We’ve long passed the point where we worry about the future of Hopscotch, to the point that we perhaps even take it for granted. Nine years in, Hopscotch has established itself as a linchpin of local music activities. While festivals like Shakori Hills’s twice-yearly party have been around for longer, Hopscotch’s central location in the capital and broad palette of booking has proven to be a winning combination that’s helped it grow from a respectable local novelty to a regional landmark.

This year, the festival returns to kick off a month that’s now packed with music festivalsHopscotch proved that a multi-day, multi-venue festival was a feasible enterprise for downtown Raleigh. And of course, the festival’s abundant complement of free parties that run from Thursday afternoon through Sunday’s slate of “Hopscotch hangover” shows. (Hopscotch super-pros can figure out how to hit all the ones that have free food and won’t have to pay for a meal all weekend.)

Here, we explore some of the high points of this year’s festival, from Thundercat’s adventurous jazz exploration to Speedy Ortiz’s energetic, affirming rock. We address the tender intimacy of Lomelda, and what it means to be a classic-contemporary country singer-songwriter like Zephaniah Ohora. Beyond that, we offer a few more recommendations for daytime diversions and other acts to check out along the way, too.

One thing that’s made Hopscotch feel exceptional over the years is that, despite its growth in reputation and programming, it’s never lost its sense of small-town comfort. It feels like a family reunion of sorts, where, for one weekend, a majority of Triangle music nerds gather for a stretch of new experiences with old friends. Here’s to year nine and many more to follow.

Hopscotch 2018: Thundercat’s Ferocious, Freewheeling Experiments Launch him Toward Exciting New Universes

Hopscotch 2018: Lomelda’s Hannah Read Offers a Tender Treatise of Gratitude for Those Closest to Her with Thx

Hopscotch 2018: Speedy Ortiz Fine Tunes Its Grunge Throwbacks on the Staggeringly Personal Twerp Verse

Hopscotch 2018: Zephaniah Ohora Is Flying the Flag for Classic Country in the Five Boroughs and Beyond

What to Hit: Art Show

What to Hit: Electronic

What to Hit: Hip-Hop

What to Hit: Day Parties