Celebrating its 10th Anniversary, the Hopscotch Music Festival continued to build on its strengths, delivering an eclectic and genre-defying mix of 130 bands across 11 venues in downtown Raleigh NC. While a diversified line-up remained the heart and soul of the festival, this year Mother Nature decided to throw a curve ball at organizers and attendees in the form of hurricane Dorian. As the category three storm sideswiped the coast, it brought heavy rain and strong gusty winds to Raleigh Thursday afternoon as Hopscotch weekend kicked off with the traditional slate of Hopscotch Day Parties. While the various parties around town were not impacted, organizers announced that after working closely with City of Raleigh officials, the decision was made to move the Thursday night main-stage performances from the outdoor stage in City Plaza, four miles outside of downtown, to the Ritz where the show could go on indoors. The weather-dictated shift in venues pushed main stage openers, The Nude Party, to the next night’s bill in City plaza, while the rest of the lineup remained intact.
Festival-goers who found their way out to the Ritz were
happy to be dry and enjoyed a significantly more intimate setting as Snail Mail
provided the official start to this year’s Hopscotch performances. The project of indie-rock phenomenon Lindsey
Jordan, Snail Mail provided the ideal on-ramp to the weekend with a captivating
performance that mixed personal lyrics with a shimmering guitar sound that ranged
from and dream-like to fuzzed out and fierce.
Filling the “middle child” spot on the evening’s mainstage lineup fell to Kurt Vile. Not a flamboyant showman, Vile often stood at the microphone with his head down and his face obscured by a curtain of long hair. Regardless of the introverted appearance, he proved to be an engaging performer and talented multi-instrumentalist. Fan favorite tracks, “Wakin’ on a Pretty Day,” and “Pretty Pimpin’,” delivered toward the end of the set, particularly resonated with the festival crowd. Following on the slow and steady energy building in the crowded confines of the Ritz, Sleater-Kinney took the stage and kicked the evening into high gear. Guitarist/vocalists, Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker not only debuted songs from their new album, The Center Won’t Hold, they also debuted new drummer, Angie Boylan, who did a solid job of filling the mighty big shoes of the recently departed Janet Weiss. The band ripped and roared through a well-mixed setlist of songs old and new before sending everyone back downtown and out into the rain and wind to wander between venues and catch some of the assorted bands playing simultaneously at multiple venues. We finished out the evening a little less adventurous than in previous years, and rather than wander from venue to venue, we camped at Imurj, where we caught some fantastic performances from Kississippi and Illuminati Hotties, before closing out the evening with a barn-burning set from New York’s Charly Bliss. Despite not taking the stage until after Midnight, the band were a blast of energy and joy, mixing power and melody with undeniable pop hooks. Their exuberant performance and catchy songs sent us home tired but wearing a huge grin.