Welcome to Raleigh, North Carolina. For those of you unfamiliar with the 'City of Oaks,' this up and coming town is one of the best kept secrets of the Southeast, boasting a consistently growing economy and population, a vibrant night life, and a metropolitan area that stretches out to include Durham and Chapel Hill. Home to a quickly growing number of young people, Raleigh is steadily becoming known for its eclectic music scene. Every September for the past four years, thousands of people in the know have descended upon the North Carolinian state capitol for Hopscotch Music Festival.
Hopscotch is a wonderful time; over 200 artists swarm to Raleigh during the first weekend of September to create an environment that brings the city to life. With musical styles ranging from indie rock to synth pop and hardcore to hip-hop, the festival draws a wide variety of people to foster a diverse cultural experience. Hopscotch officially spans from Thursday evening to the wee hours of Sunday morning, featuring numerous club shows each night, and both a headliner's stage in City Plaza as well as rowdy day parties on Friday and Saturday. I was fortunate enough to get my hands on a photo pass for the weekend and while it took some effort to cover as much ground as I did, the experience was incredible and I got to see some awesome music. Here are my six most memorable moments of Hopscotch 2013:
6. Alpulko Don/Plume Giant
This one's a toss up. Both of these are artists that I had never seen live and knew very little about, but delivered some of the more impressive performances of the weekend. Alpulko Don's tone was reminiscent of Xzibit and he commanded the big room at the Lincoln Theater with just an a cappella paired with the booming sound of his fist hitting percussively against a wooden table. Plume Giant played for a crowd of only 25 or so, but after a long weekend of heavy-hitting, high-energy music, their ethereal harmonic revelations were incredibly relaxing. I found myself listening to the entirety of their performance while observing the eclectic musical paraphernalia strewn across the walls, the best of which was an old Axl Rose rider.
These guys were really impressive, featuring their Nashville style of rock and roll and a level of multi-instrumentalism that few can rival. This show proved that while there were some great headliners at the major venues, the small club shows are what truly carry Hopscotch and make it a great event.
4. The Day Parties
The day parties bring Raleigh to life on Friday and Saturday of Hopscotch. They're sponsored by mostly local companies and feature mostly local artists, but they're free and tons of people come out to see up and comers in the area as well as more established local acts. One of the best moments of the weekend came during a day party when I saw a three-year old girl with huge earphones on dancing in the back of the venue as local hip-hop artists Professor Toon and The Real Laww freestyled from words that the audience had written on a clipboard to their live band's rendition of Outkast's "Ms. Jackson." It was one of the purest cultural moments I've experienced in a long time.
3. Lonnie Holley with special guests Steve Gunn, Bradley Cook of Megafaun, and Matt McCaughan of Bon Iver
Are you kidding me? The festival announced this on the day before everything started and the performance was unbelievable, featuring Lonnie Holley's ethereal growl over trance-like melodies characterized by round bass and fleeting guitar. It was an awesomely rare opportunity to see such a great group of musicians play together.
After the incredible performance you're about to read about below, I trekked over to Memorial Auditorium to catch Local Natives. In what was probably the most powerful performance I saw at Hopscotch, the band delivered a wall of sound that had a packed auditorium on its feet. As the band broke into "Wide Eyes" the crowd electrified, cheering along to the wall of sound emanating from the towers of speakers at the edge of the stage.
1. Big Daddy Kane
It's an unfortunate situation when one of the more highly touted acts on your bill has to cancel at the last minute due to personal injury (Action Bronson), but when you can call up someone like Big Daddy Kane (the OG of Juice Crew fame) and he comes and blows a packed house out of the water, you know you have something special. BDK came to play on two-hours notice and tore it up making it almost impossible for that night's headliner, Earl Sweatshirt, to follow. Sweatshirt even came on late and while he played a solid show, he cut his set short by 25 minutes.