Friday, September 07, 2012

Hopscotch 2012 Day 1: Matthew E. White, Deerhoof, Liars

All photos by Kevin Norris
In just three years, Hopscotch has become one of the most respected music festivals in the country. One reason for this is the truly unique sets its organizers put together. The first night of Hopscotch 2012 was no exception.

In Fletcher Opera Theater, Matthew E. White and 30 other musicians (including the Triangle’s own Phil Cook) recreated White’s adventurous new album, Big Inner, live. White stood center stage straddled by bass, drums and keys. Behind him were sections of strings, back up vocalists, and winds.

The amount of musicians on stage reflected the amount of work that it took to make this set happen. White said that festival co-director Grayson Currin had been talking about making this happen since before “even 10 people heard the album.”

White mixes experimentation amongst familiar sounds from the past. At first the crowd remained seated to take in all the beauty, but right before a particularly funky groove, White invited the audience to get down in whatever way was most comfortable. Soon after many folks moved to the front of the stage and began dancing.

In the neighboring Memorial Auditorium, noise-pop extraordinaires Deerhoof and dance-punk titans Liars provided more aggressive experiments. Both groups’ music is challenging and they confront their audiences directly.

Deerhoof was everything one could expect and more. The dichotomy between Satomi Matsuzaki’s cute vocals and immense face-melting power of the band is striking live. Drummer Greg Saunier is an animal at the trap set. He plays with a joyful fury and produces incredible volume. John Dieterich simply wails on guitar. His jarring riffs are mesmerizing.

Liars shook the walls with heart-stopping beats and unabated noise. The band members seemed incredibly calm considering the savage sounds that they were creating.

I only caught the end of their set, but it was a full body experience. Their sound isn’t just rhythm and volume; it’s texture as well. Each of the few songs I listened to from the back of the auditorium quite literally had a different feel.

Matthew E. White


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