As far as music festivals go, bigger often is viewed as better. And with that, some music festivals grow into something too big and homogeneous.
That’s never been the plan for the Hopscotch Music Festival, which will reach the 10-year mark this year. The festival is Sept. 5-7, with 120 acts scheduled to play at Red Hat Amphitheater, City Plaza and numerous other concert venues in downtown Raleigh.
“Hopscotch has grown so much since it started, but we’re not trying to be like all of these festivals around the country and around the world,” Nathan Price, festival director, tells The News & Observer in a phone interview.
“When you do that, you become like every other festival,” Price said. “You have the same lineups. You look at a festival in San Francisco and you’ll see it’s the same lineup as a festival in Hawaii the prior week. In terms of what we’re looking at, I would like us to expand in Raleigh and in the Triangle. I would like to have more performances in the future in places — like the train station. Unlike a lot of these festivals that grow so much, I want part of the emphasis to remain on local acts.”
Headliners on Sept. 5 are Sleater-Kinney, Kurt Vile & The Violators, Snail Mail and The Nude Party. The shows were originally slated for the City Plaza stage, but due to forecasted rain from Hurricane Dorian, the shows have been moved to The Ritz. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., with Snail Mail going on at 6:30 p.m., Kurt Vile at 7:45 p.m. and Sleater-Kinney at 9:15 p.m. The Nude Party has moved to 6:10 p.m. Friday at City Plaza.
The headliners on Sept. 6 at Red Hat Amphitheater are James Blake, Dirty Projectors and Faye Webster and at City Plaza, Jenny Lewis, Orville Peck, The Nude Party and Tyler Ramsey. The festival wraps up Sept. 7 with Chvrches, Phantogram and !!! (CHK CHK CHK) at Red Hat with Little Brother, Raphael Saadiq and Lute at City Plaza.
There are also are a slew of day parties throughout downtown — many of them free. To celebrate, look for an anniversary party Saturday night along with panel discussions to recount the festival’s history.
There are a number of area recording artists on the Hopscotch bill. And to add even more of a local touch, 10 North Carolina artists have curated lineups for the weekend, according to a press release. They include Little Brother, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers, Birds of Avalon, Nest Egg, Resonancy, No Love, Solar Halos, Museum Mouth, Crowmeat Bob, and Gudiya.
Price is thrilled that Durham’s Little Brother is reuniting to perform. They reunited for a surprise show last fall at Durham’s Art of Cool and decided to record new material together.
“I always hoped for a Little Brother reunion,” Price says. “I love those guys. I remember seeing them back in the day (a decade ago) and always hoped they would get back together and play Hopscotch. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to their show.”
Another act Price tried to book and finally landed is Sleater-Kinney, who has gone through significant change this year with the departure of longtime drummer Janet Weiss. Singer-guitarists Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker are continuing their tour behind their recently released album, “The Center Won’t Hold.”
“Everyone is excited about Sleater-Kinney performing,” Price said. “We tried to book them when their last comeback album (“No Cities to Love”) came out (in 2015). It worked out this time.”
While lineup changes might be expected for a festival with so many acts, Hopscotch organizers were dealt an unexpected tragedy when singer-songwriter David Berman died by suicide last month. His Purple Mountains act was set to be one of the headliners on the City Plaza stage.
“When David Berman, who is Purple Mountains, passed away, that was very sad and unfortunate,” Price says. “We had to figure out to do what was best.”
Instead of adding a new act at the last minute, organizers decided to move up idiosyncratic, emerging alt-country artist Orville Peck from his earlier timeslot into the headlining spot Friday. Hopscotch also is making a donation to Berman’s charity of choice, MusiCares.
“That’s what David’s family and his label (Drag City) said would have made him happy,” Price says. “It’s unfortunate that he isn’t part of Hopscotch. I always hoped to book (Berman’s former band) The Silver Jews.”
Price looks back proudly at what Hopscotch has presented over the years. Each member of the iconic Sonic Youth has performed at Hopscotch. Price chuckles when he recalls that former Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore called him in the middle of the night when he arrived in Raleigh.
“I get this call around 1 a.m. from Thurston and he said, ‘Nathan, I’m here at the airport waiting for you,’” Price says. “He thought I was the driver but I told him I’m the booker.”
Price is looking forward to the future with Hopscotch.
“We’re going to grow but we’re not going to do anything that will hurt this festival,” he said. “It’s an organic process that will help serve Hopscotch and the community.”
When: Sept. 5-7, downtown Raleigh and The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh (Thursday night shows)
Cost: Single show tickets for main stage shows ($37.50 to $47.50); single-day passes ($89 to $99) and multi-day wristband tickets available.
▪ The Hopscotch 8k run is Sept. 7 at 9:30 a.m., which starts and finishes at 1251 Goode St., Raleigh at Dix Park. Fee includes a beer from Trophy Brewing Co., and free admission to Trophy’s day party. Proceeds go to Healing Transitions. A 1k option is available.
▪ An anniversary party is Sept. 7 at 2:30 p.m. at the Residence Inn, 616 S. Salisbury St., Raleigh, on the 2nd floor veranda and 10th & Terrace rooftop.
▪ Panels at the Residence Inn Sept. 7 from 1 to 4 p.m. A 10-year retrospective is at 1 p.m. with founders of the festival. At 2 p.m., the premiere of a “The Listening,” a mini documentary on Little Brother produced by Come Here North Carolina, followed by a Q&A with Phonte (of Little Brother) and director Holland R. Gallagher. At 3 p.m., there is a panel called Books & Bands.
▪Citrix Cycle is the official transportation of the festival and offering free rides through the festival Sept. 5-7. Use the code: HOPSCOTCH19. Find bikes at Gate 2 at the corner of West Lenoir and South McDowell streets.
▪ Can’t make it? All three days of the festival’s acts at City Plaza will be live streamed on WUNC Music.
Thursday, Sept. 5
The Ritz, 2820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
6:30 p.m. Snail Mail
7:45 p.m. Kurt Vile
9:15 p.m. Sleater-Kinney
Friday, Sept. 6
Doors open at 5:30 p.m.
5:50 p.m. Tyler Ramsey
6:10 p.m. The Nude Party
7 p.m. Orville Peck
8:40 p.m. Jenny Lewis
Red Hat Amphitheater
Doors open at 5:45 p.m.
6:30 p.m. Faye Webster
8 p.m. Dirty Projectors
9:45 p.m. James Blake
Saturday, Sept. 7
Doors open at 2 p.m.
2:30 p.m. Indigo de Souza
3:30 p.m. Kooley High
4:30 p.m. Lute
6 p.m. Raphael Saadiq
7:15 p.m. Little Brother
Red Hat Amphitheater
6:15 p.m. !!! (CHK CHK CHK)
8 p.m. Phantogram
9:45 p.m. Chvrches