Mother Nature must be a huge Built to Spill fan, because the weather was beautiful for the second night of Hopscotch.
My night started when I arrived at the police blockade protecting the good wristband festival goers on Fayetteville Street, and slowly made my way toward the huge stage constructed on City Plaza. I have to hand it to both the curators of the Festival and the city of Raleigh; this looks like a legitimate music festival and not some flight by night operation. I had arrived during what turned out to be the closing song of opening band Zammuto’s set, which actually confused me minutes later when I was purchasing a beer and the sound system started playing REM’s “Nightswimming”; I thought I was in the presence of the world’s greatest REM cover band.
Taking a spot on the edge of a flower bed outside of ZPizza, the stage was quickly set for Built to Spill. The band actually began performing a few minutes before their scheduled 6:55 start time, but that didn’t seem to bother the crowd very much, which now how started to fill up nicely. As promised, BtS played a number of songs from throughout their career, hitting on their most popular albums while also taking time to dust off a few of their more obscure live tunes. Both the audience and the staff of the festival surrounding the barrier of the stage were bouncing to the music, and when was the last time you’ve seen that happen?
I ended up running into a friend, so my next stop wasn’t until 9:30 when I decided to catch Lazy Janes at Slim’s. One of the driving themes of this year’s Festival has been the number of acts with females as the main components, and the Janes are a local punk band with some buzz behind them, so I figured I would kill two interest stories with one paragraph. Unfortunately, the 9:30 start time came and went with the sound system still blaring behind the bar. Finally the members took the stage to start fiddling with their instruments. A few minutes go by…singer Carla Wolff converses with audience members…more minutes go by…she’s now complaining about the heat from the lights…it’s now 9:45…the stereo is still playing…
Honestly, it was probably for the best that I walked out before the band ever started playing, anyway. Saturday night was packed with performances that I wanted good spots for, and you really shouldn’t leave it to a punk band to get you somewhere on time.
I headed down to Memorial Auditorium to catch Glenn Jones. There were only three things I knew about Jones walking into his performance: he was an acoustic guitar instrumentalist; he was the act before Yo La Tengo, which was the sole reason I was there to begin with; I hoped like hell it wouldn’t be a repeat of Bill Orcutt from the night before.
It’s easy to be blown away by someone when you have such low expectations, but Jones’ performance on Friday night was wonderful. The man is literally a musical genius, and perhaps the most talented musician performing at the festival this year. Playing two or three part arrangements on an assortment of guitars, he finished the night off with the majestic “The Orca Grande Cement Factory of Victorville”. He is truly an act that has to be seen to be believed.
Next onto the stage was Yo La Tengo. Within seconds, the first few rows of Memorial disappeared as the patrons rushed to the edge of the stage to give praise to these stalwarts of indie-rock. It took all of three minutes for Ira Kaplan to make the case for being one of the criminally underrated guitar gods of the past twenty years, and the band as a whole to be one of the best American bands still on the road. By the third song of their set, Memorial looked more like the front section at the Lincoln Theater, and I doubt I’ll ever be able to say that again.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to stay very long, as one of my two most anticipated shows of the entire festival was due to start shortly at Berkeley Café. Damien Jurado, great singer-songwriter from Seattle, was taking the stage at midnight, and it was sure to be a packed house.
Well, not so much. Jurado was great, don’t get me wrong. The man writes music of such beauty and clarity that if you have ever had heartache in your life you will be crushed by the end of one of his five minute songs. However, the crowd wasn’t as big as I thought it would be (30, maybe?), and when everyone wants to have a conversation while the performer is playing (“You tell Betty that I’m not leaving, and if she wants to hang out with Charley then she needs to quit acting like a bitch and grow up and yada yada yada” foreeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeever), for once it maybe is better to just go home and listen to the man’s records in peace.