Smart ladies love rad music, Hopscotch 2013 preview

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Cults taken by me from the first Hopscotch in 2010.

My favorite music festival, Hopscotch in Raleigh, NC, starts tomorrow! Instead of me talking about the same five bands I’m excited about seeing (Swearin’, Angel Olsen), I had my Hopscotch-going friends preview some of their most anticipated acts.


Most of us here share a Google Doc where we listen to all of the bands and write notes. Mine are, of course, totally bitchy and hilarious, but trying to complete that spreadsheet did help me discover some new music that I hope to catch this weekend.

Much like Natasha Kmeto, who I wrote about here, Holly Herndon is a super talented producer and creator of fantastic electronic music. I know that she is from San Francisco, a city better known for its garage rock than for its electronic scene, and, according to her website, she is a multidisciplinary artist working on a doctorate in Computer Music from Stanford. She is smart and fucking awesome.

In an attempt to search out something completely unlike what I normally see at Hopscotch, I found Survival. They’re on Chicago art rock label Thrill Jockey and play melodic metal ala Baroness. If I’m not too busy crying at Angel Olsen and the line isn’t that bad (they’re two before Kurt Vile), I will definitely see them, perhaps my only metal band of the weekend, as I’m skipping Gorguts (darn).


Last year my first Hopscotch closed out with a bang seeing Danny Brown and Flosstradamus shut down the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM), a newly added venue perfect for the raucous dance party between strangers it turned out to be. This year it looks like the Friday night pairing of Mykki Blanco and Ryan Hemsworth at CAM will do the same.

While the rest of the world debates Miley twerking scandalous or liberating, Mykki Blanco pushes the boundaries of hip hop, performance art and gender expression in ways Miley can’t even dream. A former young arts prodigy/poet, Blanco is the female alter ego created of Michael Quattlebaum Jr. pulling inspiration from Lil Kim, riot grrrl, drag and queercore. Blanco’s two mix tapes, Cosmic Angel and MISS SNOW WHITE are legendary street cuts further breaking down the barriers between commercial hip hop, electronica, spoken word and art.

Closing the night out is DJ/Producer of the moment Ryan Hemsworth (and he is not of the acting Hemsworths). Hemsworth’s unofficial remixes of acts as diverse as Cat Power, Frank Ocean and The Backstreet Boys put him on the map for his blending of moody harmonies with biting rap samples and electronic beats. His current EP Still Awake isn’t the party starter mash ups a la Girl Talk he once did. Hemsworth’s reliance on low fi, intimate sounds create a complexly layered headphone album, where something new is always unveiled.


Sal Mineo

I’m looking forward to hearing Sal Mineo, the new band from Jamie Stewart (Xiu Xiu) and Eugene Robinson (Oxbow). I’ve purposely not looked much into their new collaboration, because the Hopscotch show will be their first public performance and I want to go in as blank as possible. But knowing the names behind the act, I expect something intense, gripping, and uncomfortable.

I will also probably close Hopscotch with Majical Cloudz — I know, I know, that name is godawful. The only way it could be worse is if they were called “Thee Majical Cloudz”. But their songs on Sirius XMU have grown on me, and there was a rawness to their live sessions that I want to check out. Musically, Majical Cloudz reminds me of a less-minimal Perfume Genius, and maybe a bit of Antony. Plus, their down tempo seems like it’ll be a good closer for the weekend as the festival winds down.


Yale grad Ellis Ludwig-Leone leveraged his mastery of composition and was inspired by Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises (San Fermin was key to the novel) over the six weeks that he pulled together San Fermin’s forthcoming debut. It’s reportedly a polyrhythmic dialogue between two central characters, ever-so-operatic in nature. But here’s the thing, you can totally engage in the purported tale of two lovers, delve into the swoops and sweeps of gorgeous arrangements or simply just think it sounds a whole lot like Dirty Projectors, especially with vocals on loan by Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig from Lucius. While this is music for smartypants people who get off dissecting every nuance, there’s also a damn fine experience therein doing nothing more than just casually listening. It will be interesting to see what kind of production Ludwig-Leone puts together for Hopscotch. I’m hoping for something wacky like the inclusion of a mechanical bull (c’mon, bulls and San Fermin go together like sangria and fiestas) or a 2012 Matthew E. White kind of sensory ‘splosion in the auditorium. The latter seems more likely.

Aly Spaltro (Lady Lamb the Beekeeper) lives in Brooklyn and often wears questionable Gloria Steinem glasses (if Kathleen Hanna can’t even pull them off, no one can). Her website is curious cluster of art, scribbly scrapbooks, and other things of the like. I’m glad I actually listened to her music before chalking it entirely up to an inspired-by-Urban-Outfitters endeavor. Spaltro is legit. She used to work at a DVD joint in Brunswick, Maine and killed time teaching herself how to play guitar after her night shift was over. She’d record and distribute homespun discs to customers of the shop and the neighboring indie record store Bull Moose. She’s a juggernaut of unhinged emotion during live shows, oscillating between vulnerable folk singer and electrified bad ass. Girl got mad string skills which is nothing short of awesome to watch and rumor has it these days she’s playing with a full band. Fair warning, this might just result in a collective pants shit.

Hilary is covering Hopscotch for local RVA weekly Style.


I had never heard of Slavic Soul Party! before seeing them in the Hopscotch lineup. After listening to a few tracks online, I’m pretty sure that they are my #1 Must See Act this year. The name of the band contains an exclamation point, and this is the first clue that you had better be ready for some excitement. This group is influenced by klezmer and jazz as well as traditional music of Macedonia and the Balkans. Their shows include a mix of contemporary covers, original and traditional songs. Oh, and they are quite talented at improvising as well, so really who knows what will happen? I am very much looking forward to their energy and “accordion wizardry,” and I am thankful that Hopscotch has included this gem in their lineup this year!

I first learned about Matmos when their album composed solely from medical/surgical sounds was released. If you are in any way intrigued and not completely turned off by that description, then hey! why not come check out Matmos at Hopscotch this year? There’s also a song performed entirely on a rat cage. I had a pet rat once, and he was wicked smart. Probably smart enough to decide to go check out the insane spectacle of a Matmos performance.

Musings on Matthew Dear and Matthew Sweet

The Matthews

Dear, sweet Matthews. They really shouldn’t be that hard to tell apart, right? I mean, Matthew Sweet never listed Nitzer Ebb as a musical influence. Yet, every time I read the Hopscotch schedule, as my eyes pass over the name “Matthew Dear” my brain kicks in to M-Sweet mode and I am suddenly rocking out to Girlfriend. What’s up with that? “I hear you need somebody to love…”


One of the best / most frustrating things about Hopscotch is the sure amount of great music to chose from. Each year my friends and I carve out completely different paths and our only regret is that we can’t be in two, three, or even four places at once. Sometimes, if you’re lucky you can make up for a missed show by catching the same band perform a day party. Other times you just have to live vicariously through tweets and cell phone videos. Below are some of my top “must see” bands for Hopscotch 2013.

Pissed Jeans



Jonathan Kane’s February


Magik Markers

Dan Friel


PJ, my cute husband, is shooting Hopscotch for Spin and his band Hoax Hunters is playing a day party.