[This post was updated on Thursday, September 5 to reflect post-publication shifts in the Hopscotch schedule.]

Fifty. Freaking. Hours. 

Based on our back-of-the-envelope tally, that, more or less, is the total number of hours of Hopscotch programming coming our way September 5–8. And that’s only counting the official day parties and nightly concerts, not the numerous independent after-hours events that will keep the party rolling to last call and beyond.

Think you can handle it?

Yeah, we’re not sure we can, either. But wouldn’t it be fun to try? (Well, fun or fatal, which are often separated by the thinnest line.) 

There’s far too much good music at Hopscotch this year to waste a second of your time making decisions. While we at the INDY generally support free thinking and personal agency, just this once, why not let us take the burden off of your hands? 

In constructing this Hopscotch perfect guide, which accounts for every waking hour of the festival, we encountered a number of impossible choices that we haggled out so you don’t have to. 

We can’t claim that you’ll see everything you want to see if you follow our guide, because that’s impossible at a festival with so many great things happening at the same time. Still, roll with us and there won’t be a wasted moment.   

Thursday, September 5

Noon: Al Riggs at The Wicked Witch

We’re starting our Hopscotch at the Tiger Bomb Promo and To Be Heard Booking party at The Wicked Witch, where hometown hero Al Riggs is performing their recent album, Lavender Scare, in its entirety. The INDY heartily endorsed its dreamlike yet sharp-hewn electro-pop in a four-star review.

1 p.m.: Potluck Presents at Slim’s

Let’s keep the good local-band vibes rolling at the Potluck Records day party and catch sets by Land Is, Matt Southern & Lost Gold, Bleeder, and North Elementary. These are some good early-afternoon sounds for sure.

3:30: Stereogum Day Party at Kings & Neptunes

We like to keep it moving at Hopscotch, but we’ll spend a while at the popular music site Stereogum’s day party. Here in the middle of its 12:30-5:30 run, it features the tender pop-punk of LA’s Illuminati Hotties and—for the olds!—The Messthetics, a band built around Fugazi’s rhythm section. 

4:30 p.m.: Zack Mexico at The Pour House 

6:30 p.m.: Snail Mail at The Ritz 

7:45 p.m.: Kurt Vile at The Ritz 

8:30 p.m.: Tomberlin at Imurj

It can feel (pleasantly) disorienting to stumble into sets as intimate as this, but Tomberlin makes for a compelling pit stop before the indomitable Sleater-Kinney. Growing up, singer-songwriter Sara Beth Tomberlin was not allowed to listen to secular music; through performing, she broke free of fundamentalism. Her lilting, dexterous vocals are well-matched to her story. 

9:15 p.m.: Sleater-Kinney at The Ritz

10 p.m.: Zen Mother at Fletcher Opera Theater 

We have FOMO about the collaboration of the versatile Washington, D.C. bass improviser Luke Stewart with guitarist Tashi Dorji and saxophonist Crowmeat Bob. But while the latter two musical explorers, based in North Carolina, are often seen in these parts, the same can’t be said of Seattle’s Zen Mother, whose synth-heavy art-rock breathes mystery and grandeur. 

10:30 p.m.: Injury Reserve at Lincoln Theatre 

11 p.m.: Rosenau & Sanborn at Fletcher Opera Theater

It’s a short walk from Lincoln to Fletcher, so between Injury Reserve and Joey Purp at the former, we’re going to sneak back to the latter to get a taste of the woodsy electro-acoustic music of Chris Rosenau and Sylvan Esso’s Nick Sanborn—maybe it’ll fill the improv-music-shaped hole in us from missing Luke Stewart.

11:30 p.m.: Joey Purp at Lincoln Theatre

Look, there’s also A Place to Bury Strangers at Slim’s. That’s where we’d be for the noisy shoegaze unit’s nocturnally elongated jams—if they weren’t up against Joey Purp, a Chance the Rapper pal (you know him from “Girls”) whose laidback energy should point the night in a more social, less somnolent direction.

