The second day at Hopscotch was filled with virtuosic performances, many offering captivating exercises in style and technique. The drummer Chris Corsano appeared early, driving a caterwauling noise-rock set alongside Sun City Girls guitarist Alan Bishop and Harry Pussy guitarist Bill Orcutt; he showed up again in the evening to cap a set with the Takoma School guitarist Glenn Jones, adding texture to Jones’ acoustic fingerpicking with an array of unconventional implements—including bowed sheet metal, vibrating bowls and his feet. (I missed Corsano’s solo set, and his cameo with Yo La Tengo.)
William Tyler—a Nashville guitarist known for his tasteful and evocative work in Lambchop and as a touring axeman for the late Charlie Louvin—played a daytime solo set, in which he used loops and field recordings to build a massive psychedelic monument, employing a wide vocabulary of traditional and experimental techniques. He later joined the Durham, N.C. band Hiss Golden Messenger to offer elegant lead guitar perfectly suited to that band’s stirring, spacious folk.
Hiss Golden Messenger’s M.C. Taylor, the former Court & Spark frontman, led a seven-piece band which, in addition to Tyler, contained Phil and Brad Cook of Megafaun, Taylor’s longtime collaborator Scott Hirsh, drummer Terry Lonergan and Nathan Bowles of Virginia string band The Black Twig Pickers. The band was precise in its rhythms, exacting in its tones and effortlessly emotive as a unit, bringing songs from last year’s superlative Poor Moon and some as-yet-unrecorded numbers to a near-capacity audience at Fletcher Opera House, even in spite of the fact that Taylor had already played three daytime solo sets. His is the type of music that begs for and rewards heavy rotation.
And these were but a few technical standouts in a crowded field. New York guitarist Steve Gunn joined drummer John Truscinski for a compelling set of long-form blues interpolations and Americana-twisted raga. Greg Fox, the former Liturgy drummer, lent his unbelievably fast, precise pounding to his new psychedelic outfit Guardian Alien. Jon Mueller reprised his Death Blues performance at a daytime party as well, managing to sound even more powerful in the sanctuary hall of the Long View Center. Baltimore noise-rockers Dope Body mangled their way into infectious grooves; Texas’ Hacienda played what ought to be their last small-room gig to a sardine-canned Slim’s before Cheater Slicks revived their snotty, influential garage rock for the same room.
Pallbearer’s melodic doom was triumphant, and earned an encore, despite their spot in the middle of a bill. Atlanta rapper Killer Mike kept hundreds moving at the end of the night with his incandescent charisma (and a guest appearance from local MCs Joe Scudda and Rapper Big Pooh). Yo La Tengo and Built to Spill reminded their audiences of indie rock’s staying power. The night’s official headliners The Jesus & Mary Chain sounded absolutely massive as their sound reverberated through Raleigh’s main downtown drag.
But of 25 bands I saw on Friday, two share the top honors. After 30 years, Corrosion of Conformity might be on the top of their game, and last night they definitely were. The band has always had extraordinary chops, and its core trio of drummer Reed Mullin, bassist Mike Dean and guitarist Woodroe Weatherman have a unique, necessary chemistry. But tonight, as the band raced through new and old songs, drawing from 1985’s Animosity and this year’s Corrosion of Conformity, they were incendiary. Weatherman, especially, gave new life to the songs, mutating his solos and tossing off complicated runs with unbelievable ease; he managed, somehow, to evoke Ted Nugent and Black Flag’s Greg Ginn at their respective peaks, often within one blistering fill.
Playing behind a piano, with a small chorus of three singers, the Mountain Goats were a sudden change in tone from COC’s big bang, but it was no less affecting at a gut level. John Darnielle’s lyrics have long overshadowed his formidable talents as a player and as a singer able to imbue his lyrics with shades of meaning beyond the printed word. In his first of two back-to-back sets, Darnielle played his first-ever set of cover songs, and heavy metal songs, to boot. He turned a tune from the Swedish band In Solitude into a Satanic hymnal; a Frankenstein-ish Gorguts tale into something like a great Mountain Goats song, and finally, perfectly, ended his set with a rendition of Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark.” With all due respects to Ronnie James Dio, Darnielle effectively re-imagined the song, claiming it as his own and charging it with the sort of emotional resonance Mountain Goats fans adore. Darnielle carried the set with an easy balance of self-awareness and sincerity, but only “Rainbow In The Dark” felt as if it should enter his regular sets.
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