The best way to enjoy Hopscotch Music Festival is in huge, intense, irrational gulps. Miss as few bands as humanly possible. Run—no, sprint—from venue to venue. If you knock someone down to the sidewalk, do not turn around. When you see someone you recognize, promptly blow them off. If someone taller is standing in front of you at a show, the base of their neck is probably susceptible.
This isn't Bonnaroo. Save the peace and love for a vegan sandwich at the Remedy Diner. Push. Shove. Go, go, go—and enjoy.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 9
For Hopscotch's opening night, you'll have no problem keeping your synapses firing and your attitude poor, thanks to a multi-club smattering of brutal heavy metal and harsh noise that runs the gamut from depressive to euphoric. Start your night out disgusting with Wilmington's spastic NO TOMORROW, a high-velocity mix of punked-out Discharge beats and good ol'-fashioned Southern misanthropy. Then scurry two blocks over to Kings to catch Cincinnati's leading light BURNING STAR CORE, a one-man squall machine mixing a prismatic slurry of noise with Tony Conrad-like violin torture—no doubt one of America's best and brightest purveyors of hypnotic goo.
It will be easy to keep your feet planted at Kings, too, and not just because of the inch-thick layer of PBR and dude-sweat left from the opening weekend's Bandway gig, either. The night's lineup of abrasive, blackened trance and psychedelic hugs may just keep you in a daze. Chicago's LOCRIAN effortlessly splits the difference between being a horrifying noise band and a horrifying metal band, ultimately resulting in some severe, ugly and fairly unnerving ickiness. On the flipside, Memphis power-smile duo CLOUDLAND CANYON turns psych-metal textures into a fluttering waterfall of rainbow-surfing, totally glowing, cotton candy noize—better dispositions and drugs then the metal brethren on this bill, but no less intense. Closers OCEAN are wave after wave of bowel-busting sludge, played with a majesty that is at once meticulous and deceptively simple.
You may want to sneak off early to catch the tail end of AKRON/ FAMILY's set at the Pour House. Late at night is exactly when the folk/ jam/ psych/ whatever monsters and their decidedly enthusiastic fans will be at their rowdiest.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 10
Break early from PANDA BEAR's dream and head to Kings to catch the more mournful muck of Milwaukee sound artist JON MUELLER, a visionary composer who pounds percussion until it streaks into smears. Then barrel full speed down the street to the Berkeley Cafe to catch HARVEY MILK, whose new album, A Small Turn of Human Kindness, is easily the year's best slab of sludge metal, a sap-slow mix of lovelorn indie vulnerability crooned over the wet sounds of slugs fucking. Stick around for a quick slam dance with reverent, irreverent '80s-weaned hardcore purists DOUBLE NEGATIVE and then bounce back to Kings for the tail end of BEN FROST, an Icelandic sound-sculptor who creates fragile, minimalist worlds from processed instruments and mysterious drones.
Top the night off by catching RAEKWON of the Wu-Tang Clan headline a set at Lincoln Theatre. The lo-fi, VHS-damaged beats of 2009's Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... Pt. II are even noisier than most of the Hopscotch bands filed under the "avant-garde" tag. If you need a ginger ale and a head massage afterward, feel free to have a late-night meditation with tender drone-and-loop savants MOUNTAINS at The Hive at Busy Bee, who make billowing towers from the plaintive strum of acoustic guitars, the gentle tinkle of hand percussion and the alien swirl of field recordings.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 11
Speaking of noise, the legendary-beyond-legendary PUBLIC ENEMY bring it promptly at 8:15 p.m., with their James-Brown-fueled revue of classics, putting out more energy than pretty much any rap group—or rock group—half their age. Move swiftly from the Terrordome to fairer drone via Vermont's electro-acoustic genius GREG DAVIS at Kings. He will envelop his audience with slow-evolving visions of gently lapping waves. His occasional buddy-in-blissmaking KEITH FULLERTON WHITMAN will similarly pull out a set of otherworldly joy from his unique crate of analog doodads—but not until New York jazz icon NED ROTHENBERG molests a few reed instruments via his inimitable honk 'n' skronk.
Finish your weekend by popping over to the Berkeley Cafe for the monstrous double bill of Wilmington's WEEDEATER and Savannah, Ga.'s KYLESA—two Southern metal stalwarts who have mastered walking that fine line between the oppressive distortion of doom and the friendly embrace of indie rock hooks. If your ears or stomach need a break, it would be fairly easy (and wise) to take a quiet mosey over to the Lincoln between set changes to marvel at post-rock pioneers TORTOISE. Trust that they'll be playing around with whatever beat-wise music is on their iPod this year.