old houses and old friends seen on a weekend trip to South Carolina.
first day of the first Durham edition of Moogfest...this is a way
easier commute than the Asheville edition! Despite it being the type of
festival where you bounce around from venue to venue, tonight was going
to be very easy for me - I was starting at Motorco and not leaving
until it was time to walk to the car. Not only that, this was my most
anticipated line-up of the whole event.
First up for me was Silver Apples,
aka Simeon. When a band is just one man do you refer to it as a he or a
they? Regardless, I saw him nearly twenty years ago (with a drummer
that time) opening for Polvo at the Cat's Cradle, and he was already an
old dude then...I mention this not to mock him, but purely out of
adoration. The man turns 78 this year and is just as lively, vibrant,
and impressive as anyone else at Moogfest, of any age. This man is
nearly as old as my grandma, and here he is on stage tweaking the shit
out of his homemade synth (called the Simeon, for the record), making
music that formed the backbone of what krautrock and electronic music
would come to be. In my opinion, there aren't many artists as important
as Silver Apples in this realm - this band should be the Wikipedia
entry when you look up the phrase "ahead of their time." Oh, did I
mention his performance was un-fucking-believably good? The kind of
good where it might end up being my favorite show of the entire year, or
at a minimum top three. He played songs across his entire catalog as
well as a few new ones, ending with an epic version of his classic
"Oscillations."As much gushing as I have done here, it still doesn't encapsulate how happy this show made me.
my excitement for bands that follow an epic performance are unfairly
lowered, like a come down after some particularly potent drugs or a damn
good milkshake. It's not the band's fault, just human nature...or at
least my personal human nature. Coming into the festival, Zombi
was probably the group I was most excited about - and the thing is,
they were totally rad. A duo from Pittsburgh, their recordings might
have you believe they're just a laptop performance (a pretty common
sight at Moogfest) - but it was a real, live band up on that stage. One
cat played bass and had a whole shitload of synths, sometimes played
separately and occasionally at the same time; the other dude handled the
drums, and also seemed to have some sort of synth action, electronic
drums, and/or triggers he was working with. They sounded good, and I
enjoyed myself, but I'm pretty sure I would have liked it a lot more if
it hadn't immediately followed something so mind-blowing. I'd be stoked
to go see Zombi again though.
The final act I would see this evening was Gary Numan.
He was holding a three day residency, performing a diff- erent album each
night - tonight it was his solo debut, "Replicas." Much to my dismay
none of the nights were focus- ing on the Tubeway Army record...not that I
thought they would, but a man has to have dreams. I had already been
standing in the same spot for three hours, sweaty and uncomfortable,
and Numan had the temerity to take the stage at least forty minutes
late. When he did finally show up, at least he and the rest of the band
sounded great. I probably don't need to tell you anything about the
set list - feel free to look up the track listing to "Replicas" if
you're curious. A long delay like this one would have been much easier
to accept if it happened at one of his next two shows, which are at the
seated venue Carolina Theater. Good god, I'm getting old. I only made
it through about two-thirds of his set before my legs finally waved the
white flag, and it was time to go. Luckily, there would be more
opportunities to see Numan the next two days...
good man Brian came in from Wilmington for the next two nights of
Moogfest. I typically go to shows solo, so it was a nice change of pace
to have one of my best friends there for the old man version of rocking and/or rolling.
We decided to start our night with Grimes.
To be honest, neither one of us knew a thing about her (I actually
wasn't even sure if it was a her or a them going into the show), and I mostly
went in with an open mind...a mind that closed fairly fast, to be honest. We
lasted two songs, but I was over it halfway through the first. All of
the music appeared to be pre-recorded, and when I say all of the music I'm
even including the vocals. She might have sang along during parts of the
song, but there were multiple times (just in the brief time we were there)
that the mic was a good two feet from her face but the vocals were
still perfect. It was basically a dance & lip sync performance,
which I suppose I might have come around to accepting if I actually
liked how it sounded. I was certainly in the minority in this opinion though
- the place was packed and the crowd was eating it up. I guess I can't
always be hip to what the kids like...
We walked next
door to Motorco to see what was happening there - I knew it would be
hip hop, but I didn't know any- thing about the artist performing - Denzel Curry.
Turns out it was a young dude out of Miami with great dreads who
bounced around the stage like he was on a cocktail of Red Bull and
cocaine. I've never been that great at describing rappers, but the dude
had an aggressive, fast style - a style I greatly prefer compared to
the stoned mushmouths that seem to get so much of the shine these days. The
music was often some sort of swirly, spacey electropop backed by heavy
beats...that's probably a terrible description, but it's what my dumb
brain heard. We took in about a half-dozen tracks before moving on,
he gets an enthusiastic thumbs up from me.
to the Carolina Theatre from there for Gary Numan, but got there early enough to
see some of the "band" before him, Grouper. And by "band" I mean a woman
sitting on the stage, surrounded by electronics, playing music that
sounded exactly like one of those CDs of rain forest noises some folks
use to go to sleep. It was, well...there it was. It was a thing. I was mostly confused, and sleepy.
though, Gary Numan.
