A special episode! Hyping up some of the artist playing the Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh Sept 7th thru the 10th. I am very excited to be going to the festival to review it and its artist. This will be my first east coast festival, and I am glad to be spending it there. With over 120 bands over 4 days ranging from various genres, there seems to be something for everyone there. Another great thing I love about this festival is how much emphasis there is to local and state acts. In fact, I counted 8 artists from Asheville alone! Very excited to share my experiences soon! Listen to my show highlighting a few artist and check back on this page after the festival for my review and recap!
Full Schedule and Line Up:
If you wish to attend, ticket info can be found here.
Post Fest Review and Experience:
I spent this past weekend at the 8th annual Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh, NC. I was there on behalf of Asheville FM and my show Alpenglow to explore the festival and get a feel for everything it had to offer. This also was my first east coast festival (being from LA) and it was interesting to see how it compared to other music festival’s I’ve attended like Coachella, FYF, Sunset Junction, and others. Overall, it was an extremely unique and memorable experience I won’t forget. Even though the fest consisted mostly of club shows amongst several different venues, there was a large sense of comrade and community.
I arrived in Raleigh Thursday after driving up with co-host of Asheville FM’s Looking Glass Radio Hour (Wednesdays 6 pm – 7 pm) Emma Hutchens. She had some work to do, so she dropped me off at the Civic Center and I picked up our passes and began exploring the area. Being unfamiliar with downtown Raleigh, I thought it might be best to arrive early and try and get a lay of the land, so by night time I knew exactly where to go for each club show. To my honest surprise, the placements of the various venues are much closer than what it looked like on paper. To go from The Church on Morgan aka Nash Hall to the furthest opposite corner venue, Deep South, took about 15 minutes. After that discovery, I found myself with so much time and I wasn’t sure to do with it. I knew there were day parties around town, but I didn’t know where to start. So I went to Sorry State Records just to browse their vinyl. After picking up a Dave Von Rank and King Khan and BBQ Show records, I began chatting with the clerk. He gave me the lowdown of the festival. It’s there he recommended checking out the Ruby Deluxe bar for their day shows that day, a mix of fringe music from the New Body Tapes label. When I arrived, the first thing I saw was the sign saying, “This is a queer space.” I knew I was going to like this place. It was a dark dive bar and I got excited seeing some patrons with Topo Chico. I made the right decision. I got there in time to see the solid beats of Spongebreath, the emphatic sax and soulful dancing of Reflex Arcs, and the heavy sounds of Gau-rad. I wanted to see more, so I decided to bounce around venues. I went over to Slims to check out Oregano and Wildfur. I took a little break before heading to City Plaza for the first act of the festival, Skylar Gudasz. The crowd was pretty small at this time, but that didn’t detour her. After awhile, the crowd grew, and her band came out getting people moving. That’s when I met another single festival attendee who was a local. We talked about the city and other things, and then she saw some friends and then more friends. That’s when I realized that this festival has such a strong community with the people of Raleigh. We watched Big Thief together, who like always put on a solid set. Foregoing Margo Price, who just isn’t my scene, I decided to go check out Spaceface, the side project of The Flaming Lip’s Jake Ingalls. By far the highlight of my night, their shows were reminiscent of early Flaming Lips and Butthole Surfer shows. DIY light and balloons all over. At one point Ingalls brings out a giant rainbow parachute and several strangers get together to take a corner and lift it up and down in the air like in elementary PE. From there I meet up with Emma who finished work for the day. We head over to check out Asheville’s Shane Parish, who puts on a gorgeous set at Fletcher Hall, the perfect setting for his music. I even caught Big Thief in the crowd checking it out. We head over to Neptune’s to try and catch Moonracer and that’s when I realized the harsh reality of club shows. After waiting in line for 10 minutes, we decide that our time might be best spent elsewhere, so we leave the line and go to Pour House to see Asheville’s the Tills, who as usual, just put on a killer set. We later head on back to the basement to see Thee Oh Sees. Their set is going pretty well, but they run into some unfortunate technical difficulties, which puts a damper on their night. This is the point Emma and I split. I go to Neptune’s to catch a little of Beverly Tender’s set and stake out a good spot for Gobbinjr, who I don’t want to miss due to another Moonracer stuck in line dilemma. Emma checks out Ne-Hi. Beverly Tender’s set was great, and though I only get there in time for the few last songs, including the raising and praising of an Alf doll. Gobbinjr’s set was pure magic, starting off with Firefly, leaving a slight tear in my eye. We rush on half through the set to Brian James Town Massacre to catch a little bit of it, before rushing again to Noname to cap off the night. Both acts delivering solid sets. In-between we run into some Asheville folk and check out the Noname together. That’s when we realize that there were several folks for Asheville all over town currently. It was a pretty long, but amazing first day.
