Since it started in 2010, the Hopscotch Music Festival has become a Raleigh institution and an event which music fans who travel to North Carolina from all over look forward to all year. Now in its eighth year, the festival returned this year with its famously diverse lineup. No matter what you’re looking for – indie rock, electronica, country, hip-hop, folk – you’re bound to find it, and the layout of the festival, spread throughout the city, provides the opportunity to check out numerous acts over the course of the weekend. Whether it’s a small local band at an unofficial day party, an internationally-known headliner on the City Plaza stage, or something in-between late night in a downtown club, there’s music to be found everywhere in Raleigh on Hopscotch weekend.
The festival started off this year with local Durham-based singer-songwriter Skylar Gudasz opening the City Plaza stage with her band. She was followed by Brooklyn indie rockers Big Thief, who have been one of the biggest buzz bands of the past year, playing a set of songs from their latest release Capacity, which came out on Saddle Creek in June. Headlining the stage for the evening was Nashville-based country singer Margo Price, who is scheduled to release her second album, All American Made, next month.
Then, it was time to head off to the smaller venue spaces, the bars, clubs, and other rooms which serve as the heart of Hopscotch and make it unique among American festivals. This is where Hopscotch can be difficult, as there are ten venues all competing for festival-goers attention, and for the broad-minded music fan they can be filled with scheduling conflicts. Want to get from Thee Oh Sees to Torche? You’d better be prepared to hoof it across town quickly. Want to see both Metz and Sunflower Bean? You’re out of luck, because they’re booked at the same time at venues on opposite sides of town. Picking an evening schedule can be an exercise in frustration, but it can also be rewarding in the opportunities that it provides to check out both old favorites and new bands that you’ve never heard of before that evening.
This year featured a new venue, The Basement, which was located in a large conference room in the Raleigh Convention Center. While there was some trepidation about what a large, cavernous conference room would mean for sound, lighting, and all of the other expectations of a good show, it turned out to be one of the best spaces the festival had. That was a good thing for night one, as three of the bands we were most excited about seeing – All the Saints, Thee Oh Sees, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre – were all booked there. In between, we also took a quick run to Deep South, a Hopscotch stand-by, to see Cones, the duo of brothers Jonathan and Michael Rosen, who previously served as members of Eleanor Friedberger’s backing band.
Want more Hopscotch? Continue on to our coverage of day 2! Days 3 and 4 coming soon.