Hopscotch Makes Its Mark

This past weekend was a landmark for Raleigh’s, and North Carolina’s, music scene. Hopscotch Music Festival, spanning 10 venues and 3 days and nights, was thrilling and inspiring throughout…particularly as a North Carolinian. Hats off to Grayson Currin and Greg Lowenhagen at The Independent for putting on a great event with the most concentrated, diverse, and able lineup that Raleigh has seen. And, big up to all the people who came out in droves all over Raleigh to show the area’s appetite for good music and to support up and comers, including so many talented NC artists. I’m already excited to see what Hopscotch II has in store.

It’s damn near impossible to quantify the amount of music that I have and will glean from Hopscotch, but I’ve tried by summarizing the acts I was lucky enough to catch throughout the weekend. Take the jump to hear more about some Hopscotch bands and don’t be a stranger to The Sound Medium because there will be more posts coming on a lot of these artists…it’s too much to try and digest at this point!!


Thursday was a great way to warm up for the weekend. Admittedly, I didn’t get out as early as I had intended, which is why Cults and Best Coast were out of the question given that there was a line around the block to get into to Tir Na Nog when we got there. So we consulted our schedule.

We headed to Lincoln to catch the end of Max Indian and see some of American Aquarium, but we got there at a bad time so decided to bounce and get to Berkeley Cafe in time for Javelin. As we were waiting to get in, people were walking out sweaty and wide-eyed saying great things about the Double Dagger – a post punk outfit out of Baltimore – performance.


Javelin are an electro-hop duo from Providence (now Brooklyn) whose shows are typically BYOBoombox since they broadcast their live feed over an FM transmitter. There was a lack of Boomboxes at the Hopscotch show however, but there was no lack of energy from these guys. They had the room dancing from start to finish with tropical synthy tracks with crystal bass and some incredible drum work…kinda like a happier Yeasayer. I also recall a few cover songs in their set, but can’t be sure because this isn’t a band to do anything standard, much less play someone else’s song the same way they do. Definitely don’t miss these guys in your town.

After Javelin, product-of-ECU Future Islands came on, which was damn entertaining. These guys have definitely carved out a niche in the electropop scene with their recent release In Evening Air. The live performance is a spectacle with lead singer Sam Herring’s insatiable crowd control. His dramatic tone and onstage theatrics, such as the reach up to the sky, grab, and pull down slowly, makes me think of a Meatloaf. After leaving Future Islands, it was on to Pour House for Akron/Family, a folky, psychedelic trio from Brooklyn who switch instruments regularly between songs.


Megafaun | Photo by Ashley Melzer

Day 2 started early with the Friend Island day party hosted by Portland-based label Hometapes, where Megafaun stole the show. There will definitely be a follow up post on these guys, who are out of Durham. Friday night was the beginning of the headlining acts at City Plaza at the end of Fayetteville Street. Friday night’s headliners were North Carolina’s own The Rosebuds, Broken Social Scene, and Panda Bear from Animal Collective. For BSS, It was impressive to hear such well organized music with such chaotic movements going on onstage. Not only were there like 7 people involved,  but there were switching places regularly, even mid-song. All in all though, the band played a great set with a nice variety of songs that’s I’ve never listened to before, but will now seek out. Panda Bear was excellent. I know a lot of folks have their reservations about Panda Bear (and Animal Collective), but his set was pure art. Backed with a psychedelic video stream, Noah Lennox (as his folks named him) crooned from song to song including some tracks off his new album, Tomboy (due out this month), some old tracks like the classic “Comfy In Nautica”, and even a few tracks off AC’s “Merriweather Post Pavilion”. It was a calm show, but certainly had everyone’s attention.

Panda Bear

So back to the evening schedule:

After finding out Merlin never showed up at Five Star Friday, Tir Na Nog was the next stop to set up shop for The War on Drugs. This show was balls to the wall woven with indie rock, Bob Dylan, and Americana. Look out for more on this band later.

The War on Drugs @ Tir Na Nog

As soon as War on Drugs finished, it was race to Lincoln Theatre to catch the end of the 9th Wonder party, which was headlined with Wu-Tang’s Reakwon. Hip-hop was  definitely the best way to end the night, particularly when Reakwon was dropping “Glaciers of Ice”, “Criminology”, Wu-Tang hits, and even a Ol Dirty Bastard shout out with “Shimmy Shimmy Ya”.


Day 3’s day party of choice was again at The Pour House for the Day-Dream party presented by Trekky Records, which included some of the most amazing performances of the weekend in Sharon Van Etten, Midtown Dickens, and Lost in the Trees. I think the whole feeling of the festival was wrapped up nicely by Catherine of Durham’s Midtown Dickens when she almost teared up onstage describing what an amazing feeling it was to be surrounded by so many local and influential musicians and to see the level of turnout in Raleigh. This banter was in the middle of an awesome and heartfelt set where multiple instruments were deployed such as spoons, saw (yes, a wood saw with a bow), banjo, accordion, trumpet, clarinet, harmonica, and so on. Definitely check these folks out when you can.

Midtown Dickens @ The Pour House

Flava Flav @ City Plaza

Headlining the final night was Raleigh’s own The Love Language, Cali’s No Age, and hip-hop and reality TV show legends Public Enemy. The Love Language’s set sounded great in City Plaza. This band is blowing up so check ’em out while you can. Public Enemy had Raleigh bouncing with each song. As the rain started to trickle down, Flava Flav got the party started by breaking out his signature round-the-neck clock only after the crowd shouted “Flaavaaa Flaaaaaav!!!”. Chuck D showed no signs of slowing down even as the group approaches its 30th year and in between the songs, Flav was providing city plaza with some comic banter. For example, after promoting his large line of flavored vodka and champagne “Chateau de Flav”,  he also plugged his new food line, “FFC” or Flava’s Fried Chicken.  We’ll certainly look forward to that, Flav.

First thing Saturday evening was Lincoln Theatre for NOMO, a band I had never heard of, but put on a hell of a show. A self-described Afro-beat dance explosion, this band had the Lincoln going, particularly the glowstick clad crew in the middle of the dancefloor. After listening to some of  Hometapes’ Bear In Heaven, we hoofed it over to Deep South for the end of First Rate People and the full set of Raleigh hip hop act Kooley High. If you don’t know about Kooley High, check ’em out because they are at the forefront of North Carolina’s secretly amazing hip hop scene. Think of a new twist on the old styles of Arrested Development and A Tribe Called Quest. More on them later.

Raleigh's Finest - Kooley High

The weekend certainly made its mark on me since I still have the Hopscotch hangover, but more importantly it only proved even further that North Carolina has an incredible music scene and plenty of willing ears and minds.


~ by johnnyjay on September 15, 2010.

2 Responses to “Hopscotch Makes Its Mark”

  1. […] North Carolina. Their roots rock rambling makes for one hell of a show and they kicked ass at Hopscotch. The guys released a mini-album this week called Heretofore, which contains the track […]

  2. It’s good to get a fresh way of looinkg at it.

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