Category Archives: Festivals

Incoming: N.C. Cold Mountain Fest w/Calexico, Milk Carton Kids, YMSB

Third annual acclaimed event takes place May 31-June 1 in Canton, North Carolina.

By Fred Mills

With the festival season already in motion (the celeb clusterfuck known as Coachella not duly noted), here in the Tar Heel state – where BLURT is based – the concert-going denizens are gearing up. Literally in our backyard is the third installment of the Cold Mountain Music Festival, taking place May 31 and June 1 in Canton, North Carolina, at the undeniably gorgeous Lake Logan, and our magic 8-ball tells us that it promises to be a winner.

Allow us to quote from the organizers, and watch this space for updates and additional info.

With music as its centerpiece, Cold Mountain is pleased to be hosting a tasting board of artists ranging from the folk, funk, Americana, bluegrass and post-rock worlds, with highlights including a very special full band performance by Grammy-nominated outfit The Milk Carton Kids, critically acclaimed “desert noir” duo Calexico, crowd-favorite bluegrass ensemble Yonder Mountain String Band, fast rising troubadour J.S. Ondara, and “soul queen” Kat Wright, among others. With two full days of nonstop music, attendees can expect an immersive and balanced weekend of electric, hip-shaking tunes and swoon-worthy acoustic melodies. Also to note, daily schedules and single day passes have just been released, making it easier than ever for folks to curate their ideal festival experience.

Tying it all together is Lake Logan’s pristine 300-acre property surrounded by the Shining Rock Wilderness Area of Pisgah National Forest, where a variety of outdoor activities will be available, including paddle-boarding (on Cold Mountain equipment only), swimming, and fishing (with valid permit).

With music, food, sun and sand, Haywood County’s own Cold Mountain Festival is the ultimate weekend retreat. General admission weekend, single day, and youth passes are available at and range from $20-$100. For more information on camping, dining, and more, please visit



2019 Louder Than Life Festival Returns in Sept.

Louisville, Kentucky, September 27, 28, and 29 is where the dirty deeds will be done…


The Louder Than Life Festival is back and louder than ever! The festival had a great lineup set for last year, and then the floods came and destroyed the park leading to the festival having to be canceled for 2018. If you know Danny Wimmer then you already know that this set back would not stop him and his team for 2019! This year Louder Than Life changed the location to prevent any chances of rain from stopping the fun. This alone was a great move, but Danny went above and beyond by reuniting two huge bands and bringing them to Louisville!

As if the one and only Guns N’ Roses wasn’t enough they also are bringing Staind who will perform for the first time in five years! This alone makes the festival news worthy, but wait there’s more like Disturbed, Slipknot, Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson, a Day to Remember, Breaking Benjamin, Godsmack, Three Days Grace, Chevelle, Halestorm, Ice Cube, Die Antwoord, The Crystal Method, GWAR, I Prevail, New Years Day, Dropkick Murphys, Stone Temple Pilots, Badflower, Suicidal Tendencies, joyous Wolf, Jelly Roll, and many more.

From the start this has been a premier festival and this year is set to take it to a new level. FYI all the camping passes have already sold out and ticket sells are on a record breaking pace to sell out soon, so you better hurry or else you will just be seeing all the highlights on social media while you are at work!

Go here to view Mark’s review and gallery of the 2017 festival.


Year after year, Prof. Rosen makes his pilgrimage to Knoxville to report back to BLURT on what just might be the best music festival on the entire freakin’ planet. This year included Richard Thompson, Bill Frisell, Mercury Rev, and the Art Ensemble of Chicago—and much, much more, of all stripes, genres, and inclinations, spread across 150 performances and 50 additional free events. Want more? Check outRosen’s 2014 report, as well as 2015, not to mention 2016 and 2017 and 2018.


Is there anybody from Idaho or Nebraska reading this? If so, please clear you calendars now for March 2020. You’ll need to go to Knoxville, Tenn. for a long weekend at the Big Ears Festival. And you will be treated as an honored guest.

That’s because, at the 2019 Big Ears, which occurred March 21-24, those two states were the last holdouts. There were attendees from every other one, as well as from 21 countries. That was one sign of growth for the festival, which occurs at multiple indoor venues and was started in 2009. It skipped three years (2011-13), but has been growing since becoming a non-profit organization in 2016. This year, it held 150 concerts and some 50 free events, and venues for the most part were filled with attendees. As were the streets of downtown Knoxville.

