I have some rules about Hopscotch.
- I think you have to see at least one band you don’t think you’ll like, and be pleasantly surprised.
- I think you have to see some bands that everyone is talking about, just because.
- I think you have to support the local guys, because I’d put the Triangle up against any other region in the country when it comes to musical talent.
- I think you have to see a couple of bands you know you’ll love.
- I think you have to put yourself in the middle of at least one crowd into which you do not blend.
- I think you have to be prepared for a little magic. You can’t, like, feel entitled to it. You just have to be open to the possibility that it’s out there.
My Hopscotch 2014 was exactly what I needed it to be. Instead of trying to see All of the Bands Everywhere, I took a more surgical approach. In years past, I’ve had the luxury of taking off work early for a couple of days, attending day parties and events, maintaining an aggressive agenda, and seeing upwards of 40 bands in 4 days. It’s always great fun.
This year, I had to go low key. On Hopscotch Monday, I was doing last-minute cramming for an exam for which I’d been studying for two months. On Hopscotch Tuesday, I took the wretched five-hour exam, number four of seven, went to work for two hours, and then went to a structures seminar that evening to kick off another round of studying. I was so shattered that I crawled into bed at 8:30 pm with the dog and my Flight of the Conchords DVD. On Hopscotch Wednesday, I was still crying about exam four and dreading exam five, and regretting most of my life choices, and then went to another structures seminar that night. By Hopscotch Proper, which started for me on Thursday night, I was upright, but fragile.
Thursday night, though, was Toon and the Real Laww, a hip hop band from Durham. I hate hip hop, and my only goal was not to make any faces during the show, and give it a real listen. I LOVED THOSE GUYS. They were smart, and real, and totally engaging, and at one point I’m standing in the crowd doing the thing where I’m bouncing one arm in the air and going, “woop woop!” I turned to Chad and Hope in a moment of self-awareness and said, “Um, I have never felt whiter,” and Chad said, “Just roll with it.” I did.
Friday I spent a lovely afternoon at Deep South for the Hopescotch Band Together party, and a bunch of lovely people were there, and some of the bands were brand spankin’ new, and wow, we have a lot to look forward to from them. Friday night I was back at the plaza for St. Vincent and Spoon, where I caught up with some of my favorite Raleigh people. St. Vincent is one of those bands everyone is talking about, and oh! I get it. They’re talking about her because she’s nutty. Also obviously a badass guitar player, but I wasn’t sold. Spoon was a little sterile but they cranked it up towards the end, and ‘most everyone in Raleigh was on the plaza, so it was great fun.
Then I checked off “local bands” and “bands you know you’ll love” with Cousins and Six String Drag at Kings. I climbed up to a window seat, where you can lean back and crowd watch and take it all in, and I was not disappointed.
Saturday I slept late, and drank a lot of coffee, and went to the Girls Rock party where my friend Meredith was serving excellent Bloody Marys with the Wild Yonder team. I stood in the shade and let the music wash over me, and it felt good. I had plans for an astoundingly low-key evening of sitting in one place, but I got waylaid and ended up listening to a good bit of Mastadon first. I’m not what you’d call a “metal” kinda girl, nor did I especially blend into the crowd of metal fans, but it’s Hopscotch. Doesn’t matter. Everyone is welcome everywhere. (Except you, Sun Kill Moon. Don’t bother setting foot back in Raleigh again. Name calling is inexcusable. If you’ve been playing for 25 years and can’t handle drunk people talking in a bar on Saturday night, you should stick to the studio.)
I detoured for about four minutes of screamo punk music before sitting down at Fletcher for three sets. I climbed way up high, where I could sit still, put myself back together, and take it all in. The first set was strange but compelling, the second set was decidedly not my thing, and the third set was my Hopscotch Magic.
Phosphorescent took the stage, and it was just him and a guitar and a keyboard and a lot of pedals. It was slow and a little bit raw and wholly beautiful. He got to “Wolves,“and it was just him and a plaintive guitar. It was mesmerizing from the beginning, but when he got towards the end, he worked some wizardry with the pedals, and the plaintive guitar started on an endless loop, though he wasn’t playing anymore. Every time the loop repeated, he sang another layer into the microphone, and it was added to the last, and it built until there was a whole chorus of voices on stage, haunting and beautiful. I can’t even explain it, not that it matters; it’s just that, sitting there quietly in the dark, way up high above the stage and the rest of the audience, I could feel the music working its way into all the places where I felt shattered, and I felt more whole when I left than when I went in. Phosphorescent wasn’t the only one who made me feel that way, but it was the purest musical moment I experienced this weekend, and I am sincerely grateful for that.
I have one last Hopscotch rule, and it’s about trying to hang onto the magic just a little bit longer: I try to leave on a high note, when I am close to being overwhelmed by something beautiful, even if it’s still happening. In this case, he did Song for Zula, just him and the guitar,
and I left him playing and slipped out into the September night.