Sunday, September 8, 2013

Hopscotch: The Ultramarathon of Music Festivals

To be clear, I have never actually run an ultra marathon.

Back in 2003, I backpacked Europe and went to a 4-day music festival in Belgium called Rock Werchter, which was another endurance event of sorts.  The headliners that year were Radiohead, Bjork, Coldplay, R.E.M., and Metallica (who was far and away the most 'popular' band there amongst the Belgians).  I was just out of college at the time, and they gave out pints of free Stella Artois if you helped gather discarded beer cups.  So my friend Matt and I spent the entire day Metallica headlined collecting trash and drinking free Stella.  To this day, it amuses me when I see commercials on TV marketing Stella as a classy import beer.

Fast forward ten years, and Matt and I mutually decided we needed to do another multi-day music festival.  For one reason or another I've been out of town for each of the last three Hopscotches.  Matt just moved back to Raleigh, which gave the perfect set up.  And at 31, I can afford to finance drinking beer without collecting trash.

3 days.  175 bands.  15 venues.  And that's just what's on the official set list.  All weekend, beginning Thursday, there are various day parties as well.  In theory, one could go pretty much nonstop from about noon each day until 4 in the morning.

I wore a new pair of Mizuno Wave Elixirs all weekend.  This was a good call.  These are my favorite and most versatile pair of running shoes.  Whether you are hammering out a tempo run around the Washington Duke trail or are speed walking from Five Star to the Pour House and have a narrow window of time between sets, having good lightweight shoes helps.  At a 3 day festival, you can imagine you will spend a great deal of time on your feet.

Here were some other takeaways and high points from the weekend...

The venue called the Longview Center is actually a church, complete with pews and all, which is cool for a certain style of music.  This was our introduction to Hopscotch, with Skylar Gudasz.

From there, we saw Angie Olsen at Fletcher Opera Theatre.  I quickly learned venue choice matters just as much as the artist itself.  Olsen was originally one of my alternates, but the acoustics added so much to her set.  I was also amused that she kept smirking at the audience.

Then it was Beloved Binge, a local band, at Berkeley Cafe.  One of the quirky things about Hopscotch is you can go from an opera hall to drinking PBR in a small dive bar to a band wearing glittered tuxedos in a matter of minutes.

Marnie Stern is just as intense live as I had hoped she would be.  She plays barefoot and keeps her purse sized dog backstage.  And the cool thing was I was able to close enough in Lincoln Theatre, one of the relatively larger venues, to see this.  Great crowd energy for this one.  I really like her stuff, "For Ash" is one of my new favorite running songs.

I saw some of Kurt Vile there too, but three songs in I had enough of a feel.

So we hiked all the way across town to the CAM, which as it turns out was the wrong venue for the long time punk rockers, Oblivians, who would have been much better served in a less open venue, without lights blaring on the stage.  I ended up not going back to the CAM - although it became somewhat a goal of ours to hit every venue at some point (we came close).

And that was just one night... Thursday.

We missed the day parties on Friday, due to a sometimes inconvenient but necessary part of my life called work, but from there caught the City Plaza acts - Gross Ghosts, Future Islands (and their histrionic frontman), and Holy Ghost! who I believe have a new album coming out this week with "Dynamics".

Five Star was at the far end of the venue range, but was a good place to grab a beer and watch Deleted Scenes, who played with a bit more energy than I expected based on what I heard on Spotify.  That was the great realization with most of Hopscotch - at the right sized venue, a band that I almost dismissed ended up delivering.

We ran across town for the back end of Dan Friel at The Hive, which was probably the weakest venue of the bunch.  It was almost like we were at a bar with some electronic music in the background.  I would have liked to have been able to see and hear more.  Busy Bee is a fine place to grab a beer or a bite to eat, but I found watching a set upstairs there to be difficult.  We met up with our friend and Raleigh Little Theatre Executive Director Charles Phaneuf here and his friends from DC.  Then we ran across town and caught the back end of the A-Trak set and then hit Memorial Auditorium for some of Local Natives.

Waxahatchee was one of the few bands I had actually some familiarity with well prior to the show.  Kennedy Theatre was a good space in the sense that it provided the right acoustics for Katie Crutchfield's vocals.

Saturday I put in a quick run around the Five Points area and then prepared for another full day...

We went over to the Raleigh Little Theatre day party and watched some more music and caught up with friends.  The weather was nearly perfect for the weekend, at least in the shade.  Then we crossed the Boylan Bridge and went to Rebus Works for the tail end of another day party.

After a short break and 15 minute nap, we were back to the main stage for The Breeders' "Last Splash" (a good throwback, as I remembered Cannonball from the Charlotte alt-radio station back in the mid-90s).

We began the evening Saturday with Plume Giant at Deep South.  First time I'd ever been to the venue, and I liked the space.  It had an open and airy feel to it, although we poked some fun at some of the lyrics on the wall (you are literally immersed in music at this place, which was fitting for this weekend).

I was really impressed with San Fermin at Fletcher.  There seems to be a fair bit of talent in this band, so I could see them getting big potentially, but as we all know, that seems to require a certain degree of luck.

By this point, Pour House was one of the few venues we hadn't been to, and I really wanted to see The Everymen.  We left San Fermin to hike back up to that area, and thankfully the punk outfit from Jersey really brought some great energy to back up that decision.  They were an entertaining band in the right venue, easily one of the highlights of the whole Hopscotch experience.

Then we finally made it to Kings Barcade.  I wasn't sure if I was going to be into Adult. based on what I heard on Spotify, but I actually did enjoy it a fair bit.  Going from Jersey punk to Detroit techno showed some of the diversity of the whole experience, although I'll be the first to admit I skipped all the hip hop, country, or most of the really hard metal stuff.

So now we had a choice... one more show left.  At this point, venue seemed to trump band.  I would have liked to see Big Black Delta, but CAM was far away and uninspiring the night before.  So that's how we ended up at Pissed Jeans.

So our Hopscotch experience began in a church and ended near a mosh pit listening to a punk band with a lead singer twerking shirtless on stage with a belt tied around his torso and tear-off jeans, berating the corporate sponsors.

Somehow I managed the energy Sunday morning for an 8 mile run at Umstead, listening to some 'new' (but actually older) Marnie Stern, Big Black Delta and Matthew Dear.  Despite 3 days on my feet, 20 bands, and all but 2 of the 15 venues, I somehow managed to close the run out with a 6-flat mile.  Where I had that energy left, I don't know... but I guess I'm in good shape now.

My philosophy this summer was "less stress" and I'm trying to keep that momentum up through the fall.  If I wanted to go out for some beer and a pizza on a Monday, I'll do that and not worry about keeping with a strict diet, etc... it's a new 'zen' approach to the sport and life.  If I want to go to a three day music festival, I'll do that too.  It helps that there are no marathons planned for me this fall, but probably a lot of shorter races.  In contrast to last summer's 40 miles per week, I was only putting in about 25 this summer, mostly short but quality type runs, often in the later afternoon.  Thankfully it was not a terribly hot summer.

Since then I've worked my way back up to 40, although this week was a bit lower.

I have the Mag Mile on my agenda, hoping for my first sub-5 since high school, and then hopefully a sub-17:30 5K at some point this fall, and maybe a fast 10 miler in late October.  But again, no stress.  I'm enjoying running now more than ever by 'living in the moment' and hope it stays that way.

No comments:

Post a Comment