A 2016 Hopscotch Preview
By Phil Pucci
September 6, 2016
In its seventh year, Hopscotch Music Festival continues to bring some of the freshest and most exciting national acts to North Carolina, situating them alongside a host of homegrown and soon-to-be-buzzed-about talent. The festival, which will be held in downtown Raleigh this Thursday through Saturday, remains an event that isn’t for the masses, but rather for the die-hard enthusiasts. Nerds. Crate diggers. As we reach a point where the big-box music festival bubble seems ready to burst and the word “Coachella” sooner brings to mind a hipster-chic cultural stereotype than Coachella Music Festival itself, Hopscotch offers a refreshing take on the format.
The curators achieve this by ignoring typical marquee headliners (no signs of Radiohead, LCD Soundsystem or Kanye West in Raleigh this September) and shining a spotlight on the understated and unexpected. Noteworthy names on this year’s Hopscotch lineup include Erykah Badu, Beach House, Young Thug, Gary Clark Jr. and Wolf Parade. For this writer, the most mind-blowing lineup inclusions are Television, whose 1977 album Marquee Moon is legendary in (punk) rock circles, and Converge, whose 2001 album Jane Doe is one of the most celebrated metalcore releases in history.
Here are some other can’t-miss acts who will perform during this year’s festivities, including many up-and-comers and other leftfield picks from the lineup.
Thursday 9:00 PM at Kings
Brett Nash leads this Charleston psych-punk outfit. Their songs are sprawling and heavy on guitar effects, but are grounded by a tight rhythm section and a flair for 90s nostalgia. Secret Guest formed last year and simultaneously released two albums on the same day. Sorry, Frank Ocean, Secret Guest did it first.
Thursday 10:00 PM at The Pour House Music Hall
Washington DC-based Eva Moolchan’s minimalist art punk project Sneaks will release its debut album Gymnastics via Merge Records the day after her performance on Thursday at Pour House. Moolchan likely won’t be flying under the radar for very long, so check out Sneaks and brag about it later.
Thursday 12:00 AM at Kings
The Coathangers don’t give a fuck. The Atlanta punk trio tour constantly, whether or not they are in an album cycle, and their enthusiasm for playing is apparent onstage; they switch instruments frequently, howl and yelp into the microphone, solicit the audience for drugs, fetch shots from the bar in between songs, and most importantly play like they mean it.
Friday 10:00 PM // Kings
If you’re traveling from out of town to Hopscotch like me, make it a point to see some of Raleigh’s finest while you’re there. The musicians who make up Kooley High are credited for building a hip hop scene from the ground up at NC State in the mid-2000s. The group, who has since spawned a solo career for former member Rapsody, is now geographically split between New York and North Carolina, but recently self-released their new EP Heights.
Friday 11:30 PM at CAM
At the age of 24, Virginia resident Will Toledo has released over ten studio albums under the Car Seat Headrest moniker. For a while it seemed like he’d always be the best kept secret on Bandcamp, releasing lo-fi indie rock records and otherwise remaining an enigma. I recall DJing a song from his 2011 album Twin Fantasy and had a bar patron (and friend of mine) scold me for playing something so downtempo and depressing. Funny enough, that very friend recently posted on Facebook about how much he loves the new Car Seat Headrest album Teens of Denial, which was released on Matador Records. This is to say that Toledo’s project has leveled up from its bedroom beginnings and into a full-fledged, anthemic indie rock band. CAM will be packed to the gills for this show, so I recommend getting there early.
Friday 12:00 AM at Nash Hall
Julien Baker has long been touring around the sleeper success her debut album Sprained Ankle, which started as a self-released EP on Bandcamp and saw a proper release on 6131 Records last October. The Tennessee indie pop crooner will undoubtedly be playing rooms twice the size of Nash Hall (a newly added venue for this year’s Hopscotch) in due time, so catch her this weekend in an intimate space.
Saturday 7:00 PM at City Plaza
It’s probably not fair to sneak this rapper onto a list of up-and-comers, given that his 2015 single “Norf Norf” has 15 million plays on Spotify and he is the subject of Pitchfork news headlines almost weekly. But in case you didn’t know, Long Beach, California’s Vince Staples released one of the best studio albums of 2015 with Summertime ‘06 and more recently dropped a gem of an EP Prima Donna on Def Jam. So you need to see him.
Saturday 11:00 PM at Deep South
Atlanta duo Red Sea craft dreamy pop songs that aren’t too far removed from their Bayonet Records label head Dustin Payseur’s own project Beach Fossils. However, Red Sea veers from the formula with a penchant for experimentation that is sometimes jarring but always engaging.
Saturday 11:30 PM at Fletcher Theater
The backstory alone should be enough to capture your intrigue: In 1973, Lavender Country released the first known gay-themed country album. The Seattle-based group, led by political activist Patrick Haggerty, reformed in 2010 and have been playing shows irregularly since.
Saturday 12:00 AM // Deep South
LVL UP perfectly marries pop-punk and lo-fi indie rock on their newest single “Hidden Driver” released via Sub Pop. The quartet, from Purchase, New York recall equal parts Neutral Milk Hotel and Wavves.