BACK WITH A VENGEANCE: Hopscotch Music Festival 2016 Post-mortem


It happened September 8 thru 10—were you there? No? Are you square? A two-part (technically, counting the photos, a three-part) love letter, from one veteran and one newbie, but both trusted men-on-the-ground for your friendly neighborhood BLURT. Guarantee: No record store clerks were harmed during the making of this article. [Above: Baroness]


Hopscotch is now turned another year older and as we go back to our mundane lives, Blurt takes a look back at the three fourteen hour music filled days.

Our sister company, Schoolkids Records had their annual day parties to kick off the festival. Each day curated by yours truly. First day was dedicated to Americana/Rock N’ Roll with bands billed from Porch Light Apothecary to local legends The Connells. As the bands started to play the store filled up and draft beers were flowing.

From Schoolkids we went onward downtown to catch the epic City Plaza shows that are held in downtown Raleigh. Opening the festival was Merge records own, Wye Oak. Blending dream pop with blistering guitar parts they had the crowd moving and swaying. After their set we went over to Slims to secure a spot for The Hell No. Raleigh’s own great punk band with a brand new album out in October 27th with the help of Corrosion of Conformity’s Mike Dean.

As Slims was packed from door to door it was time to our make our way over to Nash Hall where the A/C was blasting and there were seats. Not comfortable seats but seats nonetheless. We caught four brilliant saxophones artist that go by the name of Battle Trance. Their name simply states what kind of music they play too. Music that you could easily ride into a battle that could put your enemies in a trance. I would say if you are fan of John Zorn, check these guys out.

Hopping from venue to venue was key for the first night. Seeing as many bands as you could just in time to get ready for what I would say was a very exciting performance in Memorial Auditorium by Sneakers and Television. Now I have come to find out many are not familiar with Sneakers work, but they were a great project by Mitch Easter and Chris Stamey in the 70s. Think Kinks meets the Beach Boys. A perfect opener for the likes of Television.

As we closed the night we went in a completely different musical direction from the acts we saw earlier in the day and that was with Massachusetts own, Converge. With expecting a packed house the crowd was only about ¾ of the way full. From most of the people I talked to this was their first time catching the band live. So with not much moshing or hardcore dancing the venue just stood there and completely stared at the band in awe.

After getting a much needed 5 hour nap we went on to the second day of our Schoolkids day parties where we had a blend of college rock. From the Nevernauts that opened the party to Happy Abandon who left the crowd with their jaws on the ground. Seriously though, if you haven’t listened to these guys yet and do yourself a favor and check out their music. Especially If I Stare.

The second day party ended and we made our way down to City Plaza once again to catch the main attractions Anderson .Paak and The Free Nationals alongside Beach House. Anderson Paak is a new wave of blending genres from hip-hop to rock N’ roll to soul music. Half of the time behind a drum kit while he does vocals. The other half running back and forth across the stage exploding with energy. Beach House was the next act to play on City Plaza and I will say I was not very entertained. From the singer mumbling most of the lyrics to the band looking like they didn’t really enjoy what they were playing I left City Plaza and headed to Deep South to see Al Riggs. Al Riggs is a musician that you should watch out for. As he has already put out over 20 albums. Al has started to make a name for himself here in the Raleigh area. Blending elements of singer/songwriter style material to large thought out pieces like Young Hegelians.

From there on I traveled past Red Hat where Erykah Badu was delayed due to flight complications and went straight on to Memorial Auditorium to catch Young Thug aka My Name is Jeffrey aka Thuggers. Where he too was also delayed for about an hour. Probably for no reason too. As the DJ played “banger” after “banger” the crowd got so hyped once Young Thug came out on stage you could literally feel the walls shaking from the bass and the floor jumping up and down. You could definitely call Young Thug a performer cause he had the whole crowd at the palm of his hand. After I had left Memorial Auditorium I wanted to catch any other band before Big Freedia closed the night at Lincoln Theatre but because of delayed set times I was stuck with making my way over to secure a spot. Which my spot led me to the front row where I got to witness Big Freedia bring up about 40 women on stage to ‘twerk’ on stage. Besides the women crowding the stage, Big Freedia is a terrific entertainer.

From there I went on to go head home for another 5 hour nap to get ready for the final of Hopscotch activities. The last day party was filled with metal bands that lit the Schoolkids stage on fire. From new industrial heroes Roseclouds to thundering performance of Wailin Storms. Exhausted from the past two days I made my way downtown for last City Plaza show with local juggernauts Sylvan Esso. Boy oh boy did they deliver. Playing most of everything off their first huge self titled album to a couple new tunes that had the crowd in awe. I left City Plaza to find salvation in Neptune’s Parlour for the rest of the night as I was too tired to walk anymore and wanted to make sure I got a spot for Youth Code in the low capacity room. From Housefire to Bodykit to Container had all festival goers eyes locked on the stage. Youth Code went on to crush the night. From the brilliant vocalist, Sara Taylor, grabbing audience members and screaming at them to kicking over a table near the stage. Truly one of my favorite performances of the festival.

