The 10 Most Unique Sets at Hopscotch

Hopscotch 2010 crowd

Photo by Enid Valu

There are lots of great festivals, with musical line-ups filled to the brim with unmissable talent. Now in its third year, Hopscotch has already proven it’s capable of bringing strong acts, and it’s taken that a step further, fostering one-time collaborations and unique pairings that make tough decisions damn near impossible. There’s not much this year you’d want to skip, but you won’t have a chance to relive any of these. Fence-sitters take note; here’s your deciding factor. —Bryan C. Reed & Jordan Lawrence

Chris Corsano

The extraordinary experimental percussionist and serial collaborator has the unique distinction of being Hopscotch’s first Improviser in Residence. An inventive and expressive drummer, Corsano coaxes a wide range of clatters and clangs, squeaks and splashes from his rig. He’s a rare drummer (like Jon Mueller, another Hopscotch performer) who can make a drum melodious and emotional enough to resonate as solo instrument. So just imagine what he can bring to complement any of the array of noted experimentalists performing this weekend. Corsano plays a solo set Friday night at Memorial Auditorium. Other appearances still TBA, save for a one-time trio formation with Bill Orcutt and Alan Bishop during the Three Lobed Recordings/WXDU day party, also on Friday. (BR)

Dan Deacon

Famously eschewing stages for floor-level crowd-direction, Dan Deacon’s shows have long been famous for their participatory fervor — at least among the first few rows of fans who showed up early enough to actually see anything. As this is the sole solo break from a tour with his eponymous Ensemble, supporting the ambitious and ecstatic new album America, we’d feared more of the same back-of-the-room blues we’ve experienced before. That is, until Deacon announced a new smartphone app to accompany his performances. Turning mobile devices into spontaneous instruments of lights and sound, it seems Deacon might finally have found a way to make the inclusive, participatory joy of a packed basement show translate to a crowd of hundreds. Deacon headlines over Corrosion of Conformity, Pallbearer and Black Skies at The Pour House on Friday, Sept. 7. (BR)


The last time Deerhoof rolled through Raleigh, they played Kings, a wonderful little rock club with better-than-average acoustics. There’s an argument to be made that this is where the San Francisco outfit belongs. After all, their kinetic, angular art pop abstractions opt almost exclusively for harsh turns and jarring rhythms, an assaulting technique that would chase away any timid ear that happens to hear it. But Deerhoof will not play a small rock club at Hopscotch. They will play Memorial Auditorium, a cavernous theater space that holds more than 2,000 people. It’s an odd placement to be sure, but records like the soon-to-be-released Breakup Song prove that Deerhoof are meant for such larger rooms. The caustic elements — the jumbled noise, the near-cacophonous piles of vocal overdubs, the break-neck rhythms — push the outfit’s hooks to levels of catchiness that few other bands can match. For instance, Breakup Song’s title track stomps with a dense, intrinsically fetching bass line. Throughout the song it draws in more elements into its throbbing display, growing into a distorted colossus that transforms the timidness of Satomi Matsuzaki’s repeated refrain, “You say it’s all over,” into an earworm nugget that resounds with bravery. Deerhoof possess a sound that could devastate such a large space, a display you won’t likely see again in the near future. The outfit plays Memorial Thursday night. (JL)

Arnold Dreyblatt & Megafaun

Megafaun has made a career out of updating rustic folk with the kind of hyper-rhythmic avant-garde flourishes that Arnold Dreyblatt stretches into enthralling long-form compositions. In other words, this pairing is obvious — in the best way. But it’s also rare. Though American-born, Dreyblatt has spent the past few decades living in Germany, and due in large part to that distance he hasn’t played with his N.C.-based friends since they toured together in 2008. But these talented boundary-testers won’t waste this opportunity by simply retreading the ground they explored two years ago. They’re also preparing a brand new piece that will incorporate a high-tech slide guitar built by miracle workers at Moog Music. Oh, and they’ll be doing all that enveloped in the warm acoustics of the Longview Center, a former church turned intimate sit-down venue that this year makes its Hopscotch debut. With two perfectly matched collaborators in what might be the perfect room, this is a hard one to pass up as part of your Saturday schedule. (JL)

The Mountain Goats

John Darnielle’s long-running Mountain Goats have a new album, called Transcendental Youth, coming out this fall. It’s probably the band’s most sonically ambitious recording, bringing lush horns and full-band arrangements behind Darnielle’s most refined vocal performance. It’s a tough call in a catalog of highlights, but Transcendental Youth might even be the Mountain Goats’ best record. But don’t expect to hear it tonight. Darnielle will play two solo sets, one unearthing rare songs from his expansive backlog, a supreme treat for his famously fanatic champions. The second set finds Darnielle sitting at the piano covering some of his favorite metal songs. We’ve got our fingers crossed for “Deliverance of Horrific Prophecies.” The Mountain Goats dig up lost favorites and bang heads Friday night at Fletcher Opera Theater. (BR)

