Thursday, September 2, 2010 Q & A with Grayson Currin Re: Hopscotch

Q&A: Which Bands Are You Most Excited About For Hopscotch?

Grayson Currin // Curator, Hopscotch Music Festival

Writing about the bands I’m looking forward to hearing at the inaugural Hopscotch Music Festival feels a tad uncomfortable for two reasons. First, along with help from festival director Greg Lowenhagen, festival booking agent Paul Siler and a few bands I trust and love, I picked all of these bands. I had the great luxury, then, of drafting bands I only like a lot. This festival has, then, at times felt a little like a map of the way my brain thinks about music, and it’s hard to appreciate one portion of that phrenology without considering its neighbors.

Second, I probably won’t see most of the bands playing Hopscotch. Like Greg and Paul and the handful of other folks that’ve worked since last June to assemble these three days of music, I’ll be running around, making sure bands, fans, sound guys, club owners, stage hands and volunteers are happy. I’ll hear a lot of songs by being in a random place at a random time, but I doubt I’ll be able to stand still and watch many sets in their entirety. That said, there are four sets that I’ll try and do whatever it takes to see, for one reason or another.

A: THE WAR ON DRUGS: I ignored the first LP, 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues, from the Philadelphia band The War on Drugs for the better part of two years. At first, it sounded like psychedelic rock simply sundried on some Dylan-loving kid’s ’90s alternative rock youth. And then I noticed the way the band warped the simplest elements of rock ’n’ roll, fucking with drum beats and guitar solos and layered arrangements in imaginative, somehow profound ways. And then I noticed that frontman Adam Granduciel didn’t just sound like his lyrical heroes, but that he was actually writing stuff that compared, dropping existential, hopeful nuggets in the last brilliant verse of “Buenos Aires Beach,” the veteran of his own crises eyeing the future. No fooling, but The War on Drugs is sort of my favorite good ol’ American rock band in the world right now, and they will completely poke holes into your definition of what it means to be a good ol’ American rock band in the world right now.

B: PUBLIC ENEMY: I suppose, if griping is sort of your thing, which by trade it is mine, you might wonder why a band that put out its most legendary works two decades ago is headlining a festival that, musically, was programmed so heavily with a focus on the future. If you watch Public Enemy’s set Saturday night and you aren’t stunned by the most energetic, aggressive and charismatic hip-hop show you’ve seen maybe since the last time you’ve seen Public Enemy, I’ll possibly entertain that question. Until then… Seriously: I saw these dudes play for 20,000 kids at some über-hip festival presented by another website for which I write, and it was completely shocking. I wasn’t expecting it, and maybe now you aren’t, either, but these aged dudes still have a lot to teach modern hip-hop, especially about how to rock a show.

C: FIRST RATE PEOPLE: I’m not sure where I first heard the indulgent co-ed pop of Toronto’s First Rate People, but I do know I was immediately charmed. The band’s little seven-song introduction, It’s Never Not Happening, mixed splashy dance tracks and weepy ballads with chiming jingles and dreamy odes. I got a little obsessed with it around the time we were booking the festival, so I wrote the band and asked if they might be interested in driving south. Little did I know that Hopscotch would become their first American show, a prelude to the band’s run through the north with Born Ruffians.

D: LOCRIAN: I spend the bulk of my time listening to, for lack of a better descriptor, weird music—harsh noise and power electronics and doom metal and electronic drone and too much Current 93. Maybe that’s not the most logical starting point for booking a music festival that you hope is accessible to a lot of people, but I hope it worked well here. Indeed, one of my favorite things about the first year of Hopscotch is that, though it certainly brings loads of pop and indie rock and hip-hop and hard-nosed rock and heavy metal to Raleigh’s stages, there’s some genuinely out-there music, too. From the drone of Burning Star Core to the odd horn work of Ned Rothenberg, I hope this festival pushes some people’s expectations of sound. Few bands are doing that more for me right now than Locrian, a Chicago duo that blurs the boundaries between radiant drone, roaring noise and black metal. Harsh blends with halcyon, as the band’s love of power meets an obsession with finesse. Glad to have these guys in town.