I liked being up front at Motorco the night before,
but I think this theatre was a better setting for him. It
certainly was more conducive to his crazy light show; it also didn't
hurt he spent the night playing his classic album "The Pleasure
Principle" in full. We were in the middle of the second deck, and the
sound was much better than the night before, which is probably to be
expected given both the better acoustics and a better location in the
venue. Let it also be stated that no matter how many times you've
heard "Cars," seeing it performed live is one of life's great treats.
The night might have started off comically bad, but this more than made
up for it.
Featuring Mac McCaughan, The Body, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and Sunn O))
Downtown Durham 5/21/2016
the plus side, today's shows started early; the negative is there was
no way in hell we were lasting until the end of the night. We made our
way to a small spot right next to the Carolina Theatre called the Durham
Arts Council PSI Theatre just before 4 PM to see Mac McCaughan.
I've seen him somewhere in the range of five million times be- tween all
of his projects (Superchunk, Portastatic, solo, etc), but this was the
first time I would witness a performance of this fashion - Mac tweaking a
bank of synths and keyboards, a dude with a clipboard standing behind
him in a judgemental manner, and some modern dancers doing their modern
dance thing. The music was all instrumental and started a little slow,
but I was feeling it for the bulk of the set. Like any other time I've
ever seen anything of this nature, I didn't have a goddamn clue what was
going on, but I suppose it was interesting enough to watch for a little
while. I'm still unclear if the clipboard guy was a part of the
performance, or actually doing something.
We walked over to the Pinhook from there, the first time the festival had led me to my favorite Durham venue. Metal duo the Body
were next up, a band I have wanted to see live for a little while but,
you know, laziness. I'd be lying if I said I was super familiar with
their work, but I'd only heard good things about them from my "metal
friends." A quick scan of the crowd confirmed they were definitely the
act to see this weekend if you had a neck tattoo - my bare throat firmly
placed me in the minority, or so it felt. It wasn't the most dynamic
live performance I've seen, and I couldn't much tell one song from the
next, but I still liked it. I was expecting a more metal sound, but
they were more sludgy and heavy, not that unlike Big Business to be
honest. They actually use guitar versus Jared's bass in Big Business,
but it was an extremely low tuned guitar, perhaps even baritone. I also
found it interesting that the drummer didn't use a real bass drum, but
rather a pedal that seemed to trigger a distorted, electronic bass drum;
which seemed to have some com- plications, and might have led to them
playing such a short set (probably in the range of 20 minutes).
Next up at the Pinhook was Quintron and Miss Pussycat,
yet another band I've meant to see forever but have always put off...I
was really able to knock some things off my "to do list" this night!
There was a pack of really annoy- ing Quintron superfans surrounding me,
but after seeing the duo's performance it was easy to see how someone
could end up like that - they were goddamn amazing, easily one of my
favorite performances of the fest. The show started with a ten minute
puppet show, and really well done one at that - I'm no puppet aficionado
and/or expert, but the puppets seemed be very well made and the short
skit was quite entertaining. After that was the music - I'm not sure a
genre exists in which one could properly file Quintron...so I'm giving
them their own genre called "swamp boogie." Lots of organ and synths, a
smattering of drums and cymbals, and a slide guitar, all of which
Quintron plays at the same time like a demented one man band. Some of
the music was pre-recorded, but he was definitely doing the bulk of the
work. Miss Pussycat offered some flavor in the form of vocals and
percussion (aka them gourd-like shaker things that probably have an
actual name that I don't know), but Quintron is mostly running the
show. Although I didn't really know any of the songs, I was way into it
from start to finish, and you can be sure I'll be purchasing some of
his recordings in the very near future.
ourselves with amazing pizza from Pompieri and a little record shopping
at Carolina Soul, we ended our night at the large stage next to
Motorco. Turns out they were holding a smoke machine
demonstration...also, I think Sunn O))) was performing somewhere behind all that smoke and you could even occasionally see them.On
the one hand, I sorta get the concept of enjoying the music and not
worrying about actually watching the band...on the other hand, if
watching them wasn't important why are they all dressed in their fancy
demonic monk robes? Much like when I saw them at Hopscotch a couple of
years ago, I'm not entirely sure what to say about the live Sunn O)))
experience. They weren't as loud as last time, I'm guessing largely due
to being outdoors. It was just as smoky as last time, but the machines
had to work extra hard - there were probably three on each side of the
stage, plus some blowing be- hind the band. The audience was about
half-ecstatic and half-bewildered at what they were seeing, which I
suspect is the norm for their performances (at least at festivals where
you get a lot randoms just there to see what the fuss is about). I
still don't understand what they are doing or why they are doing it, but
I like it nonetheless...which further confuses me because I'm not even
sure why I like it. Even with earplugs and even with it outdoors, it
was still god- damn loud - the vibrations are what you feel the most.
