Spring of 2010. I was 31, married, slowly stepping back from late-night DJ slots at WXDU, settling into life as a corporate attorney. My wife and I were expecting our first child. After three years, Raleigh was becoming home. It was an easy city to settle into, but it wasn’t mine, yet.
Word of Hopscotch’s debut seemed promising: A three-day music festival full of bands you mostly hear on the lower end of the FM dial in college towns across America. It was made for me! But then I realized: it was scheduled for the weekend after Labor Day, right when our baby was due. I put it out of my head. There was no chance I’d be able to beg off for even one of the 70 or so shows I was dying to see if my wife was in labor.
Lucky for me, our little girl decided to show up a week early. Seeing a full show was out of the question, but it’s Hopscotch, you can be creative, so I convinced my wife to let me take the baby for a walk. I had my first Hopscotch experience on the sidewalk on Fayetteville Street, pushing a stroller as the sun began to set, listening to Broken Social Scene play one of my favorite songs, 7/4 Shoreline. I was filled with joy: seven days in and I’d shared something special with my daughter, even though she didn’t know it yet.
Walking back to our apartment, bummed that I couldn’t see more, I called Josh in New York and Richie in Nashville and made them promise: If Hopscotch came back a second year, we’d all be there. They agreed, and thus began what turned into an annual guys’ weekend, a musical staycation we’ve kept up for nearly a decade.
New York City, the evening of September 11. I’m just getting back from dinner and the phone rings—Robb. He knows this is a tough day for me (I’d witnessed the attacks nine years earlier), he just had a baby. I assume he’s calling to talk about one or both of these topics… but no.
“Duuuuude…,” he says. “Something very amazing is happening in my town right now. Public Enemy literally just walked down the street in front of my building with a marching band. Last night Broken Social Scene played outside. If this happens again next year, you’d better get your butt down here…”
And, thus a tradition began. While this will be the 10th anniversary of Hopscotch, it will be the 9th for me. Until we moved here, Hopscotch marked my annual migration from NYC to Raleigh, where Robb would put up me and Richie in his home, the weekend we’d all confidently claim was our favorite of the year. I fell in love with Raleigh through these annual visits; it’s part of the reason I moved with my family down here from NYC. This festival is the lens through which I’ve watched Raleigh evolve and grow—and become the place I now call home.