The Hopscotch Music Festival is almost here! From September 6-8, downtown Raleigh, NC, will be electric with nearly-non-stop music. The Pedal Fuzz team scoured the schedule of over 120 bands for some of the acts we can't wait to see.
Our picks come from Dustin K. Britt, Melvyn Brown, Jon Foster, Eddie Garcia, and Tom Sowders.
H.C. McEntire - Thursday, 5:50pm (City Plaza)
I'm not going to lie or flatter myself: when I initially saw the Hopscotch lineup for 2018, I didn't recognize the name H.C. McEntire. I'd kind of slept on Un Deux Trois and Mount Moriah, even though when I'd hear them in passing they'd be added to my ever-expanding Mental List Of Things That I Definitely Need To Sit Down And Give A Serious Listen To Sometime Soon. But when I realized that H.C. McEntire was also Heather McEntire, from erstwhile mid-2000s Durham band Bellafea, I perked up pretty quickly: I loved Bellafea every time I saw them to the extent that I've considered peeling one of their old stickers off of a friend's bumper and keeping it for myself (sorry, Adam). Heather/H.C.'s new stuff is soulful and self-searching, and country-tinged in a way that avoids cynical, syrupy pastiche in favor of the authentic and sincere. I've now had a few serious listens through my headphones, but I can't wait to hear this stuff live. - Melvyn Brown
Real Estate - Thursday, 7:15pm (City Plaza)
I got into a fun fight with a friend a few weeks ago about whether or not "New Jersey sux LOL" is a lazy and unoriginal take (correct answer: it is!), and along with Walt Whitman and The Wrens, the band Real Estate was one of my main arguments on the Garden State's behalf. "It's Real" from 2011's Days is the cut that immediately made me a fan: the melodic interplay between the guitars, the rhythmic counterpoints and switchbacks from the bass and the drums, and the keyboard swirls all come together to produce a sound that's dreamy yet grounded, effervescent yet substantial, focused yet effortless. Martin Courtney's vocals wash cooly above it all, like waves over the sand on some idyllic Jersey Shore afternoon. The overall impression is clean, direct, and mildly euphoric, something like the mirror twin of a hangover-induced panic attack. - Melvyn Brown
The Flaming Lips - Thursday, 8:45pm (City Plaza)
I turned my attention to The Flaming Lips for the first time after finding out that Blake Schwarzenbach of Jawbreaker loved the song “The Gash,” off of The Soft Bulletin. I checked that song out and loved it and put it on a VERY important volume of my personal mix cd series (I believe it was Stinger Vol. 13). Anyway, it became a favorite: so big and dreamy, like a sky full of javelins. Since then, The Flaming Lips have lavishly expanded indie rock into a colossal dreamscape full of giant eyeballs and lasers and feather boas, and I have still never seen them live. That’s bout to change, y’all - I’m eager to see what these fearless freaks do at Hopscotch. - Tom Sowders
Deaf Wish - Thursday, 11:30pm (Slim’s)
I do ‘rock bands’ less and less. Whether it’s my age, the ‘been there done that’ sameness I so often encounter, or my compulsion to explore ‘other’ sounds, I can’t say for sure. Probably all three. SO that’s why I find it goddamn significant that when I pressed play on the Deaf Wish song “FFS” (from a press release no less!) I listened to it three times in a row and sent it to a handful of friends. It’s got that Stooges snarl, the dissonance of Sonic Youth at their more aggressive early moments, and I bet it's going to smoke live. And every member of this Australian band takes turns at vocal duties, how cool is that? - Eddie Garcia
Thundercat – Friday, 7:15pm (City Plaza)
I first went to Japan in July 2000. It was a life-defining trip. In 2017, in connection with the college I teach for, I went again. The morning I woke up in Tokyo, I opened my window, and boiled some water for instant coffee. It was early. I looked out over the street. People were just starting to move around, starting to head to their jobs as the sun began to rise. The twelfth song on Thundercat’s album Drunk is “Tokyo.” Looking at the people from my tiny hotel room and thinking about the references in the song, both the song and the experience of being there again took on a new emotional depth. - Jon Foster
Grizzly Bear - Friday, 8:45pm (City Plaza)
