On Friday, the percussion-centric Resonancy series will feature Milford Graves, Susie Ibarra, Booker Stardum, and more.
Kate VanVorst is the talent buyer for AdHoc, the independent events company and publication that programs Kings and Neptunes, two of Hopscotch’s central venues. Since 2018, she has also been curating the Resonancy, a platform for collaborative experiments and percussive performance. Taking the form of a series of Sunday shows in the Winter months, Resonancy is modeled after the idea of an artist residency, but it focuses on artists typically hidden at the back of the stage—the drummers. VanVorst and her co-curator Devon Tuttle have programmed two Winter series so far, along with events and screenings throughout the year.
We caught up with VanVorst about her long history with Hopscotch and what to expect at the Resonancy stage on Friday, September 6 at Fletcher Hall, which features Milford Graves, Susie Ibarra, Booker Stardrum, and a collaborative performance from Nathan Bowles, Dougie Bowne, and Ginger Wagg. The show starts at 8:30 p.m., following a stacked Resonancy day party at Neptune’s, from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
What’s your personal history with Hopscotch?
I’ve been to every Hopscotch in one form or another. When I went to my first Hopscotch, I was living in Durham and hadn’t spent much time in Raleigh at all. I was a big fan of Broken Social Scene, so I drove out to Raleigh, and I can remember getting lost and not knowing my way around. I volunteered at the festival from 2012 through 2014. In 2015 and 2016, I worked directly for the festival stage managing. For the past three years, I’ve managed King and Neptunes during the festival, because these are the venues I work at year-round. So I’ve had lots of different roles.
It [feels like coming] full circle to be asked to curate a night this year. It really meant a lot to me. Hopscotch always feels like this big like marker in my year—probably more than New Year’s. There’s some nostalgia and a self-check-in that’s attached to that. It’s cool to think this is the tenth year of Hopscotch, and I’ve been living in the Triangle for ten years, and I went from literally not knowing where any of the venues are to curating a night.
What would you say is your favorite Hopscotch memory?
There have been lots of special moments in the past few years when I’ve been working. But I think my favorite memories hearken back to the years where I didn’t have to work. I remember one year when there was a crazy storm, and my friends didn’t want to go from venue to venue. I remember taking my shoes off and just running to get from one thing to another, because I was not going to let the rain stop me. Also, at the Pusha T show a few years ago, I had been riding my bike all around and was still wearing my bike helmet inside the show. It was a crazy crowd, and everybody was moshing, so I was really glad I had my bike helmet on.
Tell me about the bill that you put together for the festival this year. Why did you pick the artists that you picked? Were there any commonalities you were trying to highlight?
This felt like this really big opportunity. Resonancy has been this big creative endeavor that we’ve been trying to build over the past couple of years. So [having access to] a bigger budget than I normally get to work with, and a stage like Fletcher Hall, which is such a beautiful-sounding room, is an opportunity to really elevate what we’ve been doing.
Milford Graves is an absolute legend in the world of percussion—especially in avant-garde and experimental percussion. Local percussionist Joe Westerlund studied with Milford and introduced me to his music. As part of the Resonancy series last year, we screened this documentary called Milford Graves Full Mantis, which is a documentary about Milford. He does not perform very much anymore, and he is very selective about the performances he does do. So I felt like I just had to ask.
Susie Ibarra was a student of Milford’s. She’s another amazing percussionist I was introduced to through friends and who has been personally involved with the series. She studied with [Milford] at Bennington, and they stayed in touch and have had these special roles in each other’s lives, especially relating to the music they make. [But] Susie was so pleased to be asked, because she and Milford have never actually played on a bill together before.
Booker Stardrum is someone I met last year. He was playing drums with Lee Ranaldo at Kings for Hopscotch, and we had asked him to do the Winter series, but the dates and timing didn’t work out for him. So he was excited that this year he could come for Hopscotch.
Then the local group Bowles/Bowne/Wagg is Nathan Bowles, Dougie Bowne, and Ginger Wagg. Ginger Wagg is a movement artist. She is going to be dancing and doing movement while Dougie and Nathan play. Nathan Bowles has played the Resonancy series every time we’ve done it, and he’s a good friend. Dougie Bowne has played the series before, and he played our day party at last year’s Hopscotch. The three of them are local, and they’re friends of mine, and they’re all friends, and when we did the Winter series this year, that was actually the first time they’d ever performed together as a group.
That’s the heart of the whole Resonancy platform: to encourage people to do the thing that they
have been thinking of but haven’t had the space, time, or a reason to do.
What do you love the most about being part of the music scene here in North Carolina?
I love so many things about it. There’s such a rich well of talent and support and a growing well of resources for music artists. That infrastructure is really important. Another thing that feels particular and special about this community is that it’s very genuine and feels more honest. The music world can often feel acutely transactional, where it’s kind of like, “Oh, you do this for me, and I’ll do this for you”—or you show up to somebody else’s show because [you] want them to do something for you.
I think if things were like that here, I wouldn’t like it. People do things here because they truly do care about each other. I think the community recognizes the importance of the art and does a lot of work to uphold the values we all share.
How does living here influence the work you do?
It’s influenced by place in that it’s influenced by the people who are here. A lot of the people I’ve met through this work have shaped my taste and exposed me to new kinds of music. Five years ago, I really couldn’t have told you what experimental music was, and now it’s the thing that I’m steeped in.
My curation is influenced by the people here, by the place, in that I am constantly acting like a sponge: trying to absorb as much as I can and [make] connections between those things, then trying to bring them here into the community. It’s really shaped my whole world. I think at other times in my life, I have been intimidated or apprehensive [about not knowing] things, or [not knowing] who people are talking about when they are talking about an artist or a style or something. It can really close things off and make things feel guarded. But this place and these people have influenced me by being welcoming and inclusive and radically encouraging [me in] my exploration of different kinds of music.
I think that’s important for the health of a scene, and for people’s emotional and intellectual health—to have this feeling of inclusiveness, rather than create a fear of “I don’t want to look stupid” or “I don’t want to not know something”. Everybody is so cool about not knowing. It’s special, I think.
– Sarah Riazati