Despite a generous helping of rain on its first night, Hopscotch 5 is in full swing, with Thursday night delivering everything from-pop rock to noise and a whole lot in between. The festival proper kicked off with sets from hip-hop outfits Toon and the Real Laww and De La Soul in City Plaza. Most of the City Plaza shows to date have felt lackluster, and this one wasn’t much of an exception. Both sets were good, with Toon and the Real Laww working extra-hard to hype up the crowd, but these efforts fell short at times. The boom of the noise r ebounding off the sides of City Plaza buildings made the mix feel muddled and a bit washed-out, a feeling highlighted by the clouds creeping low.
Locals Wild Fur and Body Games shone, however, with early-evening sets at the Lincoln Theatre and the Kennedy Theatre, respectively. Wild Fur’s slightly synthy but twangy rock tunes threw back to the Drughorse Collective, a former loose group of local musicians whose members formed acts like The Light Pines, The Love Language, Max Indian and more. Though they were first on a five-band bill that ended with The War on Drugs, the outfit would have done well in a later slot, too. Body Games, on the other hand, drove its crowd wild with its thick electronic tunes. Strange, colorful projections floated overhead as the band delighted through its dark set, backlighted by Jonah Hill and scenes from Disney’s Robin Hood.
A highlight of the evening—and it may be early to call it, but probably the whole festival—was New Music Raleigh Presents: Future Shock and IIII, both at the Fletcher Opera Theater. Surprisingly, the transition from Body Games to New Music Raleigh wasn’t as inelegant as one might expect. The performance began with a haunting performance by Karen Galvin of a piece called Dissolve, O My Heart. The sounds of the thunderclaps of the storm outside rumbled through ever so quietly as Galvin played, giving a spooky if not entirely appropriate backdrop to the sound. Four more musicians joined to perform Exchange by Daniel Wohl, rounding the stage out into a proper string quartet with Shawn Galvin managing an electronic arsenal behind them. Future Shock was essentially a composition for string quartet-turned-synth. The instruments onstage were all “classical” string instruments, but the sounds coming from them sounded much like someone fiddling with a Moog, oozing and squealing and wailing all at once.
IIII also had an electronic background, but its 14 drummers were a complete about-face of NMR’s gentler style. Analog synths ostensibly anchored IIII, but it was of course the percussion that was most remarkable. The group’s first composition began a little subdued, and for a few minutes, it was underwhelming for someone who had come expecting a mighty noise. But patience is a virtue; the percussion swelled into a fever pitch before spiraling out of control. The eventual din was fantastic, exactly what you’d expect from 14 drummers banging on their kits all at once.
It would be difficult to follow such an immense pair of performances without being let down, but Brooklyn-based outfit Landlady did well at Tir Na Nog. Frontman Adam Schatz used to be in the freaky indie pop-rock outfit Man Man, a fact that revealed itself in nuanced ways throughout the set, especially in terms of the band’s energy. Landlady’s tunes are rooted in rock, but they have enough elements of other styles that it’s tough to pin down exactly what the band does. Whatever it is, it’s fun, and it’s good. Schatz encouraged the disappointingly sparse audience to gather together at the front of the stage in order to better connect with each other and appreciate its shared experiences—love, loss, the whole deal. Ultimately, this maneuver reflected what Hopscotch is all about: Strangers and friends being pushed together and sharing and connecting over something new.