The quartet’s records emit a throng of atmospheric noises coming from some unidentified dimension. Airtight vocal harmonies, instrumental experimentation, and psychedelic soundscapes are easy enough to capture in the studio, but can Ed Droste et al. deliver a sonically precise package live with adequate spontaneity and animation? I intend to find out. - Dustin K. Britt
Yamantaka // Sonic Titan - Friday, 10:00pm (Fletcher)
I never knew I wanted to hear a mix of shred / shoegaze / prog / pop but buddy was I wrong. And honestly, that’s not really doing justice to the melting pot of musical styles this band tackles. This experimental art & music collective swirls Buddhism with sci-fi while subverting the expectations of their Asian Canadian heritage. Their latest album is described as “the soundtrack for an unreleased Haudenosaunee- and Buddhist-themed Anime” From what I understand their live show involves much makeup and costumes and theatrical twists. I’m in. - Eddie Garcia
Shopping - Friday, 12:30am (Wicked Witch)
My wife introduced me to Shopping a couple years ago. We don’t always agree on what constitutes good music. That’s largely because I’m kind of a sad bastard who enjoys listening to the dreary music of other sad bastards, so that my own floating sadness can become inhabitable, and I can enter, sit down on a milkcrate, stay in there, and stay safe and headphoned. My wife prefers fun, cool music that ISN’T just an onanistic playground for narcissism masquerading as sensitivity. Anyway, it’s nice when we can land on a band that makes both our brains sparkle, and Shopping is such a band. Their music is like strutting with pointed toes on down a neon rainbow while LSD cartoons go dancing by in a great swirl toward the speaker at 174 bpm. I feel a physical need to get my groove on to their surfy, angular, rock ‘n’ roll dance music. - Tom Sowders
Moses Sumney - Saturday, 6:40pm (Red Hat Amphitheater)
An expert a cappella arranger, Sumney’s androgynous voice seeps from the record player like a cloud of blue incense that gradually fills every room and penetrates your pores. On stage, his breath pushes gently against the spiritual waters of the amphitheater, growing exponentially into a wave that soars far above the heads of the crowd and crashes against every surrounding building. I plan to submerge myself along with the rest of downtown Raleigh, willing victims of the Sumney tsunami. - Dustin K. Britt
Nile Rodgers and Chic - Saturday, 8:00pm (Red Hat Amphitheater)
Even when I was too young to understand the songwriter/producer/session musician nexus or to have any concept of a trademark sound, I knew that I loved "Le Freak" (Chic), "Let's Dance" (David Bowie), and "We Are Family" (Sister Sledge) because they all had some essential, incredible thing in common. Time passed; I listened to more music, read more magazines and gatefolds and liner notes (and frankly, watched a heroic amount of VH1), and I eventually pieced together that the previously ineffable common link between these songs and approximately a million others was Nile Rodgers. Seriously, you could get pretty lost in the weeds trying to chase down every recording he's had a hand in–I just found out, for example, that he produced and played rhythm guitar on my favorite B-52s track, "Topaz”. Like the telltale trumpet trills of a Capitol-era Sinatra record or the twelve-string twang of The Byrds, Rodgers leaves his indelible but never overbearing signature on everything he touches so that even if you can't quite put your finger on it, you're glad that he already has. - Melvyn Brown
MC50 – Saturday, 8:45pm (City Plaza)
There’s no reason for this to happen. The last time the MC5 were together, Richard Nixon was still in office. Wayne Kramer is the only original member playing, which should give music fans some reservations about why this is happening. There’s too many high profiled reunion tours that last too long and barely have any connection with the original music. Why would I want to see this band? The answer is easy, Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) and Brendan Canty (Fugazi). If those guys are in your “cover band” then they’re worth seeing. - Jon Foster
Palberta - Saturday, 10:30pm (Slim’s)
