For two years now, I’ve been forced to choose between Greensboro’s Folk Festival and Raleigh’s Hopscotch Music Festival. And for the second time in a row I chose Hopscotch.
Hopscotch returns for its seventh year, and from September 8-10 continues to bring a diverse lineup to North Carolina’s music fans.
Since Greg Lowenhagen and Grayson Currin organized the festival in 2010, it has grown from small clubs in Raleigh to larger venues such Red Hat Amphitheater and Memorial Auditorium. Headliners this year included national touring acts such as Erykah Badu, Gary Clark Jr, Young Thug and Television. Hopscotch also made room for North Carolina’s budding local music scene. Durham’s Sylvan Esso was a headliner, and Raleigh’s Boulevards and Chapel Hill’s Sneakers played opening slots for larger acts. All of this was also happening in conjunction with free day parties throughout the city, which showcased smaller North Carolina artists.
Having attended the festival over six times myself, I’ve learned the importance of balancing time at shows, but also exploring the festival itself. Hopscotch takes place in downtown Raleigh with performances scattered throughout the various venues and bars.
Starting out on Thursday night I saw indie-rock duo Wye Oak at the City Plaza, then made my way to an excellent set by Secret Guest at Kings. After wandering from venue to venue, I stumbled upon Quilt, a psychedelic-rock group with an eye for 1960’s fashion. From there, I got to jam out to hit after hit by legendary rock group Television at Memorial Auditorium. Next door at Fletcher Theatre I saw country group Lambchop, who’ve skillfully implemented autotune into their live show.
On Friday night I was blown away by Anderson .Paak and the Free Nationals, who graced the crowd with their unique blend of soul, funk, and hip-hop .Paak alone proved to be quite the showman. Performing a high energy rap show while dancing, singing, and drumming, occasionally all at the same time, proved to be quite the spectacle. Before his song “Without You” played, he took a moment to acknowledge his connection to the area, and addressed producer Ninth Wonder and rapper Rapsody, the latter of whom came on stage to perform. The two killed it. Absolutely killed it. By the end of Anderson Paak’s set it was apparent this man is going to go down as a legend.
Young Thug performed at the Memorial Auditorium, a venue normally dedicated to symphonies and musicals. Before Young Thug, Raleigh artist Boulevards brought the funk back with an invigorating set. He’s stylish and fun with a real command of the stage. After last’s years amazing set, he returned with a live drummer, a longer set and a lot more experience from touring. Having signed to Captured Tracks last fall, it’s becoming more and more likely that he’s gonna be North Carolina’s next big thing.
On Saturday, Sylvan Esso used their headlining slot to premiere a handful of new songs from their highly anticipated second LP. Since their last set at Hopscotch, they’ve grown increasingly popular, and after extensive touring, were able to bring their evolved live show back to the festival. Older songs have been reimagined since the first album, keeping them fresh as ever. As for the new material, the lyrics are more nostalgic, the production is sleeker and the duo overall seems more confident.
After their set I made my way to CAM Raleigh for a night of dance music provided by Oak City Slums, Suzi Analogue, Earthly and Mr. Carmack. By the time Mr. Carmack took the stage, it seemed like anyone who was notable had showed up. This included festival founder Greg Lowenhagen and Future Islands’ frontman Samuel Herring (who later took the mic and started rapping). Carmack played banger after banger, including his remixes of Run The Jewels, “Oh Darling Don’t Cry” and Kanye West’s “Heartless”.
As Carmack DJ’ed late into the night, I eventually succumbed to exhaustion, returning home to recuperate before Monday’s classes. Hopscotch beat me again, but I’ll keep coming back year after year.