Hopscotch is sweet music for downtown Raleigh businesses

More venues, musical acts bring new life to downtown streets

kpoe@newsobserver.comSeptember 7, 2012 

  • Hopscotch Music Festival Featuring: 175 acts, including The Roots on Saturday night. When: Through Saturday night Where: 15 stages in downtown Raleigh Cost: $34-$110 Details: hopscotchmusicfest.com

— The streets of downtown Raleigh saw more beards, thick-rimmed glasses and tight jeans than they did button-down shirts, ties and khakis during the Friday lunch hour.

It’s Hopscotch Music Festival time – and with a widely expanded lineup this year that features concerts from midday to late night over three days – the party is providing a late-summer shot in the arm to downtown’s restaurants, bars and galleries.

“It brings a lot of people downtown, which is good for business,” said Paul Dombalis, co-owner of The Mecca restaurant, who said he’s seeing at least 50 percent more business than an average weekend. Friday’s breakfast crowd was about triple a usual Friday morning, he said.

This year, the Hopscotch festival’s third, features 175 bands at 15 different downtown venues. That’s a 50 percent increase over the music festival’s first year. Hopscotch started about noon Thursday and continues through Saturday night.

Loren Gold, executive vice president at the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce, projected that the event earned downtown businesses an additional $1.2 million in direct visitor spending last year.

“It plays really well to the feeling and core of downtown, in that we really are a diverse populace coming together downtown for a really unique and different music festival,” Gold said.

That spirit was on display Friday.

Kings Barcade – which usually doesn’t come alive until its nighttime concerts – was filled wall-to-wall as a member of the Pittsboro-based Hiss Golden Messenger band began to sing a capella into the microphone.

Day parties have been much better attended this year, said Kings owner Ben Barwick, as the festival’s reputation grows and organizers get better at handling the details.

The west end of Martin Street in the Warehouse District was blocked to vehicles Friday as it filled with people drinking cheap beer, eating from food trucks and listening to North Carolina music on an outdoor stage.

Those who ventured just past the stage saw the open door at Flanders Gallery, which was hosting “Bopscotch,” a jazz-inspired day party.

“This kind of festival makes us seem more like New York City,” gallery partner Marjorie Hodges said. “I think this is going to be an international festival.”

As musicians played in the open warehouse, the walls were lined with “Spectrum Analysis” paintings by Raleigh artist James Marshall, who also goes by the name “Dalek.” The installation didn’t officially open until later Friday night, but Hopscotch attendees got an early preview.

More to see

Raleigh resident Alex Floyd was happy to see the additional venues this year – it not only gave him more acts to choose from, but he had more room inside some of the venues.

“We’ve been able to get in where we’ve gone,” he said.

Pete Pagano, owner of Tir na nOg Irish pub, also liked the expanded lineup.

“It gives it a little more of a diverse crowd and adds a lot of character to the whole festival,” he said. “It gets people to come back.”

Tir na nOg is a Hopscotch venue for the third year.

The diversity the festival brings is obvious when the business lunch crowd comes in to one of the restaurant’s day parties, Pagano said.

“It throws our normal customers for a bit of a loop,” he said, chuckling. “But for a lot of them, it’s a kind of fun surprise.”

Poe: 919-829-4563

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