Photo by Eric Tullis
Obnox played at Slim's Friday night.
Years from now, when many of us are reminiscing about Hopscotch’s heyday, we might remember this year as the year when St. Vincent’s celestial guitarist singer Annie Clark turned the City Plaza stage into a scintillating, art-rock vessel. But what about Raleigh cyclist, Rodney Hines, the self-proclaimed No Hand King
, whose claim to fame is that he rides no-handed wheelies all across the city? What will he remember? Probably nothing.
We know everything about this man’s peculiar hobby, but we never found out what he thought about his city’s cherished Hopscotch Music Festival, or music in general, for that matter. So, I took it upon myself to ask him after spotting him sitting idle on his bike outside of Hopscotch’s free evening block party. He refused to answer and expressed, with an icy stare, that the question made him feel uncomfortable. I pressed on, but the only thing he offered was that he began listening to music long before hip-hop became popular. He also stated that he was mildly agreeable about the idea of Hopscotch, relating the festival to how much downtown Raleigh has grown over the years. He was more than certain that there are plenty of $1 million penthouses in the surrounding skyscrapers—structures that were extra obvious on this humid and hollow night in Raleigh, reaching up into
the Oak City skyline like massively swollen, titanium fingers. Somehow, the conversation veered into him venting about how his archnemesis in the no-handed wheelie world is so illegitimate that he might as well be riding a unicycle. Bike beef.
Still, his music choices remain a fucking mystery.
Half a block away at Slim’s, Ohio punk militant Obnox emitted his own eccentricities, which had less to do with how tangled and secure he’s grown in his short but voluminous span as a soloist but with the female drummer who played alongside him. Together, the two resembled a couple in beautiful turmoil. Whether he knew it or not, he was setting the stage for the legendary all-black Detroit punk band, Death, to lay out their own story the following evening, on Hopscotch’s City Plaza stage. And whether the mostly non-black crowd was aware of it or not, the smell of black solidarity was in the air, connecting Obnox to a largely untold story of Afro-punk pride.
The band Death is also one of the reasons why Triangle hip-hop veteran, Joe Scudda, is excited to be back on his old stomping grounds. Otherwise, he’s not quite sure why Hopscotch booked him for this year’s festival. He hasn’t performed in two years and now runs a bar in Athens, Georgia. Scudda wasn’t scheduled to hit any Hopscotch stage until his 11 p.m. Saturday show at The Hive, but a day after he returned to Raleigh, he and Rapper Big Pooh found themselves on The Pour House stage due to a last-minute cancellation
by New York rapper, Ka. While Pooh had no problems piloting the crowd through new and old solo material and Little Brother hits, Scudda’s off-the-cuff roofie joke didn’t go over quite as well. Earlier in the show, he had made a “big tittie” joke, but this date rape joke was different. It silenced the room. Let's hope he heads in a different direction tonight.
Fortunately for he and Pooh, there was an abrupt way to transition out of it. “We’re lucky we had the music,” Scudda later told me. “If comedians tell a bad joke, they can only follow it up with more of them talking.” They went with the heartfelt send-off to his late pops, “Get Away,” off of Statik Selektah’s recent, guest-heavy, What Goes Around
LP. Sure, It’s only one song, but it’s the most we’ve heard from Scudda in a couple of years. Maybe by him seeing his name co-existing on a tracklist with the likes of Action Bronson, Bun B, Dilated Peoples, he’ll give the rap life another go and decide to unearth some of the unheard music he’s been rumored to have stashed away.