If you've ever worried that your life would never live up to the excitement of a pinball game, welcome to Hopscotch. This year's three-day retreat features more than 150 bands in 13 venues (to say nothing of the many day parties happening all over town). By the end of it, you should feel like Frogger on a weekend pass. Here's a cheat sheet to reach the end of the weekend in style.
The weekend starts with a Brooklyn introduction. It's the meditative folk of solo guitarist STEVE GUNN at Fletcher Opera Theater vs. the doo-wop, Afro-pop jubilation of DINOSAUR FEATHERS at Kings Barcade. Temper all egos and attend both. From there, take a walk to The Union for a set from CASSIS ORANGE. Leader Autumn Ehinger marries glockenspiels and Casiotone beats to travelogue lyrics. Next, dip down to Deep South, where Charlottesville, Va., quartet INVISIBLE HAND will offer a set of their power pop take on art-rock histrionics. That band's '60s-influenced swell will have you piqued for the lush, anthemic pop of Raleigh's THE LOVE LANGUAGE. Their City Plaza set last year left audiences beaming; this year they'll take over Lincoln Theatre with every promise of a packed house. Leaving Lincoln may prove difficult, but if you can brave it, head for The Hive at Busy Bee. You'll be treated with the tender and surprisingly danceable tunes of Philadelphia's READING RAINBOW. Now, the final toss-up: Either head for The Pour House to catch the dance magic of COLD CAVE or dash back to the Lincoln for the dirty (and sometimes psychedelic) rock of Atlanta's BLACK LIPS. If you're really ambitious, try and catch a tune from the lovely MANDOLIN ORANGE at The Union. It may be the best decision you've made all evening.
City Plaza heats up with THE DODOS, DRIVE-BY TRUCKERS and GUIDED BY VOICES. If you're looking for a way to calm down after those sets, you could do much worse than taking a stop into Fletcher for JULIANNA BARWICK. Her hypnotic vocal layers build toward melodies as ambient as they are intricate. Head out a little early to catch the evocative folk-blues of Lexington, Ky., act WOODEN WAND at the Berkeley Cafe. Leaving that set, you're forced to choose between the girl-group smack of rockers VIVIAN GIRLS at Slim's and the acoustic jangle of New Orleans' GENERATIONALS at White Collar Crime. Whatever your poison, get ready to make a hard decision again for the next round of bands, when you'll be faced with a choice between the '80s-influenced electro-pop of TWIN SHADOW at the Lincoln Theatre or the affecting warmth and experimental knack of MOUNT EERIE at Five Star. Next, sprint straight to the Berkeley for the secular-gospel and Americana bent of locals MOUNT MORIAH. After their set, wander down to the Lincoln to catch the gentlemen of THE FOREIGN EXCHANGE. These guys take urban sophistication to a new level, marrying the swagger of hip-hop to the sensuality of R&B.
Come early to Raleigh City Plaza and get an earful of the enigmatic DREAMERS OF THE GHETTO and the slacker college rock of SUPERCHUNK, still energetic after all these years. You'll be happy you did, if only to be closer to the fabulously weird Oklahoma alt-rockers THE FLAMING LIPS, renowned for their live theatrics. Take the short trip over to the Lincoln for the wild instrumental harmonies of Wisconsin's ALL TINY CREATURES. Once you've had your fill, stop into Tir na nOg for MAN/MIRACLE, a band full of indie rock misfits worthy of the My Morning Jacket and Vampire Weekend comparisons. Leaving there, you have to decide between a soulful chillwave party with TORO Y MOI at the Lincoln and the excruciating intimacy of DES ARK at Kings. You'll feel more alive after dancing to Toro Y Moi's experimental pop; you'll feel more human for having heard Des Ark's Aimee Argote. FUTURE ISLANDS will be holding court in at Lincoln Theatre, but if synth pop sung with the groan of growing older isn't your cup of tea, skip back to Kings for the lustrous languor of Montreal's LITTLE SCREAM. It'll be an easy transition from here to stop in at Fletcher for the gorgeous orchestrations of LOST IN THE TREES. The final slot of the night belongs to the BUDOS BAND at The Pour House. There's no better way to end a great weekend than by dancing to a round of wildly fun Afro-soul played with boisterous intensity.