Per usual, Hopscotch Music Fest delivers an incredibly rounded & diverse line-up that pulls at our eclectic little heartstrings. As avid festival goers, & after lots of anxiety-ridden missteps of trying to “have it all”, we’ve attempted to narrow down our top must-see-live goals to ease the pain. The round up (in order of appearance) might still be too ambitious 🤔 but how does one choooose?! This pure torture is why Hopscotch is our favorite festival of the year. While we consult our magic 8 balls, multiple tarot decks, & consult our birth charts – we hope this guide might at least help you, dear reader, with your own Hopscotch planning – or maybe just introduce some new artists from the comfort of your own silk pajamas. *Here’s Hopscotch’s own ~Official 2017 Playlist~ in case you want to follow along!
Big Thief – This Brooklyn-based indie rock quartet has “a sound often reminding one of the great alternative rock bands from the 90’s, Big Thief is above all (vocalist) Adrianne Lenker’s band. Her lyrics undoubtedly resonate, telling deeply personal stories of family history, self-discovery, & sexual awakenings.” (via Bad Feeling Mag). We may just come home with riot crew cuts after seeing this set.
Boy Harsher – This dark, electronic duo produces gritty dance beats infused with ethereal vocals, creating a sound that is eerie, intense, & undeniably danceable. Augustus Muller develops the underbelly of sound with minimal beats & grinding synths, where Jae Matthews whispers, screams, & chants on top. Together, the music created is somewhere between industrial, drone, & confessional storytelling.
Mount Eerie – “The name Phil Elverum looms large in the history of turn-of-the-last-century independent music. Doggedly pursuing his own musical path since the mid 90s—as the Microphones & later Mount Eerie—Elverum distinguished himself as an innovative sonic experimentalist, able to conjure up extraordinarily deep & evocative sounds from relatively modest equipment, to say nothing of his considerable talents as a songwriter. It’s not overstating things to say that the Microphones’ 2001 The Glow Pt. 2 is generally considered one of the definitive independent folk releases of the genre, & its acclaim seems only to grow with time. In recent years Elverum devoted himself to his wife, the highly accomplished visual artist & musician Geneviève Elverum, & their daughter. But in 2015, shortly after giving birth, Geneviève Elverum was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer & passed away in 2016. Mount Eerie’s A Crow Looked at Me, released in March, is a powerful, emotional & beautiful reckoning with this new reality.” (via L.A. Record). If you spot us during this performance, please share your tissues.
Thee Oh Sees – “San Fran psych-punk garage-rockers have gone through many line-ups & monikers over a 17 year old history but have always stuck to one thing – raucous, primal, enthralling garage rock.” (via The National Student). Fortunately we’re familiar with their live sets, always carried out with wild abandon – & we don’t plan to miss this party.
Oddisee & Good Company – Since appearing on a Jazzy Jeff track in 2002 at only 17 y/o & then releasing his first mixtape in 2005, this D.C. emcee is an exemplar of hip-hop culture. He’s maybe too conscious for a mainstream audience who prefers hollow, bubblegum rap to his intelligently constructed social commentary – he remains an underdog, but should not be underestimated. His latest studio album The Iceberg is hyper focused on our present political climate, “a plea for humanity to dig deeper in search of understanding & common ground”. So excited to hear these truths in the form of rapped funk alongside a live band. (via SoundCloud).
Torche – This Miami quartet, roughly categorized as a contemporary metal band, blends expansive stoner metal with soaring pop melodies. Few others can make that claim. “Despite the crunching riffs, thunderous drums, & stadium-sized volume, few (if any) of the influences that come to mind when you listen to Torche are from the metal world: the squall of early shoegaze, the grandiosity of 80s arena-rock, & the clean buzz of 90s alternative. Which is not to say that there’s not plenty of classic thrash & sludge metal in there providing the band’s musical base; just that all of the spices & flavorings — basically, everything that makes it cool & exciting — come from other musical touchstones.” (via Consequence of Sound).
