In less than a week, the artsy urban sprawl that is Raleigh, N.C.'s Hopscotch Music Festival kicks off once again, reiterating the southern capital's prowess in live entertainment for the sixth consecutive year. The three-day celebration, which this year spans 11 downtown music venues, is largely a promotional vehicle for independent artists, both onstage and within creative and collaborative festival subdivisions like the POSTERscotch market and the two-day Design Festival.
Though traditionally a platform for lesser-known names, Hopscotch always boasts a few major acts; this year's lineup includes Erykah Badu, Beach House, Gary Clark Jr., Wolf Parade and Young Thug -- plus a few throwback acts like punk rock pioneering '70's getup Television and psychedelic acoustic guitarist Don Bikoff. Whether you're an N.C. native or an out-of-towner making plans for next year's festival circuit, Hopscotch is definitively a summer-closing gem and a model for successful downtown festivals. What's most alluring about the Hopscotch design is the cross-genre empowerment; there's a little something for everyone. Here's a handful of top picks in every category.
Rap and Hip Hop
When: Thursday at midnight, Deep South
The Charlotte native Well$ started his hip hop career at the tender age of nine. He claims early influence from French rap artists, and later played into the emotional patterns of beat-making and mixtapes common in other artists' careers in the early 2000's. Following in the footsteps of fellow North Carolinian, J. Cole, Well$ hopes to revitalize the face of modern hip hop.
When: Thursday at 11:30pm, Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh
Shayna McHayle, known by her stage name Junglepussy, hails from East Brooklyn, New York. Her young career has already landed her a performance with Lil' Kim and a support from the legendary Erykah Badu. Junglepussy is an act you won't want to miss!
When: Thursday at 10pm, Deep South
The 20-year-old New Jersey-based rapper Angelo Mota is a quick-tongued wordplay wizard whose subject matter is wickedly layered, establishing poetic nuance and telling unexpected stories. He plays with a colorful array of sound effects that factor nicely into his stream-of-consciousness expression. He is responsible for the recent release of his debut project, "Crystal Avenue", and is currently collaborating with Well$.
When: Friday at 10pm, Kings Barcade
Since 2006, the Raleigh-based lyrical quintet has been specializing in the feel-good, old-school ebb and flow of classic hip hop akin to A Tribe Called Quest. All five members are NC State alums, and are responsible for bringing a great deal of hip hop enthusiasm to the on-campus musical fanbase through the early 2000's. They rap about ordinary things like going to the laundromat and working hard in the southern environment they call home with endearingly humble attitudes.
When: Thursday at 10:30pm, Fletcher Theatre
One listen to Quilt and you might just feel as though you're on a psychedelic trip back to the '70's. The group is originally from Boston, where they spent several years creating home recordings in smoky basements before getting signed to Mexican Summer records and releasing three full-length albums. The group attests that much of their songwriting stems from improvisation, which is certainly believable given its laid-back sensibilities and dreamy chord progressions adorned perfectly with the angelic voice of lead singer Anna Fox Rochinski.
Car Seat Headrest
When: Friday at 11:30pm, Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh
A first listen to Car Seat Headrest is certain to remind its audience of The Strokes. Fueled by catchy guitar riffs and the distorted vocals of frontman Will Toldeo, the group embodies a deliberate abandon that suggests dedication to their craft and a simultaneous disdain for the sense of order indie rock dictates. They recently signed to Matador Records but maintain an inexplicably indie vibe -- a trait in part due to their impeccably hip and completely enlightening Tumblr page.
When: Friday at midnight, Deep South
Diet Cig is a self-proclaimed "slop pop" duo from New Paltz, New York whose doll-faced members comprise of Alex Luciano on vocals and guitar and Noah Bowman on drums. The pair is built with certainty for college radio as well for the hopelessly sad moments we all have that require the warm hug of something warm, light-hearted, and just plain poppy. Though Diet Cig definitely sounds young, they're relatable and more than suited to reckless dance breaks.
Metal and Punk
When: Thursday at midnight, Kings Barcade
Four-piece female punk group and self-proclaimed party people the Coathangers have been ripping up Atlanta, G.A. since 2006. They aim to be provocative and willingly admit their initial lack of know-how on any of their instruments; they formed, they explain, in order to be able to meet people and play house parties. Since then, however, they have seen remarkable success, releasing five albums and touring with the Black Lips in 2014. Much like the vulgarity and irrelevance of their group's name (all members are pro-choice), their style is built on "a balance of between overthinking it and just going for it," according to guitarist Julia Kugel.
