This is Nathan Price’s first year as director of the Hopscotch Music Festival, which will start its eighth annual festivities Sept. 7 in downtown Raleigh.
Price took over as director after co-founder Greg Lowenhagen stepped down after last year’s festival. He’s been with Hopscotch since its second year of business, assuming such roles as talent coordinator and day-show manager. It’s no doubt he got the gig because he knows a lot about music in the Triangle.
The Raleigh native not only has booked and promoted shows but also has played in such bands as The Dinwiddies (who will perform at a Hopscotch day party Sept. 8) and The Lollipops. He is also co-founder of the DiggUp Tapes cassette label.
But for the past 12 months, Price has worked with a budget – just over $1 million, slightly more than 2016’s budget – that could allow the festival to bring in both big and little names to the event, happening from Thursday, Sept. 7, to Sunday, Sept. 10.
“It’s a balancing act, for sure,” says Price, 33. “It’s just one of those things – that you just try not to overspend on talent, while also bringing the best possible artists into town.”
Hopscotch broke even financially in 2016, after turning a profit in 2011 and 2014 (and registering losses the other four years). Among this year’s added draws is a fourth day of music at Red Hat Amphitheater, which will mark the first time the festival has gone past its traditional Thursday-through-Saturday schedule.
“That’s another thing that we just always talked about, adding a fourth day,” says Price, whose band Jenny Besetzt will also be on the Sunday bill. “So we’ll see how that goes. We’re excited to kind of move in that direction.”
For his first year as director, Price says Hopscotch is keeping its diverse musical format intact, snapping up everyone from rappers to alt-bands to country starlets to, of course, plenty of regional performers. Altogether, 148 acts will play Hopscotch this year, he said.
“We try to kind of keep it as similar as possible,” Price said. “There are a few extra things that we’ve done this year.”
That includes adding more headliner shows at Red Hat Amphitheater. After partnering with Live Nation to present Erykah Badu and Gary Clark Jr. at the amphitheater last year, Hopscotch and Live Nation are teaming up again for three nights of music, with Solange, Run the Jewels and Angel Olsen as the main headliners.
City Plaza, the festival’s usual main stage, will still feature headliners Big Boi, Future Islands and Margo Price.
Hopscotch is also adding a new venue to its network of bars, clubs and performance spaces: Exhibit Hall A at the Raleigh Convention Center (or, as the festival is calling it,“The Basement”).
The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Lee Fields and the Expressions, and Canadian DJ/producer KAYTRANADA will be a few of the acts performing in that part of downtown.
“We’re hoping that kind of connects the space between City Plaza and Red Hat – in a really nice way – so it’s all kind of walkable right there,” Price said.
Of course, Price hopes that just as many people who attended Hopscotch last year – 25,000, the festival’s highest to date and almost double its attendance in the early years – will check out this year’s fest. But being the music enthusiast that he is, he just wants spectators to show up checking out one act and end up becoming fans of many others.
“I see a lot of people going into Hopscotch and kind of viewing it as a discovery festival,” he says. “So we kind of try to book it like that and try to book bands that people don’t necessarily know, but pair them with the correct headliners. … It’s similar to, like, in a record store – if you like this, you might like this.”
David Menconi contributed.
What: Hopscotch Music Festival
When: Sept. 7-10.
Where: Various locations in downtown Raleigh, including Red Hat Amphitheater and City Plaza.
Cost: $45-$349. There are some free day shows. Single-day passes and weekend passes are sold.