Matthew E. White's One Incantation Under God
The first night of this year’s Hopscotch Festival began with this intrepid reporter cursing those of you who always say, “Oh, downtown is so small; you can walk anywhere in mere minutes.” Well, I don’t know if it was the weather or my general unhealthiness, but by the time I had trekked from Fayetteville St. to Five Star, I had corn syrup oozing from my pores and pain shooting from my sides like I hadn’t felt since middle school gym classes. Forget speed rail from Raleigh to RTP; just install a system from Marbles to The Pit.
The night was supposed to start with Charles Latham’s set at Five Star. I had been looking forward to catching Latham, as I was a big fan of his 2009 release, Come Clean. The 10:30 start time came and went, however, and I continued to watch the preceding act slowly pack away instruments and ask bar workers how hard it would be to order food. It was at the point that two girls dressed in cowgirl outfits were giving out free shots in exchange for photographs (?) that I decided I may as well throw in the towel and head to my next show.
Here is the thing about Hopscotch; you don’t read the grids and say, “Oh, Tir Na Nog is hosting a show that looks good, I’ll just stay there all night.” In theory, the festival is set up as a sort of tasting menu, where you duck into a club for five or ten minutes, get a feel for that act, then move on to the next one. So all it takes is for one act to drag their feet either setting up or getting off the stage and you have potentially wasted a good chunk of people’s time.
Moving on to the next show I had circled, I walked back through downtown to the Long View Center to catch Bill Orcutt. Orcutt was the guitarist for Hairy Pussy, and recently came out of retirement to continue playing noise rock, only this time solo and acoustic. Noise rock is one of those genres where you never know what you’re going to get on any given night; sometimes it can be quiet beautiful, other nights you wonder if the person playing has ever picked up an instrument before. The crowd for Orcutt was constantly in flux; as soon as someone left, another would take their seat, so it’s not like there were massive walkouts or anything. That being said, every year there are acts booked for the Festival that seem to be the director Grayson Currin’s idea of a practical joke on festival goers; it would be safe to say by the looks on some of the faces walking out that they didn’t get the joke.
City Plaza being setup for Night Two of Hopscotch 2012
The surprise of the night was Hacienda, playing a set at Tir Na Nog. I wasn’t even going to stop, as I was just walking by on my way to Fletcher, but the sounds coming out the door drew me in. Hacienda are a four piece family rock band from San Antonio that play great rock music. Having already opened for the Black Keys and served as the backing band on Dan Auerbach’s solo tour, these guys just gave off the aura of a group that is ready for the big time. If there were still such a thing as modern rock radio, these guys would be gods within five years.
I made it to Fletcher Opera Theater in what I thought was plenty of time for the 11:30 start of the show of the night, but even walking in 15 minutes early I was lucky to snag what appeared to be the last seat in the house.One Incantation Under God had been built up before the festival as the sleeper slow of the entire festival, perhaps the one performance that everyone would be talking about at the end of the weekend. All anyone really knew for sure was that the stage was going to hold nearly 40 musicians and they would be playing an album’s worth of songs.
Folks, what the audience was given last night was nothing short of beautiful. From the moment the band took the stage, I knew we were in for something special. The group included an eight piece string section, an eight piece horn section, and seven backing vocalists. From the first song, I realized I was witnessing something that would never be duplicated, and I believe many in the audience and band could feel that vibe as well. By the third song, White told the audience to feel free to dance, which caused an avalanche of bodies to cascade toward the front of the stage and gyrate for the rest of the night. Matthew E. White's One Incantation Under God was more than just the performance of the night; this was a performance worthy of holding the festival in the first place.