I was sent by WKNC to cover the Hopscotch music festival. One of the main reasons I was excited to go was to see Black Country, New Road. But before we talk about the concert lets get into some background.
Black Country, New Road is a band from England and has gained a lot of popularity in the past couple of years. They dropped their debut album “For the First Time” in 2021 with critical acclaim and showed people they should be a band to look out for. Then in February of this year they dropped their second album “Ants From Up There” which created a large buzz due to the large amount of critical acclaim the album had.
But just as they had reached the highest point they had been at and it seemed they were at the top of the experimental rock world the band announced that their lead singer Isaac Wood was leaving the group due to mental health reasons. The band however decided to continue without their lead singer and instead have other members substitute for vocals.
Now this leads us to now, the band has decided to go on tour and for the tour they have decided to create all new music without their lead singer as the vocalist. So none of the songs are on the albums and no one has heard them yet. This is the main reason I wanted to go was to hear this new music. And let me tell you it was incredible.
It’s hard to describe the songs especially since I can’t hear them again and that you have probably never heard them but I’ll try my best. The songs feel the same as their first two albums and they still have that distinct sound. They’re still using the large array of instruments like saxophone, violin, piano, accordion, flute and more. They also had three different people on main vocals for different songs which was their saxophonist Lewis Evans, bassist Tyler Hyde, and keyboardist May Kershaw.
Some specific moments I enjoyed was the third song in the set had this super catchy saxophone riff that I could listen to all day. The song right after had the group using harmonies and all singing some parts at once which sounded incredible. One of the songs sounded like a whimsical stroll through a field which one of my friends described as Keebler elf music. This was very accurate due to the lead singer saying when the next chapters were coming in which gave it a fairy tale feel. They also had a song where the keyboardist was singing main vocals, playing keyboard and playing accordion all at the same time which makes absolutely no sense but it worked.
Hearing the music live made me so excited for their next project and I cant wait to see where the band heads next. I feel they are just getting started and I hope they continue their streak of great music.
Suave Punk is a great representation of modern indie roots. Suave Punk is Justin Kim, a fella who decided to sit down in his bedroom with a borrowed guitar, amp, and laptop and make some mystic music.
Since 2018 he has released an array of singles and an EP. Suave Punk’s discography is filled with heavy guitar riffs, relaxed vocals, and elements of shoegaze, grungegaze, and dream pop.
His most popular single, “Heat Death” caught my ears in 2021, and since I have been keeping up with his releases.
This new single “Ouroboros” did not disappoint; however, didn’t necessarily provide any new elements to his musical arsenal. I love seeing growth through releases, and although there wasn’t much experimentation in this track it’s clear his musical confidence is blossoming.
I really appreciated his lyrics in this track. He has a great voice and a great tone for the genre pocket he is fitting into. In his past work he really veils over the vocals with heavy strings and drumming, but I’m glad to see more of his lovely voice poke through here.
“I’m an ouroboros No matter which way I go I’m always trying again”
This theme of incessant self judgement fits excellently with the musical beats. The backdrop is repetitive, active, and grows throughout the track. This track is unified, succinct, and bold.
“You’re not safe from what you’re building You’re not safe from what you do”
This track is definitely one of my favorites from Suave Punk. It provides a glimpse into the mind of Justin Kim, who up until this release has been allusive and understated.
It is great to hear more confidence in his voice, sound, and themes– I am looking forward to the releases to come. I’ll be waiting for a full album, till then, keep rocking Suave Punk.
Wednesday is an indie rock band from our very own Asheville, North Carolina. Wednesday is made of Karly Hartzman lead vocalist and guitar, guitarist MJ Lenderman, bassist Margo Shultz, drummer Alan Miller, and pedal steel player Xandy Chelmis.
It feels incorrect to put this band in the box of “indie rock”; they have tapped into noise rock, psychobilly and in there latest album, country. “Mowing the Leaves Instead of Piling ’em Up” is a 9 track cover album that was released March 11 of this year.