That’s all quite remarkable, given that the festival resolutely embraces the musical avant-garde. As its founder, Ashley Capps, said in a written statement contained in the distributed program, Big Ears is “an invitation to explore the depth and breadth of the world of music in its many rich and evocative manifestations, beyond the traditional genres, boxes and boundaries that too often create divisions between music and audiences.”

That program also included a quotation from Gustav Mahler that “tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” But don’t let the Mahler reference fool you into thinking this year’s Big Ears was primarily for fans of “settled” classical music — that which is already accepted as masterful.

There was, rather, much new contemporary classical music — such as violinist Kim Kashkashian, playing with pianist Robert Levin at the luxuriously restored Tennessee Theatre, presenting a brand-new work by octogenarian composer John Harris Harbison. It was a six-part rumination on mortality that was grave, solemn and questioning, yet also exciting and determinedly proud of life, even if it always ends sadly.

Also at the Tennessee was a classical piece, by rising new music composer (and The National guitarist) Bryce Dessner, featuring stirring music for the Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble plus tenor Isaiah Robinson and mezzosoprano Alicia Hall Moran to sing. Called Triptych (Eyes of One on Another), it was about the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. Images of his work were projected while the singers performed the libretto (lyrics) by playwright Korde Arrington Tuttle.

But there was rock, too. Mercury Rev, playing at the Mill & Mine club for a late-night show, did a revved-up show featuring Jonathan Donahue’s happily, joyful singing of such dreamy, melancholy, grandeur-drench band classics as “Tonite It Shows,” “Central Park East,” “Opus 40” and “People Are So Unpredictable.” He also did a killer cover of Neil Young’s “A Man Needs a Maid,” as the band provided a powerful wave of orchestral-like sound behind him.

Mercury Rev also sponsored a late-night screening with live score at the historic Bijou Theatre of the eerie early-1960s thriller Carnival of Souls, with such guest musicians as Steve Shelley, Ben Neill, Tim Berne and Mimi Goese. I thank them for presenting this wonderful movie in an optimum setting, but I’d have preferred to see it with its dialogue, which had been dropped out for the music. It’s such a strong movie that one wants to hear the actors talk (or scream).

Richard Thompson also played the Bijou with a project called Killed in Action, featuring short songs based on extracts from letters and diaries of World War I soldiers, his acoustic guitar and low, yearning voice accompanied by the Knoxville Symphony Strings. Partially funded by Great Britain’s WWI Centenary Art Commissions, it debuted in 2016 at New York’s (Le) Poisson Rouge and has had a fairly low profile ever since. The Big Ears audience was keenly appreciative of Thompson’s performance and the string section’s arrangements, but the concert most came alive after this was finished and Thompson played other songs with the string section — including “Shenandoah,” his own “The Great Valerio,” The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” and especially Rolling Stones’ “Out of Time.”

Also at the Bijou, guitar virtuoso Bill Frisell, working with the band The Mesmerists, played a beseeching score to accompany films by avant-gardist Bill Morrison, who puts together abstracted narratives by reclaiming and re-editing found footage, often in a visible state of decay. Morrison’s finished work plays like missives from an old, weird America — or a pre-modern world — and Frisell’s music perfectly caught that mood. One short film in particular — called The Mesmerist and re-edited by Morrison from a deteriorated nitrate print of a 1926 film called The Bells — was unforgettable. It’s the tale of an innkeeper who kills a Polish Jew for his valuables, then puts the body in a fiery outdoor furnace or fire pit. But he’s later confronted by a vision of the man. This played like a chilling precursor of the Holocaust; the film’s damaged condition a metaphor for the post-Holocaust world.

Jazz in all its forms was on display at Big Ears. The group Columbia Icefield, featuring trumpeter Nate Wooley, drummer/vocalist Ryan Sawyer, guitarist Mary Halvorson and inventive pedal steel player Susan Alcorn (the latter two have become Big Ears favorites in recent years) played songs from a new album inspired by Wooley’s revelatory trip to see the mouth of the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. The concert, before a standing audience at The Standard club (I had to keep jumping up and moving around to see) featured music that intelligently, artfully captured Wooley’s awe at the landscape — compositions frequently were brought to life by short, rippling solos by the members. The show was a standout; the players forces to be watched in the future.

