Article by Marc Lewis
After three nights of Hopscotch, memories are fractured things best collected with a broom. But we’ll try…
For a city to ascend to its cultural potential, it must first prove a serious capacity for strange. I’m beginning to believe Raleigh has what it takes to be great. Hell, thousands of Yankees and other non-locals are already living in Cary, banging at her gates, trying to get in. People are coming. Raleigh is undergoing the curse, or blessing, — depending on one’s financial stake in the matter — of a downright infiltration. Our universities, our businesses, and now, thanks to Hopscotch, our music and overall ability to dominate at the good parts of life are going to bring the others in at rates we can neither fathom nor fight. This is Raleigh, a beautiful city inspiring jealousy in all other frumpy towns. Put your ear to the east, Charlotte. Hear us roar.
The night began after the rain quit. The Roots took the stage and, from my position to the left of the sound tent, the sheer effort of their production was striking. A man in front of me, tall and long-haired and bearded, danced with a girl who decided to bring out her edgy clothes for the occasion — she wore a tank top with a loose neck and elastic jeans and boots with heels, clothes that made her stand uncomfortably, which betrayed the fact that she probably does not normally dress the way she was dressed. There was another man next to the girl and she turned and danced with him and the guy she had danced with first slid up behind her and for a song the three danced, the man in the back looking like he had lost something but wasn’t ready to give up. This is music, essentially. People sharing things they wouldn’t normally share. It’s seen in the collection of white hands in the air next to black hands and other colored hands whose shades the throbbing lights don’t reveal. The hands, dropping and rising in rhythm as one to the sounds of a hip-hop group with a rock ‘n’ roll edge and an appreciation for all the things that came before, like jazz and the blues, created a confluence that for at least a moment put the things that divide us on Mondays in a closet where the odor of those divisions can linger with that of the shoes.
This is overwritten, you say. A blog about Hopscotch, a collection of weird bands and unshowered people and denim shorts, shouldn’t wander into commentary about the state of America. And you’re right. It’s a stretch. But look at the crowd bouncing in front of Danny Brown. The crowd hollers back his lyrics. They yell his words. They are nothing like him. They look nothing like him. They have all their teeth, the crowd, and he has a puff of hair like a stuck exhale hanging next to his face. Most in the crowd wouldn’t even be able to describe him if asked. But what he wrote they have memorized and now return. Music is a magnet that operates with complete indifference to race, class or creed. Music reminds us why founders made bold declarations like, “All men are created equal.” Sure, the founders didn’t intend on their words being used to describe a diverse group dancing to a man in a bunny mask and underwear, but the founders could only see so far. None of us are the same or equal or great but when a man is wearing briefs and a girl’s leather jacket and he’s yelling and we all smile — we are one, maybe, in a collective laugh.
Raleigh got strange over the weekend and performed well under the weight. On the corner of Fayetteville and Davie Streets, outside the gates to City Plaza, I found the nation’s stockpile of cutoff jean shorts. Different colors, too. Denim made masochistic in its tightness. If John Wayne, or any other cowboy, a real one especially, saw this sacrilegious use of denim, he would surely forgo his constant pursuit of fictionally aggressive Native Americans and turn his six-shooter on this particular horde of strangers. They all look starved, too. But it is unclear if they were hungry before they bought the pants and thus could wear the size they bought, or if they bought the pants too small and then gave up food to wear them. Maybe, they got the pants as a gift, like a gag gift, and decided to lose weight to fit into them, and then the whole group found each other in a support group of some kind, a support group for men who wear flashy jorts and hate dinner.
During the day, in front of a bank, there was a girl with an eyebrow ring that looked fresh enough to still be considered a wound. She was dressed like Daisy Duke and drinking a High Life. Minutes later, the former mayor, Meeker, walked past. It was all out this weekend.
In the bathroom at the Contemporary Art Museum, no two people were the same type. Types, of course, being distinctions we made a long time ago when we were kids and still use occasionally when we want to lazily describe people in a blog post about a concert. There was a suit, a guy who takes pride in the cleanliness of his car and his credit score. There was someone wearing glasses he didn’t need to see. There was a guy in a blouse. I don’t know if it was a women’s blouse but I have never seen anything as flowy in stores I frequent. And there was a quiet guy in a button-down and there was another in a T-shirt. There was also, near the door, a hungry man-boy who must have wandered off from the group near City Plaza. And as I left the bathroom, a squirrelly little character bumped through and, on second look, I noticed he wore only underwear and a bunny mask. Maybe a bathroom stall isn’t the best place to prove we can all come together, since everyone in the bathroom was there because they couldn’t do what they needed to do on the museum floor, but Hopscotch brought a lot of people to the same places and none of the people who danced and yelled to the same things were the same, and that’s something, something more than a crowded bathroom and a man dressed as an Easter nightmare.
It was all here in Raleigh and the city showed it could contain it. And, at some point, writing about Hopscotch and Raleigh takes on the silly weaving of adjectives and vague pronouncements most often reserved for album reviews. At some point, you just have to take my word that I know a middle-aged man who owns a company who got kicked in the face in a mosh pit and laughed with pride. You have to believe that a girl dressed in all black with red lips and “I hate my father” tattooed across her forehead — not exactly — bobbed her head next to a black guy with dreads and near a rejected extra from a documentary about a 40-year Broughton High School reunion. Believe there is a writer operating on zero sleep and a bounty of beautiful amps of noise still bouncing in his head. And know the same writer may need a nightlight for a while to protect against visions of aggressive bunny-men and jorts. You have to look back on Hopscotch and realize that Raleigh proved itself capable of all the strange assemblies big cities make a habit. We are in brackish water — a mix where waves give way to a million new life forms.
And now it’s all swept up so the suits can return to the cubes in the big buildings, the buildings the streetlights turned to shadows for us to skip over in the night. Maybe, with a little gust, a champagne-colored High Life can will roll out from a nook in the sidewalk when a skeptical suit opens his shop and he’ll know he missed something. Maybe he’ll wonder where his city is headed. Maybe next year he’ll be a part of its movement forward.