I could write an entire review of this extraordinary album. It features covers ranging from “She’s Actin’ Single (I’m Drinking Double)” by Gary Stewart, to “Perfect” by Smashing Pumpkins. Each track taking on a new life through Wednesday.
Their discography truly never disappoints. They bring so much presence with each and every release.
The New Single
The first thing I noticed about this track is that it is a hearty 8 minutes and 30 seconds. I adore a long track. I especially love a long track with good placement, and although this is not in the context of an album, “Bull Believer” arrives with the announcement that Wednesday has signed to record label Dead Oceans.
Dead Oceans has released many influential artists including Mitski, Phoebe Bridgers, and Toro y Moi.
Musically, this song is weighty. One aspect I really respect and admire about Wednesday is the authenticity of Karly Hartzman’s vocals and lyrics. They have no intention of altering their sound for the eyes of the public. Especially in this track, the vocals are stripped and raw.
Stylistically, the vocal bring such rigidity and dominance. The conclusion of this track has an almost wail-like quality. Karly Hertzman is not only providing a voice that is powerful and real into the indie rock world, but begins to break down the expectations of female voices in the music industry. Wednesday captures beauty through sheer musical power.
I want to take a moment to appreciate the lyrics of this track. I adore Wednesday’s metaphorical nature. Their previous releases have had a level of elusiveness to them, and this track is no exception:
“Comfort fools us into faith Then fate pulls us away again A corpse with a spirit Got out of my bed today”
With each release Wednesday takes another step towards a stronger and stronger sound. Their musical prowess and experimentalism astounds me. They has achieved such a unique presence in their music. I look forward to new music to come under Dead Oceans; I sincerely hope this new label encourages more of what is happening in “Bull Believer”.
Since the early days of Sonic Youth in the 80s all the way up to Saturday night at Hopscotch, Kim Gordon has always made you feel like you were in the coolest scene when observing her performance. Even in City Plaza being soaked in torrential downpour I felt like I was witnessing something that every music lover should see.
I think obviously from how I’m writing so far you can tell I am a huge Sonic Youth fan. After watching multiple videos from their performances throughout the years, I still felt like I was witnessing some of their magic in Kim’s performance whether that be the poetic vocals from her, or the mind blowing guitar playing from her and her backup band.
Her backup band consisted of bassist Camilla Charlesworth, guitarist Sarah Register, and drummer Madi Vogt. All of which seemed to be younger than 25 years old and were better than most seasoned professional musicians I’ve seen. The guitar player is what impressed me the most at replicating the distortion and feedback I’ve only dreamed of seeing someone accomplish live.
Although there was some Sonic Youth magic still there, I would like to be clear that this was not a Sonic Youth performance.
Kim’s latest songs she performed seemed to have a much more poetic and meaningful message. Her show was performed in front of a screen showing the view of any American drive that a person who lives here would see. Her lyrics and sounds that were created helped express the contained distress that many people feel when looking out the window at what the country has become. Some songs even alluded at the anguish we feel at the political decisions that are made on an everyday basis.
I would not expect Kim to engage much with the crowd, there were only a few words that were casually expressed at the crowd. I don’t think her music has ever been something that should be followed with a “How is everyone doing tonight?” or “Is everybody having fun tonight?”. She went through her set in about 45 minutes going through a few songs from her “No Home Record” that was released in 2019 and her “Grass Jeans” single from 2021.
She even ended her set with orchestral movement of guitar swings and pedal adjustments that created a beautiful mix of distortion, delay, and feedback to end the night. The show once again showed to me how Kim Gordon can cruise the line between obscure and appealing to make something that can only be described as extremely cool.
Ginger Root is an artist known for his self-proclaimed sound known as “aggressive elevator soul”. A true mash-up of jazz, soul and Japanese city pop, Ginger Root provides a fresh sound to the bedroom pop scene that is unlike anything I have heard.
