Raleigh, N.C. — Next Thursday, when the 2016 Hopscotch Music Festival kicks off, downtown Raleigh's streets, bars and stages will be jam-packed with musicians and spectators. Now gearing up for its seventh year, Hopscotch has become, without a doubt, a Raleigh tradition.
A Raleigh tradition
Hotels and restaurants will be packed, too, because Hopscotch is a big, big deal - the three-day, 120-band festival draws thousands of Triangle residents to downtown Raleigh along with out-of-state fans looking to track their favorite artists across the nation.
Hopscotch is a nationally-recognized festival for a reason.
Concerts and day parties start Thursday afternoon and wrap up into the earliest hours of Sunday. The 2016 festival features 12 venues, 30 free parties and the Hopscotch Design Festival, an event started two years ago that brings dozens of speakers to Raleigh to discuss graphic design, urban planning, technology, music, food, film and more.
Hopscotch is basically a three-day-long party, starting each day at noon and going well into the wee hours of the next morning. It's more than loud music and crowded bars, though. Hopscotch is most well-known for its diversity, showcasing rock music, hip-hop, metal, folk music, electronic melodies, experimental tunes and almost any other genre imaginable.
Though the shows are full of energy and entertainment, I've heard others describe Hopscotch as a laid-back, comfortable festival. Think dancing to a new song you love that you've never heard before at your favorite bar, and that's what Hopscotch feels like.
Each night, shows stretch across downtown Raleigh, populating its venues and attractions. Some artists perform on big stages at Red Hat, City Plaza and Memorial Auditorium, but others take place in popular Raleigh watering holes like Deep South, Kings and Slim's.
Whether you prefer heavy metal in a crowded bar or swaying to soothing electronic music in an intimate venue, there's something for everyone at Hopscotch.
This year, with headliners Erykah Badu, Beach House, Sylvan Esso and more, the festival is sure to be popular as ever, but this isn't the first time Hopscotch has taken over Raleigh. The first Hopscotch took place in 2010 with headliners Public Enemy, Raleigh's The Love Language and indie rock bands Panda Bear and Broken Social Scene. Raleigh's Helping Hand Mission's marching band even surprised audiences with a show prior to Public Enemy's performance.
The idea formed when the festival founder Greg Lowenhagen, a UNC grad, started planning the very first Hopscotch in 2009. Other cities like Austin and Chicago had music festivals, he thought, so Raleigh should have one too. Sure enough, the festival drew crowds as fans began to recognize its distinct character.
Hopscotch performances have always been known for their entertainment factor. One of the most famous displays occurred during the third Hopscotch Music Festival, when The Flaming Lips lead singer Wayne Coyne bounced across the City Plaza crowd in a giant bubble.
Throughout its seven years, the festival has brought spectators from out-of-state and even out-of-country to the Oak City to enjoy Raleigh's social scene.
It's not just fans coming in from out-of-state - approximately 60 percent of Hopscotch's performers hail from all parts of the United States, and almost half live right here in North Carolina. In that way, Hopscotch supports local musicians in the community while opening Raleigh's doors to even more diversity and discovery.
Filling Raleigh's restaurants and hotels with visitors, the festival is a huge economic driver for Raleigh. "Hopscotch has put Raleigh on the map as a city with a vibrant music scene," said Downtown Raleigh Alliance CEO David Diaz. "Their collaborative business model with downtown merchants hosting live music has had a direct impact on their sales. Hopscotch has also had an impact on our tourism economy, because visitors from other states and other countries stay at our hotels to enjoy this great festival."
Be a part of the tradition September 8-10 in downtown Raleigh.
Hopscotch day parties are free, but you can purchase tickets and wristbands to access evening performances online.