By Cameron Lee
September 16, 2017
Hopscotch returned to downtown Raleigh for its eighth year. The trendsetting indie music festival brought together a profusion of acts that spanned a wide range of genres. This year, notable changes included the addition of Red Hat Amphitheater and the festivals introduction of Raleigh Convention Center’s Exhibition Hall (“The Basement”).
As a city music festival incorporating several venues, Hopscotch (must like their name suggests) allows music enthusiasts to check out a multitude of acts in different settings. Crystal clear skies, and the brisk air mixed with the emotionally lingering affects of the looming Hurricane Irma created a cool vibe in the tame but vibrant streets of Raleigh.
One downside of any city festival is the conflicting scheduled acts and logistics of mapping out your day. Hopscotch offers a variety of day parties and events throughout, like their Design Fest, creating a SXSW vibe in an area known for technology and software development.
Although we weren’t able to see all of the shows we wanted to, here are a few of our favorite moments from Hopscotch 2017:
National Slam Poetry Champion G Yamazawa’s career has blossomed this year with his latest album Shouts To Durham and the release of his “North Cack” music video which has accumulated a staggering amount of views and listens through multiple platforms. The Japanese American and Durham native now resides in L.A., and he’s making some serious noise in the ever-expanding hip-hop landscape. It was a treat to see Lincoln Theatre amped up with the “North Cack” Bull City energy on Thursday night to kick off the festival.
The Colombian, New York-based singer-songwriter was quite possibly the most intriguing performer of Hopscotch 2017. Her sedated charm and minimal production during her late afternoon set with the downtown Raleigh backdrop offered an adequate chillwave vibe. Her voice matched the echoey bedroom pop stylings of her latest album, Crawl Space. Some early technical difficulties with the bass were adjusted as they recreated the sounds of songs like “Keep Running” and “Creep,” while “Year 3k” offered a vintage New York Jazz room flavor. Her most poppy song, “Say You Do” was performed with a flawless Eighties flare.
Run The Jewels
On December 31, 2013, Hopscotch brought the newly formed hip-hop duo Run The Jewels to the Lincoln Theatre just months after the release of their very first RTJ album for a special New Year’s Eve show. Although both Killer Mike and El-P had impressive rap careers up to this point, not many imagined they would be the force they are today. They rumbled through their impressive catalog of three albums released in the last four years.
North Carolina’s Rapsody, fresh off of her performance at Jay Z’s Made in America festival in Philly, blessed Raleigh with an alluring late afternoon set in front of the dazzling Carolina sun. The Jamla/Roc Nation artist and 9th Wonder protege, impressed with her witty word-play and fluid MC skills backed by her equally impressive Storm Troopers Band. Currently one of the fastest-rising rappers in the game and having recently collaborated with Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Ab Soul, and more, Rapsody’s much-anticipated sophomore album, Laila’s Wisdom will drop on September 22.
Having seen footage of Solange on the festival circuit, I can’t say I was particularly excited about her performance at Hopscotch. While her latest album A Seat At The Table was widely touted as one of the best albums of 2016, it’s always tough to gauge where the studio production ends and real vocal performance and talent begins. Her set was illuminating with dreamy shades of red and impressive back-up singers that swayed in fluid motion with her every move and sound. Despite my preconceptions, I was thoroughly impressed with her overall performance and design of her set. Hearing “Cranes in the Sky” on a perfectly clear and cool night in one of the world’s fastest growing cities, offered a melodic reminder of our changing environment.
North Carolina natives and synth-pop outfit Future Islands returned to Hopscotch this year as a headlining act. Quite possibly the most anticipated show at Hopscotch, Samuel T. Herring’s cavernous growls, Carlton-esque shimmies and aggressive sliding fist pumps tend to polarize an audience. You either really love them or you really don’t. It’s hard to deny the charm of their performance of “Seasons (Waiting On You)” in the first week of September smack-dab in the middle of City Plaza.
Hopscotch alum, and self proclaimed “Festival Killer” Big Boi has low-key been one the most active rappers in the industry the last few years. He remains respected through a wide age demographic well after the latest mega-successful Outkast tour run. Having released a collaboration project with Phantogram called Big Grams in 2015, a couple features with Run The Jewels, Big Boi recently released his third solo studio album, Boomiverse in June. He was accompanied by Sleepy Brown of Organized Noize and they played all the Outkast bangers to satisfy the “old school players” and brought some high-energy Atlanta vibes for the “new school fools.”