In the past several weeks, two camps of potential Hopscotch Music Festival
fans have emerged: those who don’t think the lineup matters
, because they’ll be there anyway, and those who wouldn’t dream of buying a ticket before the lineup drops
. After a series of delays and leaks, the festival has finally announced the lineup for its sixth installment, scheduled for Sept. 10–12 in downtown Raleigh. At last, those sides have much more of substance to debate.
As with last year’s Hopscotch, this edition will forego shows in Memorial Auditorium for an opening show in Raleigh City Plaza. Deerhunter and Godspeed You! Black Emperor will share Thursday duties on the main stage, with no local opener. TV on the Radio—likely the festival’s biggest-ticket item, and the single act with the broadest appeal—will headline Friday. Resurgent soul singer Carlitta Durand opens, while mellow beatmaker Tycho, fresh off an appearance at Red Hat
, takes the middle slot.
On Saturday, Hopscotch stages one of its most surprising City Plaza shows to date, with golden country crooner Dwight Yoakam splitting the show with his old Los Angeles pals in X. American Aquarium and The Vibekillers take introductory honors there. Tickets for these big gigs run $40–$50 each, though they won’t hit the market until June
But you might want the chance to choose from the other 120 bands scheduled for the festival’s clubs, as that’s where some of this year’s best action appears to be. Across several genres, the talent pool in the Hopscotch clubs seems particularly strong. The festival previously announced Godflesh, Owen Pallett and Battles. Today, Clipse's Pusha T, psych-rock legend Roky Erickson, noise lord Prurient, rising alt-country star Lydia Loveless, British producer Clark, mysterious rapper GoldLink and more than 120 others join. Full festival tickets are already on sale
, with a price tag of $145 or $215 for VIP perks. Single-day passes go on sale in June.
Below, I’ve taken a quick critical pass at the lineup, with 10 trends or acts that excite me and a few aspects that seem lacking this time around. And in the interest of disclosure, I co-founded Hopscotch six years ago, but I haven’t worked for or with the organization since 2013.
: Godflesh and Old Man Gloom, Tombs and Fórn, Sannhet and Mammifer, Wizard Rifle and Eyehategod: For a general-interest music festival, even one on the fringes, Hopscotch continues to invest in loud, aggressive bands. Most of these acts aren’t ones you’ll find touring through these parts often, if at all. Though they don’t quite fit here, there’s a variety of excellent and unorthodox rock bands on the bill this year, too, including Sheer Mag, Wovenhand and OBN IIIs.
: Though I’m not sold on how potent X will be while playing the songs of their youth, I’m delighted to see Yoakam take such a premium spot. His voice remains a treasure, his catalogue rich. And to be based in a city with a big reputation for country, even of the alt-variety, it’s a smart nod toward the center of the aisle. Lydia Loveless should help in that regard, too.
Prurient & Zs
: These New York acts are responsible for two of the loudest and best sets I’ve seen so far in 2015. At Knoxville’s Big Ears Festival, the trio Zs used small figures of drums, guitar, saxophone and electronics to build massive, intricate pieces that steadily ratcheted up both tension and volume. Meanwhile, at the Brooklyn release party for his new double-disc, Frozen Niagara Falls
, noise veteran Prurient punished the sound system with cavernous beats and saturating sheets of static, screams and hiss. Given that Prurient will be on tour with Godflesh, and most likely playing the Lincoln Theatre, expect the venue’s PA to put in work.
: Hopscotch has continued to up its hip-hop quotient over its half-decade run, surrounding perennially big names with a constellation of lesser-known acts. This year, Clipse’s Pusha T leads an intriguing assortment of emcees—Le1f, Father, GoldLink, Cakes da Killa and more. There’s also a solid crew of producers and DJs, from Jubilee (here last week)
and Hanz to Nick James and the great DJ Earl. Unfortunately, the long-rumored Kaytranada
show appears to have been only that.
Phil Cook presents Southland Mission
: Phil Cook’s second solo LP, Southland Mission
, arrives on Friday, Sept. 11. The night of the release, he’ll not only offer the record in its entirety, but he’ll also welcome every player on the album to the stage. Given that it’s a jubilant amalgamation of the blues and bluegrass, Southern rock and soul music, that sounds like a wonderful way to welcome a record.
Clark & Cashmere Cat
: England’s Clark and Norway’s Cashmere Cat take very different, very rewarding paths to production. Clark’s excellent new self-titled LP is a dystopian dream, where big beats and pretty melodies fight their way out of distortion and disorientation. Live, though, he tends to turn up the tempo, inciting the party and interrupting it with an intuitive playfulness. Cashmere Cat goes for more outright bliss, with pillowy synthesizers and skittering drums building into pop wonderlands. It's no surprise he’s a choice producer of and tour opener for Ariana Grande.
New Music Raleigh
: Last year, these locals stole opening night in the opera theater. Presenting William Brittelle’s Future Shock
, they upstaged the massed drum circle IIII with a mix of intoxicating rhythms and mesmerizing textures. They’ll get another turn this year, playing Oscar Bettison’s Breaking and Entering (With Aggravated Assault)
and music from Evan Ziporyn’s ShadowBang
Grandma Sparrow & Natalie Prass
: As Grandma Sparrow
, Megafaun drummer Joe Westerlund released an excellent LP last year
with Richmond’s Spacebomb Orchestra. The exquisite singer Natalie Prass did the same this year. Prass’ show is billed with the Orchestra, which means it might measure up
to the grandeur not only of her record but also of Matthew E. White’s big Hopscotch debut
in 2012. Perhaps some of that bleeds over to the Sparrow set, too.
