A lot happened in 2010: Raleigh welcomed back its prodigal Barcade, said a long goodbye to the bar that smoking loved most, and partied from noon to dawn at the year's most hashtagged festival.
Best New Event: Hopscotch
Hopscotch was an outpouring of Raleigh's best assets: good local music, cheap beer, an accessible downtown and a tight-knit community. No doubt the festival owes its success to its savvy, locally rooted curators. Greg Lowenhagen and Grayson Currin booked quality headliners with mass appeal (Public Enemy, Panda Bear, Broken Social Scene), indie rock critic's picks (Best Coast, Washed Out), homegrown favorites (The Love Language, The Rosebuds), and never-before-seen teenagers from Canada that knocked us on our asses (First Rate People).
The eternal complaint about Raleigh is that "there isn't enough to do." Well, Hopscotch gave us more to do than any human could reasonably manage. Events from morning 'til morning ranged from a panel discussion that featured Chuck D to an after party that raged so hard even Flavor Flav found it worth attending. Best of all, our tiny downtown meant that for once we could walk everywhere we wanted to go.
If New York were to ask Raleigh out on a date, we'd ask them to come over the second weekend in September.
Best Opening: Kings/Neptune's
When Kings was forced to close its doors in 2007, the vibrant downtown barcade left a void for many of us. Sure, there were other bars and music venues, but none seemed to generate the same ambiance. Nor could they boast a mixture of live music and eclectic events, as well as the comfortable vibe that the McDowell Street location offered. Our long wait came to an end when Kings reopened on Martin Street with the addition of Neptune's downstairs. The venue had seen a variety of other incarnations—Martin Street Music Hall, Lizzie's, and Alibi—and was prime for new development, especially considering its walkable proximity to local haunts Slim's, Raleigh Times, and Landmark.
Kings officially reopened in late August with a massively fun performance by the ever entertaining Bandway, just in time to become one of the main venues for the Hopscotch Music Festival, which knocked Kings into the running for best live downtown venue. Kings has gone on to reclaim The Great Cover Up and the former Bickett Gallery spelling bees, host a significant number of local and touring musical acts, and draw large crowds to a variety of parties and events, including our own New Raleigh Christmas Party. Its partner in crime, Neptune's, has added to the thriving downtown scene rock-and-roll bingo, an ever revolving line-up of talented DJs, lots of late night dancing, and the bartender with the "most spectacular mustache" in Raleigh.
The two bars have quickly become a mainstay for the downtown sector. Events consistently sell out in advance and weekend nights there often reach capacity. But no one's complaining about waiting in a 20-minute line for entry. We're just happy to have Kings back, and we look forward to what they'll bring us in 2011.
Most Confusing and Drawn-Out Closing: Jackpot
Rumors of the Jackpot's demise became rampant shortly after the sudden and unexpected closing of Glenwood South's beloved Rockford. Both were owned and managed by Michael D'amelio. New Raleigh reported in April that the time was nigh for Jackpot's imminent closing, and word on the street fueled a debauchery-filled weekend of goodbyes, as the JP was flooded with patrons who came to party one last time. As we waved farewell to the bar that had been a seedy, long-loved Raleigh destination for the better part of a decade, crowds overflowed onto the Hillsborough Street sidewalk. Some patrons, desperate for mementos, literally took pieces of the bar home with them, ripping decorative masks from the walls. The sweaty crowd danced until we were forced from the bar, in what many thought would truly be last call.
And then...it didn't close. The Jackpot was open the next week and into the next weekend. While most regulars had already said their goodbyes, a slow but steady clientele filed in night after night. Many were puzzled; even Jackpot's employees didn't seem to know whether or not they would be reporting to work the next week. Everyone knew it was closing, but no one seemed to know when. Eventually, Jackpot's doors did close for good, but not until the end of September, a full five months after the first fond farewell. Unfortunately, the legend ended on a sour note: A 23-year old man was assaulted at the club's next-to-last night open. The attack at Jackpot landed the man in the hospital in critical condition.
From Aggies to hipsters, to good-old-fashioned barflies, a variety of local Raleigh folks will miss the Jackpot for years to come. Most agree, however, that the dirty dive had seen its heyday come and go, and as the Jackpot died a slow death, we sought out newer (and cleaner) establishments in which to get our drink and dance on.
Opening We’re Most Ambivalent About: The Downtown Raleigh Boutique To Later Be Named, "(Your Beer Company Logo Here) Amphitheater"
It was kind of a "gee, thanks" gift, like a pair of socks from your rich aunt. First the city pissed off a sizable chunk of the area's concert-going population by discontinuing the Moore Square free concert series. Then they threw us a bone in the form of one free concert in our new digs, featuring The Connells and a halfhearted promise to look into a new free series that never materialized. The Connells brought out 4,500 that night, but the show was more like a marketing scheme to show boomers and OTBers that downtown ain't so bad and, hey, why not come back in two days for our REAL first concert, The Backstreet Boys!
The thing is, Raleigh desperately needed a venue the size of the new amphitheater. There are a hell of a lot more acts willing to play in a shed that holds 5,600 than the 20,000-seated monstrosity known as Walnut Creek. And to give credit where credit is due, there were only five shows that didn't draw at least 50% capacity. In the long run, the new amphitheater will bring more money into the economy by reeling in the bands that used to pass us by for Charlotte and, in theory, get those fans to drop some cash in downtown. But please, venue bookers, enough already with Heart and the Barenaked Ladies.