A look at some of the local Hopscotch acts

CorrespondentSeptember 6, 2012 

From left, Jil Christensen and Stephen Levitin of Beat Report.

COURTESY OF JIL CHRISTENSEN

  • More information Who: Beat Report, with the Hot at Nights, Jackie Chain and Nick Catchdubs When: 9 p.m. Friday Where: The Hive, Busy Bee Café, 225 S. Wilmington St. Tickets: $75 (1-day pass), $110 (weekend pass) Details: 919-424-7817; hopscotchmusicfest.com

This weekend won’t be Apple Juice Kid’s first time at the rodeo that is known as Hopscotch Music Festival.

The Durham-based, hip-hop DJ/producer/remixer/drummer (real name: Stephen Levitin) was right there at the first one, in 2010, performing with some of the Triangle’s top MCs at the Lincoln Theatre. Last year, he was back, performing at Tir na nOg, this time with Massachusetts native Jil Christensen, a pianist pal of his with a yen for electronic compositions. Together, they formed the group Double Dare, where the pair would create live dance music on the spot, usually with the help of drums, a synthesizer and two DJ rigs synched together. Says the Kid, “We had some creative sparks together, and we knew that collaborating would be a really fun thing, with me coming from the hip-hop production world and Jil coming from ”

Christensen jumps in. “Electronic, like avant-garde electronic – and I’m also a modern composer.”

“Both of us were only interested in doing something that we felt like (hadn’t) really been done before,” he continues. “And, so, we felt like we had tapped into some pretty cool, performance-DJ stuff.”

They remember their performance at last year’s Hopscotch being a transcendent one. “I just remember starting and the room was empty,” says Christensen. “When I get on stage, I just play. I don’t care how many people are there. But, within five minutes, the room just transformed into this packed, crazy dance party. I don’t even know what happened. But it was wall-to-wall people and I don’t know where they came from. The whole experience was incredible.”

“I think it’s the vibe and energy of Hopscotch that allows that,” adds the Kid. “Because people, I guess, can go into any venue at any time and people constantly are trying to get to that 9 o’clock start time. They know when they want to see something. Hopscotch is awesome for that. You just get this awesome intersection of people who are free to, like, come and go as they want.”

Although they were known at that time as Double Dare, the following month, they changed their name to Beat Report. And with that change came a new, subversive way of creating music. “We took it to another level, where we integrated our ethical and political beliefs into the music,” says Christensen, whose visit to Occupy Wall Street fueled the name change.

‘Democratic dance party’

While they have dabbled in creating anthems complete with audio snippets of protest chants (on Beat Report’s Soundcloud page, you can hear both the original and extended-mix versions of their “Occupy Music”), Apple Juice Kid insists they’re not trying to be known as a left-wing, electronic dance music (EDM) outfit. “We’re not like a Democratic dance party,” he says. “We just like to access what revolution is happening anywhere in the world: Occupy, Egypt or wherever – in more, like, an inspirational, social-impact kind of way.”

Christensen, who’s a DJ herself, believes that she and the Kid are merely mixing it up as multi-faceted musicians, melding musical genres with socially conscious content. Instead of raging against the machine, they’re raging with machines. “Our identities as musicians, as working as a unit, have shifted so dramatically,” she said. “It’s always fun to see what’s gonna happen next.”

With EDM fully having a place at this year’s festival (other EDM acts scheduled to perform include Nick Catchdubs and Flosstradamus), Christensen and Apple Juice Kid are fully prepared to deal with detractors who think what they’re doing isn’t true music. “We’re totally not interested in just pressing play and letting it go for three minutes,” says the Juice. “We’re really interested in creating the music.”

‘Kind of an exception’

“We actually do everything live,” says Christensen. “And, so, we’re kind of the exception in the DJ world because none of our mixes are pre-recorded. And we usually know the first 10 seconds of what we’re going to do and the rest is just, you know free improv… I think with having electronic and sound synthesis be so available and much easier to work with that I think people are naturally integrating it, rather than, like, four years ago when I’d bring a laptop onstage and people would freak out.”

“And I think it’s just generally fun to make people dance,” adds Apple Juice. “It’s a pretty satisfying thing.”

While they’re planning to work on more original compositions to perform live, Beat Report is looking forward to giving Hopscotch spectators on-the-fly dance mixes. Apple Juice Kid is certainly glad Hopscotch keeps inviting him back to do it. “I’m totally honored that I have performed at each one,” he says. “The first year is kind of fuzzy.”

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