Now that we are all back at our normal jobs and we will look back at the sixth annual Hopscotch festival was a success. Cheers to next year!


















A First-Timer’s Journey Through Music, Crowds, and Sprites…

 About 8 years ago, Greg Lowenhagen moved from Austin Tx back to Raleigh NC.  He and Grayson Currin (of the area’s alternative weekly newspaper The Independent) realized Raleigh had grown big enough and had a strong enough music scene to support it’s own signature music festival. A lot of brain-storming and hard work ensued and in 2010, The Hopscotch Music festival was born. Broken Social Scene and Public Enemy headlined the inaugral festival. This pairing was indicitaiove of the duo’s vision….bringing different genre’s of music to the masses in an easy-to-digest pakage. 3 nights of music, 130 bands, 10 different venues. All within walking distance. Get yourself a schedule and highlight the bands you want to see. Spend the evening ‘hopscotching’ from venue to venue. In the following years Drive-By Truckers, The Flamng Lips, The Roots, and Jesus and Mary Chain have all taking turns headlining.

In 2011, before the 2nd edition began, some of the local venue/bars had a great idea. since the festival began around 5PM, why not fill the day with live music as well? With that, the Hopscotch Day Party was born. Hang out, drink a little, nibble on some grub. Rock out all day, then rock out all night. What could be better?

Fast forward to 2016, and I find myself working at the legendary Schoolkids Records in Raleigh NC. Although I consider myself to be a music fan, and open to all varities of music, I have never had the opportunity to go to Hopscotch. A 2nd job, family issues. Something alway blocked my path.  This year would be different. A 3-Day VIP pass. Not only was I going, I was VIP-ing. No waiting in lines for this guy! The organizer released the performers list a few  months ago. People would gather at the record store to discuss the line-up & who we wanted to see. A few weeks later, the actual schedule was released. We spent hours highlighting who we wanted to see, and figuring out how this gig might interfere with that one, who took precedence. To add to all this excitement, the store’s resident madman, Daniel Matti, assembled an  amazing string of 3 day parties. I honestly believe Schoolkids Records Day Parties were amongst the very best in Raleigh. Finally, all the weeks of planning, highlighting and discussion had come to fruition. Sept 8 had finally arrived.

Got to work around 1PM that day. Ourt first day party went very well. The hedlining band was the legendary band from Raleigh, The Connells. I have seen them at least 10 times in their career, and now here they were……jamming at the record store! My day could not have started any better. After the bands finished up I left work and caught the free bus into downtwon Raleigh.  Camera? Check. Schedule guide? Check. Bottle of Sprite in my back pocket? Check.

Wolf Parade and Wye Oak were the headliiners that evening. The headliners played to big crowds at the City Plaza. My mentality was that the bands headlining, since they were more well-known, would probably be back in the area at some point. I wanted to spend my time finding that gem. That small band playing a small club. The band with that certain something. Catching a band before they blow up is always cool.

Stop one was meeting up with Matti at Slim’s Bar. Got a tip from a guy that we HAD to check out a hard-rock combo called The Hell No. Great female-fronted band featruing a powerhouse drum machine named Dave McDonald. Check the schedule….time to go. Off to Nash Hall for the avante-garde saxaphone quartet Battle Trance. 4 instrumentalists paying at the same time. All 4 heading in a different direction, then meeting up later. Amazing. Could only stay for 30 minutes because we had to hopscotch down to the Lincoln Theatre for metal maniacs Grohg. Loud, heavy and lots of hair.  Check the schedule….Televison begins in 10 minutes!  Have to walk over to Memorial Auditorium to see this legendary band. Grabbed a Sprite and head into the auditorium. Got there just as lights dimmed. Never in my life did I think I would be at a Television concert, but there I was, grinning ear-to-ear. The band finished up and I was off. Back to the Lincoln Theater.  The hall was packed to see Converge. A band I have never seen live. I knew they were loud and aggressive on record, but I was not ready for the energy of this band. Absolutely amazing. Off to Slim’s to catch the last of A Giant Dogs set.

One of my favorite things about this was hearing the following conversation about 30 times-

Guy- Did you see Al Riggs? He was amazing.

Guy2- No, we went to see S.E. Ward. Are you going to Big Freedia?

Guy- Oh yeah! See ya there!

I was amongst a few thousand people who love what I love. Dark nightclubs, hanging with friends, discovering new music. It was well after 1 am, so I caught the free bus and finally made it home at 1:45 after 14 hours of live music. I got home far too wired to go to sleep. I was comforted in knowing I had 2 more days of this. 2 more day parties, and 2 more nights of live music downtown. On my plate was Young Thug, Carseat Headrest, Big Freedia, Boulevards, All Dogs, Eric Bachmann, Andrew Bird, Youth Code, Stooges Brass Band and Konvoi.

Me-Did you go to Hopscotch this year?

Guy- Yeah! Do you think you’ll go next year?

Me-Oh, yeah! See ya there!!

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