Nobunny/Danny Brown

The Oakland garage rocker known as Nobunny writes infectious pop songs full of skeevy innuendo and bubble-dumb hooks, just as you might expect from a man whose wardrobe consists primarily of a ratty face-mask, a too-small biker jacket and various undergarments usually assigned to either gender. His cartoon-kitsch and punk-rock shocks should make a nice neighbor for Detroit rapper Danny Brown, who electrified critical consensus with his whip-smart adenoidal rhymes about drugs and cunnilingus. With a near-iconic chipped-tooth and Flock of Seagulls hair-do, Brown cuts a unique, occasionally polarizing figure of his own. In both cases, the music more than lives up to the image. Fans in the Carolinas will have other opportunities to see Nobunny or Danny Brown. Nobunny plays in Belmont at The Haunted Mill Sept. 9; Brown’s tour with A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q hits Myrtle Beach’s House of Blues and Charlotte’s Fillmore in November. This, however, might be the only chance to see these outsized personalities clash. Nobunny and Danny Brown play consecutively Saturday night at the Contemporary Art Museum. (BR)

Party Times

This is another intriguing pairing of stage and performance. For most of the bill, this official Hopscotch day party plays like the crowd-pleasing block party it’s intended to be. Red Collar’s Springsteen-leaning punk is catharsis incarnate. Kooley High revives old-school party rap with charm and finesse. And The Royal Bangs unite comfortably muddled slacker tones with a danceable sense of energy and rhythm. But two acts have the power to confront the show’s walk-up audience with performances they likely won’t be prepared for — and they might just win them over. Hardcore outfit Double Negative is a wonder of stylish momentum, wrangling noisy distortion into restlessly ripping guitar lines and powering it all with anxiously pummeling rhythms. As punk goes, it’s not the hookiest thing around, but it blows by in an all-consuming blur that’s mighty hard not to get caught up in. Chapel Hill’s Spider Bags are a garage rock conundrum that always keeps you guessing. Their new LP Shake My Head gussies up their gleeful chaos into mostly straight-ahead fare, off-kilter fills and sardonic asides thrown out in a way that never takes away from the songs’ energy. If the Bags provide that kind of performance they’re likely to bring a large contingent of new fans to their side at this Saturday party outside of the Raleigh Times. Show starts at 11:30. Spider Bags and Double Negative go on second and fourth respectively. (JL)

Three Lobed Recordings/WXDU Day Party

A stunning mix of long-form psychedelic improvisation, and intricate folk meditation, the span of acts here is an excellent representation of the Triad-based Three Lobed Recordings and its consistently great output. With some help from Duke University radio station WXDU, Three Lobed gathered a series of special collaborations, solo sets, and exclusive performances. Collaborations include the trio of Bill Orcutt, Chris Corsano and Alan Bishop and the duo of drone-masters David Daniell and Oren Ambarchi. Chuck Johnson, Hiss Golden Messenger and William Tyler offer solo sets. And Wooden Wand and the Gunn-Truscinski Duo travel in just for this daytime excursion. It’ll be difficult to leave Kings Barcade any time between noon and 5 p.m. Friday. (BR)

Trash Talk

When the Savannah, Ga. metal outfit Baroness dropped off Hopscotch due to a harrowing bus accident in Britain, there seemed no way their vacancy could be filled adequately. After all, the band had just released a double album that melded metal grandeur and modern rock tones and structures into something dramatic and emotionally potent, pointing a way to heavy-leaning radio rock that didn’t have to compromise to draw in unfamiliar ears. But, I’ll be damned: Hopscotch did it. Trash Talk is flying in special for this festival set, and they make similar inroads into indiedom’s mainstream. They hurtle with hardcore momentum, but their tones aren’t overly aggressive, packaging blunt force impact within a sound that’s no more alienating than Nevermind. Singer Lee Spielman closes the deal, deploying a serrated shriek with a deceptively catchy sense of rhythm. Trash Talk takes the final slot at the Lincoln Theatre Thursday night. (JL)

Matthew E. White

Big Inner, the “solo” debut from Matthew E. White, moves with the kind of understated bigness that has long been out of style. These days bare-bones home-recordings are minimal, and polished arena-packing efforts are huge; many listeners, it seems, have very little patience for anything in between. A magnificent arranger who leads Richmond’s exemplary jazz ensemble Fight the Big Bull, White merges the pastoral sweep and succinct songwriting of Randy Newman with seductive funk strains and the outsized praise of old-school worship music into something both secular and Christian, worldly and unquestionably Southern. In an effort to recreate Big Inner in all its grandiose subtlety, Hopscotch is giving White the opportunity to assemble about 30 musicians to fully realize his compositions in a live environment. With a full gospel choir, horn players culled from his own top-notch ensemble and various other specialists, it promises to be a refreshingly old-school spectacle. Placed inside Fletcher Opera Theater, Hopscotch’s best sounding room, it should also be an overwhelming sonic experience and a fine way to end your Thursday. (JL)

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