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Photos by Eric Roden

Raleigh, NC’s Hopscotch Music Festival is a lot like South By Southwest, but without the corporate interference or the hipster douchebaggery. Now in its fourth year, Hopscotch is three days of killer shows curated by people who know and love music.

Spread across fourteen venues and two big City Plaza shows, the festival had enough great bands to keep everyone busy. Every genre from noise to rap to folk was represented, some even in the same lineup, creating one of the more diverse festival experiences you can have. Between the free day parties and nighttime shows, I saw a lot of talented acts. Here are some of my highlights and some great photos.

Thursday 9/5:

Slyvan Esso @ Memorial Auditorium

NC’s Sylvan Esso is the duo of Mountain Man’s Amelia Meath and Megafaun multi-instrumentalist Nick Sanborn that released a 12” earlier this summer and have been slowly getting blog buzz, but are sure to break out. The duo made their first live appearance at last year’s Hopscotch and this year were moved to a bigger venue. Meath’s vocals have more in common with The Blow then the folk leanings of Mountain Man, and atop Sanborn’s electronic textures, the duo lit up the cavernous venue making the crowd flood the front of the stage. The band started with their debut single “Hey Mami” and started a dance party that went throughout their set. With only two songs available so far, it was hard to tell what to expect, but Slyvan Esso’s non-single tracks were just as catchy and made me super excited to see what the band has up next.


Matthew Dear @ The Pour House

Matthew Dear kicked around the IDM scene for years but is now trying on a new look- band leader. Dear has fully embraced his voice and his late night set at King’s solidified him as an electric performer getting the venue dancing all night. Backed by a full band, Dear focused on tracks from his last few albums with stand-outs including the bouncy “Earthforms,” a glizted up “Monkey” and set closer “Her Fantasy.”

Friday 9/6

Swearin’ @ Slim’s

Swearin’ had a long drive from Philly and almost did not make their scheduled day party set at Slim’s. After some schedule reorganization, the four-piece went straight from their van to the stage with minimal time to sound-check. Led by vocalists, Allison Crutchfield and Kyle Gilbride the band recall the jangely emo sounds of the 90’s. Though their set was short, Swearin’ played two new songs that were a tad darker and more epic then the tracks from their debut LP.


Holy Ghost + A-Trak @ Raleigh City Plaza

Hopscotch was anchored by two shows in Raleigh City Plaza, which other then the day parties, were the only show non-festival pass holders could buy tickets. Friday night’s show was originally to be headlined by Big Boi, but with his cancellation, Holy Ghost and A-Trak were sought out as replacements. Holy Ghost’s latest record Dynamics drops this week, but the now seven piece live band stuck to older tracks. Their eight-minute single “Dumb Disco Ideas” was the set’s best.


A-Trak has been DJing for so long he was sure to slay the crowd. His set kept the momentum built from Holy Ghost with expertly place drops and stylish beats, A-Trak was one of the most fun acts at the festival. While A-Trak played other people’s tracks he did play his own remixes like Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll” and Martin Solveig’s “The Night Out.”


Mykki Blanco @ CAM
Mykki Blanco certainly knows how to make the crowd go wild. The onstage persona of Michael Quattlebaum Jr fully delivered the commanding presence promised by her hype man. Not content with the confines of the stage floor, Blanco energetically entertained from on top of the DJ table and from within the crowd, where she roused up a full scale mosh pit-surely a rare site for a contemporary art museum. Not one to be deterred by gravity, she rapped without missing a beat while climbing up the rafters of the ceiling. During final act, Blanco invited everyone onto the stage to dance, elevating the energy to soaring levels. (Eric Roden)

Ryan Hemsworth @ CAM

Ryan Hemsworth has proven himself as a tastemaker and adept DJ who knows how to get people moving. His set at the Contemporary Art Museum was an easy highlight of the festival. Playing after an electric set by Mikky Blanco, Hemsworth had big shoes to fill, but he kept the party going all night dropping in a sweet N*Sync remix into a rap track and even playing just a few seconds of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” for a quick laugh.


Saturday 9/7

The Breeders play Last Splash & Spiritualized @ Raleigh City Plaza

The Breeders have been touring for the 20th anniversary for Last Splash all summer, and you would think they would be tired of playing the same album over and over, but they were alert and full of energy. The band co-headlined the City Plaza show with Spirtualized, and had a bigger turnout then the previous day’s show. Kim and Kelley Deal shared jokes and turned the set into a fitting tribute to the record. Last Splash was played front to back, but when the record was done, the band played their cover of the Beatles “Happiness is a Warm Gun” from Pod.


Spiritualized have been touring on and off since the release of Sweet Heart Sweet Light last year, and have their live show down to a science. Frontman Jason Pierce played his druggy gospel off sheet music, while his band including stellar backup singers, turned the night into a hazy dream.


ADULT. @ Kings Barcade

Adult are icy and come off as unapproachable but the duo of Adam Lee Miller and Nicoola Kuperus were enthusiastic on stage. Their electronic tracks had bass so big they made the floor of Kings shake harder then the D.C. earthquake. Drawing from their discography but highlighting tracks from their most recent release The Way Thing Fall, the band proved that electroclash is not dead but evolving.


More Photos:

Future Islands


Hedalgo Negro




Gent and Jawns