I’ve got a confession to make: it’s my first time.
I rushed onto the city plaza in the middle of downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, a day and a half late. The Rosebuds finished their set already, but I was at the mercy of the whims of public transportation, and public transportation just doesn’t appreciate the Rosebuds. (Fortunately, our photographer Ashley Melzer arrived on time and captured some of the best moments on film.)
It’s Hopscotch’s first time, too, so we’re both probably pretty nervous. Milling around in the plaza is a cross-section of the seedy underbelly of the triangle music scene, which has been especially prolific lately. I wandered halfway into a set by the Rosebuds and Hopscotch forgave me. Panda Bear played an hour-long set backed by a screen showcasing what looked like the Windows Media Player ambiance on acid and I’ll forgive Hopscotch. It’s give and take.
The entire thing was arranged in large part by the Independent, a local alt weekly publication, and drew together over 120 acts from every imaginable genre. The three days of festivities included a complicated schedule of bands in small venues scattered throughout the downtown area at night, supported by day shows put on by local labels and businesses. The glue holding these scattered shows together were the two headlining nights in the city plaza that featured The Rosebuds, Broken Social Scene, Panda Bear, The Love Language, No Age and Public Enemy.
I’ll admit, what got me really excited about Hopscotch isn’t Public Enemy (although Flav’s clock was, as always, fabulous) or Broken Social Scene (even though they were electrifying) or even the Love Language, a locally grown favorite of mine (who was playing while I was stuck outside the barricade in an argument with security over my camera.) My favorite part was the energy of a crowd out to see some music. Nothing was going to stop them from seeing music. They were going to see all the music.
That sheer determination converted me: I slipped into the crowd and immediately abandoned all pretense of maintaining an academic disinterest in the bands I’d only heard of peripherally. It swept away my staunch decision to maintain no bias when seeing a band I kind of love right now. Oh, I had bias. I had bias by the bucket load.
Like any other festival, Hopscotch was cleverly pieced together so that you had to map out a specific game plan and could never be fully satisfied. It’s a given, then, that the best way to talk about it is in a list of my favorite moments from a great debut festival.
Hopscotch Music Festival 2010 Greatest Hits:
1. The interplay of Broken Social Scene’s individual parts on the live stage with a crowd as energetic as the one in the city plaza Friday night was an electrifying start.
2a. The Trekky records day party featuring Lost in the Trees (recipients of a recent Paste stamp of approval for their orchestral pop) kept the party going during the day with a packed show in the Pour House downtown. The best new discovery came before Ari Picker’s collective of instrumental acrobats took the stage.
2b. Local act Midtown Dickens kicked the crowd in the face (not literally, but, you know, figuratively) with a bluegrass-influenced indie pop set full of fun instruments. Best friends Kym Register and Catherine Edgerton started the band in Durham not too long ago when they started collecting orphaned instruments and have only grown since. During one song, Edgerton managed to cycle through a saw, some spoons, and a harmonica.
3. I ended up enjoying Public Enemy a lot more than I thought I would. There’s just something about Flavor Flav; his preaching on race and equality, his giant clock/necklace/icon, his “second career, which is called TV,” and the fact that he’s releasing fried chicken but also a brand of vodka (or at least said he was.) The dynamic duo of Chuck D. and the Flav were on point keeping the crowd pumped even when it started raining. There’s nothing like dancing in the rain with a bunch of other people (young, old, and everything in between) to hip-hop from the ‘90s.
4. Indie pop/punk group Lonnie Walker kept me dancing after Public Enemy. Far from being twitch-inducing, the music was infectious and probably better suited to a place a little bigger (only a little bigger) than Deep South, where people were crammed wall-to-wall.
5. Hipster co-mingling: Raleigh was host to a variety of different festivals this week, including the Natural Science museum’s Bugfest and a local nonprofit’s celebration of hispanic culture La Fiesta Del Pueblo. Compared to most capitols, Raleigh’s not a huge city. Something about waifish twenty-somethings sporting PBR headbands wandering through a sidewalk-chalked street next to a bouncy castle and a cardboard cutout shaped like a grasshopper struck me as ironic, and not in the hipster-intended sense of the word. Despite the popularity of the weekend, though, the logistics of the festival went off without a hitch, at least on the user end. All of the venues were walkable, there was plenty of parking and there never seemed to be much traffic.
See Hopscotch photos by Ashley Melzer below.