The South’s best kept secret: Hopscotch Music Festival

The South’s best kept secret: Hopscotch Music Festival

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If you’re anything like me, you’re suffering from some serious post-Hopscotch blues. The seven-year-old festival kicked off last Thursday, September 8th and was a nonstop plethora of live music, food, beer, and did I mention live music? With over 30 “darties” (a term coined by local news station WKNC 88.1 meaning “day parties) and 120 performing acts, it’s hard to argue that Hopscotch truly is one of the South’s best kept secrets. However, Hopscotch’s unique setup, with approximately 40% of the lineup being from North Carolina, has kept it on the radar of must-see festivals since its creation in 2010.

Before we go any further, I want to thank whoever decided Hopscotch Music Festival should be in Raleigh, NC. The sidewalks and alleyways that are usually filled with cutesy cafes and extra-green trees told me a different story last weekend. Those cutesy cafes were filled front to back, top to bottom, with music-obsessed individuals from all over the Southeast, craft beer in hand and eyes aglow with the excitement of the festival. Those extra-green trees served as hangout spots in between sets to discuss the phenomenon around them, as artists cleared stages and prepared for the next act.

The amount of people downtown reminded me how small Raleigh truly is. The size of the city made it hard to do anything except fall into line and hope that it took you to your next venue. Though if I’m being honest, I could have ended up anywhere and been happy. Wandering through the alleyways and main roads alike, you’re bound to hear shows from all directions, from every genre, even without forking over the cash to purchase a coveted wristband (although it’d be in your best interest to do so because would you rather kind-of-hear Car Seat Headrest or see the group up close and personal? That’s what I thought).

Due to life, I was only able to attend night two of Hopscotch but let me tell you what, I felt like I had experienced enough for the entire weekend. Shout out to the people (a.k.a. everyone else) who conquered all three days like true champions. I think I must have walked at least ten miles in one night.

Okay, not really, but listen, I walked a lot and I’m paying for it. I have to say, without a doubt, that despite the heavy foot traffic and miles on miles of walking, it was worth it.

What wasn’t worth it was the random college dude who stopped me on the street, got down on one knee, and spit out some cheesy pickup line about love at first sight. I could maybe do without that. I soon forgot about the ordeal as I roamed around the crowded city, peaking through people to see Beach House and sneaking in unnoticed for Beach Slang, though my ultimate destination was Nash Hall. I took the scenic route, admiring the adoration on people’s faces as they left venues and not-so-secretly hoped I’d run into some of the artists I was hoping to see that night.

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While I was only at the festival for a few hours, Nash Hall wasn’t such a bad place to hang out. The room capped out at around 300 and the stage was built low to the ground, giving the already intimate setting a more personal feel. I walked into the building as Mary Lattimore was finishing her set; the most noticeable feature about her was the humongously beautiful harp she strummed so elegantly. I paused near the back of the room, partly out of respect but mostly because I was mesmerized, in order to not miss another second of her set. Adia Victoria stole the stage next, and I literally mean stole. She took that stage, made it hers, and refused to show it mercy. Her theatrical, bluesy set kept everyone on the edge of their seat, quite literally, as she skipped off stage to dance among the people, utilized her long braids to hide her face, and shot glares as sharp as daggers to the back wall; I would truly hate to be the person she wrote some of these songs about. In a much more real sense, Adia Victoria, can we be best friends?

The final act of the night was who I originally planned my entire trip around. I impatiently enjoyed the hours before, but was more than anxious to see the one and only Julien Baker close out night two for Nash Hall.

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My friends, if you aren’t familiar with her music yet, please stop reading this and check out her material because trust me, you want to be. This tiny, twenty-year-old woman emit such raw emotion into her songs that I could feel her heart breaking from the audience as if it was my own. Her lyrics are self-referential, her subjects are taboo, and her voice is tender. The audience was silent, unlike the other crowds I had seen all night, and the noise outside went unnoticed. Baker had taken the stage and demanded attention in the sweetest, kindest, most heart-breaking way.  She left the stage in an emotional hurry, at least it seemed that way to me, but the audience clapped, cheered, and whistled long after she had gone.

Fast forward fifteen minutes later and Nash Hall had barely emptied out. Some folks gathered in the lobby to buy merch, others caught up with friends and spoke of the acts they had just seen, while some, including me, needed to just… sit. A few of us required a moment to recuperate and process the brilliance of the night, from Wolf Parade to Ricky Eat Acid to Julien Baker.

Night two technically ended around 1 a.m. but concert-goers spent hours outside of venues, in bars, and most parking garages reminiscing of the weekend that was almost over. My five-hour experience exhausted me physically and emotionally and I loved every second of it. I’m holding myself accountable for making time to submerge myself in all three days of music, food, beer, and cool people next year, and I suggest you do the same!

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