Photos and text by Brian Etling.
The weather was gorgeous and the scene at Hopscotch onFriday night was familiar to anyone who has attended the festival in the past.It was a mostly tame affair as far as the audience is concerned, with a mainstage crowd that included roving bands of young teens and be-glowsticked,dancing geriatrics. For its part, the crowd was focused on the music and didn’tallow for itself to become too much of a distraction, as is often the problemwith outdoor festivals in busy cities like Raleigh. Cheap beers were extremelyexpensive and food was a full two dollars more than the advertised menu pricein most restaurants. The streets around the two main stages were littered withhawkers of (really great!) band posters and t-shirts, as well as pop-up standsfor a few tech companies hoping to make Hopscotch into something of a smaller”Austin City Limits.”
I rolled into Raleigh just in time to nab a decent spot nearthe stage for Gary Clark Jr.’s 6:45 performance â€” fortunate, given that it was,in my opinion, one of the best sets of the night. The band opened with crowd(and personal) favorite “Bright Lights” and they never really let up afterthat. Bright Lights grooved straight into another hit, “Don’t Owe You a Thang,”and the next 45 minutes were mostly a blur of Gary Clark Jr.’s distorted bluesguitar and silky voice backed by, I’m not kidding, at least 15 differentpassing freight trains and a setting sun. Realizing that this one might be hardto top, I scooted over to the stage at the Plaza for the second half ofAnderson .Paak’s act, which turned out to be another key decision. .Paak reallyknows how to work a crowd, and he sweated and danced his way through anhour-long set that had the rapt City Plaza audience moving in ways they didn’tknow they could move. One of the bigger letdowns of the night was Beach Housewho, to be fair, had to take the stage after an incredibly high-energyperformance by .Paak and play a signature blend of low-key, shoegazey indierock. The music was good, the venue just felt awkward.
“Okay…Erykah Badu is on the way to Red Hat. Band on stagenow. Show is happening.” The person responsible for managing the HopscotchFestival Twitter account had their hands full late last night. A large crowdhad swelled outside of the Red Hat Amphitheater in the hopes of seeing musiclegend Erykah Badu, whose 9:45 set was now 30 minutes late and counting. Thethinning, increasingly disgruntled crowd was sated by this tweet from Hopscotchwhich reassured those still lingering around the stage that Badu would, infact, be making an appearance. Those who stuck around were not disappointed â€”their frustrations were forgotten the moment Badu launched into a 90s trip-hopperformance that, though late, was another one of the more memorable of Fridaynight’s sets.
One of the great things about a festival like Hopscotch isthat the word of particularly good performances spreads like wildfire,sometimes before the sets are even finished. This is how I heard about the 10o’clock performance of Boulevards â€” I eavesdropped on a fellow concert-goer whohad just received a text from a friend insisting that he get to the MemorialAuditorium immediately. Boulevards, whose frontman Jamil Rashad is a Raleighnative, put on one of the funkiest, most fun performances of the festival thusfar. Some other really great shows included Young Thug (of course), Car SeatHeadrest, Diet Cig, Julien Baker, and Big Freedia.
Head’s up for Saturday! Sylvan Esso is sure to put on anincredible headlining performance â€” I’m secretly hoping that Jenn Wasner of WyeOak makes it to the stage to play their incredible, joint cover of “Don’t DreamIt’s Over.” Also on my radar are: Vince Staples, Daniel Bachman, Eric Bachmann(Archers of Loaf), Andrew Bird, and Rainbow Kitten Surprise (an old Boone, NCfavorite). The weather looks to be about the same as yesterday, and if the qualityof last night’s performances is any indication of what’s to come this evening,I would highly recommend splurging and grabbing one of the few one-day passesstill floating around.