The portentously named British trio The Comet Is Coming made its debut at a packed Mill & Mine, where it filled the cavernous space with the strong, loud and almost-literally uplifting saxophone playing of Shabaka Hutchings. There were overtones in his tirelessly fierce playing of the Free Jazz legend Albert Ayler, as well as the contemporary Kamasi Washington. But I also heard in his playing something of the full-bodied, funky and danceable melodies of the great Manu Dibango of “Soul Makossa” fame. I would have liked Comet better with less of the super-heavy, Keith Emerson-like keyboard playing of Dan Leavers, an important part of the group’s fusion-y mix. (Another band featuring Hutchings, Sons of Kemet, also played Big Ears.)

The German jazz/cabaret singer Theo Bleckmann did two shows at the Bijou — “Hello Earth! The Music of Kate Bush” and ‘Berlin — Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile.” He’s a phenomenal vocal stylist — imitating the famous opening keyboard riff of “Running Up That Hill,” then using his own natural voice to give intense meaning to the words. His show of German songs was also rewarding, as he prefaced each song with stories or lyric translations, explaining that the love song “Lili Marlene” was a hit throughout Europe during World War II even though Germany was at war with countries where it was played. His version of Brecht/Weill’s “Surabaya Johnny” was especially effective — its best-known recordings are by women, but he made it his own.

Big Ears this year was celebrating the 50th anniversary of ECM Records (primarily known for its jazz releases, but the label’s name is actually short for Edition of Contemporary Music and its releases have covered other types of music) and there were panel discussions as well as performances by such ECM artists an Bleckmann, Wadada Leo Smith, Carla Bley, Steve Swallow and Meredith Monk.

All this led to the festival’s climactic conclusion, a closing-night concert at the Tennessee Theatre by ECM’s Art Ensemble of Chicago, the great avant-jazz group on its own 50th anniversary tour, dedicated to deceased members Lester Bowie, Joseph Jarman and Malachi Favors Maghostut and their lasting contributions to “Great Black Music — Ancient to the Future.”

For this concert, the Art Ensemble was a true large ensemble — 16 people counting singer Camae Ayewa and poet Moor Mother. Every second of each person’s contribution to the program was thrilling, but the two remaining original members — saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and drummer/percussionist Famoudou Don Moye — were justifiably first among equals.

I have witnessed few moments at the seven Big Ears I have attended as thrilling as when Mitchell, who had mostly been a quiet, reserved presence through the show, took a long, sustained, technically dazzling soprano sax lead toward the end, going on and on as others joined in or withdrew. After awhile, he stood up and kept playing with astonishing speed and stamina, the great bandleader compressing a whole concert’s worth of solo playing into this one long stand.

The applause and cheers at the end of this show were so rousing and sincere, and the overall experience sent the large crowd away with a peak experience … and probably already thinking about next year.



Bourbon and Beyond, Louder Than Life, Hometown Rising Festivals for Louisville in Sept.


Mark your calendars for September 2019…

By Mark Jackson

Danny Wimmer Presents held a news conference recently for a huge announcement. Louisville, Kentucky, has always been the home for Louder Than Life and Bourbon and Beyond held at Champions Park, but 2019 will bring a new country festival as well and a new location for all three back to back to back weekends in September starting on September 14th.

As you may know the 2018 Bourbon and Beyond festival was interrupted by the major storms and led to the cancellation of the Louder Than Life Festival. In hopes to avoid the potential of the flooding happening again Danny Wimmer and the city of Louisville came together to move the festivals to the Highland Festival Grounds at the Kentucky Expo.

The new country festival will have such headliners as: Tim McGraw, Little Big Town, Dwight Yoakam, Luke Bryan, Keith Urban, Jake Owen, and many more. No word yet on Bourbon and Beyond or Louder than life as of yet, but Presale is will open February 15th for all events.

Louder Than Life will be extended to a three-day festival this year and if last years lineup is any indication of what this year will bring, this will be one of the hottest rock festival tickets of the year. I’m excited to see the new event site and how the event moves to the next level for these three festivals.


