Hopscotch: A Retrospective

The Hopscotch music festival first began taking over downtown Raleigh for a weekend in September 2010. Despite living in Raleigh at the time, I was not in attendance, nor did I know about the festival. This can easily be chalked up to the very severe divide between North Raleigh and the area encapsulating Downtown Raleigh and the NC State campus. As someone who grew up in North Raleigh, these really are two truly different worlds. However, I was also 14 at the time of the inaugural festival and I really probably didn’t know who Panda Bear or Megafaun were. I was much more inclined to the bands that played Warped Tour.  

Looking back over the lineups in my very early 20s is quite the weird treat as one can see just how ahead of the curve Hopscotch was in many instances and also just how much the festival and Downtown Raleigh have changed. From the inaugural year, we see Future Islands headlining the Berkeley Cafe, which is weird to think about in general. First, the Berkeley Cafe is place that still operates as a dining establishment, but not a live music venue. Secondly, this band headlined one of the smaller places in all of the venues in 2010 and in seven years time are now headlining City Plaza as the triumphant local heroes. This will be a theme throughout the festival’s history. Next on the docket are some of the venues used for performances such as the Busy Bee, Tir Na Nog, and Five Star, which WKNC had an event at the latter to my surprise. Now the festival has greatly expanded, featuring some very unique and large venues such as CAM and the basement of the Raleigh Convention Center.

2011 came and was still another year I didn’t know about, but the festival seems to be getting a bit bigger year by year with The Flaming Lips headlining and a great undercard of some now huge names like Oneohtrix Point Never and Toro y Moi residing fairly low in the lineup to where now they’d be near the top of most lineups.

2012 is an absolutely insane lineup and arguably one of the best well rounded lineups in the festival’s history. The top of the lineup sees a 90’s music fan’s dream with the Jesus and Mary Chain, Yo La Tengo, and Built to Spill, but it also has wide appeal for everyone else. The metal selection for 2012 is top notch featuring Sunn 0))), and from what I have heard, they played Raleigh Memorial Auditorium, which I just can’t even imagine. From there they invited local stalwarts Corrosion of Conformity and Valient Thorr to rock Raleigh’s face off. Let’s not forget Nails near the middle of the lineup, who would easily be near the top half of the lineup in 2017. This lineup even had some of the best hip-hop of the moment with Danny Brown and Death Grips.

2013 was the first year Hopscotch came into my world. I wouldn’t necessarily say the festival as a whole, but mainly I just remember seeing Earl Sweatshirt on Lincoln Theatre’s website and really wanting to go, but not knowing what Hopscotch was. Towards the bottom of this line-up, one might see a once-small band called Sylvan Esso, funny in retrospect considering they played the Hopscotch main stage

to a huge audience this past year. This festival is a breaking ground for so many artists in the North Carolina region and for bands at large. Just look at 2010 with Best Coast, Washed Out and the War on Drugs all just playing Tir na Nog. A great little spot back in the day, but super small. The good people behind Hopscotch really do know how to book bands on the rise better than most festivals out there.

2014 may be the most infamous year of Hopscotch, mainly because of a certain artist named Sun Kil Moon calling the audience at Lincoln Theatre a bunch of hillbillies, or something along those lines. Aside from this rather obnoxious incident, featured another well rounded year for the festival with the likes of mega indie star St. Vincent taking on City Plaza, legendary punk band Death playing a very rare show, and De La Soul bringing their fresh, upbeat blend of 90s hip-hop nostalgia to the City Plaza on a Thursday night for the first time. This year can also lay claim to being one of the danciest line-ups in the festival’s history with the likes of Jamie XX, Lunice and the Range.  

2015 was a pivotal year for me as it was the first year I really knew about the festival in its fullest and thus my first year in attendance and it was a great time. There really is nothing like running from one venue to another to catch a set in the middle of September. This festival really does a great job of curating artists that very few other festivals would even touch. Raleigh saw the likes of Dwight Yoakam and X in one night along with industrial metal pioneers Godflesh. Then there are the artists on the brink of success such as Goldlink who you can’t escape right now.

2015 was my first year, but definitely not my last. I knew I had to return in 2016, especially with the festival’s best lineup in its entire history. Well that is at least in my opinion. How could this not be the best year with the likes of Vince Staples, Anderson .Paak, and Young Thug in one night! Let’s not forget Converge, rising indie/funk act Sneaks, and apparently a wall of death at Twin Peaks (at least that’s what I have heard). This was a year to not forget and 2017 is shaping up to be quite the grand year. I can’t wait to reflect on this years iteration in seven years and see what local is headlining or indie act is at the top of the world. If I was a betting man, I would definitely throw out some predictions, but I’m not that smart!

Stay tuned for more coverage from WKNC and we will see y’all at Wristband City this year!

-Jamie Halla, General Manager