On the Beat

With new owners, Hopscotch Music Fest looks to stay in the black

Dwight Yoakam will headline the City Plaza main-stage show on Saturday at Hopscotch.
Dwight Yoakam will headline the City Plaza main-stage show on Saturday at Hopscotch. Invision/AP

This year’s model is the sixth edition of Hopscotch, and it’s also the first under the festival’s new ownership – following this past spring’s purchase of Hopscotch by Etix founder Travis Janovich, the new majority owner. But even though outsourcing the financial risk has given Hopscotch founder/director Greg Lowenhagen an emotional lift, it hasn’t changed much about the logistics of putting it on.

“I’m still running it, and we’re bootstrapping it again,” Lowenhagen said last week. “No office, still headquartered out of my kitchen, and everything feels the same. For better or worse, it still feels like it’s on me. We want crowds and the same energy as last year, so I’m checking ticket sales 20 times a day. We’re continuing to do everything we can with the limited resources available to grow and pull it off.”

There is at least one change from years past, however. This time around, just matching the previous year’s ticket sales and attendance should be more than good enough. After losing money three out of its first four years, Hopscotch had a breakthrough 2014 and finished in the black by six figures.

“Last year felt like vindication,” Lowenhagen said. “We’d lost money three of four years – not a ton, but still enough over time that the situation became pretty defeating. But we spent more money last year than any other year, and also made more. It was the first year where we felt like, yeah, this is is how it could be every year. Sustainability is what you want to get to.”

Hopscotch 2015 has another eclectic lineup, ranging from sludge-metal band Old Man Gloom to country star Dwight Yoakam. Wide-ranging as it is, the festival is still relatively inexpensive to put on. Lowenhagen puts the total budget at around $800,000.

“It’s a shoestring operation to do 140 artists for that amount of money,” Lowenhagen said. “It’s pretty incredible that we’ve still never spent more than $1 million in a single year, given our scale. But we’re careful about every penny, trying to do it as lean as we can.”

As in years past, Lowenhagen is overseeing the City Plaza main-stage shows, headlined by TV on the Radio Friday and Yoakam on Saturday. He’ll spend the rest of each evening scurrying around the downtown club grid checking on things and seeing what he can – Texas psychedelic godfather Roky Erickson, rapper Pusha T and others.

“I haven’t figured out yet what’s the last thing I’ll see on Saturday night,” he said. “I usually try to end with something upbeat because I’m exhausted by then. It feels good to soak in the last bits of energy before saying goodbye again for another year.”

On the Main Stage

Hopscotch shows are spread out over three days (Thursday-Saturday) at 12 different venues around downtown Raleigh. Here’s a look at what is offered on the Main Stage at City Plaza. You can see the full schedule and lineup at hopscotchmusicfest.com. One-day wristbands for Friday or Saturday are $85, granting access to all shows. A ticket for main stage shows costs $35 for Thursday, $40 for Friday, $50 for Saturday. A wristband with access to all events for all days is $165.

Thursday

Ought, 7 p.m.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor, 8 p.m.

Friday

Carlitta Durand, 6:10 p.m.

Tycho, 7:15 p.m.

TV on the Radio, 8:45 p.m.

Saturday

The Vibekillers, 5 p.m.

American Aquarium, 6 p.m.

X, 7:15 p.m.

Dwight Yoakam, 8:45 p.m.

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