Hopscotch Music Festival, Raleigh, NC (9/12/2015)

Roughly eight Saturdays ago, I joined my Suffolk tag-team partner and sponsor in attending the incredible final day of what I'd now label as "a festival for those who generally don't like festivals."

In a Utopia with an unlimited Belk expense account, I'd witness an event on a Saturday night and present a detailed report on Debra's desk by Monday morning. Unfortunately, any enthusiasm to write about music or anything else has been at its lowest levels since the dark days of 2007. The blahs can't be blamed on alcohol or woman troubles this time, so old-fashioned apathy and laziness are my lame excuses for the extended hiatus. Even if it takes burning the Midnight Oil CD with deep scratches, I'll work on this dang-blasted article until my fingers lose all sensation. Currently, the Swatch on Lisa Bonet's wrist reads 5:37 p.m. If I get crackin' like the eggs I refuse to eat, this runny mess should be on the HN site by Wednesday morning. Let's commence frying.

Amidst a severe rainfall that made traveling in parts of Windsor and Wakefield, VA, seem like we were at the helm of a pirate ship, "Captain" Hoyt March and I arrived in Raleigh, NC, for the Hopscotch Music Festival's closing ceremonies. After expertly steering the S.S. Tundra into a parking slip thinner than the Skipper's hairline, we carefully paced along the state capital's notoriously hilly terrain. Furnishing our passes to an attendant guarding the roped-off area, Raleigh locals American Aquarium swam thru their final numbers and hooked the crowd with an agreeable Drive-By Truckers/Bottle Rockets ripple. During a sample listen to 'em en route, I took note of a Flamin' Groovies name-check in one particular cut. For that alone, AA deserved the largest tank from the now-shuttered Animal Jungle's storage stock.

Drawing heavily from the classic Los Angeles and Wild Gift LPs, X marked their spot on the makeshift stage and filled more than ten frames with consistent pocket strikes. Exene Cervenka and John Doe's amazingly blended vocals (Trouser Press likened their harmonies to early Jefferson Airplane) effortlessly knocked down still-sturdy pins such as "Adult Books," "Johnny Hit And Run Pauline," "The Once Over Twice" and the esteemed debut's title track. Having been AWOL at earlier X gigs at The NorVa, I was ecstatic to finally see the band perform "White Girl," "Nausea" and "Your Phone's Off The Hook..." with a nascent spirit betraying their 35-year age. Notable absence: Billy Zoom, one of the finest string-benders irrespective of genre, was still recovering from effects of "The Big C," but an understudy ably proved his skill via the Chuck Berry/Johnny Ramone/Eddie Cochran-grade riffage that has always powered the group's motor. Favorite moment: "The Unheard Music" possessed a droning quality akin to the intonations of Jonathan Richman and David Byrne at their most otherworldly. Save for a possibly intentional "It's great to be in Durham!" utterance from Doe, the thick throng joined Hoyt and me in repeatedly applauding X's perfect game of an evening.

A brief shower gave way to the headliner's request regarding flash photography. OH, SNAP! Doyle Hargraves himself found a ride to Raleigh! At this point, the awaiting mass swelled enough to call my claustrophobia into question. For an opportunity to catch Dwight Yoakam, however, I would've squeezed into Boss Hogg's convertible with the entire cast from Hazzard County. Regarding the GM luxury brand, "Guitars, Cadillacs" was just one of many vintage makes that rolled into Hopscotch on this clear night. Though very little stage banter came from Yoakam, "Ain't That Lonely Yet," "Honky Tonk Man" and "A Thousand Miles From Nowhere" passed the factory tests for voice activation with flying colors. One previous owner of a pink Caddy had received a clean CARFAX print-out, as cruise-controlled readings of "Little Sister" and "Suspicious Minds" repeated the vehicle's history. A generous lease program on "Ring Of Fire" made the Cash payment in one lump sum. "Fast As You" and "Turn It On, Turn It Up, Turn Me Loose" roared with the maximum acceleration of a 700-plus horsepower Dodge Challenger pulling out of Starr Motors in Suffolk. Practicing with Randy and friends has really paid dividends for Doyle, for top billing at Hopscotch on Saturday night was a thousand miles from his girlfriend's front porch.

In short, the festival killed like a lawnmower blade.

VIDEO: Dwight Yoakam plays "Suspicious Minds" at the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, NC, Sept. 12, 2015:

Gunther 8544

Give me 20 days to write something for Hardcore Norfolk, and I'll piss away 19 of 'em.  Which is why my career caps on the site hover around 30 instead of 300.  Nonetheless, I am occasionally inspired by talented folks who call the Tidewater area home.  Believe it or not, glowing marks have been awarded to individuals unbeknownst to me.  My mathematician side would like to construct an NCAA March Madness-like bracket representing the 64 greatest bands in our region's history.  Perhaps Debra, Paul and I will assemble in a conference room somewhere in Suffolk and bring the draw sheet to life.