Greg Lowenhagen is the founder and director of Hopscotch Music Festival.
You’ve taken 362 days to regain strength and increase stamina. You remember the quickest path from Tir na nOg to Berkeley Cafe. You have this paper, a phone app, a pocket schedule, too many Google links and a dozen friends tugging you in different directions. There’s a wristband on your arm, and your work colleagues don’t understand why.
It’s Hopscotch weekend: Don’t conserve energy. Expend it. Rest will come sooner than you’d like.
If you devote the entirety of opening night to one of these venuesSlim’s, Fletcher Opera Theater or Lincoln Theatreit’ll be happy camping. Fletcher is new to Hopscotch, a jewel of well-conceived acoustics and intimacy. It’s hard to tell how far-out STEVE GUNN will take his interstellar blues there, but you should ride along regardless. Shake the meditation and get grimy with LAST YEAR’S MEN at the Lincoln or SUPER VACATIONS at Slim’s. The present, after all, is everything. By 9:30 p.m., the options multiply and diversify. Enjoy once-in-a-lifetime experiences? RHYS CHATHAM and 11 handpicked musicians provide one by performing his “Guitar Trio” at Fletcher. A few blocks away, LOWER DENS’ tight-fisted rock allows you to slip into the LONNIE WALKER-curated bill at Kings. Careful, though, because you might not get out. By 11 p.m., there are no mistakes, just victories: THE NECKS at Fletcher and THE LOVE LANGUAGE at the Lincoln win out among all the winners, while the WEEKEND and COLD CAVE closer at The Pour House may end up as the best one-two punch of the festival. Then again, J MASCIS performed my favorite set at SXSW 2010, and I’d hate for you to miss something similar at Fletcher. We’ve never assembled and presented a better night of guitar players during Hopscotch, and we may never again.
Start across the street from Five Star from noon until 5 p.m. with our barbecue-and-BYOB basketball game, HOOPSCOTCH, which benefits Raleigh’s Helping Hand Mission. Sport the feel-good buzz into Raleigh City Plaza for THE DODOS, DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS and the irrepressible GUIDED BY VOICES. Bob Pollard and the boys will suck you in, even if the GBVheads down front don’t first. Stay the lyrical course at Berkeley Cafe with maybe the finest of the largely unheralded acts at the festival, BRICE RANDALL BICKFORD. As with Mr. Pollard, it’s the words and the voice that soar here. Hustle to nearby Kings for local champs WHATEVER BRAINS. They’re coming off their first official release and a recent tour, so expect an extra maniacal sneer. Stay for the pummel of THE BODY and LITURGY, or leave the ring for GENERATIONALS’ uplifting shuffle at White Collar Crime. Float right through TWIN SHADOW at the Lincoln. If you’re still standing strong, go two rounds at The Pour House with DISAPPEARS and JAPANDROIDS. Either way, you’ll be sore in the morning.
Lick your Friday wounds at our Lincoln Theatre block party with THE ROSEBUDS, BEN SOLLEE, YOUTH LAGOON and more. Stroll one block to Raleigh City Plaza in time for DREAMERS OF THE GHETTOfour Hoosiers whose big-pulse beats feel mighty close to the heart of those Dubliners in U2. To hell with the youngsters: SUPERCHUNK will probably play the most rambunctious set of the weekend. Both offer the perfect prelude to the not-to-be-missed extravaganza of THE FLAMING LIPS. Overjoyed with it all, you can walk on air to see the dream bill of ALL TINY CREATURES, TORO Y MOI, FUTURE ISLANDS and YELAWOLF at the Lincoln. But you’d miss THE MEN’s first Triangle show at Slim’s, album-of-the-year candidates UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA at Five Star, death merchants KRALLICE at Berkeley Cafe and BIRD PETERSON smashing The Hive at Busy Bee. Before you submit and hit the canvas, give TITUS ANDRONICUS whatever fight you have left at Tir na nOg. They’ll gladly swing long into the morning with you.