A Giant Dog
When: Thursday at 12:30am, Slim's
Punk rock is alive and well when Merge Record's A Giant Dog take the stage at Hopscotch. As the name may suggest, this band doesn't shy away from the morbid and after darkside of punk rock. Lead singer, Sabrina Ellia, channels her glam-punk theatrics with the best of them. With heavy distortion and Ramones-style guitar, A Giant Dog is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
When: Thursday at 12:30am, Lincoln Theatre
Originally from Salem, M.A., Converge has enjoyed relatively prolific success since the '90's with their blend of hardcore punk and heavy metal. Their 2001 release "Jane Doe" was named on Sputnikmusic's "Top 100 Albums of the Decade", an accolade undoubtedly stemming from the group's genuine, live performance-flavored sound. Their style has evolved over the years and become increasingly diverse within individual albums' track listings, especially within the recently-released "All We Love We Leave Behind", a work that came with an accompanying 50-page book of original art.
When: Saturday at 10pm, Kings Barcade
The locally-sourced five-piece specializes in doom metal, or as members of the band refers to it, "melodic death metal". They formed in 2011 in Raleigh and released a debut album "Damnation Doctrine" in 2015, a work which they claim will be their jumping-off point for their imminent autumn tour up the east coast. In terms of recorded work, Necrocosm has a long way to go, but if their live presence is any indication of potential results, we have a lot to look forward to.
Folk and Country
When: Friday at 11pm, Nash Hall
The gothic southern crooner Adia Victoria claims current residency in Nashville, T.N., and it isn't hard to see why she's based in Music Capital, USA. Victoria's throaty, haunting production comes from a vocal place that isn't altogether human and is wildly refreshing in the world of female singer-songwriters. She is arrestingly honest in most of her interviews, saying that she is "sometimes...just ugly." Somehow, there is something wickedly beautiful about that.
Promised Land Sound
When: Friday at 11:30pm, Slim's
Born in the Nashville garage scene, Promised Land Sound is firmly rooted in southern folk rock. The band was originally started by Joey Scala and his younger brother Evan. Joey later met guitarist Sean Thompson while he was hitchhiking around the country after high school. The group would begin recording together and turned out to be a musically-gifted team. Their 2015 LP "For Use and Delight'" is a laid-back and smooth blend of folk and psychedelic rock.
When: Saturday at 9:30pm, Fletcher Theatre
Maiden Radio is a harmonious trio folk trio who channel the deepest roots of Appalachian and Kentucky folk. Under their Facebook description, the trio writes, "Playing and singing together since 1885." This description alone will give you some idea of the bands timeless approach. Maiden Radio loves to put their personal stamp on classic folk tunes. Their show will be immediately followed by 1/3 of the trio, Joan Shelley, giving a solo performance.
When: Saturday at 11:00pm, Memorial Auditorium
Andrew Bird released his first solo album "Music of Hair" back in 1996 and hasn't looked back since. The multi-instrumental singer-songwriter from Illinois has seen his share of mainstream success. Bird wrote "The Whistling Caruso" on The Muppets soundtrack and also had his "Pulaski at Night" featured on Netflix's "Orange Is the New Black". Bird will be performing after Merge Records' Eric Bachmann on Saturday of Hopscotch.
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
When: Saturday at 11:30pm, the Pour House
The award for the best band name has to go to Rainbow Kitten Surprise. RKS recorded their first EP in their dorm room at Appalachian State. From humble begins, RKS have propelled themselves into a rising force in folk music. Hopscotch will the penultimate show for RKS as a wrap up a busy east coast summer tour.
Sarah Shook & the Disarmers
When: Friday at 10:30pm, Slim's
In July, Rolling Stone magazine named Sarah Shook & the Disarmers in their "10 Country Artists You Need To Know." The band released their full-length debut last October at Cat's Cradle in Chapel Hill. Sarah Shook is an unashamed, rebellious and painfully honest songwriter who openly spills about past relationships and the hardships she's faced.
When: Friday at 12:30am, Neptune's
Russian-born beatmaker Alina Astrova will surely captive her audience at Neptune's with her hazy and often dark electronic beats. Former one half of the electronic duo Hype Williams, Astrova better known as Inga Copeland, is embracing the freedom of being a solo artist. This will definitely be a trippy experience for electronic music lovers.
When: Saturday at 11:30pm, Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh
Earthly, a synth and otherwise synthesized noise-happy duo composed of Carrboro natives Brint Hansen and Edaan Brook, are living examples of what it means to have fun with your art. Their standard repertoire features patched-together chords played by unexpected instruments and samples of speech -- in some instances, that is. At other times it is bubblegum-sweet and danceable to the max. No matter the context or inspiration for Earthly's live-show jams, there is no mistaking the pair's complimentary relationship when it comes to their ability to work off of each other's creative energies and establish a base sound that's one of a kind.