by Ryan Snyder

| | @YESRyan

The Hopscotch Music Festival turns five years old in two weekends, a remarkable feat considering it lost the equivalent of a comfortable middle class salary in its first year. (Moogfest showed this year, however, that you might have to dip seven figures in the red before anyone notices.) As it has grown and taken shape, however, it has cultivated its audience by not just immersing them in new musical discoveries, but in the processes by which they present them. Hip-hop acts are presented in theaters one night which bore noise and experimental the previous. It gives no quarter and asking for none either, only that you dive in head first.


The next hot club trend always has to start somewhere, and in the case of the deep, glitchy beats favored by rappers like Kanye West and Future, that somewhere was in the bedroom of Lunice Fermin Pierre II. With Hudson Mohawke, he formed the production duo TNGHT who made beats on Yeezus and Captain Murphy’s Duality, but have since refocused on their solo careers. Lunice’s own sets are just a lot of good, recognizable music “” whether that be Drake or Hall & Oates “” rendered through his skittering, melodically eccentric vision. His first offering came on a menacing Deniro Farrar track in April called “Burning Bills’ earlier this summer (Farrar actually precedes Lunice at the Kennedy Theatre), but that he followed it up with the hi-hat peppered footwork banger “Can’t Wait To” points to where he’s headed on his own.


It just so happens that Lunice’s set is central to the most brutal set of conflicts all weekend. Hopscotch built its reputation as a visionary festival by pushing you away from the music you know into that which you don’t; it’s why you aren’t afforded the opportunity to see all of Lunice, Tim Hecker, the War On Drugs and Diarrhea Planet. It’s maybe the most first-world problem one could ever have, but creating a festival like this is its own creative expression and is intended to be experienced in myriad ways. Ambient producer Tim Hecker’s sets are washes of strings and drones, as downcast and gentle as his predecessor Author & Punisher’s is violent and shocking. The War On Drugs, a band who would have been called My Morning Jacket 10 years ago, do little more than play most of their new album Lost In the Dream, however great it might be. Diarrhea Planet, however, offer the most potential for reward sight unseen. This is a band with four lead guitarists, all of them working together at the same Papa Johns, that takes its name very seriously.


In the pre-Rap Genius era, the experience that clipping. offer might be a much more rewarding experience. The quarrel with clipping.’s lyricism, if you can even call it that, is the frequency with which they reference immediately recognizable rhymes by other rappers, and the ease of which it is to identify them. “Taking Off” drops the line “What’s a goon to a goblin” from Lil Wayne’s “A Milli” and “Dominoes” calls out Meek Mill’s “Lean With It” with a wink and a nod, and that’s only a fractional accounting. Not that they subtract from the tracks; there’s an immense amount of substance that they feel more like Easter eggs. Daveed Diggs is still a remarkable rapper, capable of the kind of deft vocal syncopation that only the great jazz singers attempt. clipping.’s beats sail past Death Grips on the go avant-garde end of the spectrum and into pure abstraction. “Dream” on CLPPNG is just the incessant bleat of an alarm clock, but it works so spectacularly.


A second-generation Congolese immigrant, the lyrics of 19-year-old Charlotte emcee Well$ are suffused in that experience. This new mixtape, MTYSD: The Revenge of the African Booty Scratcher, tells the story of a young African-American kid from an African family who struggled for acceptance because of his heritage. It’s significant because he’s giving a face to a common aspect of the immigrant experience that usually goes overlooked, but he’s also doing it in a familiar way. His biggest influences are clear; there’s Kendrick and Drake in his flow, his matter-of-factness his beats; “AFTRMDNGHT” was produced by DJ Dahi, who contributed to Nothing Was the Same, and the hook is a reference to “Swimming Pools”. For such a young songwriter, Well$ live presentation is pretty well developed, as comfortable in front of a DJ as he is a saxophone player and rhythm section.


Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck writes songs that confront the rawest feelings with glowing assurance, so it’s fitting that a full-on Phosphorescent performance be this grand, gilded display to equal them. Houck’s last North Carolina performance with his seven-piece band was just that: his stage brimming with white lilies, smoldering Spanish candles and glistening tinsel, and Houck himself was wrapped up in a cream-and-gold Mariachi suit so ornate it could have been pulled from an Emilio Fernandez film. This will not be that type of performance, however. Houck’s solo sets strip away the pageantry and leave only his wounded songcraft, an homage to his blue collar country influences. He’ll have a fairly large space to fill at the Fletcher Opera Theatre with his traveling troubadour set, but like Kris Kristofferson who’s never shied from playing large crowds all alone, he has a way of scaling down his rooms up and down.


Conversely, as Phossy presents a minimal sense of order and beauty, Hawkwind”¦ ahem, Nik Turner’s Hawkwind promises a shambolic rock show, slightly out of tune and completely uncompromising. A founding member of one of the pioneering English space rock bands, the 74-year-old woodwind blowing Turner’s incarnation is a tad controversial among the band’s fans for those reasons. Hawkwind’s best work is known for imbuing English folk tropes with an acid haze, but Turner’s take on it is just strange, esoteric and constantly bouncing between jazz, blues and hard rock rather than pulling from all at once. That said, he still plays a hell of a sax, and Hawkwind’s pagan associations make for strange bedfellows in the new age confines of the Vintage 21 church.


The last thing many might remember from last year’s Hopscotch was supplicating before the alter of stoner metal gods Sleep. That alter consisted of the three full Marshall stacks through which Matt Pike pumped a deafening, churning guitar assault. Sleep’s chord progressions crept as slowly as the continental drift, but hit like a passenger bus, and there will be a sense of déjà vu when Pike, shirtless, sweaty awnd towering over a sea of devil horns, is back on that same Lincoln Theatre stage to close out Hopscotch at the wee hours. High On Fire don’t take Sleep’s lumbering approach to stoner noise; they’re more like the 45 RPM to Sleep’s 33 RPM, though it’s hard to make a distinction from the severe, fast-onset tinnitus they inflict. !

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