: This Hopscotch lineup aggregates a few of the writers responsible for some of my favorite records of the year. Norway’s Jenny Hval, whose excellent Apocalypse, Girl
arrives this summer, writes songs that deserve to be read and heard on repeat. Mac McCaughan’s Non-Believers
fits here, too. There’s also Chelsea Wolfe, Lydia Loveless, Owen Pallett, Mitski and Elisa Ambrogio.
Steve Gunn & the Black Twig Pickers
: A lot of music festivals book Steve Gunn these days. And Hopscotch has booked the Black Twig Pickers in the past. But recruiting both to collaborate, as they did on this year’s sturdy Seasonal Hire
, requires more trust than simply asking Gunn to play his new folk-rock numbers. Good look.
There are a few things that unfortunately seem absent in this year’s lineup, at least at first glance. Most of the experimental music, for instance, feels not bad or even limited but just soft
. The avant-garde seems confined to two harpists, several excellent drone-oriented acts, a tiny bit of jazz, synthesizer wielder John Chantler and a handful of songwriters with outlandish predilections. The fringe seems to have largely lost its harder, heavier edge at this year’s Hopscotch.
The local roster, too, looks uncharacteristically plain, with plenty of repeats from previous festivals and a predictable sampling of young new acts. With the exception of New Music Raleigh and Phil Cook’s big sets, there are few obvious standouts in the way of last year’s White Octave reunion or big homecoming gigs from the likes of Hiss Golden Messenger, Sylvan Esso, Porter Robinson or, hell, even Between the Buried and Me. The festival touts that 40 percent of its lineup stems from North Carolina this year, but a sizable portion of it feels like paint-by-numbers filler.
And while I’m glad that, with the exception of X, Hopscotch mostly avoided the big reunion draws that power so many festivals, I am a bit underwhelmed by the City Plaza acts. Last year’s three-night configuration offered an excellent and surprising assortment, from the classic hip-hop of De La Soul through the intricacy of St. Vincent and Spoon to the closing-night rage of Death and Mastodon. Aside from Godspeed, who will certainly be a strange City Plaza sight, and Yoakam, these bets feel a little less enticing.
That said, once again, I’ll be happy to Hopscotch come September.
Full Hopscotch 2015 Lineup:
Ace Henderson, Acid Chaperone, Advaeta, American Aquarium, Ameriglow, Bandages, Battles, Big Ups, Birds of Avalon, Black Clouds, Blaxxx, Booher, Boulevards, Breathers, Brief Lives, Bully, Cakes Da Killa, Carlitta Durand, Cashmere Cat, Chaz French, Chelsea Wolfe, Choked Out, Chulo, Clark, Cloud Becomes Your Hand, Dad & Dad, Daniel Romano, Deerhunter, DJ Earl, Dorthia Cottrell, Drippy Inputs, Dwight Yoakam, Echo Courts, Elisa Ambrogio, Escher, EYEHATEGOD, Eyes Low, Father, FAULTS, Flock of Dimes, Fórn, Godflesh, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, GoldLink, Grand Champeen, Grandma Sparrow, Hank Wood & The Hammerheads, Hanz, HeCTA, Ian William Craig, Jake Xerxes Fussell, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC, Jenny Hval, Jessica Pratt, John Chantler, Jubilee, Keath Mead, King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Las Rosas, Lawrence English, Le1F, Leapling, Less Western, Leverage Models, Lilac Shadows, Lizzo, Lost Trail, Loud Boyz, Lud, Luxe Posh, Lydia Loveless, Mac McCaughan, Mamiffer, Mary Lattimore & Jeff Zeigler, May Erwin, Microkingdom, Mitski, Moenda, Moon Duo, Morbids, Mumdance, Must Be The Holy Ghost, Naked Naps, Natalie Prass and the Spacebomb Orchestra, Nathan Golub, Natural Causes, New Music Raleigh: Music by Oscar Bettison and Evan Ziporyn, Nick James, No Love, Nocando, Nots, Obey City, OBN IIIs, Old Man Gloom, Oulipo, Outer Spaces, Owen Pallett, Patois Counselors, Peacers, Phil Cook presents Southland Mission
, Pile, Pill, Porches., Prurient, Pusha T, River Whyless, Roky Erickson, Sannhet, Sarah Louise, Secret Boyfriend, Sheer Mag, Shitty Boots, Silent Lunch, SkyBlew, SMLH, Solar Halos, Some Army, Soon, Steve Gunn & The Black Twig Pickers, Tashi Dorji, The Vibekillers, thefacesblur, Tombs, TV on the Radio, Tycho, TZYVYX, Wahyas, Warehouse, Wildhoney, Wizard Rifle, Wovenhand, WYMYNS PRYSYN, X, Yandrew, Zack Mexico, Zeena Parkins, Zs