Hopscotch has evolved over the years, but still remains a convergence of genres and platform for North Carolina talent

By Cameron Lee

August 20, 2022

Photo: Jeremy M. Lange / Hopscotch

It’s hard to believe nearly 12 years have passed since Hopscotch launched its inaugural festival in 2010. It’s even harder to believe that in its first year, Hopscotch hosted 130 acts at ten venues in downtown Raleigh, featuring Rock and Roll Hall of Famers Public Enemy, Wu-Tang’s Raekwon, indie upstart Sharon Van Etten, Philadelphia rockers The War on Drugs, synth-pop up-and-comers Future Islands, and many more. An ambitious first-year event, the atmosphere was closer to South by Southwest than your traditional outdoor music festival. Rapper Chuck D praised its grassroots feel and North Carolina’s own 9th Wonder told Rolling Stone, “We’ve had a scene in North Carolina for a very long time. There’s been ups and there’s been downs, from the hip-hop side to the rock side, but Hopscotch brings it all together and brings validity to it.” 

Hopscotch indeed validated the Triangle area as a hotbed for indie rock and rap. Following the success of Durham-based Merge Records in the ‘90s and early aughts, combined with young crowds from nearby colleges and rising indie hip-hop acts like Little Brother, Raleigh was an ideal locale for a hip new music festival. Raleigh possessed more small venues than your average city, and Hopscotch lived up to its name, allowing attendees to bounce from venue to venue, catching big-name acts and local talent, all in the same weekend. 

Over the years acts like The Flaming Lips, The Roots, St. Vincent, Beach House, Vince Staples, Anderson .Paak, De La Soul, Sylvan Esso, and Thundercat have all graced the main stage in City Plaza. The stage, plopped right in the middle of a downtown street surrounded by corporate buildings, can be a somewhat of a surreal experience for many newcomers. To accommodate even more acts, the festival added Red Hat Amphitheater in 2016. That year Erykah Badu and Gary Clark Jr. graced the stage, with Solange, Run the Jewels, Miguel, DVSN, James Blake and Chvrches appearing in the years that followed.  

The Flaming Lips in City Plaza at Hopscotch 2012 in Raleigh. Photo: Jeremy M. Lange

Covid, of course, brought major changes to the live music industry, and Hopscotch was no exception. Committing to more open-air and touchless spaces, the festival added Moore Square to the mix for a scaled-down lineup in 2021, offering a four-acre green space just a couple blocks from City Plaza. This year, the festival is slowly building back its multi-venue origins, bringing The Pour House and Slim’s back into the fold, and providing a platform for some of North Carolina’s own talent. Bands like Greensboro’s genre-blending Black Haus; Charlotte-based indie rockers Faye and Late Bloomer; Durham alternative country outfit Loamlands; Carrboro indie folk act T. Gold; NC rap vet Tab-One of Kooley High; Shame Gang; Raleigh’s Truth Club; Jooselord; Charlotte experimental post-punk band Wild Trees; and many more. 

The Pour House and Slim’s will return as official venues in 2022. Photo: Kurt Shackelford

While the new layout isn’t what it once was, a new law now allows those in the “social district” of downtown Raleigh to walk the streets from City Plaza to The Pour House with open-container alcoholic drinks sold by licensed restaurants and bars. This should at least bring back some of the festive South by Southwest-type vibes of the early years. 

While this year’s lineup doesn’t include a heavy-hitting hip-hop act, Aussie rocker Courtney Barnett will grace City Plaza for the first time along with indie art-rock act Perfume Genius and venerated former Sonic Youth bassist and vocalist, Kim Gordon. As always, Hopscotch will showcase a plethora of ascending bands and singer-songwriters like Asheville’s MJ Lenderman, who recently received a glowing review from Pitchfork; Chicago surfish indie rock band DEHD; “Southern Gothic” folk singer Amythyst Kiah; Queens, New York R&B artist Yaya Bey; songstress Dawn Richard of Danity Kane fame; and one of the few main stage hip-hop acts, Quelle Chris. Friday night will also feature a special treat with Seun Kuti (the youngest son of legendary Afrobeat godfather Fela Kuti), performing with his father’s band, Egypt 80. 

Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett will headline Hopscotch Music Festival 2022 in Raleigh. Photo: Sorena Dadgar

In addition to the eclectic lineup, there will be an assortment of day parties throughout downtown and a cornucopia of local craft makers and vendors at Moore Square throughout the weekend. And though the festival isn’t quite as vast as in years past, there’s still something for all types of music lovers and appreciators. 

Check out the full lineup for Hopscotch Music Festival happening September 8-10 in Raleigh, North Carolina and enter our giveaway to win two VIP wristbands sponsored by Etix.

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