Midnight: Lucy Dacus at The Pour House 

12:30 a.m.: EarthGang at Lincoln Theatre 

If you’re here for harshness, no question, you’re going to see Wolf Eyes, the veteran noise group whose nauseating gale infiltrated indie rock. It’ll be sick. But we’ve seen them enough times that we’re choosing EarthGang, a vibrant young post-OutKast duo in J. Cole’s stable that impressed at Raleigh’s Dreamville Festival. (Frankly, we wish both acts would just combine as WolfGang.)

Friday, September 6

Noon: Gem Productions at Imurj 

Let’s get it popping on this bleary Friday morning with the Gem Productions party at Imurj; while it’s not strictly time-slotted, early in the day promises the steely, hypnotic R&B of Durham’s M8alla and the stylish, party-ready rhymes of Raleigh’s ZenSoFly. 

1 p.m.: Al Riggs covers Silver Jews at Slim’s

Last month, David Berman—who was slated to headline Hopscotch with his new project, Purple Mountains, and who had long fronted the beloved indie-rock band Silver Jews—passed away. The new Purple Mountains record was good, but nothing gets at DB’s keen wit, brutal honesty, and touch of mystery quite like his Silver Jews work. Raleigh’s prolific Al Riggs is well-equipped to pay him tribute. 

1:30 p.m.: Three Lobed Records + WXDU  at Kings

If you tear yourself away from Riggs’s Silver Jews tribute a little early, you might catch the end of Samara Lubelski’s collab with Bill Nace, who is known for being in Body/Head with Kim Gordon. And you’ll be in time for Planting Moon, a new psych band featuring INDY favorite Sarah Louise. (If the vibes at Kings make us too sleepy, though, we’ll dip over to the Carolina Waves hip-hop showcase at Pour House.)

3 p.m.: Bangzz at Ruby Deluxe, Loamlands at Ruby Deluxe, Khxos at Ruby Deluxe

Loamlands is the project of Pinhook owner Kym Register, an artist with deep folk-punk roots and a prominent tattoo of the faces of Steve Nicks, Bonnie Rait, and Kim Deal on their arm, a kind of musical lodestar.

4:20 p.m.: Ryley Walker and Nathan Bowles at Kings

5:30 p.m.: Tyler Ramsey at City Plaza

6:30 p.m.: Faye Webster at Red Hat

7 p.m.: Orville Peck at City Plaza 

Orville Peck has the sad honor of filling the slot vacated by Purple Mountains. Peck, who plays ambient country music while wearing beaded veils, is one of the most interesting acts this year—and timely, as Lil Nas X is rewriting the bounds of the form.

8 p.m.: Dirty Projectors at Red Hat 

8:40 p.m.: Jenny Lewis at City Plaza

9:45 p.m.: James Blake at Red Hat Amphitheater 

Blake is up against some good acts, but we wouldn’t care if Radiohead and Wilco had formed a supergroup or whatever: We’re going to Blake. If you’ve only heard the electronic R&B cherub’s music on records, you’ll be amazed how soulful (but still uncannily produced) it becomes live.

10:30 p.m.: Linqua Franqa at Neptunes

11 p.m.: No Love at Kings

We’ll already be at Neptunes for Linqua Franqa, so we’ll definitely head upstairs to Kings to catch a good portion of No Love, the riotous Raleigh punk band representing Sorry State Records, to flush out any introspective vibes lingering from James Blake. 

11:30 p.m.: Pat Junior at Neptunes 

Midnight: Ryley Walker at Nash Hall 

If his late-afternoon set at Kings gave you a taste for more, Ryley Walker can slake your thirst and close—well, almost close—the night out with his textured, psychedelic spin on prog-folk. His sets tend to be experimental, intimate, and self-aware: perfect for shaking the dust off of a long day of music. 

12:30 a.m.: Pharmakon at The Wicked Witch

By now, we’ll be ready to go hard into that good night, and while local MC JooseLord Magnus definitely does that, no one does it like Pharmakon’s Margaret Chardiet, whose dramatic harsh noise performances are unforgettable.