Tomorrow comes, and I spent most of my morning on an air mattress watching Season 4 of Bojack Horseman before catching some day parties. I head over to Ruby again to see Mount Moriah play an intimate set, and they crushed it. It’s awesome that some of the acts that are playing the festival, like Reflex Arcs the day before are playing the free day parties. It makes it easier to see even more festival music. I then head over to Kings to see Asheville’s House and Land, who always put on such a magical set. Though this is the point of the day that I realize everything I did yesterday has left me extremely tired, and I am not the young see everything I can festival go-er I used to be. I try to rally after the set and go to Slims to see Drag Sounds, and though the band was putting on solid sounds one can dance too, my body had given up and I went back to take a nap. By the time I awoke, Emma was back and off work for the week and the festival was just about to start. We head to city plaza to catch Birds of Avalon. We mostly relax in the back and have some coffee to get ready for the night ahead. We get in close to get a good spot for an act I was super excited to see, the Make-Up. I was extremely disappointed at first when fellow Filipino Steve Gamboa didn’t come out on the drums, but Ian Svenonious put all that to rest when he delivered an energetic killer show, playing to more energy the current crowd was willing to give him, but not letting it slow him down. After getting amped from their set, we make our way to Run The Jewels for a few songs. Not getting too deep into the already extremely packed Red Hat Amphitheater, we catch the show from the side before making out way back to beat the crowds and managing to get to the front middle of Future Islands. Sam Herrington and company don’t fail to deliver their usual set of dance-tastic music. Though both Ian and Sam have some of the same killer dance moves, Sam’s stage banter was more precise engaging to the crowd with talks of global warming and how America was never great but we still have a chance to make it. Feeling amped on the night, I make my way to the Basement as Emma splits off to meet up with Gerry who is just arriving in town. I catch some of Har Mar Superstars set, which contains more old songs than new ones. It must have been his mood inspired by the Make-Up, when I saw him on the side of the stage snapping pics. I leave to catch Bellows, but to my surprise hear that Sand Pact is still playing, so I start up at King’s first before going down to Neptunes. After Bellows, I head back upstairs to Kings to see Marie Davidson, who’s set was plagued due to unfortunate sound difficulties. I thought she was still killing it, but she didn’t seem to be having a good time on stage at first. This is where I met back up with Emma and Gerry before they split to go see Hoops. This time slot was filled with tough choices, as I would have liked to see Hoops and Snail Mail, but landed on heading out to Nash Hall, the furthest venue, to see M.I.A’s drummer Madame Gandhi. I knew something was off when I walked into a beautiful hall that was full of seats. This couldn’t be where they put the funky beats of Madame Gandhi. When the show started everyone was sitting, but her DJ (who’s name escapes me) began playing a medley of songs. She came out bringing the heat, and it wasn’t until some brave festival people said this isn’t right and moved to the front to stand and dance, that the party started. I left in the middle of the set to rush over to the Basement, which was a 15-minute walk, to see Kaytranada, an act I was really excited about. I feel bad saying this, as 99.9% is one of my favorite albums of last year, but his set felt a little lack luster. I think he strives when the crowd is able to vibe with him, but the crowd wasn’t super into the chill disco set and it felt a little slow. I was upset, as this block was filled with acts I would have loved to have seen like Songs: Molina, the remaining members of Magnolia Electric Company or Pitchfork favorite Yves Tumor. So I left, and instead of trying to catch the other two acts I just mentioned, I wanted to get a good spot for Ó. That’s when I realized that Bellows was her backing band and she was there during their set. It was cool to see so many artists playing with each other and helping each other out, something I would see more of tomorrow. After her solid set, I met back up with Emma and Gerry and had a late night bite at the Raleigh Times before hitting the hay at 1 in the morning.
