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Hopscotch Music Festival elevates local artists, welcomes national acts

Rapper Denzel Curry performs at Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh N.C., on Friday, Sept. 8, 2023.

My Sister Maura, an Raleigh based band and self-described “indie shoegaze outfit,” has played at Neptunes Parlour before, but never in front of an at-capacity crowd.

That changed on Friday, when the band played its “most fun show ever” — a packed-in club performance at Raleigh’s annual Hopscotch Music Festival.

“That’s kind of the point of Hopscotch, giving smaller artists like us larger audiences,” band member Elijah Hall said. “That’s the biggest audience we’ve played to before, so it was really cool.”

Pavement, Denzel Curry and Japanese Breakfast headlined the 13th installation of the quirky and eclectic Hopscotch Music Festival — a three-night event that flooded downtown Raleigh with local music, comedy, skating and even a range of activities for families. 

New additions included a night of comedy centered around Lincoln Theater on Thursday night, as well as a skating attraction organized by Skate Raleigh.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Hopscotch was, as Hall noted, its ability to highlight and center local acts amidst its lineup of national artists. Outside of the Moore Square and City Plaza stages, local venues — Lincoln Theatre, The Pour House, Kings, Transfer Co. Food Hall, Nash Hall, Wicked Witch, Neptunes Parlour and Slim's — hosted smaller bands and musicians in several late-night performances running between 9 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Thursday through Saturday.

Dan Irving and Ian Jones of post-punk band Black Bouquet are both from Raleigh and have attended several Hopscotch festivals in the past. This fall, they performed as part of the lineup for the first time — one of several local acts that were added to the bill this year — after the band’s violist Laura Mooney reached out to a representative that was booking for the festival.

Dan Irving and Ian Jones, members of post-punk band Black Bouquet, posed for a portrait at Moore Square during Hopscotch Music Festival in Raleigh on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. Black Bouquet is a Raleigh-based band that performed at Hopscotch for the first time this year.

Many of these smaller musicians and bands, such as Black Bouquet, performed in day parties that Hopscotch Music Festival organized over the weekend. 

While acts like Black Bouquet have been creating music for a few years now, Hopscotch welcomed newer acts, such as UNC student Cecelia Nobles’ band Sabrosura, which started practicing this summer. 

Nobles’ Latin jazz band took the stage at Longleaf Swine on Saturday afternoon, part of lineup with Thrio and ¡Tumbao!, which she described as a good start for her band. Notably, it was their first live gig.

“To be included as a part of Hopscotch, I was like, wow, I get to say that I played for this bigger festival,” Nobles said. “I thought our first gig might be at some random place.”

In addition to supporting the local music scene, local comedian Devon Roberts said she hopes Hopscotch brings attention to the Triangle’s strong, but under-the-radar, comedy scene. She said by the end of Thursday night’s comedy shows at the Lincoln Theater, the venue was packed.

“Seeing hundreds of people crammed into this room — standing-room only which is weird for a comedy show — to see stand-up, it just shows how big of fans people in this community are of stand-up and how much comedy they want to see and how strong our scene is that we were able to support that branch of our music festival,” Roberts said.

Steve Mangano, the president of the Skate Raleigh board, said that Hopscotch approached him ahead of the event and proposed they do a pop-up at the music festival. Located between the two stages on Martin Street, the pop-up was hard to miss as attendees commuted between acts.

Throughout the festival, Skate Raleigh provided free skate options that were available late into the night, as well as hosted a BMX and rollerblade competition on Thursday and Friday, respectively. Saturday’s skateboard competition was postponed due to rain.

“The sport is often kicked off of these places,” Mangano said. “So being able to showcase it in a public setting was fantastic. People really felt accepted and seen.”

Les Robbin-Coker, a rapper from Raleigh and alumnus of N.C. State University, summed up his Hopscotch experience in just one word — "community.” Robbin-Coker, who performs under the stage name LesTheGenius, performed at Kings on Thursday night in a slate that included other North Carolina hip-hop acts like Maasho and Mavi.

“It just feels like I saw so many different parts of the community come together for a good cause,”  Robbin-Coker said. “Whether it’s different venues down here, as far as the different bars and the clubs that support so many of the local artists and the scenes, whether it's some of the different businesses that also support the artists and what’s going on around here, everybody’s coming together for a good cause.”

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.