File photo by Alex Maness
A teenage Michael Quattlebaum of Raleigh, as he appeared in a 2002 INDY Week feature. Quattlebaum is now known as Mykki Blanco.
Last night at Hopscotch
was a night of one in, one out. Even early on, during Seattle's Rose Windows
, the now much smaller Berkeley Cafe had a line out front; Slim's, that night's home of metal, was the same way all night.
And even on the City Plaza Stage, during Future Islands
' set, came the announcement that New York rapper and chef extraordinaire Action Bronson threw his back out and wouldn't be at Lincoln Theatre; his slot had been filled by old school hip-hop veteran Big Daddy Kane
: Kane in, Bronson out.
With Bronson the centerpiece of my loosely fleshed-out evening plans and Vattnet Viskar
and Pig Destroyer
two Slim's-based must-sees, Friday's one in, one out nature threw my game off a bit. This isn't to say it cast a pall on my evening; Future Islands, for instance, brought club-size passion to an arena-sized space. Vocalist Samuel Herring, sporting an Indiana Jones outfit (sans hat and whip), stalked the stage like an evangelical preacher, slapping the stage and howling.
Low-lidded synth-rockers Suuns
sounded expectedly thick and menacing, playing a righteous set despite the distraction of a half-dozen surprisingly rude audience members throwing glow sticks in the humble little Berkeley Cafe. And, before a receptive crowd at Kennedy Theater, Massachusetts outfit Speedy Ortiz
brought house show energy and recklessness—without sacrificing fairly astounding technicality.
But I wouldn't have been at Speedy Ortiz if I'd made it into Vattnet Viskar; rather than wait in line, I tagged along with a friend passing by and caught one of the best sets of my night. And, importantly, if Action Bronson had played I wouldn't have caught the high point of my night, Mykki Blanco
at CAM, which was also scheduled for 11:30 p.m.
I headed to CAM a bit aimlessly after Speedy Ortiz, only wishing to catch some hip-hop. Instead, I found the show of the night. Inside, Mykki stalked the stage in shining black vinyl skirt, waving the mic stand now like a weapon, now like a crucifix, and ranting, wild-eyed and confrontational about mysticism and gender discomfort. (Last year's capstone moment was an abrasive, if under-attended, set by Memphis MC Cities Aviv, and I got the same feel within minutes of entering CAM.)
The start of Mykki's performance was intentionally antagonistic, which served to drive out casual audience members and unite those who dig this performer-audience dynamic. Over clubland-descended beats, Mykki gyrated and strutted, her performance equal parts drag show and punk-rap confrontation; it was amazing. At one point, she climbed the stage-side speaker towers, grabbed the rafters, and hung from them by her legs, easily 15 or 20 feet in the air.
But the set ended with Mykki inviting the audience onstage to dance with her, deftly reversing the confrontational dynamic and replacing it with a message of unity.
Mykki Blanco, née Michael Quattlebaum, is a Raleigh native whose prodigious gifts while a student at Enloe High School were recognized more than a decade ago by this paper
And I wouldn't have followed my gut and headed to CAM had Action Bronson made it to town—just like I likely wouldn't have made Speedy Ortiz had there been a shorter line to see Vattnet Viskar.
While the one in, one out factor of this seemingly busiest Hopscotch raises questions about whether certain bands are in large enough rooms for their respective audiences, it's what I have to thank for two of the best sets of my weekend.