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Hopscotch III: Day two

Day two photo gallery

It would be silly to call Zack Mexico surf music from the moon -- there's no water up there, let alone oceans. But you wouldn't have ocean tides without the moon's gravitational pull. So think of this Kill Devil Hills quintet as inhabitants of the dark side of said orb, where they lasso the centripetal forces of the galaxy to ride waves of skronk across the astral plain. If that ain't surfing, well, I don't know what is.

Zack Mexico's set at the Contemporary Art Museum was the high point of Hopscotch Friday, which offered another fantastic day and night of music. Even if you don't have a festival wristband, you should be taking advantage of the day parties at various clubs around downtown. Pretty much all of them are free and open to the public, and all you have to do to find them is to follow your ears; downtown has been hoppin'. I spent most of Friday afternoon camped out at Deep South, witnessing excellent sets by Toddlers, Old Bricks and Lazy Janes, among others.

The nightcap included nightclub anthems with Wylie Hunter & the Cazadores, Yo La Tengo in a mostly mellow (for them) tone and the stately country-rock of Hiss Golden Messenger -- all stellar, especially a heartbreakingly beautiful new song from Yo La Tengo's upcoming album -- and idiosyncratic folkie Mountain Goat John Darnielle doing heavy-metal covers on a piano, accompanied by gospel-style backup singers. It was weird and wonderful, but also late in the evening; I wish I'd had the energy to last through the whole set.

Still, you want to talk weird and wonderful, it doesn't get any better than the aforementioned Zack Mexico, a young quintet dressed in castoff beachwear that looked like it had been shoplifted from an Outer Banks thrift shop. They alternated between withering Captain Beefheart-esque flipouts, ambient drones and rippling jingle-jangle guitar-pop, with turn-on-a-dime transitions. The interplay between the group's three guitarists (each equipped with a full rack of sound-effects pedals) was amazing, and the set ended with three out of five members writing around the floor as the bandleader flung his guitar in the air, trying to hook it on an overhead rafter as the crowd howled.

You really should be out seeing this stuff...

Jon Wurster travels light

Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster has had plenty of posed-with-the-Gods moments over the past quarter-century, playing behind Bob Mould, John Darnielle, Ryan Adams and other indie-rock luminaries. But he's in the midst of a pretty incredible 15 minutes right now, after bearing witness to last Monday's flight-attendant freakout at New York City's LaGuardia Airport.

Wurster had a first-class seat on the ill-fated RDU-bound flight, which was repeatedly delayed before finally being canceled after a series of altercations between flight attendant Jose Serrano and passengers. Wurster spent the five-hour ordeal posting dispatches about the unfolding fiasco via Twitter ("The plane is here but the crew isn't. I Know I can fly this thing. I've seen all but one of the Hindenburg movies.") and Facebook ("What followed was a tidal wave of drama including: cops kicking off passengers, passengers leaving in protest, Jose crying, children crying, Jose quitting and the flight getting cancelled. I did get two bags of nuts, so that was good.").

Wurster was quoted in the New York Post (which identified him as "drummer at the indie rock band Superchunk") and has since been called on to recount the story on outlets including The Today Show, CNN and Going Off Track. No doubt this will be fodder for another comedy routine -- or perhaps the rock memoir I keep pestering him to write.

Meanwhile, back in Rockville, Superchunk's next local show is July 12 at Cat's Cradle.

Singing against Amendment 1

Ordinarily, a primary election happening after presidential nominations are set would be a low-key affair. But that's not the case in North Carolina this year, thanks to Amendment 1 -- which would write into the state constitution that the only valid legal domestic union is marriage between one man and one woman.

While numerous business and political leaders have weighed in against it, Amendment 1 still appears headed for passage with a solid double-digit lead in most opinion polls. And in a move reminescent of past campaigns against the late Sen. Jesse A. Helms, North Carolina's music community has taken up the cause of trying to rally voters against it.

One such event is Thursday night at Durham's Motorco Music Hall, a benefit for Protect NC Families.  Superchunk's Mac McCaughan, Mountain Goats' John Darnielle and Reigning Sound's Greg Cartwright will all play, with comedian Tara Defrancisco serving as host. Cover is $20; but if you want to shell out for the $100 VIP ticket, you get to request a song they'll play.

On April 27, Stu McLamb from The Love Language, John Howie and others will play at Carrboro Town Hall from noon to 4 p.m. This one is to raise awareness about early voting (which begins Thursday).

The biggest local anti-Amendment 1 show so far is the Concert to Defeat Amendment One May 6 at Haw River Ballroom, with Bob Mould, David Cross, Stu McLamb, comedian Tig Notaro, Superchunk in acoustic-duo format (!) and Amber Tamblyn. Tickets are $80 and include a silkscreened event poster.

There's also been at least one very fine new song inspired by this, "Vote Against Amendment One." Composed by Greensboro's Laurelyn Dossett (of "The Gathering" fame), it features Molly McGinn, Carolina Chocolate Drop Rhiannon Giddens Laffan and others.

Read more about the campaigns for and against the amendment here.

Counting down The Naughties: The Pitchfork Top 200

You'll be seeing lots and lots of best/worst-of-the-decade lists between now and the end of the year, as various publications count down their highlights and lowlights of whatever you care to call the years between 2000 and 2009. Pitchfork is getting a jump on things with a list of its top 200 albums of the decade, unveiling numbers 151-200 today.

There's some Triangle content, with Mountain Goats (Durham resident John Darnielle's working handle) coming in at No. 176 with their 2002 masterwork "Tallahassee." And Durham-based Merge Records has the first two of what will no doubt be many slots in the countdown, at No. 159 (Destroyer) and 179 (Camera Obscura).

ADDENDUM (10/12/09): The Uncut 150.

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