The Brian Jonestown Massacre – Formed in San Francisco in 1990 with 60s rock & roll roots, could we ever forgive ourselves if we missed this prolific retro-psych band?
NONAME – “Chicago rapper, Fatimah Warner, processes life as an African American rapping about heartache & morality with glitchy electronic-soul as a soundbed. A vintage filter runs throughout; chintzy dinner pianos, the sort of feel-good bass that would score an 80s sitcom.” (via The Guardian).
image via Brian Allen Lamb
Sunflower Bean – Only teens when they formed in 2013, this high-energy indie pop trio out of New York “have made quite a splash with their effervescent mix of 90s indie (grunge rock & something more ethereal) & 60s psychedelia. As songs from their debut album, Human Ceremony, veer off into cosmic jams, they sound like an unlikely mix of celestial 90s indie kids Lush & summer of love-era Jefferson Airplane. Much of the former comes from lead vocalist/bassist Julia Cumming, whose ferocious performance contrasts with the pastoral sweetness of her singing.” (via The Guardian).
image via NME
Metz – A Toronto 3 piece who have garnered international acclaim as one of the most electrifying & forceful live acts. “Metz is sloppy. Metz is acerbic. Metz is fun. Their second album, II, is primally satisfying. It plays with punk attitude, hardcore discipline, & construction-site volume. That all adds up to a glorious rumble, & a fetishistic one as well. Metz’s eruptions have everything to do with Nirvana’s pre-breakthrough dynamic.” (via NY Times).
Rapsody – NC rapper’s conscious rhymes are delivered through vigorous wordplay & introspective storytelling. “Influenced by greats like Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte, & Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Rapsody is grittier than Hill & more soulful than Lyte, with a knack for brutal realness that recalls Bey.” (via NPR).
The Make-Up – An icon of the D.C. punk scene & dubbed the “sassiest boy in America”, Ian Svenonius’ late 90s “Gospel Yeh-Yeh” (post-punk/soul/rock) band is back together for a reunion tour & only playing a handful of US shows before heading overseas. You better believe we’re going to mark seeing these indie rock defilers off our bucket list.
Future Islands – We’ve seen this Baltimore-based synthpop trio a handful of times in our hometown throughout the years & like any other fan, know all their cult favorites’ love songs by heart. The Independent said it best – “Herein lies Future Islands appeal. Their solution to a world of torment & heartbreak: forget yourself & dance.” Their chest pounding intensity + frontman’s Samuel T Herring’s boundless energy & menagerie of dance moves (including Cossack dancing) is not to be missed!
BODYKIT – Regardless of their decidedly minimal online presence, they’ve cemented their place in their hometown (Raleigh) hero ranks over the last 2 years by perfecting a formula of buoyant post-punk melodies over a thick web of modular beats. Their sets are masterfully patient, yet full throttle. If you haven’t lost all track of time towards the end, you’ll find you have no idea how it could possibly end, & couldn’t care less if it never stops.
Melkbelly – Formed by vets of Chicago’s experimental & DIY scene champions, organized noise & thoughtful freneticism fused with dreamy vocal lines & cantankerous guitar racket delivers The Breeders meets Kleenex nostalgia. Its songs clang & bang in stripped-down production that highlights the band’s sharp edges; multi-faceted slabs of sound serve harmonious, immediate songs.
H.O.W. – Hanna Olivegren Wessblad is a singer & electronic composer from Stockholm, currently living in Baltimore. Her celestial melodies with minimalist vocals (sung in Swedish!) & soothing hums have a primal, hypnotic rhythm. She also plays in ZOMES & Silence Blossoms.
Lee Fields & The Expressions – NC’s own Lee Fields has been around 40+ years & is finally getting the recognition he deserves with the current old time soul/R&B revival in the music industry. “His screeching raw voice, reminiscent of James Brown (Lee’s nickname is actually Little JB), is a breath of fresh air in a world of auto tune overnight sensations. Fields has put his time & heart into his music & it shows” [down to his metallic suits & fancy footwork]. (via Spill Magazine). Not to brag but we’ve seen him three times now – & always leave with tired feet & warm hearts ☺
Mourn – These Catalonian teenage wunderkinds are making authentically great, raw guitar-based music in an era where it’s considered almost unfashionable. Conjuring the grave austerity of mid-’90s post-punk, (think Sleater-Kinney, PJ Harvey, Appleseed Cast), this quartet makes you relive your growing pains all over again.
