THE BEST OF HOPSCOTCH
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The fifth-annual Hopscotch Music Festival is in the books,and while it has cultivated even deeper roots in the experimental, the abstractand the heavy-as-lead, this might have been the first year where it embracedall of its disparate scenes this even-handedly. There was metal on the mainstage, an endless bounty of discovery during the day, and a raging dance partyto end every night. It’s impossible to see it all, but it’s even harder to haveless than a stellar time.
Deniro Farrar teachesHopscotch the Shmoney Dance
There was a lot of dancing and music made for dancing atHopscotch this year, maybe more so than any of the previous four, but it’s asafe bet that no one had copped a Shmoney Dance to date. At least until the ultrastreet-base Charlotte emcee Deniro Farrar “” amidst a stage posse that includedfellow Queen City emcees Well$ and Madison Jay “” taught it to a mystified,almost all white crowd at the Kennedy Theatre on Thursday night, the few miminghis herky-jerky motions and glazed expression more than likely unaware theywere celebrating picking up an unemployment check.
It was a captive audience inside thanks to the torrentialrain outside, but it was doubtful that anyone who landed at the Kennedy Theatrefor the entire first evening would have done it any differently. In between songsbuilt around Don Henley and Blondie samples, openers Body Games made deep,reverberating electronica that moved slowly, but had so much happen within itsparameters along the way, and not necessarily including the sexy Jonah Hillimages that waxed and waned in their projection display. They and Ashevilleelectronic savant Marley Carroll made up the Kennedy’s pure EDM quotient thatevening, but no act had people dancing harder than Canadian producer Luniceduring his Thursday closing set.
Lunice paints amasterpiece
It’s maybe a little misleading to call Lunice an electronicdance music producer so much as a beatmaker, but in that regard he is one ofuncanny ability. Farrar just happened to be a perfect predecessor for Lunice,whose creations were driven by a deft acumen for hip-hop vocal sampling “” hethrew out a two-hour playlist of rap from the hot (Drake’s “We Made It”) to theforgotten (XV’s “Swervin'”) to the immediate (Deniro Farrar’s “Burning Bills”completely chopped and screwed over a raga beat). Not that his audience neededthe extra push, but Lunice was quick to jump off the decks and dance down onthe floor, shouting the lyrics of the biggest cuts along with the room.
The tempo remained frenetic throughout, save for the momenthe paused to declare matter-of-factly, “I love hip-hop,” and the other wherehis Macbook may have crashed. While he waited for it and his Ableton to rebootas the clock pushed towards 2 a.m., he nudged the room to improv along withhim. The immediate thought was that he may not have time to get the energy backup, but that was proven incorrect in short order. Lunice loves hip-hop, buthe’s also a master at wielding it. All it took were remixes of Ludacris’s “RollOut” and the brand-new Future track “Monster” and the party was back on infull effect.
It’s not what youwear, it’s how you wear it
It was tempting to end all three nights in the throes of theincredible producers placed at the witching hour “” Lunice just happened tosatisfy the hip-hop heads also, and Saturday night closer Jamie xx might havebeen the biggest individual star at Hopscotch outside of Annie Clark “” butNGUZUNGUZU (pronounced en-goo-zoo en-goo-zoo) took home the prize for the mostintriguing, most esoteric creations all weekend on Friday night. The LA-basedduo of Daniel Pineda and former M.I.A. tour DJ Asma Maroof fear no sound.
If Lunice was the apex of charisma on the decks, Pineda and Maroof were as diffident, passively switching back and forth to create mixes that could reference elements as disparate as Chicago drill music, Angolan baduro and Caribbean zouk. That they snuck them under vocal samples from Aaliyah and Kelela while hiding the stitches was the masterstroke. It was as exotic and sexy as it was dark and cagey, delivered by two people also deserving the Hopscotch award for least effort in looking cool: Pineda in a plain white tee and plain black shorts, and Maroof in an oversized Nike Bo Jackson tee, knee-high Nike socks, and rubber Nike slippers.
Small space, bigtalents
In the never-ending, often unexpected struggle to get to avenue before it reached capacity, the Hive was the place where hopefulHopscotchers were shut out the most. It’s long and narrow, not to mention easyto become situated so far back it’s impossible to see the performer. Thatwasn’t the case during a solo daytime set by T0W3RS and a nighttime (dare I sayvenue headlining?) spot by Charlotte emcee Well$ on Saturday.
There was an incredible amount of buzz surrounding the spectacleDerek Torres had created for his nighttime show at the Pour House “” whichincluded an eight-piece band culled from members of Estrangers, Butterflies andthe now-defunct Virgins Family Band, and two interpretive dancers. If you sawhis one-man show at the Hive, however, you might have wondered how he couldtranscend what he created by himself. Like an old-school charmer version ofNick Cave, Torres becomes the stage. He pawed, ranged and postured under thesunlight pouring in the windows, paying tribute to another great act who wouldperform solo later that evening, covering Phosphorescent’s “Song for Zula” withcaptivating majesty.
Well$, on the other hand, packed the Hive stage with a fullband, bearing down on his audience with rhymes of such maturity they belie hisage of 20. It wasn’t hard to miss the up-and-coming emcee, even from the backof the room; he’s tall, slender and animated as hell when he performs. His setleaned on the deeply contemplative material from his standout debut MTYSD: The Revenge of the African BootyScratcher, but also made the live debut of several new singles he haddropped in the past week, each bearing the sonic imprint of a rising producer.The best among them, “Stella ’95″ is produced by Body Games beatmaker AdamGraetz. For a rapper with such an intriguing back-story, Well$ has as manygritty diary entries as he does lightweight party jams, but this one tips thescales heavily in favor of the former.
“¦and they were neverseen again
If you were standing by the entrance Tir Na Nog lateSaturday night, waiting while the lovely, but curious sister duo that formPrince Rama run through an exhaustive sound check, you might have heard a guysinging Disclosure’s “White Noise” over and over. It wasn’t hard to draw atleast the faintest of comparisons to the young Brit-house revivalists; theirrobust two-person setup “” Taraka with synths, guitar and mixers, and Nimai onkick-less drums optimized for propulsive ride patterns “” at least resemblesthat of Disclosure. Seeing the pair over by their merch table pre-show applyingglittery face paint, strapped up with green jelly armbands that form a weirdsynergy with the stage’s Monster Energy drink sponsorship, you realize you’rein for something more challenging.
That was more or less confirmed when Taraka put on thebacking track to “Never Forever”, an 18-minute, glammed-out Middle Easternspace opera, mounted the shoulders of Paperhaus drummer Danny Bentley, and wasparaded around the room with a 20-foot plastic veil on her head while Nimai stretchedonstage. It’s no coincidence that that song shares a name with Kate Bush’sthird album; Prince Rama went about making cosmic disco music in the mostroundabout way possible. When they finally did settle into their stations tostart cranking out deep grooves and ethereal melodies, it took their smallaudience a bit before they bought into it as dance music.
Once that actually happened, however, they were onto theirnext movement, a provocative floor exercise that concluded with them flashingout the front door and down the street, not to return. Maybe they went lookingfor the guy who made the offhand Disclosure comparison. !