Dateline: Raleigh, NC, where the coolest music festival in the Southeast goes down every September. Our man on the ground reports. Picture above: Metz, gettin’ purpleized…. Go HERE to view Shannon Kelly’s photo gallery from the fest.
BY DANIEL MATTI
Hopscotch went into its 8th run the extended weekend of September 7-10, and with it came the oh-so familiar cancellations, along with discovering new bands. The lineup included over 100 bands with familiar faces and local acts who packed downtown Raleigh with festival goers. This was the first year Hopscotch had utilized the Exhibit Hall A, aka “The Basement” in the Convention Center, where it is mostly known in years past as the area where Wristband City (where you pick up your wristband for the festival) and Posterscotch (a runway of local artists showing off their design skills in the format of posters and other goodies) were mounted. With all the lineup challenges, this was my journey through Hopscotch.
City Plaza was the first stop on the agenda to see local angel-voiced Skylar Gudasz. The plaza started to slowly build up as Skylar took the stage, some discovering her for the very first time while others were there to get into position for Big Thief and Margo Price. All three performers in City Plaza that night were fierce and knew what they came to do on stage. They all delivered with amazing results.
The night ended up being one of the bigger nights for the noise rock genre. The CAM was going to be the oasis for me. Before settling into that venue, I walked around peeking my head into venue after venue, discovering new music. Severed Fingers, with their bliss of fiery hot folk rock, blew me away, along with Schoolkids Records-The Label band, Happy Abandon of Chapel Hill, that had pleasantly packed the place. From there I headed over to CAM to stay put. From catching the heavily improvised set by Kayo Dot (due to some technical difficulties) to Metz closing out the night with their enormous wall of sound and performance, it was a good evening.
The second day of Hopscotch proved to be the biggest day for conflicts regarding seeing bands—especially during the later portion of the night. Kaytranda, Songs:Molina, Marie Davidson, Whores, and Protomartyr were all scheduled at the same time, and the biggest time slot of the night, with the surrounding time slots having hard-to-see conflicts as well. With a name like Hopscotch and your familiarity of the childhood game, this was the night to “scotch” all around, from catching the bass-heavy tunes in The Basement to The Afghan Whigs packing the house (and surprising the audience by bringing Sean Tillman, aka Har Mar Superstar, up onstage to perform the latest single “Demon in Profile” from their latest album “In Spades”).
As the weekend’s perfect weather continued for downtown Raleigh, Saturday was the day of discovery. Unfamiliar with a lot of the artists performing that day, I was led on a journey with a couple friends who had suggestions here and there. Early in the night we headed to City Plaza to watch the newish addition to the mumble rap movement “iLoveMakonnen,” but lo and behold, he had canceled the night prior and then was replaced by local hip hop artist Phonte (from the bands Foreign Exchange and Little Brother). With him sweeping the outside plaza off its feet, Phonte proved himself to be more than just a local act and an even better choice to open for Big Boi from Outkast.
We then traveled over to Red Hat Amphitheater to make sure that we had secured a spot for the most popular act of the weekend, Solange. Proving herself to be one of the best performers of the weekend by incorporating avant-garde dance performances and amazing solos done by her six-piece band. After the other disappointing cancellation from Jlin, filling the spot was a longer set from on-and-off Nine Inch Nails keyboardist Alessandro Cortini. For the performance most of the room sat on the floor and stared in awe at the projections and as he orchestrated massive sound from the back of the room. Ending the night, we were able to catch Lunice from TNGHT and Branchez at CAM. Lunice had the room dancing and swaying from side to side as he played numerous Kendrick Lamar remixed tracks and ending with a few TNGHT gems. After Lunice performed, Branchez took the stage and it was extremely lackluster—almost to the point where most of the crowd left to go catch the last bit of set from Machinedrum or wait in the line that wrapped around the block for Japanese Breakfast as they played in Neptune’s Parlour.
One of the more relaxing days was Sunday, as all of the acts performed at Red Hat. This was the first year that Hopscotch had added the 4th day to the schedule and they proved they could keep the party going. From Cloud Nothings to the local folk group Mount Moriah to an odd sounding set from Angel Olsen. She is known for having a compelling, if somewhat downcast, setlist, but with her guitar and vocals being oddly panned to the left for the performance, it was hard to keep focused on the singer and her band.
Overall, this was another great Hopscotch in the books. One can hope that they can continue the 4th day, though perhaps not at Red Hat but by incorporating the already Hopscotch sanctioned venues.