Raleigh, N.C. — During the first three years of Hopscotch, I've only seen one set in full. That was last year, when Sunn O))) played Memorial Auditorium. It was the last set of the festival, and I was able to sit and watch one of my favorite bands ever and listen as they filled that room with a seemingly impossible amount of sound. Otherwise, I'm busy working mostly around the clock, so my memories are of a slightly different sort, but they mostly relate to the happiness that we see the festival bringing people when it happens.
1) The Flaming Lips headlined Hopscotch 2011. I saw only a few snippets of that show, but I've seen The Flaming Lips a lot and I understand the sort of joy their show can bring people. To be honest, that's a huge reason we booked them. Around 1 a.m., I was biking down Hargett Street, heading to check on a club one last time before the festival ended. I was in a daze from very little sleep and food, and as I passed the Raleigh Times, I noticed that many of the balloons that The Flaming Lips had released into the audience were being batted around the sidewalk and in the bar, as if the show had never ended. I stopped my bike and stood there and watched for a while, knowing that Hopscotch had done well.
2) One of the most important bookings we ever made was in our first year, when we booked the indie rock band Akron/Family to play at The Pour House. We were a first year festival with no reputation and no credibility, but they were old friends of mine. (On my left arm, I share a tattoo with some of the members.) We asked them to play and they agreed. Their show was packed, and I stopped in on one of my club rounds to make sure things were going smoothly. They spotted me backstage and wrestled me to the stage. It's all a blur now, but I think they made me sing or play something. I have no musical talent to speak of, but people kept dancing in spite of my unaccomplished efforts. Hopscotch is about people having fun, and I knew in that moment we'd accomplished that.
3) As a festival, Hopscotch has always been concerned with cramming lots of musical diversity into downtown Raleigh for three days. We do metal and folk and hip-hop and pop and noise and classical and pretty much whatever else you can imagine. But these disparate genres are often stretched over various days and venues, and sometimes these tides never really meet. There have been exceptions, and one of the most daring happened last year, when we booked an insane metal bill (Corrosion of Conformity and Pallbearer) and a wild electronic headliner (Dan Deacon) in the same room on the same night. There was a lot of concern about it. I sent multiple e-mails to multiple managers and booking agents explaining the logic of doing this and why it would be awesome. They seemed concern that the metal bros would beat up the dance people, I guess, or that the dance people would mock the metal guys. But every time I stopped by The Pour House that night, the crowd was too busy losing its minds to the bands onstage to worry about genres or guidelines or expectations or who was up next. They were listening to and loving music, and that was the goal, all along.
4) Last year, we took a fairly large risk by booking Matthew E. White—then, a relatively unknown singer-songwriter from Richmond—to create a 35-member live interpretation of his debut album, Big Inner, in Fletcher Opera Theater, one of our biggest venues. Greg and I had heard his album in January 2012, eight months before it came out, and both fallen in love with it. When we announced the show, no one knew who Matthew was. And when the show finally happened, Matthew's record had only been out about a month. But people trusted us and filled Fletcher that night, and they raved about it. Footage of that show wound up on Spin, and a British music magazine recently wrote about that performance. When Matthew comes back to the Triangle now, the room is full. We took an artist we loved and introduced him to people who now love him. That's a gratifying trip.
5) Two of my very favorite friends had one of their first dates at Hopscotch 2011. They got married in January. I've heard other stories like that, and they always make me smile.
Do you have any amazing Hopscotch memories? Share them with us in the comments below!