Madame Gandhi – Kiran Gandhi is an electronic musician, activist, & our gadamn shero. As a self-described “electrofeminist”, her beats are meant to elevate & celebrate the female voice. “Kiran has never been afraid to make a bold statement. The musician first garnered international attention in 2015 when she ran the London Marathon while free-bleeding—taking a radically public stance against the stigmatization of menstruation—but she’s been steadily challenging gender norms for years. From her tenure as M.I.A.’s drummer (!!!!) – a talent she originally pursued in part because it was so stereotypically male – to her Harvard M.B.A., to her recent appearance in the Amazon series I Love Dick, the New York/Bombay-bred Los Angeleno has consistently sought to empower women through her actions & words. As she declares in a spoken-word breakdown on The Future Is Female – ‘I want to live in a world that is collaborative/A world that is emotionally intelligent/A world in which we are linked & not ranked!’” (via Vogue). In addition to her aforementioned MB from Harvard, this magical binch also holds a Bachelor’s degree in mathematics, political science, & women’s studies from Georgetown University. BRB, going to college.
Preoccupations – Canadian post-punk band (formerly known as Viet Cong) deliver harrowing, cathartic rock with nods to Swans & Echo and the Bunnymen. “Preoccupations is an intense listen. Flegel’s lyrics are relentlessly dark, laser-focused on heavy, troubling issues. At times, his barks & howls combined with the band’s rhythmic pummeling (one tune is even called Monotony) are almost too much to handle – Take when Flegel sings ‘You’ve been made irrelevant by a suicide machine/Mechanically modified to muffle out the screams’ over the stark percussion of Forbidden. However, the music’s sharp jolts make Flegel’s words not moribund, but full of life. He’s not sitting in a corner feeling sorry for himself but fighting hard to shed an emotional straitjacket.” (via Pitchfork).
Kaytranada – Haitian born & raised in Montreal, this producer masterfully succeeds in dozens of different genres with 360 degree skills. One minute he’ll work out some jazz fusion, then produce a 4/4 dance groove, & then continue to maneuver through slick hip-hop to house to funk (often undercut with his clattery skip of bass music), & neither styles suffer in comparison. He has a unique capability of manipulating electronic music to a place where it seems handmade, & his innovative tracks are deliberately imperfect; bass lines drop 1/32 of a beat too early, samples are warped to sound sharp or flat, all in the name of good fun. This refreshing signature of unorthodox intricacies is what makes his music so immediately recognizable & endearing. His album, 99.9%, could play from start to finish behind a house party & no one would accuse the setlist of being duplicative or boring.. so make no mistake that when a club is turned out for his live set mixed with some TLC projections + his beaming smile – you’ve got an equation for a dance party you’ll likely never forget. We’ll do it again & again & again..
Yves Tumor – This elusive experimental musician could easily double as a snake charmer or hypnotist. With his jarring samples, field recordings, unsettling percussive loops, & hot digital noise layered over ethereal synths – he creates a dissonant yet sultry musical world, teeming with spooky sensations to get lost in. His confirmed given name is cryptic, but we’ve deduced that he’s from Knoxville, TN, spent time in Los Angeles, is tight with Mykki Blanco, & is allegedly residing in Berlin – but the uncertainty of him only adds to his mysterious appeal. We can also confirm that he performed for fashion brand Hood By Air’s runway show last year, moaning like a zombie on top of a pile of sand in the middle of the models. & these lewks he serves don’t hurt our feelings either. Trance us up.