The problem with having too many music fans on your social media page is that you’re inundated with new stuff. There’s always something to check out. Most of the time I feel that listening to new music is homework: I have to listen to everything, or I won’t pass some god-awful hipster test. Add friend suggestions and posts from music blogs, and you’re never really on top of stuff. I “try” new things constantly, clicking on a few seconds of a new song three or four times a day. Somehow Palberta appeared in my Facebook newsfeed like it would for any “hip” 37 year old. I loved them immediately. They were trashy, noisy, and complicated all at the same time. They’re the perfect antidote for well-orchestrated soullessness. I imagine two things might happen when I see them: either they will play a transcendent show, or everything will fall apart as soon as they hit the stage. I don’t know which I prefer. - Jon Foster
Yonatan Gat - Saturday, 10:30pm (Pour House)
The first time I saw Yonatan Gat, he was playing as a trio on the floor of Snug Harbor in Charlotte. Setup in a circle, the band had lamps with colored bulbs surrounding them. Gat would switch them off and on to indicate a change was coming in the (to my ears) largely improvised songs they were playing. Gat (who the Village Voice once named best guitarist in NYC) is a dexterous, dynamic player who eschews effects, save for a wah-wah pedal leading into a reverb soaked amp. And the band is a Hendrix-Experience-but-in-the-2010s ball of psych freakout, holding it down while creeping into catchy chaos. On the latest album Universalists, radical tape-splicing techniques were used in assembling the record; I’m very eager to hear how that fractured methodology takes shape live. - Eddie Garcia
Mind Over Mirrors - Saturday, 11pm (Fletcher)
Last year’s Undying Color was one of my favorite albums of 2017. The drone of Jaime Fennelly’s harmonium was elevated by propulsive rhythms, searing synths, and cascading mysterious vocals. The blend was intoxicating. This year’s Bellowing Sun I can only describe as a Steve Reich dance party. They describe it as, “a sonic inquiry into celestial cycles and the illuminating nature of darkness.” So see, you win either way really. My No. 1 pick. - Eddie Garcia
Sarah Shook & The Disarmers - Saturday, 11:00pm (Lincoln Theatre)
Once a beloved pourer of libations at Chapel Hill’s (not closing) The Cave, triangle folks haven’t seen much of our hometown hero lately, and for a damn good reason: our queer country crooner is ruling the world on a major tour. Shook and company stomped through Charlotte in June to open for Willie Nelson, and now the Triangle kids are getting our turn. - Dustin K. Britt
Grouper - Saturday, 12:00am (Fletcher)
I think I’ve established that ONE kind of music I like to listen to is sad, sad music. I think this predilection emerged sometime around the release of Use Your Illusion II by Guns N' Roses. “Civil War,” “November Rain,” me swaying in my dark bedroom with a bowl cut, you get the idea. Well, I’m not ten anymore, so I need SADDER. I can’t wait to stand before the unfurling sparkle of the sequin weighted blanket that is Grouper. I just want to feel it in my sad bastard body. I need a hit, man, and Grouper’s got the sad stuff. - Tom Sowders
Dustin K. Britt is a Durham-based performing arts critic and award-winning theatre artist. He is the managing editor of Chatham Life & Style and provides content for IndyWeek and Carolina Parent. In your spare time, you can stalk him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Melvyn Brown is a musician (Toothsome, Broads, NONCANON, Ladies Auxiliary) and writer from Greensboro, NC who is also passionate about the Four Ts: taking photographs, Thai food, technology, and thrift stores. His appreciation of Scotch whisky is not necessarily related to Steely Dan. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or at generalclearinghouse.com
JON FOSTER IS A MAIL-ARTIST, TEACHER, AND PASSIONATE DEFENDER OF MATH ROCK.
EDDIE GARCIA PLAYS GUITAR AND ALL THE PEDALS AS 1970S FILM STOCK. YOU CAN ALSO HEAR HIM REPORTING ON NPR AFFILIATE 88.5 WFDD IN WINSTON-SALEM, NC. IN THE WEE HOURS HE RUNS PEDAL FUZZ, WHICH IS A PROUD RECIPIENT OF A GRANT FROM THE ARTS ENTERPRISE LAB / KENAN INSTITUTE FOR THE ARTS.
Tom Sowders pirouettes angrily through the streets of downtown Raleigh. Like really aggressively, really windmilling his arms around. His hobbies are not using his PhD and fronting the band Toothsome.