Hopscotch's opening night on Thursday seemed almost too quiet, passing in a pleasant but low-key way. Friday, on the other hand, was a lot more uptempo. Between the Hopscotch festival and hordes of First Friday gallery-walkers, downtown Raleigh was humming with energy (and blocks upon blocks of gridlocked traffic). Even the Downtown Dental office on Fayetteville Street somehow had a crowd in its lobby.
Out on Hopscotch's City Plaza main stage, meanwhile, Brooklyn's Holy Ghost! was recalling the simple pleasures of the Reagan era. I remember the '80s as fondly as the next guy, but Holy Ghost! takes that to an almost fetishy level. Their set was like a game of "Name That '80s Tune," with a mash-up of seemingly every electronic hit the decade yielded. Every song sounded like it was about to segue into something by New Order, Depeche Mode, OMD and more. Gotta say, though, that they make it work. I started out smirking and skeptical, found myself bobbing my head as the set wore on and was thoroughly won over by the end.
Shortly after that, I happened onto both my favorite find and biggest disappointment of this year. That was singer-songwriter Ilyas Ahmed, who I walked in on mid-set; and I heard him play this drop-dead brilliant bit of droning genius on 12-string guitar, somehow sounding like about a six-piece band. I was stunned and delighted -- until he finished the song, which turned out to be the last one he played and capped a ridiculously short set that only used up a fraction of his allotted time. What the heck? Oh well, I shall be seeking out recordings.
A great followup palette cleanser was Late Bloomer, a Charlotte trio that was LOUDER THAN HELL and fairly brutal about it, but also a lot catchier than most such bands. Just as I was thinking that I'd probably like 'em better if they played faster, they ramped it up and did a fast one. Very fast, in fact. Faith restored!
Other notable drop-in's throughout Friday evening were Lady Lamb the Beekeeper (Aly Spaltro), who played aggro electric-guitar strums while bellowing lines like, "I will bury you between two trees" (which was creepy, especially when she did her first song a cappella and in complete darkness, but also very affecting); and Local Natives, whose smoke-shrouded martial stomps and war-cry hollers reminded me of...well, Coldplay. Which I didn't mind, but I expect would make them cringe anyway.
Here is our day-two photo gallery. Saturday will bring another night to rock...