Spotlight: Hyper local Hopscotch

Courtesy of Centerline

Courtesy of Centerline


by Jessie Ammons

Made and played in Raleigh

If you’ve been downtown during the first week of September in the last five years, you’ve likely stumbled upon Hopscotch Music Fest. “We’re one of the few festivals in America our size that uses the existing city infrastructure,” says organizer Greg Lowenhagen. “We didn’t put it in a field and fence off a large plot of land where you have to buy all of your beer and food.” Instead, bands – the acts are always at least 40 percent local – play in Raleigh’s own venues, from Raleigh City Plaza, CAM, and Fletcher Opera Theater to Neptune’s, The Pour House, and Kings Barcade. The idea, as its name implies, is to hop around the city to catch shows.

It was an idea that resonated with Matt Muñoz of brand management firm New Kind. “Not only was the city completely alive, with people all over the place and amazing bands,” he says, “but there was a discovery element, too. You’re seeing all these different bands, whether you know them or not. We thought, what would that be like for a design festival?” The question piqued Lowenhagen’s interest, too. Last year a two-day Hopscotch Design Fest debuted on the two weekdays preceding the weekend-long Hopscotch Music Fest.

While he never necessarily planned to expand Hopscotch beyond music, the partnership was a natural fit. “The design fest is representative of what’s going on,” Lowenhagen says. “There’s such a strong design community here. That’s just Raleigh – it’s on the forefront, and we want to be there with that.”

This year marks the sixth installation of Hopscotch Music, which has garnered national acclaim for its jam-packed lineup with a fiercely local bent. “We’re known as sort of an indie rock festival,” Lowenhagen says, “but I wish we weren’t in some ways. The idea about Hopscotch music is, essentially, that if you’re a metal fan, you can just go see metal bands for three days and never know the rest of the festival’s going on, and still have an experience as if it’s just a metal festival. The same goes for hip hop. The same goes for electronic music.” Odds are, though, that you’ll come across somebody or something new.

The hope is that attendees apply that same open mind to the design offerings, too. “I think everyone can say that they have a type of music they love,” says Marie Schacht, this year’s Hopscotch Design coordinator. “The goal of Design Fest is to engage more people that don’t necessarily identify with design, and help them realize that they can have a favorite designer and they can have a favorite way they like to create design. The same way that anyone can consume music, anyone can consume design.”

“I mean, we design Hopscotch Music Fest,” Lowenhagen points out. Muñoz boils it down even further: “To design is to create with intent. To do it on purpose.”

Hopscotch Design takes place September 9 and 10; Hopscotch Music September 10 – 12.

Courtesy of Centerline

Courtesy of Centerline

Here are a few highlights:


September 9, 5 p.m., Warehouse District

Hopscotch Design, Innovate Raleigh, and HQ Raleigh are all partnering for a free walkable tour of almost three dozen local creative companies in the downtown warehouse district. Stops will include American Underground, Citrix, and Raleigh Denim, and it all culminates in a giant block party.


September 10, afternoon, Warehouse District 

Raleigh native Jake Levitas will lead a workshop on prototyping city aspects in quick and lightweight ways, and discuss prototypes’ impact on urban development. Levitas is a leader in urban prototyping and co-founded the Market Street Prototyping Festival in San Francisco.

Phil Cook 

September 10, 11 p.m., Fletcher Opera Theater

Durhammite Phil Cook, also of band Megafaun, will debut his full solo record Thursday night. Everybody who played on the record will be on stage to play the record live from beginning to end.

Dwight Yoakam 

September 12, 8:45 p.m., City Plaza

The main act of Hopscotch Music’s first all-country night on a main stage is Dwight Yoakam, who Lowenhagen calls “one of the most important voices in country music history.” Punk band X will open, which is not a random choice. In Yoakam’s early days, he couldn’t quite find an ear for his off-brand version of country music in Nashville, so he headed to L.A. and played anywhere he could, including punk clubs. At one point, he opened for X. “They’re both complete legends,” Lowenhagen says. “It’s going to be fun.”

Hopscotch Design Fest: $175 for a two-day pass; Hopscotch Music Fest: single show access starts at $35, $165 for a three-day pass;