Hopscotch, an annual music festival held in downtown Raleigh, made its triumphant return this weekend for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Held across two venues, City Plaza and Moore Square, from Sept. 9 to 11, attendees were buzzed by the return of live music. With the requirement of proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of admission, the atmosphere allowed visitors to relax, enjoy some quality music, and maybe have a beer or two.
Thursday evening started off cloudy but soon cleared up as the night went on. Although the art market wouldn’t debut until the next day, there were some vendors selling popular, millennial-focused spiked drinks at both City Plaza and Moore Square.
Refreshments aside, Hippo Campus and Caroline Polachek were the headlining acts of night one. Both sets were positively electric as fans crowded the City Plaza stage, clearly relishing the return to live music in front of an adoring crowd.
Earlier in the evening, Asheville-based band Wednesday rocked on in front of a sizable crowd at Moore Square, playing folk-tinged rock songs as the sun set on downtown Raleigh. Later that evening, Sarah Shook & the Disarmers and Shannon and the Clams took the Moore Square stage — the diversity in genre setting the tone for the days to follow.
“We love Hopscotch, we play every year we f---ing can,” said Karly Hartzman, lead singer of Wednesday. “We each have our own inspirations that we bring to the goulash that is Wednesday. I’m a big Jessica Lea Mayfield fan; I learned how to play guitar from her.”
On Friday, the arts market vendors arrived at Moore Square. Small local businesses lined the pavement for festivalgoers to browse, selling everything from unique pottery to Italian ice.
“Business has been trickling in,” said Taylor Bragg, owner of Bragg About Art. “I would say it's a bit slower than what I thought it was going to be traffic-wise.”
Browsing was irresistible, even if you were primarily at Hopscotch to enjoy the music scene. The variety of products sold made for a pleasurable shopping experience, whether you were looking for affordable crystals or cute ceramic mugs.
“I like the larger markets, for sure,” said Mary Parker, owner of Mary Parker Ceramics. “I think that going to a market that’s specifically for craft is better for selling stuff, but honestly, I had no idea that I was going to have a front-row seat to the stage.”
Friday night’s live music was even more thrilling. As part of its farewell tour, Dr. Dog headlined at City Plaza for a group of adoring fans. Drawing in an older crowd due to its established place in the music industry for decades, Dr. Dog definitely gave dad-rock energy but put on an incredible show nevertheless.
A couple blocks down at City Plaza, Flying Lotus performed as the last act of Friday night to a huge crowd. With or without earplugs to block the thunderous bass, you’d be hard-pressed to find a fan who wasn’t dancing by the end of the set.
Saturday brought even more vendors to Moore Square, some even coming from beyond Wake County. In fact, some of the small businesses were born out of quarantine passion projects.
“This was actually a pandemic business — I’ve always done art, but it has kind of lived in my own personal notebooks for a long time,” said Paul McAllister, a Durham-based analog collage artist and owner of Pasted Pages. “In March of last year, I got really into analog collage because I was teaching remotely and needed to stop looking at screens.”
Moore Square and City Plaza were definitely the most jam-packed as they had been all weekend for the final sets of the festival. Although the early afternoon shows were not nearly as crowded as Saturday night’s headliners were, those environments still provided a sense of community.
The festival came to a roaring conclusion with performers Archers of Loaf and Animal Collective. Archers of Loaf brought rock to Raleigh with their impressive performance, and while Animal Collective definitely begs a certain type of music fan, their set was groovy nonetheless.
Although we’ve had a season full of highs and lows, it feels fitting to end summer on a high note in downtown Raleigh. Live music, friendly vendors and extremely talented musicians defined a weekend that left everybody delighted with the gratifying return to live music.