alex st vincent

Shaker Samman/RaleighCo

This past weekend was the fifth anniversary of the Hopscotch Music Festival. I was lucky enough to attend the City Plaza show on Friday night and an assortment of club shows on Saturday. A few of my thoughts:


1. St. Vincent (fronted by Annie Clark) puts on a hell of a show. Before they started playing City Plaza on Friday I told my wife she might not need the ear plugs she bought, but the thing I forgot is that I am an idiot who is always wrong. Based on what I saw, I’m assuming St. Vincent was the saint of shredding your face off with a guitar while wearing high heels.

2. In the future, if your grand children aren’t visiting a monument called “The Queen and The Goddess” composed of thousand foot tall twin spires that serve as tribute to Beyonce and Annie Clark, then we’ve done something wrong.

3. Spoon’s set was quite a bit less intense than St. Vincent but they have the benefit of a lot more recognizable hits. Plus, they really cultivate an “I just rolled out of a bed on the side of the stage and started playing this guitar” aesthetic.

4. As Spoon ran through their set, which leaned pretty heavily on songs from their last three releases, I started wondering where they rank on the list of best American rock bands over the last 20 years. As far as consistent quality, I don’t know if anyone really competes. The White Stripes and Wilco also come to mind, but I enjoy Spoon’s music more than either of those bands so they come out slightly ahead in my book.

5. Also, somewhat shocking was the fact that Spoon has been around for about 20 years. If someone told me in the year 2000 that they still listened to a band from 1980, I would probably have laughed them out of the room before listening to something new and cool like Linkin Park. But now, here I am and 20 years seems like nothing so you have my sincerest apologies hypothetical person I laughed at 14 years ago.

6. One of the best parts of seeing all the City Plaza show on Friday night, which also holds true for most of the club shows I saw, was being reminded how much you can still do with a guitar and an amp. Since the radio pretty much sticks to EDM1 these days, it’s easy to forget that someone playing guitar is still one of the most enjoyable musical experiences you can have.


Shaker Samman/RaleighCo

7. The five most prominent smells in city plaza Friday night (worst to best):
5. Sticky body odor
4. Cigarette smoke
3. Stale Beer
2. Weed
1. (by a wide margin) Shish Kabob


8. I spent most of Saturday night bouncing around different club shows. Most of them were pretty good but on the whole I’d say the club shows were a bit less exciting this year than they have been recently. I’m guessing that is a result of 1) Hopscotch booking better City Plaza shows in 2014, which likely took a chunk out of the budget and/or 2) me being older and less in the know with some of the smaller bands. Looking at my notes from the night, which included “I’m too 29 years old for this!” in response to a punk show at the Kennedy Theater, I’m guessing it’s mostly the latter.

9. The highlight of Saturday night was definitely the Phosphorescent solo set in Fletcher Opera Theater at midnight (the actual start time was 12:20am). His album, “Muchacho” was one of the best releases of 2013 and the stripped down versions of songs from that album, as well as a few others, worked incredibly well in this setting. Fletcher is a great venue and this felt like the type of unique experience that Hopscotch excels at. The size of the room and the fact that this was a solo set gave everything a startlingly intimate feel. At one point, someone even brought a shot of bourbon to the front of the stage after Phosphorescent said he would play a requested song from someone in the crowd for two whiskey shots. I’m not sure what Phosphorescent’s tour plans are in the near future but I can safely say the experience everyone shared in Fletcher on Saturday night won’t be recreated anytime soon.

10. It’s pretty easy to see why Hopscotch has been so successful in it’s first five years. No other major festival has such a unique variety of options, both well known and undiscovered. However, I think the way Raleigh has embraced the festival might be its biggest boon. Due to the number of venues that participate, the prevalence of local bands and the general buzz downtown during the festival, the city seeps into Hopscotch’s DNA in a way that’s rare for music festivals these days. This gives everything a little bit of extra personality and uniqueness that turns Hopscotch from a festival to an experience.

  1. Electronic dance music.
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