Hopscotch Music Festival: The Flaming Lips, Das Drip, Kilbourne, Lee Ranaldo
wn Raleigh
Thursday, September 6, 2018

Thursday is always something of a ramp up day for Hopscotch. You scoot out from work when you can, pick up your wristband, maybe catch a few day show sets if you hurry. (Or, you duck out entirely because you’ve got a day job to get to bright and early Friday morning.)

I managed to jet downtown early this year and started my Hopscotching at the always memorable DiggUp Tapes Orientation in Space party at Kings. After warming up downstairs at Neptunes at the Big Mood party, where I soaked in the energetic, springy indie-punk of Knoxville’s wonderful Caps, I zoomed upstairs to finally catch Washington, D.C.’s Flasher in action. Their most recent record, Constant Image, is cemented in my top ten list of 2018 albums, and live, they were just as thrilling. As a lean three-piece, they invigorate post-punk with an immediately accessible, distinctly D.C. energy that’s danceable and marvelously zany.

Later at the festival proper, The Flaming Lips brought their usual overdriven spectacle to City Plaza, returning to the same stage they played at Hopscotch seven years ago. Looking back, I didn’t catch them in 2011, because I had a three-day club-only wristband that cost $65. Now, that price seems incredibly thrifty. In typical Lips fashion, the band announced their presence with theatrical classical music and immediately rocketed into “Race for the Prize,” the staple from their 1997 indie-psych touchstone, Soft Bulletin, complete with cannons firing rainbow confetti in every direction and about thirty gigantic balloons entering the City Plaza fray.

Besides running over to catch anarchic local punks Das Drip rip an incredibly energetic set at Slim’s, I lurked most of the night in the Kings-Neptunes complex. A fine mix of gauzy synth-pop and straight-ahead indie rock upstairs helped provide some respite from the wonderfully unpredictable hard-edged stuff underground. The packed crowd upstairs at Kings bopped along to Australia’s Hatchie, who spikes her pillowy dreampop with slightly higher BPMs and Go-Betweens jangle.

At Kings, Sonic Youth linchpin Lee Ranaldo made things a gazillion times weirder. People always call him the secret weapon of the band’s staggering multi-decade run, and watching him work, it’s easy to understand why. It was a ranging, eclectic set that, at one point, featured Lee playing his guitar with mallets and a lot of other really odd, fucked up sounds.

Back downstairs, Brooklyn’s Kilbourne threw down a skeletal, absolutely menacing set. Their music, brash and high speed and highly uncompromising, takes cues from the squelched rhythms of 2000s happy hardcore. That’s not typically a genre that is beloved among aesthetes, but as we know, genre is constantly reevaluated, and what was once corny and niche will become distinctive and fresh tomorrow for those exact odd characteristics. It made for a wonderfully fun set, the kind of stuff you would want to pummel your face on a concrete block to, in the best way.