Hopscotch is full of surprises offstage, too

ajames@newsobserver.comSeptember 7, 2013 

— You think you know a city, and then you realize you don’t.

When before in Raleigh has there been a man showing his rear end in the glass window of a dunking booth while bands play in broad daylight? Behind a Boylan Heights warehouse you’ve walked past countless times. With multiple art studios inside.

That was an “off-Hopscotch” party, loosely connected to the three-day music festival that drew thousands to downtown Raleigh and concluded Saturday. Seven local bands played at the neighborhood party from 2 p.m. until sunset on a stage that spilled out from under a roll-up door. Musicians and locals drank P.B.R. outside in the grass, while a dog carried tennis balls from the dunking booth back to the next thrower.

Sophie Youles drove down from Brooklyn with her boyfriend, Brett Wishard, for the festival. They stopped by the “Shopscotch” first. Art vendors and food trucks gathered in front of Rebus works. They meandered around the corner to find out where music was coming from and found the dunking booth.

“It’s a lot less pretentious here than at festivals in Brooklyn,” Youles said. “I’ve seen a lot of hip dads with brews pushing strollers.”

Coming from Brooklyn, they must have a keen sense for all things alternative. They were some of the only out-of-towners at the warehouse party for insiders.

The families

Not all of downtown totally dropped their drawers. Hopscotch’s day parties also had family-friendly spots.

On Cabarrus Street in front of the Lincoln Theatre Sean Smith and his 7-year-old son ate huge hamburgers from the Only Burger food truck. Though a DJ played funky disco music on the street, they might not have even noticed it.

“We were driving by and saw the food trucks, and when we were here, we heard it was Hopscotch,” Smith said. “We’re not really here for the music.”

Next to the Smith family was Ian Verhaeghe and his wife, Monica. “We’re probably the least committed people you’ll find here,” Verhaege said. “We came to meet up with friends from out of town here and eat the food.”

He got a vegan veggie burger that was “finger-licking good.” Monica said she liked trying the cold-brewed coffee from Larry’s Beans. Before she’s only been able to find cold-brew on the West Coast.

“It’s cool it’s making its way here,” Verhaeghe said. “Since I’m pregnant I can’t have too much so the sample size was perfect.”

The festival had its fair share of twenty-somethings, of course.

The out-of-towners

In front of the Raleigh Times restaurant on Hargett Street, Patrick Johnson and Taylor Green, both 20, stopped to interview Raleigh locals for a documentary they’re filming, “People of Raleigh.” From Nashville, the couple got a gig working for Etix, which sponsors Hopscotch, to come and film stories of people they met.

They said they were impressed by this festival. “It’s a lot cleaner than other festivals we’ve been to, like Bonnaroo,” Green said. “And I’ve found out about a lot of bands here that I didn’t know before.”

But there were mixed feelings between locals and guests about Hopscotch.

Sarah Howell moved to Chapel Hill from New Orleans in June. She attended a Hopscotch day party at Rebus Works, which felt like tailgating compared with attending the main event. But it was ideal for her family and their small children.

“I come from a place where there are professional partiers,” Howell said. Hopscotch-goers would be in bed by the time Mardi Gras-goers were heading out.

But the festival gave her encouragement about the North Carolina music scene.

“I thought that was going to be a big hardship, being from New Orleans, that we wouldn’t find a good festival scene,” Howell said. “But I’ve been really impressed by the outdoor music scene here, and it’s as live an outdoor music scene as New Orleans.”

Howell ate a shrimp po-boy from King Creole Food truck. “It was one of the best shrimp po-boys I’ve ever had,” Howell said. She would know.

The locals

Though the streets were filled with out-of-towners looking for fun, there were also people just trying to go about the day-to-day.

Monica Shannon said the festival hurts her business, Open Door Yoga studio.“My Saturday class normally has 30 to 40 people in it,” Shannon said. “This morning there were 10, and I don’t know if everyone was just hung over or if they’re afraid to come downtown.”

Nancy Collins walked naively into the party. “Is this the musical festival?” she said. “I’m here to buy a mantel.”

James: 919-553-7234

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