Connect Beyond Festival 2019 returns to Asheville in April

This year’s 3-day event in the North Carolina mountains to feature award-winning authors, musicians, filmmakers, and more.

By Fred Mills

One of the highlights of 2018, for me, was attending the Connect: Beyond The Page Festival & Conference, held at multiple venues in downtown Asheville, NC. The multi-day event featured a host of cultural luminaries, almost like a mini-SXSW – among my favorites was a presentation by NPR Music’s Bob Boilen, and North Carolina’s own Sylvan Esso band.

This year should be no exception, and the festival has been announced for April 5-7. Below are some of the details that have been released thus far – it’s a no brainer for NC residents, and I suspect it will draw attendees from all over the United States and possibly from beyond. It’s curated by Echo Mountain Recording Studio’ own Jessica Tomasin (read about Echo and other regional studios in this story by longtime BLURT contributor Bill Kopp; Tomasin is also co-founder of the Asheville Music Professionals organization) and produced by Crissa Requate of Mason Jar Media.


Connect Beyond Festival has revealed the first round of participating panelists and performances for the 2019 event. Performances include book readings from award winning authors such as Tim Z. Hernandez (All They Will Call You), and David Rowell (Wherever The Sound Takes You: Heroics and Heartbreak in Music Making); musical performances including Nick Lowe’s Quality Rock & Roll Revue starring Los Straitjackets’ and more; and panel topics such as “social media revolution,” “fake,” “art of adaptation,” with film screenings and additional programming to be announced soon.

For more information:


Do you consider yourself an NPR junkie? Are you fascinated by storytelling and are curious about your community and beyond? Connect Beyond Festival is a living, breathing version of your favorite podcast. We’re bringing together some of the most distinctive minds of today to explore what it takes to be a catalyst for change, and how we as individuals can act on what matters to us.


First run documentaries that resonate. Short films that profile amazing people doing extraordinary things. Stories that implore you to expand your horizons. Connect Beyond Festival and Social Construct films have hand-selected some of the most gripping narratives of the last century and are serving them up all weekend long. Plus, dive deeper into the makings of a great film with the Q&As and presentations we have on the docket.


We know you want more out of your weekend, so Connect Beyond Festival invites you to rise up, sing out, and dance along with us. Between fireside chats with your new favorite songwriters, and a wide-ranging lineup of guest performances, we promise you’ll get your live music fix at Connect.


Connect Beyond Festival attendees share a common desire to be challenged and inspired. To build connections and leave the world a better place. To attend a festival not just for the music, film, and art, but for the engagement and discourse. So, invite those around you into your world, and be open to entering theirs.

Peter Holsapple Combo @ 30A Songwriters Festival This Weekend

Word just arrived over the BLURT transom:

The 30A Songwriters Festival happens in Florida this weekend.  There are so many amazing artists performing, not the least of whom would be Peter Holsapple Combo, with two shows on Friday and Saturday, and Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey on Sunday.

Friday, January 18
Bud & Alley’s
Oxford American Showcase
6:00 PM

Saturday, January 19
AJ’s Main
6:00 PM

Sunday, January 20
Trebeaché Ballroom
7:30 PM

Glenn Jones will also be performing his original songs on Friday at the Gathering Spot 8:00 PM. Here’s the LINK to 30A Songwriters Festival to peruse. And a quick list of some of the goodness about to happen:

  • Rosanne Cash
  • Jason Isbell
  • Kim Richey
  • Tommy Womack
  • Sadler Vaden
  • Will Kimbrough
  • Robyn Hitchcock
  • Tom Gray
  • Lucy Dacus
  • Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals

You couldn’t ask for a better festival for songs. This ain’t Coachella, this is 30A!

2019 Burger Records’ Burger Boogalo: JAMC, Scientists, Dead Boys, and mo’!

This just in from one of our favorite vinyl and cassette labels….

Burger Records advises:
Woohoo! Burger Boogaloo is returning to Oakland’s Mosswood Park in 2019 on Saturday, July 6th and Sunday, July 7th for a 10th anniversary shindig featuring The Jesus and Mary Chain, The Scientists, Shannon And The Clams, Sheer Mag, and more! As always, the Boog is staying true to its roots with the return of our venomously venerable host John Waters and a lineup of historic punk rockers and young up-and-comers. Tickets are on sale now, with weekend passes starting at $129 and VIP weekend passes starting at $199.

