I have no idea how two young whippersnappers like Greg Lowenhagen and Grayson Currin convinced me months ago that the Independent ought to throw a gigantic music party in Raleigh. Greg's experience running a music festival? Zilch. Grayson's organizational abilities? Look at the pile of junk on the floor of his office here at the Indy and you might have a few doubts about that.
But by the time the black-and-gold-clad drum line from the Helping Hand Mission Marching Band came sashaying through the rapt crowd at City Plaza this past Saturday night (photo), I was so glad Greg and Grayson had convinced me and everybody else. That band was Greg's final surprise for the fans. Standing next to me, Lucy Inman—a Raleigh superior court judge and a rocker—called the band a "beloved Raleigh institution." With Public Enemy queued up to play on the big stage, with downtown clubs packed tight with music fans all weekend, the marching band was just one more delicious little mouthful from the guys who cooked up Hopscotch Music Festival.
The big acts in City Plaza all gave energetic, exciting performances, but it was the opening acts I'll remember forever, the locals—The Love Language from Chapel Hill and The Rosebuds. On the Hopscotch website, Chris Parker calls The Rosebuds "Raleigh's sweethearts," and that's what they were Friday night—the very first act on the big stage at the very first Hopscotch. I was running around City Plaza nervous as an expectant father, but there it was, the music, so pure, so evocative, so emotional.
There would have been no music at Hopscotch without the work of volunteers, including a young cadre of "super volunteers" like Miranda Volborth who, among other duties, coordinated the backstage for the bands; like Megan Cain, the N.C. State undergrad who ran the innovative recycling effort and even took the organic material home herself; like Jordan Lawrence, a young music writer who drew stage plots and decided which gear we'd need to find for every act that played the thing; like Suzanne Kobe, who led the band hospitality; like Gretchen Gaskill, who coordinated the efforts of 150 other volunteers. And then there was every single member of the Indy staff itself, the folks who ran the doors at the clubs until 2 a.m. every morning.
Hopscotch lost money—about $50,000 at first count. But I'll just call that money the Indy's gift to the musicians, to the clubs, to Raleigh, to music fans from the Triangle and all over. Besides, next year Greg and Grayson will know what the heck they're doing, and I figure we'll make that money back.
So that's the answer to the question I've been asked a hundred times. Yes, we're doing it again next year—and forever. There will be more surprises from Greg, and Grayson will once again pick a list of his favorite bands and bring them home to Raleigh. There will be more fans like the guy who tweeted that he wanted a tattoo of his Hopscotch wristband. There will be more Facebook posts like this one from Jackee Howell, a 2008 graduate of N.C. State: "I need a post-hopscotch group hug. I cant bring myself to snip my wristband yet."
Me? I just want The Rosebuds to headline Hopscotch XX.
Steve Schewel is president of the Independent Weekly.