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2014 Hopscotch Music Festival Review

By Jeff Simpson

September 10, 2014

Thursday

Hopscotch Music Festival De La Soul
De La Soul at City Plaza. Photo by Carter Short

DE LA SOUL

Fighting off the impending storm, De La Soul lit up the Raleigh Center City Plaza kicking off the fifth year of the Hopscotch Music Festival.

Emcee Posdnuos opposite his counterpart, Trugoy the Dove, in an ebb and flow method worked the crowd into a frenzy while disc jockey Maseo cut and scratched vinyl with tenured finesse. After twenty seven years, seven albums and countless tours the Long Island natives continue to perform with a tenacity rivaling that of the newer generation.

Posduos De La Soul Hopscotch Music Festival
Posdnuos of De La Soul. Photo by Carter Short

Each rapper during their performance eventually stepped off of the stage and into the photography pit, to address the crowd in a more direct manner about their disbelief and disagreement as to which side was the loudest. The result? An eruption, resulting in the appearance of long time friend/collaborator of the group, Mike G, to take the stage.

Having deep roots in the rap community the trio is a longstanding member of the early nineties collective, The Native Tongues. In what for me was a rare moment, the performance brought out North Carolina natives 9th Wonder and Deniro Farrar, as I witnessed two generations of NC hip hop coming together to support and admire their peers. It was an image reflected amongst the crowd as families, friends and acquaintances of all ages and places came out to and showed love to the legendary trio.

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Posduos and Dave of De La Soul. Photo by Carter Short

As their set came to a close, the thunderstorm would be deterred no longer and as to say their time was up, the bottom fell out of the sky. That wasn’t enough however, as the crowd and their insatiable appetite for consciousness stood unmoved. Their act of defiance against the elements was embraced by the group and an encore ensued, as they closed out their evening with A Roller Skating Jam Named “Saturdays.”

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American Aquarium photo by Carter Short

AMERICAN AQUARIUM

Departing for a sixty one show tour with dates reaching into December and stops spanning the globe, American Aquarium will be taking their act across the Atlantic. The first leg of their tour will run nationwide with Nashville, TN native Justin Townes Earle, as the second half will see the band testing their sea legs.

However, before they could say farewell to their family and friends, the six man band would wield the hard rock sound with southern sensibilities they’ve honed at Lincoln Theater. Maybe not hard rock, but it’s definitely a heavier tone with content based in liquor, love and loathing.

American Aquarium Hopscotch Music Festival
BJ Barham of American Aquarium photo by Carter Short

As the band ended the first track of their set for the evening, they were greeted by their hometown with an ovation fitting for the sons of Raleigh. The fan favorites, it was a proper send off to the group championing their losses into lyrics.

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Deniro Farrar photo by Carter Short

DENIRO FARRAR

Before kicking off his Bow Down tour with Miami, FL artist, Denzel Curry, Charlotte native and VICE/WMG artist Deniro Farrar brought his Cult Rap movement to the Kennedy Theater for an unforgettable opening day performance at the Hopscotch Music Festival.

Word to the meek, crowd participation is a must but with Farrar welcoming you into his cult family the apprehension will abate when a the microphone is thrust into your face. At a Deniro Farrar show, everyone becomes family.

Deniro Farrar Hopscotch Music Festival
Deniro Farrar photo by Carter Short

This is exactly the aim of the VICE virtuoso, seeking to inspire his listeners to rise above themselves by sharing his struggles. It can be difficult to evolve if your environment doesn’t change and rather than fleeing from his surroundings the artist seeks to elevate and empower his audience and community through personal engagement.

FRIDAY

St. Vincent Hopscotch Music Festival
St. Vincent in City Plaza photo by Carter Short

St. Vincent

Annie Clark better known as, St. Vincent, took stage at the City Plaza to eagerly awaiting fans. Embossed in a black sequin dress, her platinum hair flailing, the soft spoken siren opened her set with banter.

Prone to panic attacks, the artist acknowledged the space time continuum and the significance it plays in all our lives. Tearing into “Surgeon,” Clark’s movements once a gently swaying pendulum became erratic as the crowd came to understand chaos theory as only she knows it.

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Annie Clark if St. Vincent. Photo by Carter Short

Shrill guitar cries launched a juxtaposed rhythm as Clark requested the “best, finest surgeon.” No sooner than it had begun, it ended. The shearing pangs of a crumbling reality were lulled away by the hazy melody.

Whether an insider or an outlier, there is a common thread between all and the svelte saint lets you know what it feels to be untethered. As a final message she knelt on the shoulders of security, extending her guitar to onlookers to strike a chord and have a hand in the calamity.

Open Mike Eagle Hopscotch Music Festival
Open Mike Eagle photo by Carter Short

Open Mike Eagle

Micheal Eagle III, the Los Angeles rapper by way of Chicago opened up his set at the Pour House Music Hall with his signature style of Art Rap. In what may have been a gesture of love to the audience or just the way the way he [Eagle] kicks off his open mic session, Eagle removed a bejeweled crown and paced the forefront of the stage.

