The Hopscotch Music Festival continued to build on its strengths as it entered its eighth year in downtown Raleigh NC on September 7th. The festival featured more than 130 bands playing at a range of venues from small bars and clubs to Red Hat Amphitheater, with its capacity of nearly 6000, all within a largely walkable area near the city center. Often billed as “low-key” or “cozy,” Hopscotch has continued to evolve beyond the confines of those descriptions. This year saw the festival expand its schedule with the addition of a 4th day of performances at Red Hat on Sunday. Organizers also secured a new venue christened “The Basement.” Located in the lower level of the Convention Center, the venue was anything but the tiny dark performance space the name would suggest. The large stage in the massive open area under the convention center felt more like attending a show in an aircraft hanger. Despite the acoustical challenges of presenting bands in such a cavernous enclosed space, the sound was surprisingly solid for the most part.
So, with an extra day and a new venue, Hopscotch kicked off on Thursday to sunny skies and cooler than average temps. The weather was absolutely perfect for an afternoon of meandering around downtown and taking in some of the many Hopscotch Day Parties. Like the main festival, day parties offer a variety of acts, all playing at free shows around town leading into the evening festival proper. We started the afternoon by dipping our toes into the weekend with a stop at PotLuck’s annual “Rock ‘n Roll Pizza Party” at Slims where we managed to catch the melodic and infectious tunes of Organos, before ending at Kings for the dark post-punk of Konvoi.
The Hopscotch festival officially got under way with a subtle indie and country vibe from the main stage at City Plaza. Local singer/songwriter Skylar Gudasz started off the proceedings with a well received and intimate set. She was followed by Big Thief. Frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s raw and powerful vocals were the center of attention and continued the emotional and intimate mood set earlier by Skylar. Closing out the evening on the main stage was Nashville-based Country singer Margo Price. Margo and her band delivered a twang filled romp through some solid old-school country tunes that channeled the spunk and spirit of Loretta Lynn.
After the main stage performances Hopscotch put the pedal to the floor and took off in earnest with bands playing simultaneously at multiple venues, allowing festival goers to pick and choose who they wanted to catch. The opening night standouts that we caught started out with the droning psychedelic acid-rock sounds of All the Saints at the Basement. After a quick dash over to Deep South to cleanse the musical palate with the sunny west coast rock of LA-based Cones, it was back to the Basement for sets from Oh Sees and Anton Newcombe’s psychedelic shoegaze musical outfit, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. We ended the evening/early morning at the Pour House for a positively barnstorming set from Brooklyn’s Sunflower Bean.