This guide to your Hopscotch experience will make several assumptions. First, I believe that the Triangle scene compares favorably to any single collection of musical talent in the nation, but plenty of worthy locals are overlooked here in the interest of catching acts that play less often around these parts. Second, it's understood that the headlining acts of the City Plaza shows won't be missed in order to hit the clubs early, for similar reasons; I like I Was Totally Destroying It as much as the next local show goer, but c'mon, it's Public Enemy. Finally, I trust that someone—possibly a local relative of Doc Brown—is working out the last few kinks in eliminating travel time between venues. So, thanks.
THURSDAY, SEPT. 9
The first night of Hopscotch will likely be buzzing with energy from the get-go as attendees bounce from venue to venue, so start out your evening on a relaxed, reflective note with ALL TINY CREATURES. This Madison, Wi., quartet, fronted by heady composer Thomas Wincek, conjures mesmeric instrumentals to entrance an early Pour House crowd. Jump from cerebral to corrosive, though, upon hopping over to Berkeley Cafe for Baltimore's DOUBLE DAGGER, whose Nolen Strals waxes political with yelped vocals and unrelenting spirit over meaty bass and drum bursts.
If you don't arrive at Tir na nOg early enough to stake out a spot for the sing-song lo-fi fuzz of BEST COAST, find refuge two doors down back at the Pour House with San Fran sextet SLEEPY SUN—who swing wildly from sun-baked slabs of stoner rock into an idyllic folk haze—or around the corner at Slim's, where Toronto five-piece BRUTAL KNIGHTS serve up minute-long shots of hyper-melodic punk. Head to the Lincoln Theatre next, where LUCERO shows why they're one of the best bar rock bands in the business, augmenting Ben Nichols' ragged, scorned ragers and twangy heartland ballads with the horns of his Memphis hometown.
While you can't go wrong with any of the night's closing acts, the dense, dramatic electronic euphoria of Raleigh expats FUTURE ISLANDS should fuel a dance-party frenzy well into the wee hours at a packed Berkeley. Your only worry should be how you'll be able to weasel your way inside.
FRIDAY, SEPT. 10
After City Plaza for PANDA BEAR and BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE, book it to Kings to catch the final minutes of JON MUELLER's set. Mueller—who drums in Collections of Colonies of Bees and Volcano Choir—ventures into solo percussive explorations that extend to hypnotic drones. Find yourself next in the company of two of the festival's finest female singer-songwriters—Brooklyn's SHARON VAN ETTEN and Fredericksburg, Va.'s ERIN MCKEOWN—for entirely different reasons. Van Etten captivates with a fragile voice, confessional lyrics and delicate, hushed arrangements at the Pour House, while McKeown holds court across town at Deep South with a dynamic presence on playfully orchestrated indie pop. Carve out some time next for THE GOLDEN BOYS, a boozy Austin unit that packs a rowdy rock 'n' roll punch at Slim's. Don't stray far after the set—fellow Austinites HARLEM follow with brilliant pop nuggets masquerading as sloppy garage rock. If you can time the Lincoln Theatre appearance of RAEKWON—who's contributed a couple of the best solo albums in the Wu-Tang Clan discography—by all means, don't miss it. But if punctuality is more your style, wrap up your night at the Berkeley Cafe with ambitious Toronto sextet FUCKED UP, who shatter the hardcore mold by folding in bits of shoegaze, indie rock, prog, punk and pop. They create a whirlwind of intensity with a noisy, take-no-prisoners attitude, and tonight they'll have me.
SATURDAY, SEPT. 11
Once the inimitable PUBLIC ENEMY finishes their set, head over to the Lincoln Theatre, where brassy Michigan ensemble NOMO uses Afrobeat as a launching point into an expansive realm in which progressive funk, straight-ahead jazz swing and digital dabbles are swirled together. During the set break, try to catch a bit of LONNIE WALKER or THE LIGHT PINES—two phenomenal local acts that seem to get even stronger with each performance—at Deep South or the Pour House, respectively. Hustle back to the Lincoln for Brooklyn's BEAR IN HEAVEN, who splice pop melodies into electronically afflicted, Krautrock-influenced prog for the 21st century. Consider splitting for Slim's a tad early in pursuit of the charming, junky Motown send-ups of Asheville's FLOATING ACTION. Stick around, because Tir na nOg's sure to be packed to the gills again when it houses hundreds of hipsters swaying to the effortless vibes of chillwave torchbearer WASHED OUT, but the brooding, blues-affected Virginians PONTIAK may find a way to rattle the walls with seismic psych-rock riffs from all the way over at Slim's. If you opt to keep your night heavy, the brutal menace of Southern metal gods KYLESA will do you right at Berkeley Cafe. Otherwise, close out the festival on a friendlier note at the Pour House with Brooklyn's WOODS, whose buoyant, backward-looking pop is graced with breezy harmonies and lo-fi sensibilities.