Day 3 is the always the day in the festival when I lose major steam. We start off with some Wrestling (yes Wrestling) at Ruby in the afternoon. It was a comedic event that was felt super thrown together but added to the kitsch of it all. Then we headed to Hopscotch’s first ever day shows, looking to catch Flock of Dimes. This is when we found out Arrow Benjamin had to drop out and they pushed back everyone’s set time to make up for it. So instead we saw locals Zenofly, who many people were really into. It was cool to see a young local act taking such a big spot on the festival stage. Then we saw Flock of Dimes, and she had such a mesmerizing set. She talked about how cool this festival was when it came to meeting new people on the street and saying hi to bands that were just wandering around. We go back to change into some night time clothes and come back to see that Ilovemakonnen had dropped out and a different rapper whose name I failed to get. But we went over to Tei Shi at the Red Hat main stage, whose set was absolutely dynamo. She proved that she was the right choice to warm up the crowd before Solange took the stage. After her set, we make our way back to City Plaza to see Big Boi. I’ve seen Big Boi about 4 times solo and once with Outkast. Before the walk over, I had no intentions of staying for much of Big Boi, but as I was thinking of all his hits and Outkast, I got extremely hyped. I went bananas at Big Boi. Screaming, jumping, rocking my head, and dancing like an animal. It was hard for me to leave! I wanted to try to only see half of his set before seeing Naked Naps, but was stuck there due to the music and nostalgia of it all. Big Boi doesn’t fail to deliver. I finally was able to pull myself away, and while Emma and Gerry went to Solange, whom I’ve seen twice on this tour already, I make my way to Hand Habits. It was such a shocking juxtaposition from Big Boi, that I felt like I was getting heart murmurs just sitting there enjoying her beautiful slow soft music. I stared at her deeply for awhile, trying to figure out how I knew Meg Duffy. She mentions that she’ll be joining Kevin Morby later in the evening and how one should check out a bunch of different artists, who I later realized was in the crowd watching her set. After her set, I slowly make my way to Cory Hanson. His solo project is much different than what he does with Wand or Ty Segall, and I am not sure others knew that. He asked if everyone could use their indoor voices during his set so he could his very light guitar playing and soft singing. Of course, when you ask that of a bunch of people who might have been drinking since 1 pm, you won’t always get the results you want. When he first addressed it to the crowd, to my surprise and his, people actually listened. But as a few songs went on, people got loud again and started talking over his music. This annoyed him, so he asked again, being a little less polite this time, and of course it didn’t work. I felt bad for the guy, it seemed like another mis-booking in venues. I think he would have done stronger in Fletcher or Nash Hall, and not a bar setting. I went down stairs to catch a little Natural Velvet before heading the to Nash Hall to see Aldous Harding. Again, due to things not always starting or ending exactly on time, I was able to catch a little of Ami Dang. This was a tough spot because I wanted to see Beverly and Richard Llyod, all who were playing at the same time, but decided to go for Aldous after hearing numerous good things. I am glad I did, as it was a beautiful and emotional night of music. Her movements when she played reminded me of a French Surrealist film as her eyes rolled back in her head on high notes and she dug her chin into her chest with her guitar up high. It was a sight to see. I headed over to catch Cherry Glazerr and was met with another giant line. I was worried I wouldn’t get in but that’s when I met up with Emma and Gerry who were at the front of the line. Not condoning cutting, I joined them. It was absolutely packed. The plan was to go from there to Japanese Breakfast, but the gang feared that they wouldn’t be able to get in since it was at Neptunes, another small venue. I saw Michelle Zauner at several venues that night and thought it as a sign that I would be able to see her, so I made my way out of the crowd and rushed over, only to be met with yet another giant line. I waited for 30 minutes as people got fed up and left the line, and numerous VIP pass holders passed everyone by. Cherry Glazerr had finished and Emma and Gerry were wondering where I was at, at this point I was next in line. If they had wanted to leave or go home I would have agreed and given up on the night, but before they responded, it was my turn to go in. So I did. Her set was epic, and where Soft Sounds from Another Planet seemed like it would be in line with bringing me back down, she played with a band and did a power house of set on par with coming from Cherry Glazerr. There were rumors down there, that Kevin Morby, who set was suppose to start an hour ago was running late. I mentioned it to the Emma and Gerry to check out, as many people had left thinking he wouldn’t come out so there was no line to get in. They made it over and said he just started, and which point I went up stairs and caught his set. Hand Habits was there playing guitar, and that’s when it dawned on me that she was playing guitar with the War on Drugs when I saw them in LA. So we ended our night was some rocking Kevin Morby.
