Hopscotch Music Festival 2019. What a time. What a place.
This was my second year covering Hopscotch Music Festival for Extra Chill, and in case you missed last year’s memo, you need to attend this festival. Hopscotch is hosted in downtown Raleigh at nine different venues that all relatively near each other. The Hopscotch lineup always seems to fill the “underground” niche of music festivals, and oooooweeee was the lineup good this year.
Heavy hitters this year that I really enjoyed included Cate Le Bon (listen to every piece of music she has made), Deerhunter (Bradford Cox does his thing, and does it well), Kurt Vile (a great live set, amazingly talented musician) and Orville Peck (another very talented musician who is updating old school country through the “weird” approach). These were all names I was familiar with going in to the festival, and they did not disappoint.
A favorite thing about Hopscotch is how amazing the unexpected things are. The first night I attended two shows at Slim’s which kind of blew my mind. The first was a Brooklyn based band Bambara that had an amazing take on noise based rock ballads. Think of the band Iceage, but going a little more wild. The second band that first night was New York shoegaze OGs, A Place to Bury Strangers. Having never experienced a proper shoegaze show, and thus not knowing the volume that it is played at, this was definitiely one of the first times I had physically felt sound and music. It was super intense, and super fun. I highly recommend both of these bands, particularly in a live setting.
The unexpected gems of Hopscotch Music Festival are great for exposing yourself to something new that is so well-curated it’s bound to be good. This year’s lineup featured many bands with noise influence and alternative hip-hop groups with talent all around.
One of the most exciting aspects of Hopscotch is the regional bands that play both the festival and the free day parties. This year, Columbia’s Niecy Blues played an official Hopscotch set as well as a day party set, and Charleston local legend Brett Nash (of Secret Guest & more) played with musicians from ET Anderson to form the supergroup ET Nash. ET Nash played after Asheville band Shaken Nature, who you might have seen at Charleston DIY spot Dunk Zone last year. Both bands made for one of my favorite one-twos of the festival. The venue was a Charleston sized room in a house called The Outpost which also served as a legitimate tiki bar. The bar served up blended banana rum drinks and free cookies, and the stage featured live analog slide projections. It was a prime example of how great a house show environment can be and the best example I saw of how amazing and unique Hopscotch can be.
With a venue-based music festival it is crucial to have the setting fit the aesthetic and sound of each artist. A bunch of respect needs to be given to the sound engineers at all venues and stages because each show had exceptional sound quality for all the genres of music. Hopscotch takes the effort to ensure that bands perform in the best possible environment for their sound, and that the sound is as clear (and sometimes as loud) as possible. It is a festival where the music comes first, and is a great example of how music festivals should be approached.