By Phil Pucci
August 27, 2015
Hopscotch Music Festival is set to celebrate its sixth year with what is arguably their most eclectic lineup yet. The festival, which will be held in downtown Raleigh next Thursday through Saturday, maintains its reputation for carefully handpicking a crop of fresh, exciting indie acts from the region, placing them alongside nationally seasoned headliners. And with Moogfest making its Durham debut next May, Hopscotch is smart to keep playing to their strengths, distinguishing them from other festivals that tend to place significantly more of a spotlight on blockbuster outfits.
That’s not to say that there aren’t a fair share of heavy-hitters here; the City Plaza stage will feature a number of veterans like Dwight Yoakam, TV on the Radio, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the seminal punk band X.
I don’t have to tell you to go see these bands. You already know the deal. Hopscotch purposefully reverses the typical festival schedule by sticking these artists early in the evening, with intent to get you hyped and send you off into the night, where you can see any combination of up-and-comers and buzzed-about artists. There are over a hundred of them playing at several city-center bars and theatres.
Here are CLTure’s can’t miss acts for Hopscotch this year. Get learned, fast.
Thursday 11:00 PM // Tír na nÓg
Coming all the way from Austin, Texas, for a one-off gig, these guys have paid their dues in the form of a fantastic run of albums in the ‘00s. They have shared the stage with the likes of The Anniversary in the past, and will be bringing their power pop jams to the East Coast. Songs like “Cottonmouth” play with momentous forward energy, stacking pop hooks atop crunchy guitars.
Thursday 11:30 PM // Slim’s
Patois Counselors are the first of two Charlotte bands on our list. The Queen City has showed up prominently on Hopscotch lineups in the past, including last year when our own Sinners & Saints notably opened up the (now infamous) Sun Kil Moon performance. Bo White, a local favorite for over a decade now, fronts the Counselors, with vocals that attack with a little more bite than previous projects. The band rips through intense, punk-driven songs that lean on experimentation to keep things interesting.
Thursday 12:00 AM // Tír na nÓg
Okay, logistically speaking, my itinerary so far only allows you to watch these last few bands for about 15 minutes each. But that’s alright! It’s festival season in Raleigh– let’s move! This Columbus, Ohio, native offers something truly unique. While her roots are firmly planted in contemporary country, her vocal delivery more closely resembles that of Patti Smith’s. It is this marriage that has attracted Lydia and her band lots of press surrounding the release of their 2014 album Somewhere Else, including a slot on Rolling Stone’s “10 New Bands You Need to Know” in January 2014.
Friday 9:30 PM // CAM
This band played with my band at Snug Harbor a couple weeks ago, and they turned lots of heads. Their music is loud and filthy, but also very hooky. When it hits, they lock you into their punk grooves and repeated-mantra choruses. When they back off, the synths creep into the forefront, with lightheaded modulations.
Friday 12:00 AM // Kings Barcade
Love him or hate him, this New York rapper is making moves. Known for producing a few hits early in his career, like “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell” by Das Racist in 2008, Le1f released latest EP Hey via XL Recordings last year. His one-liners are witty and his flow is fast. This is sure to be a talked-about performance.
Friday 12:30 AM // Tír na nÓg
These guys have played at The Milestone in Charlotte several times. They came through in March to support their latest album You’re Better Than This. Pile is a straight-ahead indie rock band, albeit one who rips harder and punchier than most of their peers, employing dynamics so extreme that they leave the Pixies scratching their heads. And yet, in a live setting, you can see how fragile some of their more subdued guitar lines are. One moment it’s as if they might fall apart without making it to the next chorus, but at the next, their nervous energy breaks into explosively heavy guitar riffs.
Saturday 9:00 PM // The Hive
Residents of the old Kinnikinnik Records family of bands, Moenda seems to gradually become more elusive over time. Many of my musician friends cite them as one of their favorite local acts, if not their #1 favorite. John Schacht wrote a lovely piece about them for Creative Loafing in 2011, but otherwise their shows don’t typically attract much press. Moenda’s music is a constant push and pull between quiet and chaos. Their sonic experimentation will leave a lasting impression. Trust me: I have vivid memories of past performances in dive bars, living rooms and architectural firms.
Saturday 11:30 PM // Lincoln Theatre
Even Billboard can attest to the growing relevance of this Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter is gaining– her new album Abyss hit #1 on the Heatseekers chart upon its release this month. Chelsea Wolfe embraces folk as much as she does darkwave, metal and industrial guitars.
Saturday 12:00 AM // Fletcher Opera Theater
There is really no way you can go wrong here– no matter what kind of music you’re into. Owen Pallett, formerly known as Final Fantasy, is a violinist who constructs pop songs with tinges of fright and madness. He has been releasing indie pop gems since his days of touring and recording with Arcade Fire. Pallett pens lyrics that are often surreal, or at worst, completely absurd. There are several videos floating around on YouTube of him performing a loop-based cover of Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy.” I think we are in for a treat with this one.
Saturday 12:30 AM // Kennedy Theatre
I can think of no better way to close out the weekend than by sobering up a little with Jessica Pratt’s dreamy, jagged-edged landscapes. Her experimental, mind-bending folk was highly sought after in 2012, when her self-titled debut LP kept running out of print and publications like Pitchfork found it and sang its praises. She recently opened for Panda Bear at The Orange Peel in Asheville, unassumingly hypnotizing a packed room with only an acoustic guitar.
Also check out 15 must-see bands playing Hopscotch day parties.
For a complete lineup, including information about over a hundred artists who are playing Hopscotch Day Parties all over town, visit hopscotchmusicfest.com.