image via Crack Magazine
Songs: Molina – This reunion in honor of brilliant, prolific songwriter Jason Molina, follows the release of Jason Molina: Riding With The Ghost (Rowman & Littlefield, 2017) – the biography by culture & music writer Erin Osmon. This work is the first critical examination of the life & work of Molina, delving into both his music & personal story, as well as the roots of independent label Secretly Canadian, & tracing the shifts in independent music as a whole. Following his death in 2013, 5 of the 7 original members of Magnolia Electric Co. (all of whom were also part of Songs: Ohia) came together to form Songs: Molina – A Memorial Electric Co. – to both celebrate Molina’s life, as well as mourn his too-soon loss. Performing the original runs of the project, collaborators whom Jason Molina loved, admired, pranked, toured with, etc., will also be invited to sing & play, to tell stories, & to respectfully remember their singer, their leader, their brother, their friend. The show will also feature readings & storytelling by the band & Osmon. We’d be remiss to pass up a chance at this special & intimate experience. (via Secretly Canadian).
Protomartyr – This post-punk heavyweight from Detroit is a near perfect combination of talent, honesty, & style, & frontman Joe Casey is as unique as they come. Basically, take the intensity of any current punk you’re into, slow it down, & add the pessimistic wit of Mark E. Smith of The Fall, & deliver it with a lazy confidence usually reserved for lounge singers. “Protomartyr creates potent, self-contained atmospheres that leave you feeling a sense of enlightened loss.” (via Consequence of Sound).
The Veldt – Their combination of fuzzed-out audiences & moody soul mystified audiences in the 90s – but now pop music has finally caught up with them, two decades on. “Daniel Chavis remembers the first time they were labeled ‘difficult’. Back in the early 90s, his NC quartet had just recorded an album in London with Cocteau Twins’ Robin Guthrie, & their new A&R rep was unimpressed. ‘Other black bands were getting noticed, & every record company wanted their Living Color,” says Chavis. ‘We didn’t fit into that mode. When it’s Kurt Cobain, it’s “he knows what he wants“, but “we’re difficult to work with“. As black artists whose sound owed as much to My Bloody Valentine as it did to Otis Redding, the Veldt were never universally embraced or understood. But since 2016, they’re less of an anomaly: the mix of shoegazing rock & moody soul they pioneered has been adopted by the likes of the Weeknd & Miguel.” (via The Guardian).
ZenSoFly – Club charmer & image guru, NC’s ZenSoFly is a thunderous performer of playfully buoyant music. At times she’s a soothing lead singer & at times a cold blooded MC; she’s worked as a DJ, producer, & engineer before she decided to hit center stage. Combining elements of house, rap, & electronic music, she makes music for all people to dance to & feel. Her new EP, Sunflowers, is set to release Sep. 30, 2017.
Flock Of Dimes – We love anything Baltimore’s Jenn Wasner touches, from her dance pop project Dungeonesse, to her guitar shredding band Wye Oak, to this low-key personal project, Flock of Dimes. The bright & endearing sounds of this solo work is the most all-encompassing showing of her tastes yet, representing in equal measure guitars & synths, dreamy indie rock, & digital pop.
ILOVEMAKONNEN – First & foremost, we love Atlanta rap, we love Tuesdays, & we also want to take a moment to recognize Makonnen’s strength at facing the duality of being a gay, black man in the hip-hop community. He draws from a diverse & dreamy palette that boldly stands at the intersection of R&B, hip-hop, alternative, & psychedelica. We’re here for it.
Tei Shi – NYC by way of Buenos Aires, Valerie Teicher’s compelling & sultry vocals, R&B sensibilities, & minimalistic musical nature is the ultimate soundtrack to our self-care days. Lyrically echoing the volatility of our existence – examining love, regrets, times of confusion & uncertainty – each lament of her layered words mellow out & imbue fuzzy pleasures of warmth & healing, while elements of guitar & funk basslines coast through relaxed synths.
Big Boi – “Keeping with the futurist ideals & sub-busting bass that informed the early ATLien aesthetic, Big Boi takes listeners back to the Speakerboxxx with a release that combines the foundational pre-turn up, Southern rap sound with uptempo, EDM-inspired party jams.” (via Consequence of Sound). Yes uhh, two for the show!
