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Hopscotch Festival – Day Three Recap

Hopscotch Music Festival Presented by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors

Hopscotch Music Festival Presented by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors

Raleigh, NC at Raleigh City Park and Red Hat Amphitheatre

The Beginning: Year Nine of Hopscotch

This weekend, music lovers get to essentially take over downtown Raleigh and immerse themselves in every musical flavor imaginable. From big name artists like Liz Phair, Miguel and Flaming Lips to local and experimental artists that you’ve maybe never even heard of, Hopscotch is providing a festival experience like no other. It’s three full days (venues even host day parties with their own lineup of artists) of walking from show to show, venue to venue, to check out an array of musicians. Rock, Hip Hop, DJs, Punk, Metal, Alternative, Americana, and everything in between.  It’s also a partnership between all the local downtown spots, big or small, working to get the best bands and artists before your eyes, putting you the fans first. This is where you come to find the new band you didn’t know you needed in your life and celebrate the ones you already can’t live without.

Check out day one and day two!


It’s Day 3, the beast of the weekend where you pretty much gorge yourself until you’re crawling back to your car by the end of the night. It’s the last night to get it in; you’ve got make the wristband worth it by packing in as many bands as possible without falling over in exhaustion from heat or unrealistic expectations. Preferably neither but hey, we’re going big or going home tonight!

Saturday had a grocery list of bands to see like the Boulevards, Liz Phair, Speedy Ortiz, Nike Rodgers & Chic, Nicolay and the Hot Nights, and the Jayhawks. I was determined to catch them all and squeeze in a few others if possible. The weather was supposed to be in my favor, and I was hydrated and straight on Aleve for these bad knees.

Today would be the day I caught everyone on my itinerary. Schedule changes be damned. Nah I’m lying, I got there at 5 and the doors were late opening due to some hater rain showers. I was two stepping nervously because It looked as if I’d miss out on someone again today.

I took a chance a ran to catch Boulevards at Red Hat Amphitheater first since City Plaza was still running behind schedule. Boulevards consists of Raleigh’s own funkateer Jamil Rashad, in partnership with a few of Raleigh-Durham’s finest musicians to create that funk for your trunk. Think modern James Brown with the footwork skills on 10. It’s music made for a live stage show and Boulevard rises to the occasion.

I had to break a  early sweat to make it to NC’s own Zack Mexico but I managed to catch them mid-song at very end of their set, performing “Reputation” before they exited the stage.

I mean I liked what I heard but can’t really give an opinion but the crowd looked like they were enjoying them. Since everything was running a bit behind I just stayed put because Speedy Ortiz was next.

Speedy Ortiz is a New England indie rock band, Massachusetts to be specific. Singer/songwriter Sadie Dupuis is adorable on stage, you just can’t turn your eyes away from her. It didn’t hurt that lyrically their songs are pretty good, not the usual cookie cutter rock lyrics I was expecting.

They just released their third album, Twerp Verse, this past spring on Carpark Records. After a few enjoyable songs, I ran back to Redhat for Moses Sumney.

I missed Moses Sumney by moments earlier this year at Moogfest in Durham so I totally felt redeemed by catching the crooner this time. Unfortunately he was having sound issues, the first song couldn’t really be heard. I have a hard time describing Moses to people. He’s indie rock one second, but then he’s pop. He feels classical even at times, and others feel like he’s just freestyling whatever comes to his mind at the moment.

Is galactic soul music a definitive thing? It’s that then and with his synth and high falsetto he gets compared to Prince whenever I let someone listen to him. I met mother and daughter fans Amber and Illiana Rainey outside, who came to Hopscotch solely to see Moses after hearing his song “Quarrel” in a Chipotle one day. You can make fans everywhere, right? Mind you, it’s a dope song that precisely shows how well Moses straddles genres effortlessly.

From there it was once again, the trip uphill to City Plaza for Liz Phair. She is touring with Speedy Ortiz on her “Amps on the Lawn” Tour so the line up made a wee bit of sense. Liz Phair is essentially a indie darling, the poster child of  women’s insertion and liberation in rock during the 90s so looking at the bigger picture I could see why she’d blend in with Hopscotch crowd fairly easy.

She sang classics like my personal favorite “Supernova”and “6’1″” along with a few others. The crowd was mostly older, mid-thirties and up but that’s pretty accurate since she celebrated the 25th anniversary of her debut album Exile In Guyville, this past May. She was the first up of a few performers with length in this music industry.

Nile Rodgers and Chic were next and this time the crowd was far more diverse, which I totally didn’t expect. All age ranges were huddled by the divider with guys and gals all waiting to get their disco on. He’s got a long roster having worked with everyone from Diana Ross to David Bowie, so pretty much anyone and everyone has heard or better yet grooved to one of his songs.  

