If Merzbow plays a set in a forest, and no one is around to hear it, did the noise actually happen? If I could sum up my takeaway from Hopscotch 2k13 in one sentence, it would be with this simple thought: What other festival could bring a Merzbow or a Wolf Eyes to North Carolina and play him to packed crowds? A Pharmakon show well attended in Raleigh? The band Sleep being a major topic of conversation? To me, these all seem like nerdy music pipe dreams for kids who tweet too much. Yet this is the diversity and breadth of the people that Hopscotch brings together from all over the country. People from all walks of life come together at this festival because they love music, and it’s truly a remarkable thing to see. So with these warm fuzzies in mind, here are some memorable highlights from my experience this year!
First, yes. Yes it happened. I finally got to see Grouper live. The clouds parted over Raleigh and I saw the entire universe in a perfect light. Or something. My fanboy dial turned down slightly here though, the numinous atmosphere of Fletcher Opera Theatre and the subtle visuals complementing Liz Harris’ spare drone made for a hypnotizing performance that Thursday. I was in heaven. Completely on the opposite spectrum, but equally sonically pleasing was the ever-manic Marnie Stern, who I saw shred faces at Lincoln Theatre that same night. Her ridiculously energetic set guaranteed I’ll be humming “Year Of The Glad” for the rest of the fall.
Saturday, I caught The Beets, who are a garage band signed to Hardly Art that I had never heard of, and who ended up being one of my favorite sets of the festival. As you can see from the photo I snapped above, their set was dark and grungy and intimate in the best kind of way. I also saw Swearin, who I really enjoyed, and who are perhaps one of the most underrated indie pop bands (spoke too soon?) touring right now. My soul to be a Crutchfield.
Did things get weird? It’s Hopscotch, of course they did. I watched Thurston Moore play a blistering improv noise set with Merzbow for a packed crowd at Kings. I ended up onstage with Mykki Blanco and about 20 other people while she played “Wavvy.” I met the mysterious DJ Paypal. I saw Holly Herndon perform at CAM behind weird CGI visuals of Japanese Amazon boxes as they floated through panoramic photos of Asian families. Yes, read that last sentence twice. I saw Pissed Jeans’ frontman, semi-clothed, as he taunted the audience and stacked his band’s amps in a pyramid in the middle of Pour House’s stage. I absolutely saw Ryan Hemsworth drop a remix of a song from the Rugrats movie, and we all danced, because it was phenomenal.
I don’t want to be too sentimental or corny about it, but I really loved this year. I love how much I learn about music from this festival every year, and I love the fascinating people it allows me to meet. Pere Ubu and Earl Sweatshirt played 5 minutes from my apartment because of this festival. Viva La Hopscotch.