But wait, there’s more! The Burger Boogaloo staff has committed themselves to helping those affected by Oakland’s ongoing housing crisis and will host a series of fundraisers both before and during the festival to raise money for those in need. Additionally, staffers will be volunteering with the organization Punks With Lunch, including a Benefit Show at The Uptown on Friday, January 18th with 100% of ticket sales going to the organization.

To that end, Burger Boogaloo is partnering with The Homeless Action Center in 2019; the only legal service program in the Bay Area that focuses exclusively on public benefits advocacy as a critical tool to reduce and end homeless. HAC provides legal advocacy that is no-cost, barrier-free, culturally sensitive, and non-judgmental. Attendees can join the cause by donating while purchasing tickets or in person at the festival.

Snag your tickets and learn more about how to help those in need below:

The Jesus and Mary Chain
The Scientists
Shannon and the Clams
Sheer Mag
Dead Boys
Jayne County & the Electric Chairs
Amyl and the Sniffers
Billy Childish
Phantom Surfers
Nikki Corvette
Terry & Louie
Derv Gordon of the Equals



Austin City Limits Music Festival 2018

Dates: October 11-14, 2018

Location: Zilker Park, Austin TX

This year’s event was at Zilker Park, as usual, over the course of two weekends. Our ace photog was on hand October 11-14.


Thursday, Oct. 11 – BMI’s Howdy Texas / Wrangler at Yeti Day Party

Mt. Joy

Nicole Atkins


Friday, October 12

Bishop Briggs

Ravyn Lenae


David Byrne

Lily Allen

Father John Misty

Paul McCartney

Saturday, October 13

Charley Crockett


Ikebe Shakedown

Curtis Harding

Brandi Carlile


Lil Wayne


Sunday October 14


Ghost of Paul Revere


Janelle Monae

St. Vincent





The eclectic, eccentric multi-band event was held, appropriately enough, at Bell’s Eccentric Café. Pictured above: Springhouse.


I had never been to Kalamazoo before. Heck, I had never been to Michigan before but a one-day music festival with 8 bands seemed as good as any to make the flight and visit the Wolverine State (or whatever the heck it is). April and her small group of dedicated music fans (April Zimont is/was in the fab band Glowfriends and now the same folks have a new band called Tambourina which played on this very night) have been putting the festival on since 2006 and do a damn good job of running it. It ran like clockwork and everyone had a good time (no frowns) and at tix at $15 it was a steal (they could/should have charged twice that much).

My old friends Tears Run Rings were on the bill, as was Jack Rabid’s NYC band Springhouse (you know Jack from his long-running, legendary mag The Big Takeover) so yeah, I pretty much had to go.

The weather was cold and snowy, but Bell’s Eccentric Café was warm, cozy and inviting and seemed a popular place for both locals and folks like me coming in to see the festival. The bands played in a nice sized room that has touring bands as well (Anna Burch was playing the next night). There was also a bar in the back, food service (tasty grub!) and they even had a small balcony upstairs (where I caught part of the show from).

Up first was Milwaukee’s Brief Candles (above) who I’d heard some tunes before but not a lot and they were perfect openers, getting the crowd lubed up.  They’ve been around for a looong time and have a classic shoegaze sound (big hooks). Check out their Bandcamp page sometime.

Seashine took the stage next and they were a quartet from St. Louis (Demi, Paul, Seth and Kate) with a real positively dreamy sound that was real easy to like. I’m gonna look for some of their stuff (only some tunes on Soundcloud from what I’ve seen).

Kalamazoo’s own Tambourina was up next and kicked the tempo up a bit while vocalist April bounced all over the stage (not sure where she gets her energy from). I really enjoyed their soaring set that really had the crowd bouncing.

Though I’ve been a fan of Tears Run Rings for ages I had never seen them play live and they did not disappoint. Playing a few cuts off their new EP (Somewhere) as well as a healthy dose of tunes from their entire catalog. They really had the crowd swaying and hypnotized.

