Navigating Hopscotch 2012

by Ryan Snyder


Three nights, 14 venues, 173 shows: Not even counting the free day parties, Hopscotch’s count in its third year is its most expansive yet. It’s densely packed schedule offers a bounty of musical riches, even if an imposing opportunity cost accompanies the 15-minute march between the Long View Center and the Memorial Auditorium. Snap decisions and early exits are mandatory to maximize the good times, but the unwritten goal of the downtown Raleigh festival is simple: experience something at every venue.

Jenny Besetzt — Thursday 9 p.m., White Collar Crime

White Collar Crime presents an opportunity to taste some of the best of Greensboro’s music scene during Hopscotch’s opening frames. The day party co-hosted by WUAG and WKNC pairs the fusion monster Trioscapes with Casual Curious, a band founded in Steely Dan’s sunniest sounds, with a pair of Raleigh up-andcomers. Leading off Hopscotch-proper at WCC, however, is Jenny Besetzt, another Greensboro band that can be compared favorably with one of the festival’s headliners. Like the Jesus and Mary Chain with thicker bottom, their MO is dreamy sentimentality and their debut can’t get here soon enough.

John Mueller’s Death Blues — Thursday, 9:30 p.m., Lincoln Theatre

John Mueller smashes the impenetrable boredom that is hot blues with a 20-pound hammer, spits on its shards and pieces it back together into a twisted abomination of stabbing riffs, shamanistic drones and clepsydric percussion. There are few opportunities to see his full eight-piece band infuse eight bars with a groundswell of overwhelming dread, and Hopscotch presents the only one in the South.

Matthew E. White: One Incantation Under God — Thursday, 11:30 p.m., Fletcher Opera Theater

Matthew E. White will absolutely overcome you — sonically, spiritually, emotionally, however you allow him. His debut album Big Inner is a stunner; a blindsiding chimera of bicoastal soul bursting with the pop swagger of Randy Newman and the Band’s gritty historical time warps. It’s simple in its approach but astounding in its depth, the latter of which will become apparent when he performs it in is entirely alongside a very, very large band.

G-Side — Thursday, 12:30 a.m., the Pour House

For nearly eight years, Huntsville, Ala. duo G-Side toiled in the blanket anonymity of a scene the Dirty South forgot. The pairing of Stephen “ST 2 Lettaz” Harris and David “Yung Clova” Williams might be born and bred in the South, but G-Side’s sound is as far metaphorically from Atlanta’s as Huntsville is geographically. With production duo the Block Beataz, G-Side forms the core of Slow Motion Soundz, an independent Huntsville label that creates swirling, nebulous beats to play the perfect foil to their alternately rugged and cerebral lyrical tag-team.

MAKE — Friday, 8:30 p.m., Kings Barcade

If super-heavy Chapel Hill doom trio MAKE are missing in action on the road for the much of 2012, it’s their own fault. Their debut Trephine caused such a positive reaction in the metal world that they’ve relegated themselves to one-upping the painstaking level of artisanship that went into it. Lo and behold, there’s only one chance to see them for the remainder of the year, and their Kings show is the gateway to a metalhead’s worst nightmare (and that’s a good thing).

The Future Kings of Nowhere — Friday, 9 p.m., Tir Na Nog

It almost feels like Shayne Miel has been provoking impossibly loud rock from his acoustic guitar for longer than five years, but maybe that’s because his band the Future Kings of Nowhere have a sound as enduring as rock itself. It’s an idea found as much in the music of Terry Reid and Stephen Stills as it is in Belle & Sebastian and the Hold Steady. His head-spinning lyricism and preternatural ability to coax big sounds from small arrangements are thrusting him toward to the same stratum regardless of how long he’s been around.

The Bronzed Chorus — Friday, 9:30 p.m., Five Star

Just two guys and their vidja’ games (and drums, keys, and a guitar with the most esoteric pedal board you ever did see) — that’s one way of summing up Gleaning, the awesome 2011 EP by the don’t-call-us-post-rock Greensboro duo the Bronzed Chorus. Another way to would be to call it simply amazing. It was four tracks of lush, pulsating soundscapes built on a modded Atari that went on for miles, and with new music being created, there’s a good chance that Five Star could get the field test.