I first became a fan of Ginger Root when a friend showed me a song called “Loretta” off of his 2021 EP “City Slicker”. I was excited to see that he released his first single for “Nisemono” titled “Loneliness” in June.
Nisemono (偽物) means “fake” or “fraud” in Japanese. Thematically, this EP is about impostor syndrome and how to overcome it.
“Nisemono” takes place in an alternate reality of 1983 where Ginger Root replaces the fictional idol Kimiko Takeguchi after she leaves her position due to stress.
This setup is an excellent avenue for the themes of the record. The commitment to the 80’s theme in the sound and music videos is very well-done.
Sonically, this EP is wonderful. Ginger Root builds on the sound that was established in “City Slicker” and adds an extra flair by incorporating more classical and jazz elements. The vocals on this record are great as well, though I wish they were more at the forefront at times.
My favorites off this EP are “Loneliness”, “Over the Hill” and “Everything’s Alright (Meet You in the Galaxy Ending Theme)”. However, every track on this EP is great, throughout the short but sweet 18-minute duration I was not bored once.
I really enjoyed “Nisemono” and I am looking forward to whatever Ginger Root does next. Ginger Root’s fresh sound only gets more fresh as time goes on.
Ginger Root is currently on the first block of his tour. You can find tickets on his website.
Jazz is an extremely versatile genre of music. Some of my favorite jazz songs are on the calmer, more melancholic side of the genre. These songs are perfect for sitting inside on a rainy day and watching the raindrops stream down the window.
Bill Evans and Jim Hall are masters at creating songs for quiet contemplation on a rainy day. This song, like every song on “Undercurrent”, only features the piano of Bill Evans and the guitar of Jim Hall. There’s something isolated about this song that is similar to walking outside on a rainy day with no one else around.
This song’s highlight is its guitar. Montgomery’s style of picking his guitar was a clear inspiration for Jim Hall and this song has much of the same appeal that “Darn That Dream” does. Instead of being paired with a piano, “Days of Wine and Roses” is paired with drums.
Most well known for his work in the Dave Brubeck Quartet, the saxophone of Paul Desmond shines on its own. This song is great for reflection. Paul Desmond once said he wanted to sound like a “dry martini” and I think he accomplishes that sound excellently on this track.
This song, originally created in Durham, is the quintessential rainy day jazz song. No song quite creates the feeling that “In A Sentimental Mood” does. Coltrane’s saxophone and Ellington’s piano perfectly complement each other, with Elvis Jones’ drums and Aaron Bell’s bass truly gluing them together. It perfectly elicits the sentimentality that is often associated with a rainy day.
Dehd is a Chicago based band that features three members, a bassist who sings the majority of the songs, a guitarist who duets the bassist in certain times, and a percussionist who uses a floor tom drum, snare drum, and a MIDI controller.
There was a bit of delay between the end of Nation of Language’s set and their’s, most likely due to the amount of rain that was being poured upon everyone. After which the members came out for their sound check which was lengthy but was worth it. It was clear that when they started playing that every bit of adjustment was necessary.
The timbre of the vocalist as well as the sound that the guitarist was able to achieve gave the feeling of the 2018 and 2019 indie scene. The band was able to move to the music without struggling at all to play the music. The guitarist had a way of hopping around and moving that went well with the upbeat that most of the songs had.
It was great to see a band that is able to move to the music so fluently that the songs they are playing can be seen as an expression from all of them.
The bassist took time between a few songs to say what was on her mind in an effort to get the crowd laughing and distracted from the fact that we were all soaked in rain. In terms of who engaged with the crowd it was pretty much all done by the bassist.
I think even though the morale of the crowd wasn’t very high given the weather conditions she did a great job relating to everyone and the rest of the band helped with keeping the show enjoyable and entertaining.
