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Hopscotch Music Festival 2018 – Day One Recap

Hopscotch Music Festival Presented by Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors

Raleigh, NC  at Raleigh City Park and Red Hat Amphitheatre

The Beginning: Year 9 of Hopscotch:

This weekend, music lovers got 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 provided 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 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 two and day three too!


The Thursday lineup is what I’d describe as the breakfast meal of the festival. It’s still filling for the first day and gets you ready for the weekend, preparing you to get down to business later on. It’s the day to make sure your shoes can handle the mileage you’re putting on them and get a working “schedule” down pat. Full disclosure, I hardly knew anyone on the Thursday lineup. Part of the reason I enjoy Hopscotch though is because every year I discover artists that I end up adding to my listening rotation.

I personally was excited to see Flaming Lips and H.C.McEntire, a discovery of mine from last year. I also had to see Skeleton Witch, experimental beatmaker Black Box Theory and Everything Is Terrible!, a part video mashup, part live performance group. See why Hopscotch is so awesome?! I can barely even describe what that last group is but I’m down for the opportunity to be exposed to something I don’t see on the usual, whether I like it or not. Part of the thrill is not knowing exactly what to expect when you enter each venue for a new act. Last year I saw a band literally just play instrumentals of the music through a speaker while a film played for quite a while. I couldn’t tell you what a bit of it represented but there were some people jamming out, others were watching the film while others simply looked confused as to what was going on.

I started out my adventure out with a bit of a baking session. Walking to check-in in 90-degree heat browned my buns but luckily some of the night’s shows were located in bottom exhibit halls of the Raleigh Convention Center, known as “The Basement” so festival had the chance to get an air-conditioned reprieve from the heat.

From there I got to catch the last couple songs from H.C. McEntire. She’s an awesome NC native songstress. Best known as the lead singer of Mount Moriah, she released her own solo album Lionheart this year, available on Merge Records. Her music is Americana with notes of gospel and punk-laced in between, and she’s got some notable guests featured like Kathleen Haana from riot grrl.

Next up was Real Estate, a band I had done some prior research on, and heard was pretty good. Based out New Jersey, they are an indie rock band, formed by childhood friends Martin Courtney,  Alex Bleeker, and Matt Mondanile (the latter having left the band in 2016 due to inappropriate misconduct). They have played at other well-known festivals like SXSW for example.

Right now they’re touring to promote their newest album In Mind, with the first single,  “Darling” out now. I enjoyed their set, great rock music with no frills. Plus I’m a sucker for harmonies so they got bonus points for that. I only got to enjoy a couple songs before I had to run over to Neptune’s, to catch Black Box Theory.

Black Box Theory is a musician from Greensboro, NC. I myself would call him a DJ, specializing in house music. I checked out his Bandcamp page and dug a few of the tracks on there. Thursday he was playing/ creating tracks closer to electronica but still with that hard pumping bass. At least it looked like he was creating instrumentals on the spot (Neptune’s is pretty low lit so I could be wrong) which is dope because you can play to the crowd better. He’s released several bodies of work you can listen to for yourself here. The experimental hip-hop ones are best!

I jogged from there back to City Plaza to get a good spot for the Flaming Lips show. This was my “no way I’m missing this” set of Thursday night’s lineup. If you don’t know who Flaming Lips is exactly, it’s okay. The song everyone is most familiar with from this rock band (even if they’re not a fan) is “She Don’t Use Jelly,” from the early 90s and it’s one of their biggest singles to date.

They are best described as a newer, psychedelic rock version of George Clinton and the Parliment Funkadelic. Instead of unadulterated funk, its trippy rock.  You should never miss the chance to see a great live show, regardless of the genre and I was well aware of the precedent Flaming Lips had set when it comes to performing. Let me say this, their set was hands down one of the best shows I’ve attended recently.

A fellow photog had been skeptical about the show since rock music wasn’t his genre but I convinced him to sit tight, promising a great experience. Afterwards he came up to me and said he hadn’t had that much fun in awhile. They had the confetti bomb cannons, large balloons and as always their signature oversized balloon that Wayne Coyne uses to walk around the crowd in.  

I got to hear “Yoshimi” live, which in my opinion is way better than the recorded version. I had genuine fun, and the energy was felt throughout the crowd. Strangers were being wit  h each other, shaking each other with balloons or throwing confetti. People were hugging and it was like for that brief time we all forgot our cares. THAT’S how a great show is put on. I had to tear myself away from Flaming Lips because the festival rolled on and I still had other acts to check out.

I was a smidge ahead of schedule so I power walked to the Lincoln Theatre.  Shout out to Jose and Sons Restaurant for hooking me up with water as I walked past their tent because it sure as hell helped put some extra pep in my step! Then I got to listen to Michael Rault.  Michael Rault is a Canadian singer-songwriter signed to Daptone Records.

The first thing I noticed was his unusual voice. His appearance is straight out of the 70s but his voice is almost cartoonish. I don’t know if I could listen to a whole album but I could definitely jam to a few songs. I didn’t get to catch a full introduction of his band but the two guitarist and singers he had with him were dope. Together, with his unique voice, they sounded awesome and the blends and harmonies y’all! I was pretty impressed and by the end of the second song I was glad I swung by.

Skeletonwitch at The Basement was my surprise “treat”of the night. I was unfamiliar with the group and with their name, I was beaming on metal but I couldn’t be sure. I purposely didn’t look them up because I wanted this to be a “blind show.” I would go in with absolutely no prior knowledge and hope for the best. Now that being said,  I secretly adore black metal.

People act like it’s just angry screaming over a mic but have you tried to imitate it before? Yeah, it’s not easy to pull off without sounding like a jackass. When the Ohio band’s lead vocalist Adam Clemen’s walked up to the mic and belted out that first guttural lengthy note, I knew right then I was going to have an experience listening to them. Adam is a fire burning across that stage.

Bassist Evan Linger and guitarists Nate Garnette and Scott Hedrick are sick with the riffs, and with every classic flip of their hair I was reminded it’s been too long since I attended a metal show.  After Flaming Lips, their set was my second favorite and the only other band I stayed for more than a few songs for. I recommend their newest album, Devouring Radiant Light for your own metal fix.

Last artist of the night was Jennifer Castle at Pour House Music Hall. I had run into the owner of Pourhouse, Adam Linstaedt, earlier in the night as he was enjoying the Flaming Lips show. Pour House is one of my personal favorite local venues. Besides some killer decor, they are supportive of local artists of every genre.  I even did an IG story just to show everyone how aesthetically dope the entrance into the building is.

But back to Castle: her show was suggested to me again by another photog who was told that they needed to check her out as well. So I did some leg stretches and went to my last show of the night. Jennifer Castle was the perfect way to end my Thursday.  She’s classic rock but kind of alternative, that rock and roll that walks a fine line between that and soul. I loved the song “Crying Shame” she performed. It’s sad and folksy, perfect for lamenting over lost love and the man or woman that did you dirty. It’s off her new album Angels of Death, released this past May. Nothing to heavy, just crisp vocals and a warm, receptive crowd. I said my goodbyes and went home to rest up for day two.

Check out day two and day three too!

See full gallery of the festival!

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