Paint Fumes — Friday, 10 p.m., Deep South

The way Lee Gunselman of Casual Curious recounted his experience with Charlotte gutter-punks Paint Fumes in last spring’s Phuzz Phest preview made it sound more like a once-in-a-lifetime Superbad party than a mere rock show. Though rolling around on a nasty basement floor playing Black Flag covers until the wee hours is not an option at their Deep South show, a contributing factor to the venue’s ambiance is that it’s frequently disgusting.

Jackie Chain — Friday, 11 p.m., the Hive

Huntsville, Ala. rapper Jackie Chain looks like the freshman kid from Dazed and Confused all grown up and it’s hard to tell whether his low-budget vids are a pointed effort to troll us, but that he has the endorsement of G-Side producers Block Beattaz is good enough. He’s better than RiFF RaFF, at least.

The dB’s — Friday, 12 a.m., Long View Center

It feels appropriate that the dB’s set at the historic Long View Center comes at midnight; the forefathers of Winston- Salem jangle pop were a band that fueled many a ’80s church lock-in dance party. Stands for Decibels was mom-and-dad approved, if only because they had their own copy, and its winsome gloss hasn’t at all in the three decades since its release.

Killer Mike — Friday, 12:30 a.m., Lincoln Theatre

In one of the weakest years for rock in recent memory, it’s poetic that the punkest thing to come out is a rap album from a Southern emcee. “I don’t trust the church or the government, Democrat or Republican, Pope or a bishop or them other men,” Killer Mike says on “Untitled” from RAP Music, an album that’s an all-out assault on all corners of the establishment by a pissedoff, mid-career rapper. He’s made a career out of raging against the machine, but only when he replaced stanky trap beats with El-P’s masochistic production did it all really come together.

Escort — Saturday, 6:55 p.m., City Plaza

As long as the small army known as Escort lives, so does disco. The borderline ridiculous size of the 17-person disco machine aside, the music of Escort sound is as agile as the fingers of the DJs who spin the band’s 12-inch singles. They’re like the sonic equivalent to a huge wad of cotton candy: You can sustain, but if you want to dance your ass off for an hour and crash, there’s no better way to go about it.

Grohg — Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Berkeley Caf’

Hopscotchers might have to forego the Roots in order to catch the weekend’s best multimedia display. Former Between the Buried and Me drummer Will Goodyear left the prog-metal favorites to explore a total sensory experience. What he’s created is Grohg, a hulking beast of a metal band, powered by his salvo of pinpoint fills and the shredtastic riffs of ex-Kickass guitarist Andy Townsend.

Burglar Fucker — Saturday, 9:30 p.m., Slim’s

Winston-Salem’s Burglar Fu*ker are not a band for the faint of heart. The all-instrumental noise crew are as wantonly vulgar in their sound as their name suggests. They challenge their listeners every step of the way, often with no payoff outside of a lingering case of tinnitus. Each of the handful of tracks on their lone output, The Demonweb EP, start like every Last Exit track ever ended — in disorganized, tuneless chaos. Oddly enough, sitting through the EP, a kind of Stockholm Syndrome starts to develop in the listener. The lone instance a groove develops amidst the bedlam, you cling to it like it’s the last sign of humanity you’ll ever encounter. That’s when they’ve got you.

Danny Brown — Saturday, 11:30 p.m., Contemporary Art Museum

Like Jay-Z once rapped in “30 Something,” 30 is the new 20. No rapper more accurately embodies that ideal than the lionhearted Detroit emcee Danny Brown. He wielded the desperation that accompanies hitting the big 3-0 on his standout 2011 release XXX like a machete amidst trashy electro and Dillaesque jazz joints, lacing it with scathing, drugaddled wit. Once you get past the squeak toy he calls a voice, Brown is simultaneously reveals himself of the most thoughtful , audacious and hilarious rappers working today, and an even better life performer.

Sunn O))) — Saturday, 12:30 a.m., Memorial Auditorium

The early suggestions that the robed doom metal duo Sunn O))) would play their Hopscotch set at the Long View Center was deliciously profane, but alas, they’ll instead fill the Memorial Auditorium with fog, amps, grim imagery and more volume than any single room was ever built to hold.

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