Reaching out to the extended hands, blessing the crowd, the crowd blessing the crown, an unspoken agreement was made to hear him out. Purple hues bathed the stage as Eagle described the depth of blues, tones of greenery and degrees of race he’s encountered on his track “Qualifiers.” Though his set started out mellow, the earnest emcee had gauged the crowd at this point.

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Open Mike Eagle photo by Carter Short

The vibe was lit as Eagle stated, “Ya’ll cool as fuck,” having had the crowd reciting his material back to him. At this point it was clear the audience was hip to heavier material. Fully embracing the session, Eagle led the audience into some of his “Nightmares” in call and response ad lib to a track void of it. Great Session.

Spoon

Britt Daniel at Hopscotch Music Festival
Britt Daniel of SPOON in City Plaza. Photo by Carter Short
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Britt Daniel of SPOON. Photo by Carter Short

Sinners & Saints 

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Sinners & Saints at Lincoln Theatre. Photo by Carter Short

SATURDAY

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Death perfoming in City Plaza. Photo by Carter Short

Death

The Center City Plaza was filled for the third and final day of the Hopscotch Music Festival, awaiting the stars of the 2012 documentary A Band Called Death. Taking the stage first however, were directors Mark Covino and Jeff Howlett giving a brief foreword to their friends to Death.

Howlett introduced the Detroit proto-punk band consisting of members Bobby Hackney Sr., Dannis Hackney and Bobbie Duncan. No time was wasted as the dreaded, leather-clad Death squad charged into songs recorded in 1975 though having not been released until 2009; watch the documentary.

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Bobby Hackney of Death in City Plaza. Photo by Carter Short

Performing material from their debut album, …For the Whole World to See, the Hackney brothers and Duncan took time to pay tribute to their late brother, visionary and guitarist David Hackney, with the track “Let the World Turn.” A somberly ironic song, citing that the old will become new, the new old and that sometimes, death is only the beginning. Alive again, the band presented the masses with “Relief,” the first single they’ve recorded since the 1970’s before extending a hand of gratitude and thanks to all in attendance.

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Well$ photo by Carter Short

Well$

The young Charlotte native was the subject of much attention at The Hive, the venue overcrowded with people lining the sidewalk to get a glimpse of the up and comer grabbing ears outside the hip hop community. I had the opportunity to see Well$ perform in Charlotte’s Tremont Music Hall and since he’s displayed growth in all aspects of his live performance.

A pleasant surprise this time around in his inclusion of a live band composed of saxophonist, keyboardist and drummer. Performing songs across his catalog, Well$ introduced “Black Swan,” a track that’s been gaining traction since the release of his MTSYD: Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher mixtape. An incredible recording artist with strong lyricism, beat selection and versatility, I look forward to attending more of his shows and watching him develop as an artist.

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Tom Krell – How to Dress Well photo by Carter Short

Tom Krell “How to Dress Well” 

With his album What Is This Heart ? labeled “Best New Music” by Pitchfork in 2014, Tom Krell the man behind the concept of How to Dress Well performed to a packed house. Briefly taking time to address the crowd and artist Sun Kil Moon’s set the prior evening at Lincoln Theater.

Krell’s falsetto emanated throughout the CAM Raleigh as he stood against a cosmic visual backdrop while the illusion of stars were strewn across the walls via disco ball creating a projected galaxy.

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Tom Krell – How to Dress Well photo by Carter Short

Gyrating hips and free swinging arms swam throughout the expanse as though dark matter, while the Chicagoan fed off the vibrational energy. Introducing his wave of electronic R&B music, the singer offered up Repeat Pleasure, his acoustic guitar laced hit followed by the entrancing, low drum heartbeat of Face Again.

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The Range

The Range

If there’s an artist to check out, it’s Rhode Island’s James Hinton known by his moniker, The Range. Noted for his use of samples and sound bytes, the twenty five year old has developed a mystique in regards to the broad spectrum of influences and sourced music he draws from displayed on tracks like Greg Maddux Change Up and Loftmane.

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Matthew Hauk – Phosphorescent at Fletcher Theater

Phosphorescent

Phosphorescent Matthew Houck known better as Phosphorescent performed a solo session at the Fletcher Opera Theater to close out the Hopscotch Festival to a most receptive crowd. The atmosphere was of dead silence as though a church service were being held. Having a naturally soulful voice, Houck kept the room aglow with caveats and a charming personality while setting up in between tracks. An incredible writer his lyrics standalone as beautiful poetry, as displayed on My Dove, My Lamb , Cocaine Lights and Wolves from his 2007 album, Pride. I’m not one to make declarative statements but it’s imperative you give the album Pride a listen.

 Mastodon 

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Troy Sanders of Mastodon

 

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