By Jose Mujica
September 4, 2018
The summer fades and the warm weather gives way to cool breezes. Chatter about the Panthers’ chances this season can be heard around the water cooler. Life on campus picks up as students return from their hometown pilgrimage. Hopscotch is around the corner.
In its 9th year, Hopscotch Music Festival has earned its reputation as the biggest music fest in the Carolinas and has become a yearly tradition for locals and indie music fans from all across the country. With attendance around 25,000 for the last two iterations, it’s often described as one of America’s best low-key indie music festivals. The Top 40 acts that pervade every radio station and popular Spotify playlist are not to be found. With an especially keen ear for bands and artists that are making ripples within their genres, Hopscotch goes to extraordinary measures to cater to true music lovers. Venues vary from Raleigh’s outdoor Red Hat Amphitheatre to more intimate venues and bars. Nearly 120 artists representing genres from across the entire musical spectrum– hip hop, rock, indie, experimental, folk and every amalgamation in between– will be there to treat festivalgoers.
While many trendy music festivals make their aesthetic very clear, demarcating themselves to a specific genre to target a demographic, Hopscotch doesn’t bother with such needless effort. It’s got everything and lots of it. With so many acts spread across several stages in just three days, trying to figure out which shows to catch can be an overwhelming task. Luckily, we’re here to help.
Here are a few acts you should definitely catch this weekend at Hopscotch:
Real Estate – City Plaza, Thursday at 7:15 p.m.
New Jersey rock band, Real Estate will grace dowtown Raleigh on opening night. The group’s signature sleepy beach rock sound is perhaps the best way to kick off the festival. With their airy synths and peppy tempo, there’s no better way to describe their music than simply sonically pleasant. The progressions are catchy, the vocals soothing and the vibes are really chill indie rock.
Dvsn – Red Hat Amphitheater, Friday at 6:40 p.m.
Alternative R&B duo, Dvsn, hails from our neighbor up north and is signed to Captain Canada (Drake’s) own music label, OVO. If you are at all familiar with OVO’s brand of R&B– soft and soulful pop production combined with melodic near-rapping vocals that usually explore the labyrinthian nature of love and heartbreak– then you may be familiar with Dvsn. Daniel Daley’s rich vocals are able to convey the precise strain and tenor that are a one-way ticket straight to your feelings. Paired with co-star, Nineteen85’s infectious poppy dancehall-flavored production, you can dance your troubles away to their latest release, Morning After. Attending DVSN’s set may cause a significant urge to flex on your ex and snap Instagram videos to show the world how you’re living your best life at Hopscotch.
Thundercat – City Plaza, Friday at 8:15 p.m.
Bassist/singer-songwriter Thundercat is one of the more interesting acts slated to play this weekend. A complete creative in every sense of the word, Thundercat has gained notoriety for his impressive collaborative work with heavy-hitters like Kamasi Washington, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus and, of course, Kendrick Lamar. One of the most crucial contributors to Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterfly, he was described as being “at the creative epicenter” of the Grammy-winning album. Mixing an eclectic blend of jazz, funk, soul and electronica into fully fleshed out tracks, it’s no wonder Thundercat’s name alone is enough to demand the attention of those in-the-know. In early 2017, he dropped his 5th studio album Drunk to critical acclaim. Known for his spectacular performances, awesome talent and irreverent sense of humor, you will not want to miss his set.
Grizzly Bear – City Plaza, Friday at 8:45 p.m.
Brooklyn-based indie rock band, Grizzly Bear has been a popular darling and musical heavyweight for well over a decade since they first released music in the mid-2000s. After their 2012 release Shields and the subsequent tour ending in 2014, many fans were left uncertain about their future. In 2017, Grizzly Bear came out of hibernation and released Painted Ruins, their first album in almost half a decade. The bands expert use of vocal melodies and synths matched with their spacey, psychedelic nuances, create a panoramic soundscape. Given the amount of time away from the spotlight and the positive reception to their most recent album, you can definitely expect an enthusiastic and eager crowd during the Grizzly Bear set.
Julie Byrne – Nash Hall, Friday at 11:30 p.m.
Guitarist singer-songwriter, Julie Byrne makes her way down from Buffalo, NY to play in Nash Hall on Friday night. A standout from the typical “white male singer-songwriter with a guitar” cliche that can be found at every open mic across the globe, Julie Byrne distinguishes herself from her peers, not only by not being a guy, but also by bringing something fresh and exciting to the typically bland subgenre. Julie Byrne’s music isn’t flashy or fancy, but her simplicity only adds to the resonant tone of her music and supports her breathy and powerful vocals. If anything, the somber tone serves as a window through which we play spectator to the inner workings of her conflicted soul. In a very vulnerable manner, Julie Byrne invites us into her mind where she explores her position in this chaotic world in introspective humility. If you’re looking for powerful, moving performances, you’re looking for Julie Byrne.
Armand Hammer – Neptunes, Friday at 12:30 a.m.
Armand Hammer is a hip hop duo consisting of Billy Woods and Elucid hailing from the Big Apple. If you like that grimy, lyrical New York style of hip hop then you’ll love Armand Hammer. With forward-thinking production that incorporates that bit of industrial post-Yeezus sound distinctive of post 2010 hip hop, combined with the dense and esoteric lyrics by both artists, Armand Hammer lets it be known these are rappers pushing the boundaries of the current rap sound. Very much carrying the flag of New York ‘90s heyday, Elucid and Billy Woods do not shy away from addressing socio-political issues of sex and race while also flexing their rapping ability. This is a can’t miss show for any serious hip hop head.
Speedy Ortiz – City Plaza, Saturday at 5:50 p.m.
Speedy Ortiz is an indie rock band hailing from Massachusetts. With their semi-psychedelic distorted sounds that manage to infiltrate a majority of their music, the overall tone of their music can be classified as controlled chaos. They’ve released their third studio album, Twerp Verse, earlier this year in February where lead singer-songwriter, Sadie Dupuis really shows off her songwriting skills. Wearing her influences on her sleeve, you can see how fellow Hopscotch act, Liz Phair, made an impression on her growing up as Dupuis’ showcases her own brand of irreverence and wit on the latest project. Clever lyrics, catchy hooks and engrossing production, what more could you ask of such a group? They’re scheduled to play Saturday at City Plaza right before Liz Phair, a once in a lifetime chance to catch both tremendous acts.
Liz Phair – City Plaza, Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
Singer, songwriter, actress and renaissance woman extraordinaire, Liz Phair, may be one of the more surprising names on the Hopscotch lineup. Catapulted to the spotlight after the release of her classic debut album, Exile in Guyville, Liz Phair has done the near impossible by remaining relevant in the music industry for a quarter century. Her gruff vocals over grunge rock chord progressions paired with her wit and personality shined throughout the ’90s, garnering an extremely loyal fanbase. Nostalgia will be in full force for many when she takes the stage on Saturday night.
Ought – Kings, Saturday at 12 a.m.
Adding a bit of edge to the lineup, Ought, a post-punk band from Montreal plays midnight on Saturday at Kings. While their 2015 release Sun Coming Down displayed more of the band’s punk roots, utilizing a very chaotic and raucous sound, their latest release Room Inside The World showcased the band’s versatility with a more melodious sound. The edge comes with a sense of neurosis that seems to encapsulate a lot of the anxiety and other intangible pressures that are commonplace in modern urban life. In their latest project that builds slowly and unravels lavishly rather than in short furious spurts more common within the punk genre. All in all, live renditions of their work should be interesting to catch.
Check out the full lineup for Hopscotch Music Festival 2018.