Sacramento’s Soft Science (Test Pattern Records) had a few equipment problems but once those got sorted out (Katie’s vocals were hard to hear at the beginning) that didn’t stop them from putting on a terrific set, mostly of cuts off their righteous, recently-released LP,  Maps. Well worth your time.

Chicago’s Airiel, a trio with a handful of records out on Shelflife (and a bevy of fx pedals) brought in a bit of a heavier sound and had the crowd eating out of their hand.

Springhouse came armed with some merch and a seriously good set. Now a quartet with the addition of Dave Burokas on 2nd guitar (Dave was the editor of old killer NJ zine Sporadic Droolings….fun fact: he gave DAGGER my first ever review!). We heard “Eskimo,” “Land Falls” and plenty more old faves and drummer  Jack Rabid has not lost a step on his drum kit).

Texas trio Ringo Deathstarr showed up a little later but the packed house were ready and they did not disappoint either.  I don’t believe they’ve released a record since 2015’s Pure Mood, but they dug deep into their grab bag of songs and killed it. Adding some fun and humor whilst chatting with the crowd and totally delivering until the wee hours.


It all ended about 1:00 AM and I had an early flight so I had to say a few quick goodbyes and cut out but it was well worth it. Great bands, nice people, a well run mini-festival all around…not much more you could ask for, really.  I will be back one day. …thank you Kalamashoegazer, you know how to put on a festival!

Hopscotch Festival 9/6 – 9/8/18, Raleigh NC

Dates: September 6 - 8, 2018

Location: Raleigh, North Carolina

At various downtown venues, the nationally-touted indie music festival brought the noise and demonstrated why it is, indeed, “touted.” Go HERE to view a gallery of some of the weekend’s performers.


Another year of Hopscotch shakes up Raleigh as the festival marks its 9th year in a row. From City Plaza to Red Hat Amphitheatre to bouncing around the other 10 venues in play, it became another year of running around to catch a favorite band or stumbling into one and discovering something that you might not normally see.

From the first night, where H.C. McEntire, Real Estate, and The Flaming Lips rocked City Plaza, to the tons of conflicts at 11:30pm with the tough choice in seeing Sleep, U.S. Girls, Kilbourne, Waxahatchee, Deaf Wish, House and Land, Yawpers, or Everything is Terrible!, I was able to catch three acts (Sleep, Waxahatchee, and Everything is Terrible!). Because that’s all my legs could muster up that night.

Second night started off with a somber note as Thundercat took the stage and dedicated his set to his friend Mac Miller who passed away earlier that morning. From someone who has seen Thundercat a couple times you could tell he was affected by the passing of Mac since most of his set was a freestyle jam of most of his songs—which ended up being one of the greatest sets I’ve ever seen during this annual festival. After leaving City Plaza I got to catch local cello-core greats, Gown absolutely destroy Slims, and then The Revolution turn The Basement into a sing-a-long dance party that went on late into the night. After so much dancing I managed to get into the Pour House to catch the tail end of a stunning set from Swearin’.

The final night had me dragging my feet, as there was not much that I was completely dying to see, I actually ended up gathering energy and catching more acts than a usual final night of a festival—from Chic and MC50 putting on some of the best sets of the weekend of the big stages, to Sarah Shook and the Disarmers and Negative Gemini waking you up with their stunning performances with late night sets.

Now that Hopscotch has finished another chapter, I look forward to next year. It always brings its warmth with every band, not to mention every friend in the area who comes out to see their favorite band and mostly to discover a whole lot of new ones. —Daniel Matti


If you live in Raleigh, September means two things: (1) When the hell is this heat going to end? (2) Hopscotch Music Fest.

Raleigh’s premier festival chugs into its ninth year with three days of music and good times. Having attended before, I understand the steps leading up to the event. Things begin months before the festival with Innuendo, gossip and rumors of who will be appearing. Weeks later comes the official headliners announcement, followed by support announcements. Next up is the release of the official schedule.  Hours spent highlighting the bands you want to see, grumbling about the timing conflicts. Can I make it from Slim’s to the Lincoln Theatre in time? The final step is abandoning the highlighted schedule and just winging it. Going from venue to venue, taking chances on bands you have never heard. One of the greatest joys of Hopscotch is you will always walk away digging a band that 3 hours ago was unknown to you. Perhaps my favorite part of the Fest is running into friends. This year I ran into people I have not spoken to in years. That alone is worth the price of admission. Life sometimes gets in the way, relationships falter a little but music is the element that always brings us together. Regardless of your political, religious or spiritual beliefs, with Hopscotch you are always surrounded by non-judgmental people who are there for the same reason you are….the love of the music.


