Let's face it: Like most festivals, Hopscotch ain't cheap, and many of us aren't in a position to pony up $85 for a day pass or $150 for a weekend wristband.
Fortunately, even as the size of Hopscotch has fluctuated over the years, the amount of free day parties—a few running concurrently with the actual festival—continues to bloom; at last count, nearly 200 acts were slated to perform, some for multiple sets and many that are part of the official lineup. If you're willing to skip out of work early and have the patience for the constantly shifting set times of the day party scene—social media is your friend here—you can put together a nice little festival experience for next to nothing, perhaps even scoring some free food and drink along the way.
For those that favor simplicity, plant yourself at Slim's whenever possible and thank me later. Perpetually packed during Hopscotch, the Wilmington Street dive sprawls out onto the back patio to provide two alternating stages by day, hosting some of the best bands and bartenders in town. Repeat events fill this year's slate: PotLuck acts like Schooner and Wichita Falls fill the bill for Thursday's pizza party, while Ava Luna and The Charming Youngsters highlight the third iteration of Spazzscotch on Saturday. Sunday's annual Hopscotch Hangover brings heavyweights like The Vibekillers and Hammer No More The Fingers, but ¡Que Viva! 2014—presented Friday by Churchkey Records and The Layabout—is likely to continue its reign as king of all day parties. Locals Gross Ghost and Pipe join out-of-towners The Everymen, Las Rosas and Scully, all fitting Churchkey's raw aesthetic. Boozy, twangy rockers Spider Bags are reason enough to go, as they'll have the room shaking in at least two ways.
If you're willing to be adventurous and search out your cheap thrills, pop into Kings on Friday for Three Lobed Recordings and WXDU's carefully curated show, marked by debuts, one-offs and exclusive collaborations from experimental artists. Steve Gunn, William Tyler and Letha Rodman Melchior joins all of Yo La Tengo to form the intriguing Little Black Egg Big Band, while Thurston Moore joins harpist Mary Lattimore for a set.
Friday also finds Amigo's hook-ridden country-rock and Old Quarter's cosmic outlaw tales highlighting the Cardinal Collective's strong Americana showing at Crank Arm Brewery. The Pour House hosts Younger Brothers Productions' indie rock variety pack, including Ghostt Bllonde, Eston & The Outs and Hammer No More The Fingers.
Saturday, Fayetteville Street pulls double duty, as a free, four-bout, pro-wrestling card at 2 p.m. precedes City Plaza's ticketed main event. A slew of mostly punk-influenced outfits such as Hot Dolphin and Totally Slow hold court on stages at Legends Nightclub for Let Feedback Ring. The Warehouse District's Babes in Boyland benefits Girls Rock NC with a foodie paradise and sets from Ex Hex, The Tender Fruit and others.
With most of the city's venues tied up by nightfall for the festival proper, your evening entertainment will require some creativity. A short drive to Durham might be worth considering for Thursday night's set by local Americana juggernaut Chatham County Line, while First Friday coinciding with night two of Hopscotch should provide plenty to see and do in Raleigh. Saturday's best bet is Berkeley Café's day-party after-party, with local roots big-wigs Tonk, Michael Rank & Stag and John Howie Jr. & The Rosewood Bluff. Made it to Sunday night with energy to spare? The wild and wooly Whatever Brains previews its upcoming record at Slim's.