Hopscotch returned to the streets of Raleigh this past weekend, for its eighth year as a staple, weekend-long celebration of creativity and musical connection. This year added a fourth day to the festivities an additional venue and boasted an eclectic lineup, including both artists local to the Triad, and traveling acts that came into town just for the festival. Guests at the festival had access to see up-and-coming bands with niche fan bases, alongside big, crowd-drawing national acts. Over 150 artists graced the stage at 11 different venues scattered around the metro of downtown Raleigh. The energy and excitement of attendees were palpable, with swarms of people fluttering from venue to venue to make sure they caught all their favorite acts in this jam-packed weekend.
Hopscotch’s inaugural year was back in 2010, which celebrated with headliner Public Enemy. Then, the Center City Stage was the biggest, newest venue, and could only hold about 6,000 people. Now, the festival has the Red Hat Amphitheater at their disposal – a new addition last year that featured headliners Gary Clark Jr. and Erykah Badu. As attendance grew over the years, Hopscotch founder and director Greg Lowenhagen sold to the ticketing agency Etix, solidifying the festival’s move towards a more advantageous future.
My experience started on Friday, where I caught the tail-end of Snow Hill, North Carolina’s Rapsody. She was opening for a high-energy set by hip-hop duo Run the Jewels. I found them charming and funny through their stage banter and was impressed with them as stage performers. The crowd lit up for their set, but scurried away in the last half to make it over to the Center City Plaza. There, Fans crowded with beers and smiles to see North Carolina’s own, Future Islands. While your author was not quite impressed by these local-legends’ set, the crowd was dancey and lively. It is exciting to see people get really excited about the music, and it was not until the following evening that I would see people entirely lose their cool over an act.
Saturday saw true royalty at the Red Hat Amphitheater, with Solange and her backing band decked out in red-orange, like some sun goddess crooning over a crowd of enchanted fans. Her set seemed far too short, but that is my only complaint. Knowles danced her original choreography with her ethereal backing-dancers, added beautifully melding transitions from more somber songs like “Don’t Touch My Hair” and “Mad,” to more dancey tracks like “Losing You” and “F.U.B.U.” She also sang “The Proud Family” theme song, on which she was featured on way back when the show was still a staple on the Disney Channel. Overall, her set was a beautifully communicated message of black, female representation – with lyrics that touched on frustrations, values of strength in community and the importance of experience.
On Sunday, Angel Olsen took the stage at Red Hat, her dreamy voice and guitar-driven tunes floated through the chilly night breeze. She was all old-school charm – an artist that has found new popularity since her 2013 spot at the festival.
And those were just the headliners.
The weekend was, in all seriousness, non-stop. Day parties on Saturday and Sunday squeezed in what could not happen during the night prime time hours and included some more interactive events, like an ice-cream eating contest. A market/street party sprawled down Lenoir Street in the evening, with craft vendors, pet adoption booths, canned food drives and plenty of food and drink opportunities, with many people pre-gaming for the night of music to come.
The genre-scope of the festival was truly notable, a trend the programmers at Hopscotch do an exceptionally good job at. Into metal? You could have stopped by The Pour House Music Hall on Friday to see Thou, or Pallbearer at Cam on Thursday. Want to see a DJ set? Kaytranada was throwing down on Friday at Hopscotch’s new venue, the Basement. A plethora of indie-rock and rock-alternative bands were available at any hour of the festival, from Har Mar Superstar’s jazz-influenced rock to Japanese Breakfast’s beat-driven dream-pop to Cherry Glazerr’s straightforward college-rock jams.
Though I know there were some large acts that I missed in this review, it was impossible (physically, mentally, etc.) to experience everything that Hopscotch has to offer. As a first-time goer, I was thoroughly impressed with the size and scope of this festival. While Hopscotch does not rival the big ones like Coachella or Lollapalooza, it does not have to. It caters to what the locals will get excited about, what music connoisseurs are listening to and writing about, and what new innovations in genre they can bring visibility to for the die-hards that come every-year (threat of an apocalyptic hurricane, or none).