If you haven’t checked out the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, North Carolina - I would add it to your list of festivals to attend next year! Although I have lived here for many years, this is my first time being able to attend. In its seventh annual year, this festival started Thursday, September 8th and wrapped up Saturday, September 10th. Hopscotch is so much more than just a ‘run of the mill headliner’ festival. There is a design festival, free day parties, and a very eclectic choice in music genres. This year’s lineup included Erykah Badu, Beach House, Gary Clark Jr, Andrew Bird, Television, Young Thug and more. The Hopscotch Design Festival invites innovative thinkers, designers, artists, and speakers to share their talents and thoughts on the future of design. The collective idea behind the Design Festival is to inspire and connect creative people together. There were several workshops and exhibits. Raleigh is a fairly progressive and supportive city, despite what it looks like from the outside. Now let’s get down to the music…
Part of what makes this festival unique is the fact that it is hosted by 12 different venues, all throughout downtown Raleigh. Some of the venues are a mile apart. I wish that there was more direction on how to get to different venues. Even though I live here, I found myself having to Google map directions to different venues. Unless you are planning on using a cab or the bus line, prepare to wear comfortable walking shoes. I found myself in a dilemma Thursday night because I wanted to catch a bit of Junglepussy, after checking them out prior to the festival. I was at Lincoln Theater beforehand and it was about a 17 minute walk to get to CAM, but I needed to be back at Lincoln Theater an hour after the show would start. I ended up skipping it and catching Palm at the Pour House. I would suggest mapping out your planned route prior to the festival, so you can accommodate times for walking or taking an Uber to catch a show.
My Thursday evening started with Wolf Parade at the main City Plaza stage. This outdoor main stage was set up in the middle of a closed off street, and accommodated a fair amount of people. Wolf Parade had a great vibe! After the show ended I walked down to Lincoln Theater to check out Grohg, a local metal band. I have seen them before, but not at this venue. Though it wasn’t crowded, the crowd was having a good time. From there I headed to the Pour House for Palm. I didn’t check out Palm prior to going to the show so I wasn’t sure what I was in for. Palm is best described as a noise rock band. I really enjoyed their set. It ended abruptly and left my questioning how to process some of what I had just heard. I would suggest watching them live. Unfortunately, I didn’t make it back over to Lincoln Theater for the Converge show but according to other friends who went – it was an awesome show. Kudos to Ben Koller for playing with Mutoid Man at 10:30pm and then back at it again with Converge at 12:30am!
Friday was probably my least active night. This was the first year Redhat Amphitheater hosted a show for Hopscotch. I have seen at least a dozen shows at Redhat and it is one of my favorite outdoor venues in Raleigh. That being said, the way they handled Saturday nights schedule could use some improvement. Redhat hosted a single show, meaning your Hopscotch ticket would get you in but you could also purchase a separate ticket for just this set. Out of all of the shows, this was by far what I was looking forward to the most before the festival- Gary Clark Jr. at 6:30pm, followed by one of my favorite artists, Erykah Badu at 8pm. Due to work circumstances; I didn’t make it to Gary Clark Jr.’s set. I highly recommend seeing him if you are given the opportunity! I saw a Redhat Facebook post ahead of time stating Erykah’s flight was delayed and the set was pushed back to 9:15pm. Not surprising, as she is pretty notorious for being late. I arrived around 8:30pm, grabbed a beer, and got comfortable. The crowd started to get antsy when it hit 10pm and there was still no announcement, and no Erykah in sight. Around 10:15pm the band started jamming on stage and eventually she came out and gave a decent performance. Though there was a good energy in the crowd, there was definitely a feeling of disappointment in the air. This set delay cost me seeing Boulevards and Young Thug. During a festival, time is precious, and sometimes you end up missing shows you planned on seeing. They let her play a pretty fair set given the outdoor sound ordinance rules in Raleigh. It was pretty late on a work night after her set, so I missed out on Twin Peaks, who went on at 12:30am.
Saturday was by far my favorite day of the festival. The highlight of my article would be to praise Sylvan Esso. I fell in love with Sylvan prior to Bonnaroo 2015. I only caught half her set due to a schedule conflict at Roo so I was super excited to see her in a smaller setting in my neck of the woods! The indie folk pop duo consists of Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn. Both are from Durham which helped them connect with the crowd immediately. Nick sported a “FU HB2” shirt on set and they touched on the subject of HB2 during their set. This was by far my favorite set of Hopscotch. They didn’t stop dancing once the beat started. What I love most about Sylvan Esso is that they dance to the beat of their own drum (literally). The energy that they brought was just incredible. Their set was basically one giant, crowded, sweaty, sexy dance party. I noticed that there weren’t a lot of cell phones out, which was rare occurrence at other shows during this festival. This was noticeably one of the most interactive shows I caught at Hopscotch. Amelia also mentioned that their first show ever was Hopscotch 2013. After Sylvan Esso’s set, I walked over to catch Crete, a local band with a very “divey” feel. From there I went to the Damon/Dorji Duo set. I wasn’t sure what I was in for, and I experienced a type of show I’ve never seen before. Consisting of Tashi Dorji and Tyler Damon, they were an experimental drums/percussion and electric guitar set. There were obscure drum patterns and rhythmic guitar riffs. Sometimes they synced together, sometimes they did not. It was intriguing and ecstatic and though not my usual set to catch, I enjoyed watching something new and creative. That was how I ended my Hopscotch 2016.
I would highly suggest going to this festival if you want to experience super talented, lesser known bands, with some bigger headliners thrown in. Hopscotch definitely helped me explore through genres I wouldn’t normally go see. I can’t wait for 2017!