Solange – If you’re reading this it’s (probably) too late to explain *whom* Solange is, but just in case you’ve mastered the art of anarchy & have been living off the grid the past few years – pull up. We just had probably the most Solange ~experieyance~ at Afropunk, & still can’t get enough. We’ve had A Seat At The Table on loop for a year strong. “This record is stunning, a thematically unified & musically adventurous statement on the pain & joy of black womanhood.” (via Pitchfork). Her live performance is hypnotic, serving as a theatrical ode to black womanhood with perfectly choreographed dances & an equally as impressive band to back.
image via Erika Goldring
Jenny Besetzt – Tender Madness was only just recorded last year, but once those fast tempos & bright guitars in contrast with droning walls of synths, heavy bass, & dense vocals wash over you, you’d swear you were back in time when the post-punk era was only just being conceived. They’re even more magnetic live, wrapping you up in a dramatic sonic mantra, akin to what we imagine seeing Joy Division would’ve been like. Maybe it’s the history of romanticism encoded in vocalist John Wollaber’s DNA that makes the experience so intimate; he was born in Germany to an opera singer, which could also explain Besetzt’s affinity to soften the sharper edges of their sound with cavernous vocals & dreamy synth arrangements. This underrated gem of a band is not to be missed.
Angel Olsen – Nothing could come between us & seeing this enchanting performance (again). Her masterful songwriting alongside her ultra cool presence – with an attitude to match – is just irresistible. Olsen commands control of an entire room with just a look, & her killer band (likely all in powder blue suits) are not to be ignored either. Be prepared to fall in love on this journey of heartbreakingly lonely ballads, fuzzy folk, blues, subtle touches of psychedelia, + powerful, soaring vibrato vocals.
still from video “Shut Up Kiss Me”
Blursome – Uncluttered, propulsive, & generally dark compositions best encapsulate NC producer Lara Wehbie’s patient approach to creating an unsettling, yet satisfying listening experience. The tension between electrifying beats & engulfing textures is fostered by a stripped-down, swirling expanse of trance, pillowed bass, echoed jungle, & the static + space between – making for a soporific soundscape.
Ami Dang – This Sikh-American electronic pop artist’s work is informed by a host of deeply personal influences, such as Ancient Indian texts & hymns, 80s & 90s Bollywood hits, & American dance music. The result is a fiercely unique sound, where looped sitars & winding, raga-like melodies share space with pulsing electronic rhythms. Living & working in Baltimore, Dang’s music is colored not only by her own multi-cultural background, but the tensions between forward-thinking art + politics, & traditional Rust Belt conservatism. (via Bandcamp).
image via Andrew Strasser
Alessandro Cortini – This Italian musician is best known for being Nine Inch Nail’s keyboardist in the 2000s. Now, this producer is creating dark & droney, heavily textured, synth-washed, eerie soundscapes by manipulating modular synthesizers, guitar pedals, classic Roland equipment.. basically tons of gear that’s way over our heads, but likely makes for a powerful & enveloping live experience.
JLIN – This Gary, Indiana-based producer is more than footwork. During a set in Chicago, she drew a crowd from disparate music scenes in the city; local progressive club kids were joined by older house heads & techno DJs. It’s rare to find a musician whose work can connect with such a broad array of listeners, but JLIN has quietly gained an international following by defying the sometimes rigid expectations & parameters of the footwork genre in which she’s most often associated. (via Spin).
Lunice – This Montreal producer/party DJ grounded in hip-hop is noted for his unique & charismatic stage presence. In learning that he’s also breakdancer, graffiti artist, & beatboxer, we’d never doubt it. “Experimenting with electro synth sounds layered over pounding bass & drums, Lunice developed a sonic aesthetic that kept the spirit of rap music while remaining as potent on the dancefloor as anything else.” (via Resident Advisor). Yes please we are about this life.