Then came the last day, Sunday. We were all pooped. We searched the city for a place to get breakfast, before quickly realizing this was Sunday, so it was Brunch downtown. We finally found a place with no wait and had a nice meal. Then I headed over to the festival to catch Jenny Besetzt, who put on a very Cold Cave, Joy Division-esque set. It was just artists at the Red Hat that day, and I was pretty relieved to not be jumping around everywhere. Cloud Nothings was next with a solid set, into Mary Timony playing songs from her first band Helium. I was excited to see this. That plus the Make Up made for some epic acts (Richard Lloyd obviously would have been apart of that if I had made any of his act). And while it would have been nice to see the rest of the acts, including Asheville’s Angel Olsen, we needed to head back on the road and get back to our lives back home. So we left the fine fest and headed back West from there.
My take away from it all. I didn’t think I was going to like the club festival setting. The idea of having to go from place to place, showing ID, getting re-patted down, was annoying. But in reality, it wasn’t that bad. By the end of the festival, I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of the downtown Raleigh as well. And it was nice to leave and get food anywhere or just head back home and change. The city itself is extremely walkable and bikeable, and getting an uber is no problem. There is ample parking structures downtown, but there is also various places to park for free street parking. I found myself like some venues more than others, and wishing some acts played some spaces instead of where they were booked. That is something I never really got with a non-club type festival, where it’s all just stages. If you go to this fest, you really need to see what all the day parties are. They are fun and a great place to discover local and new music. There was a big sense of community with this festival. I saw numerous people running into each other, bands checking out other bands, and just a whole lot of love and support. I found the guide that was given out very handy. The musician bios were great and helped me pick some choices I probably wouldn’t have ever seen. Four days is rough, but it was nice that Sunday was the designated hangover day, and only consisted of one stage. The signage was great and it made it easy to find things, especially the tucked away Nash hall, that had some blue squares so you can hopscotch your way into the door. I wish there was more of a blend from the design fest. At wristband city, you got to see a lot of cool art from poster designers, but I never really stayed and learned too much about it. It suffers a little from bloat because there is just so much to do, which can be a bad thing sometimes. I also wish there were fewer venues or they started earlier. I found myself faced with a lot of tough decisions, and not enough staggered times to try and split acts. And even if you tried to split acts, you had to take into account travel time and if the venue was at capacity already. But I saw several of the over 120 bands booked, so that is saying something I guess. I think Hopscotch does a great job with what they have, and it’s great they support so many regional acts. I can’t wait to see what they have in store for next year! If you live around the area, this fest is definitely worth checking out. If you don’t, its low costs compared to other festival and distance to a major airport still make me think it’s worth the trip. Until next year Hopscotch!
Want to request any music for an upcoming show? Obscure, sleeper, local, big hit, send them my way at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll give you a shout out if I end up using it! Tune in Tuesday for a very special collaboration show with DJ Alex Heisey of ‘there are no stars, only a skyline.’ It’s an all vinyl mix that has a theme which will be revealed at the end of the episode. Listen at 7 am and see if you can figure it out!