All photos by Emily Price
The crowd drifted in and out all night. The experimental and patient nature of these artists rewarded those who stayed with an open mind. This wasn’t the type of show to just drop in on.
Things kicked off with Megafaun improvising an ambient tune on stage. Phil Cook was on guitar, Joe Westerlund on drums and Brad Cook operated a laptop and sampler. The resulting song was sparse and open. Some drones came from the sampler, singular guitar notes hung in the hair and the drums were brushed as lightly as possible.
Greg Davis and Ben Vida had their electronic boards set up on a table in front of the stage. The crowd gathered around watch their hands at work. The song grew denser and heavier as they played and it wasn’t something you heard as much as you felt it. The sounds shook the body and the effect was magnified if you were siting on one of the benches.
The crowd swelled a bit as the Jeb Bishop Trio took they stage. Their free-form jazz set started with some gurgling noises and slid into a messy wall of sound. Jeb Bishop, who has played with Superchunk, Will Oldham and many others, played trombone most of the night, but also switched to Baritone occasionally. As the night went on, their sound began to resemble more traditional and recognizable jazz. They ended with “Round Two”, the most rocking song of the night so far.
Marissa Nadler stood at the mic while the audience chatted about. It was a couple minutes before she said, “I play really quiet music,” and politely asked that the crowd quiet down or leave if they didn’t want to listen. It was something that needed to be said, but it only worked for about half a song. The crowd did thin out, but many were still talking. Nadler was clearly put off by this and her performance suffered. While she still sang beautifully, she lacked confidence. Musicians need to be able to overcome tough crowds and Nadler was not up to the task.
Audience members joined the next act, Keith Whitman, on stage when he invited them to “break the fourth wall.” His equipment on the stage floor, he began to slowly build an electronica soundscape. It was the kind of music that will turn your brain to goo and the crowd ate it up.
Just after 12:30 a.m., Megafaun returned to the stage to a capacity crowd. It was performance that will be remembered for a long time. The band was pumped up and sweat was dripping off them after only 2 songs. Django Haskins from the Old Ceremony joined the band on stage for some added guitar heft. His presence really encouraged the band to take it up a notch and afterwards Phil Cook said, “I’ve never played my guitar that loud in my entire life!”
The highlights just kept coming. After his opening vocal improv on “Eagle”, Westerlund said, “Flava Flav ain’t got shit on this!” Joe Hall from Hammer No More the Fingers and Haskins joined the band to end the set and Brad Cook was teaching them how to play the song on stage just before they exploded into “Lazy Suicide” and chaos broke loose on stage.
With the stage trashed, Megafaun’s encore took place in the audience. A circle gathered around as the band as they covered The Band. Everyone sang together and there was no better way to end the Hopscotch Music Festival than with a powerful reminder of what it stood for: Community.