Instead of elaborating on any music festival set up or random whatnot, I will jump right into the artist and bands’ performances:
With lots of personal bias, I have to say Perfume Genius’ set was my favorite one I saw at Hopscotch this year. Mike Hadreas slowly and softly destroyed the stage with his magnetic vocals and stage presence.
Opening with “Your Body Changes Everything”, he immediately captivated the audience not only with smooth, hard hitting beats, but also with his suave, baby-blue, tailored suit and white button down. He constantly switched between old tracks and some of his new, popular releases.
Hadreas’ rendition of “Jason” and “Normal Song” were melancholic and angelic as his voice drifted down and graced us all. For “Normal Song”, he shooed everyone off stage except Meg Duffy (Hand Habits) who played a saintly guitar and accompanied Hadreas’ with their own backup vocals.
To finish off the night, Mike Hadreas brought out a light, silky white sheet and played a few of his newer tracks from “Ugly Season”. His sheet was a mask and tool of pure beauty as it covered his face and floated in the air, almost reverberating from the sheer power of the performance.
I have never seen an artist efficiently play some of their best music on stage in my life. There weren’t any hiccups or pauses throughout the show, and Hadreas wore a brilliant blazing smile the entire time. If I could continuously relive that entire performance, I would.
Black Country, New Road:
I was scared of the Black Country, New Road set. I didn’t know how good the band was going to feel on stage after their initial lead singer left, but my fears were almost immediately dispelled.
Every single member of this band brought some sort of key talent that helped make the whole band shine like stars. May Kershaw (keys and vocals), Tyler Hyde (bass and vocals), and Charlie Wayne (drums) were outstanding. These members specifically stole the show for me.
Kershaw’s keys and vocal mixture brought an antsy and dramatic flow to the band’s sound that was beautiful and unique. Wayne’s drums were attacked relentlessly, which brought forth an epic beat. And, Hyde’s bass was the background glue that held everyone together perfectly.
One of my favorite moments during their performance was when Kershaw had a long solo performance, which is still too elegant for me to put into words appropriately. Her soft piano opening led into focused, serene vocals and a chaotic, triumphant closing act with the entire band joining in.
As you might be able to tell from the above photo, Dawn Richard’s stage presence was unmatched. With her incredible backup vocalists and dancers, she mesmerized the crowd by merely stepping on stage.
Richard performed a few of her hit songs like “Bussifame” and “Nostalgia”, but her true power came in getting the crowd (including me) to start grooving and warming up to the music. Preceding her set, I noticed a majority of concert goers had locked hips and knees for most sets. Many people only bobbed their heads a teensy bit.
Then, Dawn Richard took the stage and began to set the night on fire with some delicious vocals, bars and beats. The neon suits and flashing lights were like eye candy, and her funk-inspired, bass-bumping tunes eventually got the crowd all sorts groovin’.
I’d like to think her set was the heat that made Perfume Genius’ set really explode into a wealth of success, so thank you Dawn Richard for that.
Kim Gordon’s performance physically rocked my head and made my eardrums ring for hours after she had finished. Unfortunately, going into her performance I had not sampled enough of her work, and I really wish I had done so.
Gordon’s raspy, sometimes scratchy vocals were intoxicating. Her jumpy and stalky motions used on stage sometimes made for a wonderfully terrifying sight. Honestly, the horrifying sounds and glitchy art she brought to Hopscotch was a sight to behold.
A lot of those words might make the performance seem unsavory, but I had a blast watching her make her art. Her musical beauty comes from the discord she delivers us.
If you ever have the opportunity to see any of these wonderful people live, I highly recommend doing so. All of their performances had a wonderful uniqueness that made each artist more loved and cherished.
Of course, I wish I could have gone back in time and appropriately learned all the words for all of these artists’ songs (besides Perfume Genius because I got them on lock already), but I can’t. It doesn’t mean I was unable to enjoy their sets. I thought all of them were perfect for who the artist or band is.