[EVENT RECAP] Hopscotch Festival: Day 1
Hopscotch is North Carolina’s blossoming, five year old, music baby that is steadily gaining national popularity. It’s not just the big names that are drawing the crowd; it is the up-and-coming stars that are also sought after. There were something like 140 acts this year, at 11 different venues, and that is only what happened from around 6:00PM to 2:00AM during the 3 days of the festival, not the day parties or the events preceding of following Hopscotch.
The first day I arrived about 2 hours early for what I would find out later to be what some call “no reason at all”. They kicked everyone out of the city plaza about ten minutes before the first set, then let everyone back in, checking wristbands and lanyards this time. After a short sound check and some staring at the ominous clouds in the distance, the first act of Hopscotch took the stage.
Toon and The Real Laww are a local hip-hop duo that has been huge in the local music scene, helping manage or performing at every festival that takes place in the area. Although these guys are a local group, it would have been difficult to tell once they hit the stage. The energy they brought with their stage presence and music carried on throughout the entire set and was only broken by the humble and jovial behavior between tracks as they joked with the audience. The crowd was a fan from the beginning, “ooo”ing too the clever punch-lines and singing along with the chanting choruses. The sea of bobbing heads and bouncing arms was hyped and loved every minute of it.
The next set was the one and only De La Soul. Leading up to their set, Vincent, AKA Maseo, AKA Plug Three, AKA PA Pasemaster Mase, AKA the dude on the 1s and 2s was the first to hit the stage. He spun and scratched for a bit, asking if the crowd was ready, and just getting us hyped in general, until finally it happened. He put on one of their tracks out of the blue came Kelvin, AKA Posdnuos, and Dave, AKA Trugoy the Dove, rapping as they hit the stage. From my point of view, it was glorious; it was dark, the ominous clouds from earlier were above us, flashing lighting across the sky, and De La Soul was right here in front of me, spitting bar after bar. 9th Wonder, one of the best hip-hop producers of all time and Raleigh/Durham native, was even on the side of the stage, dancing along to the music. It was like seeing the pearly gates for any hip-hop head. They even put on an amazing show, setting the bar from the very second the hit the stage and never letting it waiver, until the clouds finally opened up and began raining everybody out of the plaza and into shelter.
After main stage events I was torn; do I trudge on with a pointless life that may never be as amazing as what I just experienced or die a happy man? I trudged on… Next were all the local venues. As I mentioned earlier, there were a plethora of bands and locations to choose from, so I headed out, running through the rain, with schedule tucked away safely.
My first destination, King’s Barcade; a venue known for awesome shows and not having arcades. The band I was going to see; Colossus. It had been a while since I last attended a metal show, so I was pretty excited, especially when they started performing. Screeching guitars between their melodic chugs, an actual singer that can belt out some epic highs to chill your bones, heavy drum rhythms, and a bassist with the sickest wizard beard; what more could you ask for? Their stage performance was a bit awkward though, because there were clearly a couple show-offs. The guitarist with the red headed fro, which bled down into incredible chops, was the most memorable by far. Shredding into the crowd’s face and bouncing all over the stage, and sporting one outrageous face after another, he really outshined the rest of the band.
From here, I bounced to a couple different venues. First off was Blanko Basnet at a local Irish pub, Tir Na Nog. Blanko Basnet is another local group that reminds me a lot of if someone reimagined 311, with an indie-rock influence. They teeter on the edge of energetic and melancholy, which ended up being a perfect combination for the dreary night dance party that was taking place in the venue.
During that set was another band that I was anxious to see and they were performing next door, at The Pour House, so I jetted out early to catch The Tills. As I made my way into the venue, I followed a group of people down a long, skinny, hallway, with a stream of water running the entire length from a leak in the ceiling. Little did I know, this was probably the perfect introduction to the band I was about to see. The Tills are the exact opposite of what I just saw; super energetic, grimy, 60s garage rock that teetered on the edge of collapsing into chaos. I loved it.
Before I could get settled and really take in the experience, it was time to run back over to Tir Na Nog and catch Saint Rich. I was advised to check these guys out and after listening to their music, I completely agreed. However, their live performance was one of my least favorites. With no stage presence and bored looks plastering the faces of everyone but the drummer, I quickly hopped on my phone until the next band on my schedule got close.
The time rolled around and my last show of the night was coming up, so I began my trek through the drizzling weather to Lincoln Theatre, where The War On Drugs was about to go on. After a few blocks, I turned the corner to be greeted by a line heading out the front door and down the block. As I walked up to the venue I caught word of a separate line for press and VIP passes, so I asked and was put in a line with 3 other people. Next thing I knew, I was inside, but to be assaulted by another obstacle; a venue that was literally packed to the brim. I made it halfway through the crowd when I couldn’t move any further, snapped a few shots, and then left to a more comfortable part of the building. One thing I can say about The War On Drugs’ set is they performed their songs perfectly and really showed off their prowess with their incredible amount and variety of instruments. However, nothing really happened throughout the hour long set. All the songs sounded the same, nobody moved on stage or in the crowd, and there were no “live set flairs”. It reminded me of seeing an old jazz band, in a sit-down venue, with my step-dad, as a kid. Three songs in and I understood what was happening. From there it was all old news.
After the set, I left the venue and started walking back to my car. The clouds seemed content with their work and slowly began to disperse, taking the rain with them. After a long day of sweating, being rained on, pushing through crowds, and fighting photographers, I was able to relax. Well, until the next day…