Last weekend, the Hopscotch Music Festival took over downtown Raleigh, North Carolina. Now in its seventh year, the three-day festival spread out across ten venues across the city, as well as featuring headlining shows on a large temporary stage on the City Plaza. This year the event expanded to add a second headlining show on Friday night at the Red Hat Amphitheater, a large outdoor performance venue located only a couple of blocks from City Plaza, providing even more choice to attendees.
Hopscotch’s reputation for diversity remained intact, with artists from many genres taking the stage. Over the course of the festival, we managed to take in up-and-coming indie rock acts like Diet Cig, All Dogs, and Beach Slang, well-established artists like Television, Gary Clark Jr., and Andrew Bird, and hip hop greats like Erykah Badu and relative newcomers like Anderson .Paak and Vince Staples. Raleigh hometown heroes Sylvan Esso played a headlining set, as did Wolf Parade newly returned from their extended hiatus. Yet this broad range of artists represents only a small portion of the total event. With so many things going on at once in so many places, it was impossible to catch everything.
Another feature of the festival is the broad range of unofficial day parties taking place during the daylight hours in both official venues and in other spaces, making for a full day of musical experiences. There it was possible to see some festival artists play a second set (thus relieving a few of the evening schedule conflicts) as well as numerous additional artists from the local area and beyond. The highlight of the day parties for us was the Saturday afternoon show hosted jointly between labels Merge Records and Third Uncle Records and nearby Carrboro bar Orange County Social Club, which took place in Kings. Merge alumni The Rock*A*Teens and Raleigh locals Birds of Avalon (joined for part of their set by Future Islands’ Sam Herring) performed two of the strongest sets that we saw all weekend.
North Carolina has been a site of controversy this year, with HB2 (North Carolina governor Pat McRory’s absurd so-called “bathroom bill”) continuing to cause many artists to choose to boycott the state. This surely caused the Hopscotch organizers numerous headaches in trying to pull together the event, but they still managed to bring in a strong, diverse lineup. Some artists used the festival as a site to voice their protest (such as Sylvan Esso instrumentalist Nick Sanborn’s prominent “FU HB2” t-shirt), and banners bearing McRory’s face and the word “SHAME” in large capital letters appeared at various places throughout the city. Music and activism can go hand-in-hand (as Patrick Haggerty, frontman of the first openly gay country band Lavender Country, who made an appearance at the festival, attested during his set), and the festival provided not just a weekend of entertainment, but also a vehicle to give another voice to the protest.
With another year in the books, the Hopscotch Music Festival continues to grow strong in all the right ways, maintaining the feeling of a small town festival and keeping its mission of presenting a diverse cross-section of music. We look forward to seeing what the festival has in store for us next year.
All photos by Matt Condon
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