Festival Review: Hopscotch Festival 2013, Day 1 – Raleigh, NC


Liz Harris has been crafting music under the name Grouper for awhile now, always maintaining the elusiveness and mystery of her music, as well as her persona. She rarely gives interviews, sparsely performs live, and only gives us output every few years. Back when her fantastic new record The Man Who Died in His Boat was released, she was one of my personal biggest hopes for the Hopscotch lineup this year, and of course, she came. Her set sent us plunging into a deep ocean of beautiful noise. Bathed in a faint blue light, her soft vocals flooded over the audience and enthralled everyone in the seats of Fletcher Opera Theatre, nearly putting us in a blissful slumber. –Nichols

Marnie Stern

Breaking immediately from the quiet subtleties of Grouper, we ran up Wilmington Street to the already-packed Lincoln Theatre to rock out with guitar queen Marnie Stern. We walked in as she was wrapping up the title track off this year’s wonderful Chronicles of Marnia, leading right into album standout “You Don’t Turn Down.” With a three piece band, she tore through her set, running through classics (“For Ash,” “The Crippled Jazzer”) as well as all of the standouts from her 2013 effort (which really is every song, but “Nothing is Easy,” “Immortals,” and “Hell Yes” stood strong). Stern’s audience was the first example we had of a Hopscotch performer absolutely feeding off a crowd’s fantastic energy (see Hopscotch 2012’s Deerhoof performance), as a pack of headbanded, tank top wearing dudes led those of us in the pit in an absolute party. Stern and her band took full appreciation of this, amping up the energy further before unleashing it all on a rousing ending jam of closer “Transparency is the New Mystery.” When the song ended, Stern’s adorable dog Fig (who’s featured on the cover of The Chronicles of Marnia) ran onstage to play with her, much to the delight of the audience, who ate it up (complete with “Marn-ie! Marn-ie!” chants). A wonderfully intimate moment with the artist, and a terrific way to end what was our favorite set of the first night. –Nichols

(Editor’s Note: We met up with Stern after the show and she was incredibly pleased at how responsive the audience was to her set. Somewhere along the way, we hauled her gear, but that’s another story)

Kurt Vile

Headlining Lincoln Theatre and closing off our first night of Hopscotch was folk rocker Kurt Vile equipped with his full band, The Violators. Before the set I contemplated his almost meteoric rise over the past two years with noting with my friend and former BPMer Weston how he had gone from playing Duke coffee shops with audiences barely breaking double digits to headlining New York’s Terminal 5 and playing this very slot at Hopscotch. Right out of the gate he kicked into “Wakin on a Pretty Day,” the opener from his unquestionably personal latest album and immediately captivating the crowd despite barely engaging them the whole set. Perhaps his lack of engagement was due to him being stoned out of his mind (I can’t say for sure, but he certainly looked it) but his performance was far from lethargic. Vile’s tone may be mostly mellow tone but he showed he could shred — especially when he switched over to electric guitar playing off of his lead guitarist and he tossing his wildly unkempt head of hair around. On paper Kurt Vile’s ascension may seem unexplainable, but after seeing his live performance it all made perfect sense. –Kaloudis

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