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Published September 10, 2015

Hopscotch And Guitartown: Raleigh’s Music Scene Revival

After the first Hopscotch Music Festival in 2010, I got this idea that we might be able to have a day party similar to the one longtime Guitartown member Debbie Williams started to kick off SxSW in Austin.

Although we aren’t officially affiliated with Hopscotch, Guitartown’s community of music lovers simply can’t wait for the festival to start. So in 2011 we started Guitartown Hopscotch Kick-Off Day Party. It came to life at Sadlack’s Heroes (R.I.P.). It’s still a popular way to get a jump start on the most musically exciting weekend of the year.

Our first year we had a few hitches–like when the police showed up, citing our violation of the sound ordinance on the outdoor patio stage. A couple of the bands graciously bowed out in order to keep things on schedule and we kept the event going inside until after 5pm, when outdoor noise was allowed.

In 2012 and 2013 we joined forces with Sadlack’s neighbors, Schoolkids Records.

 

Live Music Is Alive: Anything Can Happen

As my co-creator Greg and I have learned through the years, you can put all the planning you want to into these events, but you also need to be ready to think on the fly because the unexpected always happens. But that’s where the anticipation kicks in–the feeling that anything can happen and usually does.

That “anything can happen” feeling permeates the entire festival. The bands’ set times are pretty short. That means each artist will bring their “A game,” knowing they only have a short time to shine. There’s also the rapid-fire succession of the sets themselves. Someone may plan to arrive at a set time to catch a certain band or two, but they end up getting drawn into the whole afternoon. It’s very much a one-two punch sort of thing that no one sees coming, and we like it like that.

We also like to throw in the occasional wildcard. While the Guitartown email list is alternative country-centric, we have diverse musical tastes. In that regard, don’t be surprised if we hit you with a curveball via some other genre that you’re least expecting. That’s always been the beauty of Guitartown itself and it translates well to our day parties. Expect the unexpected.

 

Goodbye, Sadlack’s Heroes

As if we weren’t already flyin’ by the seat of our pants, last year’s Guitartown Hopscotch day party was even more of a gamble in 2014 than in previous years as we were in new environs. With the demise of Sadlack’s Heroes and the relocation of Schoolkids Records in the early part of 2014, we had to decide on a new home. It only made sense to go with the Berkeley Café as that’s where the management and staff of Sadlack’s had relocated.

 

Closing Venues: The Brewery, Volume 11, The Dive Bar

Before the Brewery reopened, soundman Jac Cain relocated to the Pour House. The Brewery had been renown for hosting alternative country artists and events such as S.P.I.T.T.L.E.FEST, and a lot of that crowd migrated to the Pour House. Since the demise of the Brewery, Volume 11 and the Dive Bar, the Maywood seems to have picked up a lot of the slack for those that are into heavy music.

The consensus seems to be that the heyday of the live music scene in this area may have peaked in the 90’s. That’s not to say it’s no longer vibrant (same for Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Durham) because it is. For anyone that’s passionate about music, there’s still a lot of worthwhile music coming out of this area.

WKNC is a great source, as well as community radio such as Little Raleigh Radio. On any given night one can hit any of the local nightclubs to find both local, regional and occasionally, international talent. Whether any of them will be the next Police, Ramones, R.E.M., or Warren Zevon is anyone’s guess, just as it was when those artists were playing the Cameron Village Subway.

I’m aware that a lot of folks would like to re-open the Pier but I really don’t see any need in that other than nostalgia. There are a lot more options now than there was then. Festivals like Hopscotch are amping up Raleigh’s music, and Guitartown hosts live music series’ with local bands all the time. Live music isn’t dying in Raleigh. People like us — and you — keep it playing.

RELATED: Raleigh’s Hidden Music: Guitartown Keeps The Scene Alive.

Whether or not you’re going to Hopscotch this year, stop by our 5th Annual Guitartown Hopscotch Day Party at Berkeley Café, Saturday at 1pm. Clear Spots, Severed Fingers, Kamara Thomas Music, Jon Lindsay, Steph Stewart and the Boyfriends, be the moon, and Dragmatic will be jamming all day.

Feature image: John Howie Jr. and the Rosewood Bluff at the Guitartown Hopscotch day party. Photo by Dave Brainard.

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  • Jonathan Lee

    Jonathan

  • Jonathan Lee is a freelance graphic artist, photographer, writer and sometime podcaster who grew up in Eastern North Carolina who currently resides in Raleigh. He also presently serves as one of the folks behind the Guitartown discussion group which centers around the alt.country music scene in the Triangle. Guitartown has a presence on Yahoo Groups, Facebook and Twitter. All my articles.

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