It was a pretty typical night in downtown Raleigh.
And by “pretty typical,” I mean “unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” Day 3 of Hopscotch. Flaming Lips. Good heavens. The show started with a fatherly introduction from Wayne Coyne about not freaking out over the strobe lights, or the space bubble, or passing out from overstimulation, saying, “We want you here with us, people. We want you here.”
Pretty soon after that, the crazed light show started, and he did come out into the crowd in the space bubble. And then one stray concert balloon bounced out from behind stage, and it was cool. And then there were a couple more, and then five, and then eleventy billion giant balloons wandered out and Hopscotched above the crowd, while the confetti cannons exploded. It looked like a giant had dropped a box of gumballs on City Plaza, and they all skittered and rolled themselves down Fayetteville Street. It was splendiferous.
Oh yeah. And the music was good, too. But that’s not really news. The music was good all day. I wandered downtown around 1:30, and caught the end of Jack the Radio at Slim’s. I saw Hammer No More the Fingers at the block party at Lincoln Theater, entirely because they have such a great band name. Lordy, it was hot. I was making all kinds of “Hot-scotch! Heat-scotch! Sweat-scotch!” jokes in my head, none of which were very original. I actually went into my office to cool off and drink fizzy water, before crossing over to meet Leslie at Deep South for another dose of John Vanderslice. He was equally great the second time, even going so far as to tell the fans, “I’ve always found that if you can’t work a particular request into the show, it works best just to do it for people in the parking lot afterwards. So we’ll do that later.” I just love that “I’ll work with you to make this happen” spirit.
Leslie and I wanted to hear All Tiny Creatures, so we ‘scotched it on over to Tir Na Nog, where it was cool and loud. There was the small tragedy of being hit on by the only two men in Raleigh this weekend who were not attractive hipster music fans. C’mon, universe. A sea of like-minded, intelligent, friendly men in plaid shirts and Buddy Holly glasses, and you send me the two gentleman confused by all the music, who have been drunk since 10 a.m., and whose schtick is trying to convince women that one of them is Daryl Strawberry?
Anyway. Over to meet Caroline at the Rosebuds. And then I had to walk home and hydrate and lie on the couch, before heading out to hear Superchunk and Flaming Lips, with a break before and after to meet non-Hopscotching friends for drinks on Fayetteville Street. Flaming Lips, of course, wins the Visually Stunning category this weekend. But it was more than visual, it was a whole-body kind of thing. There was the soundscape itself, and the ocular bombardment of lasers and confetti and strobes and giant lips as viewed from the camera on Wayne Coyne‘s mike. At one point staffers ran through the crowd with more confetti-filled, bigger balloons, and bobbled as many concertgoers as possible in the process, and you could smell something weird from the confetti cannons all the way down to Davie Street, which I’m sure was on purpose. About the time I was ticking off four of the five senses on my checklist, someone from Z Pizza wandered past with a tray of samples. A happy accident, but the whole-body thing was complete.
I busted back into my table of friends on Fayetteville Street with a bunch of crazy talk. “Giant balloons like marbles everywhere! And there’s soooo much confetti and they’re bobbling people with these huge orbs, and the disco ball, oh my gracious merciful heavens, the size of that disco ball……” at which point I realized they were having a serious and adult conversation about the September 11 anniversary. Even stone-cold sober, I could not get my mind around the juxtaposition. I left them to it and vowed to be more serious and mindful on the morrow. I Hopscotched on.
I listened to some very well-done jazz, while remembering for the second time this weekend that I Do Not Like Jazz. And so I trucked it over to hear a few songs from Onward, Soldiers, whom I like very much indeed. And then I parked it over at Fletcher Theater, for today’s surprised-by-the-music moment.
Bombadil. Quirky, extremely talented, musically diverse, charming, engaging, and individual. I loved every song, and they’re now on my very short list of bands I’ll see every time they play nearby. Also the only group this festival to take me from laughter to fighting back tears in the space of two songs.
I finished the night with Lost in the Trees. The “orchestral pop” description I’d heard had me dubious; I’ve complained before about groups with too many instruments, where the sounds get lost and unless it’s slickly produced on an album, it devolves into a lot of incoherent noise. That is not what happened here. Despite the number of instruments, and everything happening onstage, every note mattered, and every sound was intentional, and nothing got lost. It was hauntingly beautiful.
I left before it was over, during a song I loved. Crazy? Maybe so. But I was having sort of a “last day of vacation” feeling, when I knew that something wonderful was coming to an end. I didn’t want to leave Hopscotch on a mundane, fizzled, trickle-out-of-the-auditorium-with-the-crowd note. I wanted to leave last night aching for more. And I am.
I miss Hopscotch already.