Hopscotch Music Festival
Downtown Raleigh
Friday, September 9, 2016

How was your second day of Hopscotch? This year’s Friday ‘Scotch was a solid night of music filled with some stellar shows, a few of which were marred by that perennial problem of multi-venue festivals, aka the domino effect that results when acts go on late. If you were a fan expecting to see resplendent Atlanta rap star Young Thug or neo-soul icon Erykah Badu (or both) in addition to the rest of the festival’s programming, you probably had a rough night.

Attendees flocked to the newly-Hopscotchized Red Hat Amphitheater to see modern blues guitarist Gary Clark Jr. and Badu, who pushed her set back due to issues with transportation from her home in Dallas. As a venue, Red Hat works well in the Hopscotch playbook. Besides security pat-downs that felt a touch stronger than at City Plaza, it was refreshing to have the full run of the amphitheater, democratized and free of rigid Live Nation ticketing structures.

Badu eventually went on past 10:15, around two hours after her scheduled start time. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say she is well known for tardiness—some people on Twitter shared similar tales in frustration, and I personally saw her go on an hour late at SXSW earlier this year, only to get the power cut due to curfew after a few songs.

I don’t think you can chalk this sort of thing up to poor planning on the festival’s end. Are they supposed to account in lineup times for an artist being notoriously late? Not likely. However you slice it, though, it was undeniably frustrating to wait for an hour-plus at Red Hat, only to bail in favor of shows that were actually happening. A similar issue happened with Young Thug, who went on about an hour past his scheduled time. Already late, he only went on after his DJ played around a dozen hits for crowdwork. While that set ended up being very good, it doesn’t change the fact that at Hopscotch, time is currency. Spending several hours of your night waiting with bated breath for a set to start can be an extravagant waste of wristband money when so many other things are happening and ending simultaneously.

It wasn’t all frustration though. Baltimore’s Beach House, maybe the most famous dreampop band of our time, played a grand, vibrant, melancholic set spanning their discography, one that sounded massive echoing through the corridor of City Plaza. Wiki, the vocalist for defiantly New York-centric rap outfit Ratking, rocked an insanely physical set at Kings, where he stalked the stage for a half hour and rapped his ass off. Triangle R&B’s brightest star Boulevards, who played a memorable set last year at CAM, opened for Young Thug at Memorial Auditorium this year and once again proved his own exceptional stage prowess. He scaled speaker towers, danced with a hundred ten percent of his being, and forced himself deeper into the Memorial crowd than most musicians who pull that gimmick would ever go. He seems larger than any stage you put him on.

There were countless sets I wanted to scope and couldn’t, in the interest of catching Badu and Young Thug. Songwriter Julien Baker was apparently transcendent. The same goes for dark electronic titans Demdike Stare, metal experimentalists Cobalt, and the cerebral Wisconsin rapper Milo, whose set reportedly featured a cameo from a mysterious rapper named Hemlock Ernst (spoiler: it’s Future Islands’ Sam Herring).

Despite these losses, I was more than happy that I got to end my Hopscotch Friday night at Neptunes with Inga Copeland, the mysterious UK electronic producer who was previously one-half of the duo Hype Williams with fellow zoner Dean Blunt. Her set defies genre classifications in that it constantly confounds them. For instance, after a bit of abstract noisemaking on her CDJ’s, she drew onlookers into the comfort of a steady 4/4 beat, only to rip that out for pinging, corroded bleeps for a few minutes. There were occasional dalliances into aqueous vocal-driven pop, and beats constructed with various live instruments including a mounted cowbell. Read enough about her, and the humor that underlies some of these elements starts to become apparent, but so does her dedication and how truly weird and innovative her technical approach is. It was a highly satisfying comedown to a day where I mostly turned up.