Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh
Saturday, September 10, 2016

One quick note about Erykah Badu’s Friday night Hopscotch performance, because despite everyone’scrankiness over her showing up to Red Hat Amphitheater nearly two hours late, there’s one major takeaway from the situation. For the previous six years, Hopscotch never seemed able to draw as many African-Americans as it did that night for Badu’s set. Not for Public Enemy in 2010, The Roots in 2012, nor De La Soul in 2014. But of course, many of those African-Americans who attended the Badu show were single show-ticket holders, which meant that they would not be interspersed among the festival’s club crowds afterwards. As far as I can tell, Hopscotch shouldn’t worry about that too much. Multiple-venue festivals just don’t seem all that appealing to some black folks. For instance, in 2015, R&B crooner Anthony Hamilton headlined Durham’s multi-venue jazz and soul-inclined Art of Cool festival on its main stage in a baseball stadium. The whole baseball field was full of people. Not very many of those people, however, made it to the other venues.

I thought about that dynamic as I entered City Plaza on Saturday evening for the final day of Hopscotch 2016. There, balky Long Beach rapper Vince Staples pinballed his large persona and small frame across the stage. Staples’s debut album, last year’s Summertime ‘06, gave us both a playhouse and house of horrors to tour, furnished with his own tales of gangbanging and living in a world where he questions the motives of people who don’t look like him—those exact people In City Plaza mouthing the words to his song that evening. It might have been why he didn’t even say goodbye before leaving the stage.

By the time Sylvan Esso’s set started, it seemed as though the City Plaza crowd had tripled in size. I must admit, I’ve never had a great grasp on just how popular these two had gotten since their 2013 Hopscotch performance and their subsequent self-titled debut album, but it was obvious from the crowd’s initial reaction to singer Amelia Meath’s enchanting voice and producer Nick Sanborn’s righteous enthusiasm that Sylvan Esso’s popularity has developed beautifully.

But Sanborn’s beats barely touched the surface of what was to happen in CAM Raleigh over the next few hours. Raleigh bass knocker Oak City Slums may have even shocked himself as he received such a thunderous dance eruption to a seamless and ferocious beat display touching all remix points from Jeremih’s “You and I,” to Camp Lo’s “Luchini,” to Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” He made everyone in the crowd wish his wife a happy birthday, and when local rappers Professor Toon and Ace Henderson jumped on stage as Slums’ impromptu hypemen, they made everyone more fired up. Later on at CAM, Future Island’s Samuel Herring jumped on stage with big beat stylist Mr. Carmack, and did a similar hypeman routine with improvised raps and singing over material that occasionally could have done without his cameo. Still, festivalgoers needed that moment—somehow, during Sylvan Esso’s set, a rumor began swirling that there would be a Hopscotch afterparty that would include a special performance by Future Islands. That party never happened, but the magic moment on stage between Carmack and Herring did. It usually happens like that at Hopscotch, no matter who’s late or who doesn’t want to get with the program and be a part of something so memorable.