I never got to see Fugazi live. During the brief window that came after I found out who they were and before they were on an indefinite hiatus, they never performed anywhere near me. But just before The Messthetics hit Wicked Witch’s stage, late at Hopscotch last night, I turned to a friend from D.C. and said, “This is probably the closest I’ll ever get to seeing Fugazi live.” She thought for a second and then nodded, resigned.
The Messthetics—Brendan Canty on drums, Joe Lally on bass, and Anthony Pirog on guitar—could never be confused for Fugazi, even if they have Fugazi’s rhythm section. Their brand of instrumental rock, egged on by Pirog’s jazz chops and extensive effects rig, pushes them far afield from Fugazi’s concise, political post-punk.
But echoes were there. Lally prefaced the set by affirming that black lives matter and professing hope for a time when we could all just live together. Once they started playing, Canty and Lally made for a tight and propulsive rhythm section, with the same kinds of syncopation (I hesitate to call it “funk”) that undergird the best of their former band’s songs.
Meanwhile, Pirog unleashed wave after wave of guitar theatrics. On one song, he alternated between some splattering, proggy pitch-shifting and buzzsaw riffing. On another, he pulled out waves of surf guitar tremolo. The set closer started with some woozy atmospherics that suddenly gave way to what sounded like bolts of pure blinding light. They gradually slowed those bolts down, revealing them to be a four-note riff, which they then danced around.
It was a weird first night of Hopscotch. Thanks to Hurricane Dorian, the City Plaza shows happened at the Ritz, and downtown Raleigh felt empty, even for a Thursday. During the requisite dashes between venues, most of what I heard was wind gusts passing through buildings and trees. An early festival highlight was the distinctive, melodious chattering of the Raleigh Convention Center’s shimmer wall; its thousands of aluminum tiles gently vibrated with each new squall. Had I not been trying to get from the Wicked Witch to Kings as quickly as possible to catch Boris, I would have stopped to listen more.
When I arrived, Boris was already fifteen minutes into a midnight set, and Kings was jammed both physically and sonically. Over the forty-five minutes, Boris reminded me that they remain metal’s great shapeshifters, moving through different subgenres with ease. Sometimes they played speed metal, sometimes funeral doom, sometimes noisy thrash, all of them louder and denser than you’d think a trio could manage.
At one point, I heard guitarist Wata unwind something like five layers of distinct guitar noise at the end of a song. My favorite moments tended to be on the doomier end of the spectrum, when Wata and Takeshi let their guitars ring while Takeshi and drummer Atsuo—looking like an RPG hero with a shock of white hair framing his face, black lipstick, and black gloves—sung beautifully twining harmonies.
Support independent local journalism. Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.