That was as good a note to end Moogfest on as any...not sure Sunn O)))
is really followable, whether you liked them or not.
But wait, there's more! Moogfest was supposed to be over, but we got word that there would be a sunrise show featuring Weather Warlock and D-Town Brass. Who is Weather Warlock? It's Quintron of Quintron and Miss Pussycat playing
his homemade synthesizer that changes it's sound based on the
weather...sun versus overcast, rain versus shine, windy versus
still...they all result in different sounds apparently due to the synth
being wired to what is basically a weather station. We got up at five
in the morning and drove back over to Durham, because why the hell not?
How often do you get to see a musical performance at sunrise? You can
always take a nap later. We got there right as the show started,
Quintron and his crazy contraption on one side of the patio at Geer
Street Garden, all of D-Town Brass on the other side, and a handful of
bleary-eyed observers scattered around, coffee in hand. To be per- fectly
honest I was prepared for a skronky free-form mess, but this shit was
well organized - clearly some plans had been made beforehand. It
started out intentionally a little lol6ose, and then about a third of
the way into the thirty minute set/single song, the drums kicked in and
it turned into this unbelievably great blend of jazz and krautrock like
I've never heard before. I was mesmerized the entire time, and I really
hope someone got a good audio recording and it sees the light of day in
the near future. I don't think it would be a stretch to say this was
my second favorite performance of the whole event, and what a note to
with Eric Bachmann, Skylar Gudasz, and the Charming Youngsters
Schoolkids Durham & Bull City Records 4/16/2016
wasn't a single record on the list of exclusive "Record Store Day"
releases that I really gave a shit about...It's highly likely the day
has jumped the proverbial shark. I mean, I still went out to a few
stores and bought some records, but nothing "special" to this day.
Despite a lack of interest in the physical component behind the
"holiday," I was totally down for the parties that the various record
stores were having to celebrate all of their extra sales.
started off at Schoolkids in Durham. I hadn't been to the store since
it became Schoolkids - it's a nice spot even if their used selection is a
bit lacking. I was primarily there to see Eric Bachmann,
especially since I missed him the last time he was in town this past
winter...having a new kid leads to a lot of sickness, which then leads
to missed per- formances. He was set up outside the store in the open
patio area, a perfect setting on such a gorgeous day. As you might
expect for a gig happening in the middle of the day in a place as busy
as Brightleaf Square, lots of randoms and families and random families
wandering around, which always leads to kids standing directly in front
of the band totally mesmerized. Basically, a short version of me I
guess. Eric performed with two other musicians plus two female back- up
singers, one of which was local Skylar Gudasz, who would be performing
after him. Outside of a couple of tracks it was all songs from his
latest self-titled solo record, not the first under his own name but the
the first since he officially retired the Crooked Fingers moniker. It
was great from start to finish, and the back-up singers really adding a
great extra dimension you usually don't get with Bachmann's songs (the
very same sentiment is true of that new self-titled record).
After Bachmann, Skylar Gudasz
performed a few songs from her excellent new record "Oleander." My
friend Yan, who has played with everyone from the Rosebuds to Mount
Moriah to Bowerbirds to probably every other band in the Triangle, was
performing with her and it was great to catch up with him. I love her
songs but the real draw is her voice - to say it is heavenly is an
understatement. She reminds me a lot of Karen Carpenter, and I mean
that in the best way possible. I only had time for a few tracks, but I
left certain I would be seeing her perform again in the near future.
cruised across town to Bull City Records to briefly partake in their
Record Store Day festivities as well. Aside from buying more records,
as one does, I was there to see a little bit from the Charming Youngsters
- or rather, half of the Charming Youngsters, thy rhythm section were
clearly otherwise engaged. It had been a little bit since the last time
I saw them play, but their ramshackle pop songs sounded as good as
ever. Unlike at Schoolkids, they were play- ing in the store, and it made
for nice accompaniment while I dug around in the vinyl, or at least the
vinyl I could get to as there were quite a few people piled into the
tiny store. It was a day well spent, and money well spent too.
Lydia Loveless - Head. Saw her at Hopscotch last year and was impressed, which led to getting her record "Some- where
Else" - possibly my favorite record of the first half of the year, and
I don't even care if it's a couple of years old. Really Wanna See You Again Wine Lips