Organizing a music festival on the scale of Hopscotch is a tough and complicated task. There are so many issues to juggle to make it a successful weekend of music on multiple levels. As a curator, your own tastes come into play significantly but so does that of the attendees. There's also the consideration of which bands are popular right now and will bring crowds just for the name and balancing that with carefully considering up and coming bands that will have people talking for months after seeing their performance in a tiny off-beat bar. It's as much of a personal act as it is communal one.
There was talk about comparing Raleigh's Hopscotch Music Festival with that of the big corporate field festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo as well as the grassroots SXSW that is a breeding ground for new artists. I completely disagreed with comparing Hopscotch to any of these then and I'll do it once again this year. Hopscotch, while being slightly more like SXSW, is actually somwhere in the middle and a type of festival that there are few of in the United States (with MusicFestNW being the most similar) This is because of the all of the reasons I mentioned before and a few more. The diversity of venues, the diversity of chosen bands and simply the attitude to stay as urban as possible in the capitol city.
Influential No Wave band Swans are reuniting for a few shows this year. Hopscotch is one of them. Photo Credit
Hopscotch is actually a very small festival. When speaking to festival co-director Greg Lowenhagen this week, he told me that the given parameters were a large part of curating Hopscotch. "Our given parameters are being in an urban place and the size of our venues." he said. "What people don't realize is how small Hopscotch is as an independent music fest. Our largest indoor venue only holds 850 people and the largest outdoor option (whether it is City Plaza or the Downtown Raleigh Amphitheater) holds between 5-6,000 people." While limiting the size of bands they could book, it didn't stop them from gathering some big named bands to headline the event.
Also, Lowenhagen spoke very spiritedly about what it's like to see a band in a music venue. "I love seeing bands in actual music venues where bands are supposed to play" he said. So Fletcher will get different bands than Slim's. It only makes sense. Hopscotch's venues hold from 150 to over 5,000 people. This is what makes the festival so rich of an experience, bouncing around to various size venues and experiencing the music in the "place that such a band is supposed to play", to once again quote him. If you've ever gone to a fieldfest and seen a band that would otherwise never play during the day, in a sunny field, the experience of that band's performance is slightly ruined. Hopscotch elimates that by coupling bands, times and venues together in a logical order.
The "funnest and hardest part (aside from running around the weekend of the event) is booking the bands to play the fest" Lowenhagen said. "We want all of the venues at capacity and are trying to structure the lineup in such a way that people are able to hopscotch around to each venue to see each of the bands they have come to see." For all of these reasons and I'm sure MANY more, we are very glad that Greg Lowenhagen, Grayson Currin and The Independent Weekly have decided to host a second year of amazing music in Downtown Raleigh. That said, let's dig into the lineup, all 135 bands and 12 venues of it.
135 bands, 12 venues, 3 days. Downtown Raleigh. Wow.
Despite it still being April (and no longer April Fools' Day), we are happy to say that The Flaming Lips and Wayne Coyne's Space Bubble will indeed be bouncing around Downtown Raleigh on Saturday September 10th. This may be one of the best live shows that will ever grace City Plaza. Opening for them will be the Merge owners and indie-staple band Superchunk as well as Chapel Hill's The Light Pines. And on Friday, indie-rock legend Robert Polland and his band Guided By Voices will host an evening full of great big stage music with southern rockers Drive-By Truckers and West Coast's The Dodos. Both should be fantastic nights of music under City Plaza's colored towers. And while we don't necessarily expect a surprise on the level of The Helping Hand Mission Band marching into City Plaza one evening, we also don't put it past Greg Lowenhagen to keep an Ace in his pocket. We'll take Wayne Coyne's bubble falling from a helicopter if that's not too much to ask?
From there, the lineup seems to only get started relative to excitement of both bands that have been around for 20 years and others that are just getting started and labeled as 2011 'buzzbands'. Much like last year, where a handful of bands were barely the tip of everyone's tongue, 2011's lineup has a ton of those bands as well. From Twin Shadow, Braids, Beach Fossils, Julianna Barwick, Cold Cave, Woodsman, Oneohtrix Point Never, Weekend, Ford and Lopatin (formerly Games), Dawn Golden and Rosy Cross , PC Worship and more, this year's lineup has some names that you may not have heard but will probably be talking about for a while afterwards.
This will be City Plaza in September. Photo Credit
The 2011 lineup hip-hop, metal, indie-rock, noise, folk and pretty much most other musical genres you can think of that make up most of the musicsphere today. We are sure to miss a bunch of names in this article but the poster can speak for itself.... Swans, J Mascis and Oxbow are all names you've probably heard a few times but never seen live. Here's your chance. Maybe you missed All Tiny Creatures last year (one of my favorite performances) or Future Islands or Last Year's Men, all of which put on fantastic shows at the Inaugural Hopscotch Fest. This year, you'll have to bounce around again to see as many of your circled bands and it's going to be hard to see them all. Either way, you'll see a ton of amazing shows.
And it keeps going, from Budos Band, Mount Eerie, Reading Rainbow, Gauntlet Hair, Frontier Ruckus, to Little Scream and a ton of local bands. One of the best things about Hopscotch is that the further you dig into the lineup, the better it really gets. I continue to look at and realized I missed someone on last look. And those are only the names that I recognize. There is another list that includes all of the bands that I have no clue about their music but know for sure that they were selected for Hopscotch for a very specific reason.
Twin Shadow. You'll be talking about more than his hairdo come September.
Designing a building takes a lot of detailed plans, sections and elevations all of which have to work together to produce an elegant product that functions well and is aesthetically pleasing to both the designers and the public who uses the building. Hopscotch is crafted with a similar precision that I believe will indeed make it one of the finest music festivals in the country. If you want The Killers, Kings of Leon, Eminem and Jack Johnson, head out to the fields of Manchester, Tennessee. If you want three nights of finely tuned shows with care given to each progression from opening to closing acts, head to the streets of Downtown Raleigh in September.
New Raleigh will give their picks in the months and weeks leading up to the fest and give a few recommended itineraries. It'll be hard, but you'll all have to make some decisions.
Tickets will be on sale at 10am over at Hopscotch Music Fest dot com
FULL DETAILS ON TICKETS
Admission for Hopscotch Music Festival is designed to suit a wide range of fans. Individual tickets for the shows in Raleigh City Plaza are available. The Friday, Sept. 9, show featuring Guided by Voices, Drive-By Truckers and The Dodos costs $32.
The Saturday, Sept. 10, show featuring The Flaming Lips, Superchunk and The Light Pines costs $34.
For $65, fans can buy a wristband that allows entry into all 11 festival clubs, including Fletcher Opera Hall, for all three days. For $105, fans get into those 11 clubs plus both City Plaza shows, a combined savings of more than $25.
A very limited number of $155 VIP wristbands are also available. Those wristbands include priority access to all shows and a VIP festival kickoff party on Thursday, Sept. 8. Last year, VIP wristbands sold out in less than a week, and all wristbands sold out before the festival started. Wristbands go on sale Wednesday, April 20, at 10 a.m.
In cooperation with cosponsor etix.com, Hopscotch Music Festival is offering wristbands and tickets to all fans with reduced service charges. To purchase tickets and wristbands, visit www.hopscotchmusicfest.com or www.etix.com.