Hopscotch Music Festival
Thursday, Sept. 10, 2015
The Fayetteville Street aisle that leads to Hopscotch’s City Plaza is lined with white tents. I imagine that, from hundreds of feet above, the tents look like giant paper candle bags, collectively haloing the festival’s commercial and communal interests. As I strutted up the asphalt catwalk, I sensed the music. It was distant and echoing and uninteresting.
I stopped and began a conversation with the first familiar face I saw. One of the guys in the group had an issue with me previously writing the words “fuck Diarrhea Planet.”
He told me that he and friends have an annual Hopscotch email thread. In said thread, he wrote that I should “suck his balls.”
Sigh, OK. It’s official: Hopscotch 2015 had begun.
I encountered a much different set of pleasantries at the Kennedy Theatre during Grandma Sparrow’s playdate.
It was my first time seeing Joe Westerlund’s performance art doppelgänger as an idiosyncratic old maid. His backing band, Canine Heart Sounds, actually went by the name Piddletractor Orchestra, but I’m pretty sure I heard him refer to them as The Oreo Band, too.
Grandma Sparrow clanked a cowbell, used the noise of a deflating orange balloon and banged on a metal mixing bowl. From my vantage point, the band's beaks looked like giant nasal breathing strips. The room’s reaction was split between bewilderment, juvenile fascination and cluelessness. “I can’t seem to find my boy Alewishus,” squawked Grandma Sparrow.
Suddenly, I had my directive for the rest of the night: Find Alewishus for Grandma Sparrow.
Courtesy of Spacebomb
Bring me my Alewishus
The light rain reminded me that I forgot to pack my umbrella, but this new hunt for Alewishus now made me waterproof. I began my investigation. On my way to Tir Na Nog, I encountered a man who had secrets. His disheveled hair, camouflage cargo shorts and orange-striped tank top give him away as a Hopscotcher. I asked him if he’d seen Alewishus. “Da-ha!” he said, followed by another incoherent phrase. No clues in the hunt for Alewishus.
The early crowd at Tir Na Nog treated Keath Mead’s melancholy meanderings like an everyday occurrence. The bar chatter drowned out Mead’s common falsetto. A few rude onlookers had a loud a conversation about football. A couple nestled together at a far off table. Rosean Alexander, the bassist from the Durham hip-hop band LiLa, plopped down on a seat next to me. “He has good fingers,” he told me. I wanted to love Mead, but he was much too tranquil.
I needed stimulation. I needed to find Alewishus.
By the time the night ended, I walked past the Capitol Smoke head shop on Martin St. eight times. As I approached for the first time, I decided that it might be the perfect place to inquire about Alewishus. He’s the type to toke, or at least vape. I asked the employees if they’d seen him. They looked puzzled. Then they asked: “Does he have short dreads? Was he wearing a white shirt?”
This description sounded like it could be my Alewishus: “He went that way,” they told me, pointing toward CAM.
Raleigh rapper Chulo and his crew were doing their best to not let the hollowness of CAM kill their set. They resorted to cheap trap tricks like Post Malone’s “White Iverson” hook instead of letting their own material do the grunt work. “Saucin’ on you” is fine if you’re actually saucing. But unfortunately, Chulo spent a large amount of time rapping over his pre-recorded tracks. Broth, not sauce.
Apparently, everyone wanted to see Wildhoney at Kings, but downstairs at Neptunes, Nick James’s audiovisual DJ set had to have been the more stunning. James could be the world’s greatest mumblegore film score composer of all time if he wanted to be, but he chose this producer life instead: high fidelity electronica art installations in dive bars. Two 50-inch flat-screen TVs displayed many images during his set. There were hands soaked in white paint, molten lava, and an Ouroboros tornado with a beachball and a shark. No one was dancing, but everyone was transfixed and on the verge of seizing. That was good enough for me.
But where was Alewishus?
You can usually take Hopscotch’s temperature by popping into CAM and gauging the excitement and the dancing. Eyes Low’s set was the turning point of the festival’s first night. His job was to set the stage for Cashmere Cat’s closing set and to prepare the venue’s crowd for Lizzo’s backup dancers. On the same stage last year, Jamie XX closed out Hopscotch in classic dance fashion. I mostly remembered his hair, especially his bangs. Eyes Low had the same bangs in blonde. They dangled over his boards like mistletoe. He lowered his gaze the whole time, barely acknowledging the audience. I hope it’s not an electronic rule to appear lost in your own magnificence.
I soon met Bill Snipes, a homeless man, on Martin Street. He didn’t make the night’s list for a bed in the local homeless shelter, so he was hanging around downtown until the morning. He hoped to make the list tomorrow. He carried a yellow backpack full of clothes and was very eager to help me find Alewishus. “If I see him, I’ll tell him that hip-hop is looking for him,” he said, identifying me by some of the words on my T-shirt.
I found a pack of Crotchthrottle pin buttons on top of a urinal in The Pour House men’s room, as the death metal band FÓRN gouged a bleeding hole into Hopscotch’s legacy. Is Crotchthrottle a band? I didn’t know. Is it standard practice for lead singers of metal bands to adjust their mic stand so that it’s a foot taller than them? I didn’t know that, either. But when I saw that giant AOL banner above the death metal band, I knew to laugh.
Alewishus would have loved that, had I ever found him.