Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh
Saturday, September 9, 2017

Can we get another round of applause for Phonte? In lieu of a scheduled set on Saturday from ILOVEMAKKONEN that didn’t materialize, the Little Brother/Foreign Exchange member and Raleigh resident was brought in Saturday morning to patch things with a rare solo performance at City Plaza. As he hilariously framed the situation during his set: “Thank you Makonnen for canceling, you are paying for my wedding night.”

There were more jokes, and also a spectacular rap set of the sort that’s all too rare on larger stages in 2017. Sing-along backing tracks and live guitar players were nowhere to be heard, just a rapper spitting athletically through his mighty discography for almost an hour. Phonte is a North Carolina treasure and must be protected at all costs.

One fun thing about Hopscotch that is the lineup’s genre eclecticism often means that the taxonomy of “live visuals” is equally varied and strange. For example, while Big Boi used kitschy 2000s cartoon iconography and animation, and Alessandro Cortini complemented his set at The Basement with projections of home movies (while playing from the soundboard on the other side of the room, no less). Attend enough sets and you will see all kinds of odd images. I can’t shake Sand Pact’s set at Kings on Friday, which featured surreal selections like the chair-wrestling scene from Gummo and terrifying shock photos of children’s faces and Japanese game footage.

The most innovative “visuals” of the whole festival were not even visuals in this sense. The dreampop supergroup Sound of Ceres, a sizable collaboration that includes Candy Claws’ Ryan and Karen Hover and Robert Schneider of Apples In Stereo, played at Fletcher Opera Theater and brought along an intricate collections of projectors, lights and lasers. Somewhere between a typical concert and a performance art piece, the group’s set was based around a larger concept about space, hence its colorful shape projections all over the ceiling and their positioned laser that twisted into various shapes like crosses and stars in front of them. The show even started with a pre-recorded explanation that called it a “7D experience,” as if we were all in a planetarium about to observe. It felt incredibly ambitious and fascinating, especially for dreampop, a genre often happy to use vaguely druggy visuals and let the audience do the rest.

Jlin’s cancellation due to fears over the hurricane came as a downer to me, as I had been anticipating her set for months. Lunice had been quietly added to the CAM Saturday night schedule before Jlin’s departure, and now I’m forever thankful. Like many, I previously saw him at Hopscotch 2015, but the second time was even better. Partially owing to his days as a b-boy dancer, he’s a master live salesman of his own music. Plenty of d.j.s twist knobs, but few do it with more verve and finesse than him. He rarely stays behind the gear for more than half a song either, always darting stagefront to dance with the crowd.

Machinedrum, who has long been underrated as an North Carolina export, finished out the night at the cavernous Basement. He’s from Charlotte but currently lives in Los Angeles, so the show was something of a homecoming for him (he even tweeted that his parents were coming). Sadly the crowd dwindled a bit, whether from exhaustion or to check out recent viral EDM-country star Branchez at CAM. I ducked out towards the end but I loved what I saw of his eclectic mix of glitch-cut future bass, rave revival, and Dilla-ish beat music. Those genre tags don’t even do him justice—he’s a hard dude to pigeonhole.