I felt this year’s fest was a little light on both the metal and hip-hop artists. The bulk of the metal shows were Thursday at The Basement. A cavernous open space beneath the Raleigh Civic Center, The Basement held simply a stage and a mixing board. The venue was the size of a few football fields and most likely lived its life as a storage area the rest of the year. But for now, it was Heavy Metal Central. Raleigh metal masters Bedowyn began the evening with a blistering 40 minute set, bolstered by the lead shredding of Mark Peters.  As the band finished I was greeted by some friends who were goIng to see The Flaming Lips. My plan was to stay in The Basement all evening, but who can pass up seeing The Lips? We made our way to City Plaza, packing a few thousand people. I am not the biggest Lips fan, but I do enjoy their theatrics. As usual at a Lips show, the crowd was entertained by batting giant balls and balloons around. I pushed my way through and slapped a balloon as well. I think that makes me an Official Flaming Lips fan. I headed back to The Basements and caught the remaining 2 songs of the set from Grohg. A few minutes of roadies, and a few more people pushed up towards me (I was in the front row against the barricades). The band Skeletonwitch then took the stage. This band has had its share of issues. They booted out their original singer in 2016 and replaced him with Adam Clemans. Not many bands can replace the singer and come out it bigger, badder and louder.  The show they put on was amazing, a lesson to any young rockers in the crowd. I knew I had a lot more Hopscotch to go, but I knew this was going to be one of the best performances.  I was completely enthralled by this band. Simply a phenomenal show. They eventually yielded the stage to the legendary Sleep. This may have been the loudest show I have ever attended. Front row was far too brutal of an assault on my ears, so I made my way to the back of the venue. That did not really help, so I went to the stairs leading to the venue, a good 200 feet from the stage. That was a lot more comfortable, and is where I rode out the rest of the band’s set.


The afternoon began with the news of the untimely passing of rapper Mac Miller. The headliner at City Plaza that night was Thundercat, who was very good friends with Miller. There was a buzz around town that perhaps ‘Cat would cancel his set. He did not. Instead he gave an incredible, inspired performance. He invoked Millers name several times, each to a roaring applause from the crowd. It was a sad day for the music community, but Thundercat definitely provided an electric eulogy. I hung around City Plaza for the beginning of the Grizzly Bear show. They are not really my thing, so I went venue hopping and caught Vacant Company, Lightning Born, Gown and Swearin’. Bands I knew little about, but that is the spirit of this festival. I really dug a couple of these bands and was glad to have found them.


MC50. The 50th anniversary of the classic “Kick Out the Jams” LP. Wayne Kramer (MC5), Kim Thayill (Soundgarden) Billy Gould (Faith No More) Brendan Canty (Fugazi) & Marcus Durant (Zen Guerillas).

They were loud, rude, and obnoxious. Everything you want in a band. Seeing that much talent on the stage was mind boggling. Even more so when the band invited Gary Louris (The Jayhawks) to rip some solo’s during the set. After the band wrapped up I hung around City Plaza hoping to spot Kim Thayill. I did not. So I hoofed over to the Lincoln Theatre where I planned on camping out of the rest of the evening. The evenings soundtrack was Zepheniah Ohara’s old school country, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers’ outlaw country and the headliners The Jayhawks.  I decided to leave The Jayhawks show a little early and head to the Pour House. I had gotten a tip there was an artist I had to see. I reached the venue, but the artist I was there to see was not on. Everyone on the bill had been late going on, so I was lucky enough to catch the last 15 minutes of a band called Combo Chimbita.  This world music band was the perfect ending to my Hopscotch experience. I had no clue of who they were, but walked out of the Pour House wanting to own every piece of music they have ever made.

Overall highlights? Skeletonwitch, MC50, Combo Chimbita, seeing a gaggle of friends at City Plaza—and getting to rest on Sunday. —Chip Kloss