Saturday, September 7

11:30 a.m.: Empire Agency Day Party & Big Ed’s Bloody Brunch at The Pour House 

This party gets out ahead of the pack with an 11:30 start time, but with next-gen local hip-hop scion Defacto Thezpian and the groundwork-layers of Kooley High (which gave the world Rapsody) on the docket, this is probably where we’d be anyway. 

12:30 p.m.: Zen Mother at Neptunes

1 p.m.: Yowler at Kings 

2 p.m.: Trophy Tap Day Party at Trophy Tap + Table

The day party at Trophy isn’t scheduled out by band, but with an Americana-heavy lineup of local standouts such as Dead Tongues, John Howie Jr., and Chessa Rich on tap, there’s not a bad time to drop in.

3:30 p.m.: Grace Ives at Kings

Queens, New York’s Grace Ives does some kinda acrobatics with her playful, synth-y bedroom pop, in that she somehow manages to carve meaning out of the internet age. INDY mainstay Kooley High also plays in this slot, making this half-hour a hard decision, but there’s something about Ives’s danceable stuff that feels zeitgeisty and true, somehow, despite itself. 

4:30 p.m.: Lute at City Plaza

5 p.m.: Pie Face Girls at Person Street Bar

6 p.m.: Raphael Saadiq at City Plaza

No shots if the dance-punk of !!! (pronounced chk-chk-chk) claims your pre-dusk slot, but we’ll be basking in the classic R&B of Saadiq, who’s enjoying a great second act after his success in New Jack Swing group Tony! Toni! Toné! (See, you’ll get your three-exclamation-point fix either way.)

7:15 p.m.: Little Brother at City Plaza

Read Eric Tullis’s cover story on the long road to Little Brother’s unexpected, triumphant return.

8 p.m.: Phantogram at Red Hat

9 p.m.: Niecy Blues at Pour House 

Sandwiched between the saturated acts of electronic pop-rock superstars Phantogram and Chvrches, you’ll find the honeyed vocals of Niecy Blues, an up-and-coming singer from South Carolina. Her take on R&B is a little bit trippy, a little bit experimental—and definitely something to keep a close eye on. 

9:45 p.m.: Chvrches at Red Hat 

10:30 p.m.: Gruff Rhys at Fletcher  

Read staff writer Leigh Tauss’s interview with Rhys.

11 p.m.: Joyero at Imurj 

It’s a tight squeeze between Gruff Rhys and Cate le Bon, but if you hustle, you should be able to catch a bit of Joyero. The solo project of Wye Oak’s Andy Stack, which recently debuted on Merge Records, is one of the INDY’s favorite new local acts. (Try to squeeze in What Cheer? Brigade between le Bon and Long Hots, too.)

11:30 p.m.: Cate le Bon at Fletcher

12:30 a.m.: Long Hots at Slim’s 

Sunday, September 8

Noon: Slims’s Hopscotch Hangover at Slim’s

It’s Sunday! We made it! Almost—one more afternoon and early evening of before we can rip off our fifty paper wristbands and crash. This party leads with local rock belter Reese McHenry, and we’re going to need that dose of vocal adrenaline to propel us through this day. (We’ll also try to pop over to Pour House to see Skylar Gudasz at 1:00 p.m.)

1 p.m.: Skylar Gudasz at Pour House

3 p.m.: Beatmaking and Showcase with Raund Haus at Schoolkids Records

By now we’ll need a break from bars, and our brains might feel kind of atrophied, so let’s all go learn something and nod out to some bass music at Raund Haus’s beat-making demo and showcase with the likes of Trandle and Tony G.

4 p.m.: The Suah Sounds Sunday Spectacular/Thrashitorium & Devil’s Trumpet Day After Hopscotch Party at Pour House

You can catch John Howie Jr. at the tail end of the Suah Sounds Day Party and then hang around to thrash your way out of the festival with Thrashitorium & Devil’s Trumpet’s party, going ungently into that good night with Kult Ikon, The Hag, Crystal Spiders, and Grohg. After all that hopping and scotching, it’ll be good to just stay in one place for a while—and to make sure your ears stay ringing well into Monday. 

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