There’s “Le Freak” the bigger radio even today; his Diana Ross hit “I’m Coming Out” or a more recent hit collab with Pharrell and Daft Punk “Get Lucky.” Hit after hit after hit, and he and his band were having a ball onstage, dancing for the crowd and posing for theatrics. Plus I don’t know where he found Kimberly Davis and Folami, the two singers for Chic but oh my goodness let me say those two PUT..ON..A..SHOW!!  

Between the music, the chemistry and sangin’ the ladies did, Nile definitely had the party going, hands down. Everyone truly was having a blast and I was bummed to leave the party.

Back uphill this time for MC5 now going as MC50 for their 50th anniversary of theft album Kick Out The Jams. Now before today I was aware of MC50 but I’d never actually taken the time to experience their sound. This was harsh, screw your face up rock.

Frontman and original surviving member Wayne Kramer has dynamic energy on stage, he might as well have a force field surrounding him. My eye kept going to him, he’s so dramatic on the guitar.  It makes sense though since he’s the only original band member touring from that album so he’s got to feel these songs in a way no one else can. The set itself was decent, I had a bit of trouble hearing the lead vocalist but I’m not sure if it was an audio issue or my own defective ears.


It was time to escape the past, which is kind of how it felt since most of the major acts were all celebrating anniversaries of some kind as they headed on tour.

First was Pour House for Nicolay and The Hot Nights. Nicolay is well known in this area, being one half of the group Foreign Exchange with NC darling Phonte. He’s a record producer, and makes magic with live instrumentation. Together, the collab between himself and Raleigh jazz trio Hot at Nights (Chris Boerner, Nick Baglio and Matt Douglas) continues to shine with their recently released album Glaciers.

It’s a body of work that is a must buy (I have my digital copy thank you) and seeing it live is even better since that’s where they’re truly in their element. This show featured Evan Ringle on trombone as well and as usual I just got lost in the sound.  It felt like an intimate jam session, the band smiling happily and everyone just having a good time, vibing together.

Very different atmosphere from the one I headed to. I went to see Mistresses, which was not at all what I expected because instead of Mistresses it was a young lady with a synthesizer singing about lost love. By now my knees were swollen from all the back and forth, and I felt every second of my age, screw years. After a much needed break I was back in the game to catch Gang Gang Dance. I would call this band experimental, their sound was scattered and taken from all different inspirations but it wasn’t bad. Just different.  I think I’d have to listen to a few songs off their album because not all experimental rock/pop translates well live, before making a judgement on whether I could keep listening to their work.  

The night was almost over I reminded myself,  taking my wearied body to Lincoln Theatre. The twin cities’ very own Jayhawks were just setting up as I entered, another blast from the past re-introducing themselves to the Hopscotch attendees. They lean more towards folk/country than rock with a softer, sweeter sound and harmonies. I liked it because it was soothing and frankly I was tired. This was easy on the ears. Too easy on the ears I guess as I overheard a few folk complaining at having such a chill band play at the end of Saturday night. I was pleased though, and for me, hearing great harmonies is never a bad way to the end the night.

I took my leave and prepared for the last show of my night Vic Mensa. The Chicago rapper has recently been in the media for organizing a shoe giveaway after Chicago police placed shoe bait trucks in underprivileged neighborhoods, arresting children who took any.  Signed to Roc Nation, the rapper is not one to mute himself nor his opinions for popularity.

The show ran a bit behind in time and steam as Vic kept having sound problems, causing him to walk off the stage several times or make comments during the first couple of songs. By the time he got into his track “16 Shots,” things appeared to be fix and Mensa was ready get into the moment finally.

Until Next Year:

Overall,  year nine wasn’t a bad year for Hopscotch. My only complaint is that I wish they would’ve switched the Saturday and Friday lineups and ended the weekend with more of a solid send off. Regardless though, the festival is more than worth your coins. From the merch, to the venues, the staff,  it all works like a mostly well oiled machine when the weather isn’t putting its two cents in. I felt it had a good mix of local and national acts which is a big deal to me since, hey it’s a local festival.

With year ten coming up I’m excited to see what Hopscotch Presents does for the big 10 year anniversary of Hopscotch Festival. I’m hoping they keep to their roots since it hasn’t steered them wrong yet. I’d like to see them shake it up with the national artists this time. They always have a varied range of artists but I’d love to see more experimental hip hop and R&B thrown in there. I’d also LOVE a shuttle to the further shows (just a suggestion) because sometimes you just say screw it and stay at a venue you don’t really want to just because footsteps hurt after awhile. Regardless, I know they’re going to bring it next year and Shutter 16 will be there to give you all the details!

Check out day one and day two!

See full gallery of the festival here!

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