Machinedrum – This NC producer/DJ, Travis Stewart, serves up drum ‘n’ bass, footwork, glitch hop/pop, juke, & jungle – characterizing a signature that is instantly recognizable for its density & intricacy. A rarity with club music, his live sets sometimes host an incredibly talented drummer (& former collaborator, Lane Darrington), while Travis expertly chops up samples + his own live guitar work & vocals, regularly exceeding a tempo beyond 160 BPM. All with perfect poise & charisma.
Cherry Glazerr – This high energy LA noise pop trio “channels old school DIY post-punk (Kleenex, The Slits), & vintage riot grrrl via Pixies-style bittersweetness & big angular riffs. The tunes provide vehicles for frontwoman, Clementine Creevy, to have her say on subjects from empowerment to tweet shaming to female solidarity – all packed into aural fizz bombs.” (via The Guardian). In 2012, Creevy started this project while in high school & recorded songs in her bedroom under the name Clembutt. Now, at only 19, she has mastered not only fuzzy, hook-filled alt-rock songs, but a modeling & acting career as well. Did we mention her damn name is Clementime Creevy?! Dream girl, anyone? So pumped for this set!
serpentwithfeet – With a haunting, R&B-edged take on devotional music while uniting the powers of spirituality & sex, Baltimore’s Josiah Wise might have the most memorable story (& sound) on our round-up. He grew up singing in the choir of a Pentecostal church, has trained as a jazz vocalist, formed a neo-soul group, had a goth phase, dubbed the self-describing term “Pagan Gospel” (which he later renounced), & once was hellbent on being an opera singer – but he didn’t like the idea of having to wear a tux. Now, his tender storytelling & sly exploration of the queer experience over mournful synths & earth-shaking sub-bass is still fantastically operatic in scale.
“Considering his over-sized septum piercing & generally avant-garde appearance, it’s difficult to picture him as a fresh-faced youth singing for Maryland State Boychoir. But Wise grew up in a fairly strict & religious household; his mum only approved of classical music, & church on Sundays was mandatory. While Wise didn’t care much for the sermons, the atmosphere & congregation of the megachurch he attended stuck with him. ‘It was like seeing the Beyoncé Formation tour but for Jesus,’ he recalls. As a teenager still coming to terms with his sexuality, Wise found the asceticism preached there stifling. ‘It was impossible to talk about being gay,’ he says. Instead, Wise found an outlet through gospel music. ‘A lot of gospel songs are very erotic. It’s such romantic & decadent music about wanting to be possessed & subsumed by this man. It was only when I started dating that I realized I didn’t know the difference between a guy I was interested in & Jesus.’ With serpentwithfeet, Wise has reconciled his formal musical background with his love for 90s R&B, harmonizing like his idols Faith Evans & Brandy, only over minimal classical instrumentation. After years of struggling to find his voice, it’s a style that finally suits him. And all without having to wear a tux.” (via The Guardian).
image via Krisanne Johnson
Japanese Breakfast – Korean American, Michelle Zauner, challenges ideologies of “traditional” Asian culture & its more recent “model minority” tropes. While wearing a hanbok (traditional Korean dress) in her video for Everybody Wants To Love You, she needs be no symbol of politeness, economic success, or upwardly mobile immigrant sensibilities; instead she shreds a guitar solo on the hood of an 18-wheeler, drinks aggressively, rides on the back of motorcycles, & generally explodes stereotypes. Japanese Breakfast takes you on a bittersweet journey of fizzing electronica, funk basslines, big guitars, & even some 80s pop sax solos – all blended together through melancholic arrangements, evoking Pacific Northwest indie rock as much as sprawling shoegaze.
Branchez – This versatile NYC producer has been making waves in both the electronic music & hip-hop communities with his soulful brand of club music & pop sensibility. This is the only time we’ve ever been inclined to use the word “vibey”. Seems like the perfect soundscape to wrap up the summer with! 💃🏽
Cheers to our 4th year & getting a grip on our FOMO stress! Tickets to the fest are still available here. We hope to see you in Raleigh! Otherwise, be sure to follow us on Instagram for live stories & more! x