Hopscotch Music Festival hasas its name suggestsalways fostered a “choose-your-own-adventure” approach for attendees. Faced with both a limited number of suitable spaces within its downtown Raleigh footprint and the desire to not overwhelm festival-goers with too many conflicting sets, festival organizers have found it challenging to maintain that come-and-go atmosphere while increasing the event’s scale. Last year’s addition of Red Hat Amphitheater as a second main stage followed the growth of City Plaza’s big-name shows from two to three nights, which has proven successful since Thursday night headliners were tacked on in 2014.
This year, though, Hopscotch takes perhaps its boldest leap forward by expanding its programming at Red Hat with a full slate of Saturday afternoon performances shaped by Solange’s hybrid pop and R & B and an eclectic seven-act, full-day bill on Sunday capped off by Asheville’s Angel Olsen.
“We tried to do more venues at night and keep it at three days, but it just gets really hard because there are too many conflicts,” said executive director Nathan Price, who took over the position after festival cofounder Greg Lowenhagen resigned last year. Price says he feels optimistic about this year’s festivities and believes that pushing the festival into another dayand starting earlier on Saturdaywill allow for an increase in acts without spreading crowds too thin or pulling them in too many directions by competing choices.
As for conflicts with the free, independent day parties that have long been a hallmark of Hopscotch, Pricewho has been involved in planning one of those gigs each year as cofounder of Triangle label Diggup Tapescalls them “indestructible” and has never thought they’d be threatened by the increase in Saturday’s schedule.
“I feel like they could be announced the day before the festival starts and they’d all still be packed,” he laughs. “They’re a good way for people who might not know much about Hopscotch to check it out, and they also add a big chunk of the festival vibe to the weekend that we don’t even have to coordinate.”
In fact, it was the consistent strength of the day parties that helped motivate Price to step up Hopscotch’s daytime offerings from the parties it has sponsored in the past. Price hesitates to suggest that Hopscotch could evolve into a full-fledged four-day affair with another night of multi-venue bookings. Even so, he thinks this year’s extension is more ambitious than just dipping a toe in to test the waters while keeping the core values of the festival intact.
“I don’t really think people are just going to stay at Red Hat the whole time,” he says, reaffirming the commitment to Hoscotch’s free-flow model. “People are still going to be bouncing around. We’re just trying to add even more people into downtown for the festival in the first place.”