Eric Tullis is a music critic living in Durham.
There’s been a load of criticism directed at what some believe to be a lack of hip-hop at this year’s Hopscotch. Last year’s headliner, Public Enemy, offered enough heft to satiate my rap needs for the next few years. Still, if this is your qualm, I recommend you rethink your approach to this year’s festival and retool your partying sensibilities to a three-day lineup with enough pop and dance music to get even the biggest backpacker excited. Yes, this is the weekend where I start the campaign for the anti-posturing party; trucking along the Raleigh streets and joining forces with Hopscotch-goers whose only desires are to jump around, groove and swill.
Start things off at noon with the Hopscotch Kickoff Party at Sadlack’s Heroes and the thawing effects of Ashley Carter’s voice in STELLA LIVELY. Later, at Flanders Gallery, guitarist Chris Boerner’s new upbeat, instrumental jazz group THE HOT AT NIGHTS team up with GRAY YOUNG and FRANK FAIRFIELD. Boerner’s experience as a chief affiliate and touring member of the Netherlands-meets-North Carolina R&B act The Foreign Exchange is precisely the provocative element needed for his own jazz-tinged expedition. Brooklyn’s DINOSAUR FEATHERS spring the night into action at Kings, armed with enough quacked-out drum pop to get you in gear to skip a few blocks over to White Collar Crime for Raleigh trio OULIPO, who will tangle your ankles. Join the throngs who’ll be charging the doors at the Lincoln Theatre for another one of THE LOVE LANGUAGE’s hometown love-a-thons. Most will stay the whole course based on the human-guilt-factor associated with turning one’s back on a pleading brother like Stuart McLamb. You’ll have to skip the encore and an opportunity to watch Atlanta oddballs the BLACK LIPS if you’re interested in catching COLD CAVE at The Pour House. Find the glittery dance moments beneath the new wave frost.
You’ll have to start off by splitting your time between two of the festival’s most commanding female singers. Durham’s R&B love junkie CARLITTA DURAND has a wool-toned purr that’s bound fill up the Lincoln Theatre’s large room, while over at The Pour House, Raleigh band SOFT COMPANY navigates behind Missy Thang’s dream narratives. If you can peel yourself from either of these venues and head to Tir na nOg, you’ll find young Raleigh hip-hop flame KING MEZ hopping across stage, spewing resolute and dexterous raps. Last year, he played Hopscotch’s sideline, but this year, after releasing his The King’s Khrysis EP, performing at SXSW and guesting on numerous hip-hop projects, Mez has earned his own time slot. Chapel Hill producer APPLE JUICE KID follows with his own free-for-all set of hyper-electro tricks. You’ll have 30 minutes to make it back to the Lincoln to see why Raleigh’s Phonte Coleman and Dutchman Nicolay Rook of THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE went from a file-swapping collaborative project (2004’s Connected) to a Grammy-nominated, world-touring act. Coleman’s blend of entertainment, melody and love all combine for one perfect nightcap.
At the Lincoln Theatre, Raleigh DJ SPCL GST will spin an eclectic scope of fun records all night in between monster performances by ALL TINY CREATURES, TORO Y MOI, FUTURE ISLANDS and YELAWOLF. Make this your home base for the night, and make the most of your brief check-ins. If I were you, I would neither start nor stay here; instead, check out Chapel Hill’s off-the-wall jam band SHIT HORSE at Slim’s. You’ll either dance yourself into confusion, or you’ll have the story of that one time you actually saw a band called Shit Horse. You’ll need a cool-down period before your final Hopscotch destination, so hop on over to The Pour House and try the big, wild jazz of Richmond ensemble FIGHT THE BIG BULL for intelligently scored, powerful, milieu-crossing pieces. End your Hopscotch experience in full throttle with Austin’s remix specialist BIRD PETERSON at The Hive at Busy Bee. Breakdance. Shake a leg. Hell, break your leg if you need to. Just make sure you leave Hopscotch with some evidence that you took it to the max.