Hopscotch Music Festival has been a signature event for the creative community of Raleigh, North Carolina since its inception in 2010, known for bringing together a wide range of performers and generally harnessing a space of wonderful weirdness with something for every audience.
My love for Hopscotch grows as the festival proves not only inclusive for fans but also in their lineup choices. In the realm of festivals, it’s hard to find truly safe spaces unless marketed as such, and even those that actually DO exist are few and far between. Hopscotch does an amazing job of seamlessly weaving in femmes and other members of the LGBTQA+ community in a way that doesn’t make us feel like tokens yet still allows us to stand in our truths without fear of being othered.
I’ll be attending the festival on behalf of Ill Vibe the Tribe, so I’ve compiled a list of badass artists whose performances I’m sure I’ll be crying about for months afterwards.
Saturday, Sept. 8 @ 11:30 p.m. – Wicked Witch
The self-proclaimed “queer boy from Baltimore City,” Abdu Ali is the dream of all the black punks and 80s ballroom Queens with their perfect blend of punk, Baltimore Club Music, jazz, rap, and futurism. Having graced the stage with names like FKA Twigs and Blaqstarr, Ali uses their lyrics to speak out against racism, black oppression, and sexual prejudices layered over noise-rap melodies and gripping harmonies. They are currently in-studio working on forthcoming album, FIYAH!, their sixth music project. With lyrics like “I got rage of a black mova” (via track “Tears of a Black Mova”), I can only imagine what this set is going to be like (I’m actually prepared to sweat my edges out.)
Friday, Sept. 7 @ 11:30 p.m. – Neptunes
The Queer Black Diva Mhysa has arrived, and she’s not here for a seat at the table–she’s building her own instead. The self-proclaimed “underground pop star for the cyber resistance” from Prince George’s County, Maryland is creating a utopia with music for black femmes, as evidenced by full-length album fantasii (Halcyon Veil): “This debut album is an epic poem, like a reverse Dante’s Inferno, where I take the listener higher, upward through my hopes, dreams, inspirations, and desires. It represents my love for Black women and femmes, as the stories are all told from our perspectives” (via artist’s website). From R&B croons and gospel hymns to bass-heavy club anthems and screeching synths, Mhysa finds a way to pull in the audience, using pop culture icon references that range from TLC to the notorious jewel thief Doris Payne. Add in the aesthetically pleasing visuals of Mhysa’s signature braids and pop glam makeup, and this set is worthy of all the praise. Prepare to bask in black femme glory.
Saturday, Sept. 8 @ 9:30 p.m. – Neptunes
I couldn’t make this list without including a hometown favorite. Anjali Naik, aka Diaspoura, has been making waves in the underground music world for quite some time now, and they’re taking their talents to Hopscotch for the first time this year. An electronic producer and new media artist hailing from rural South Carolina, Diaspoura has the power to command any room with their groovy, angelic vocals and calming synth-pop tones. While widely known for their dope sound and DIY early internet aesthetic, their work both in and outside of a recording booth is heavily steeped in activism, such as their affiliation with Carolina Youth Action Project, an organization that centers political education to empower young girls, trans youth, and gender non-conforming youth. Get into a personal fav, “GTF“–a 2017 single released in collaboration with fellow Charleston artist Contour–before the show, and come ready for the real.
Friday, Sept. 7 @ 10:30 p.m. – Slim’s
What happens when you blend heavy metal, punk, and…classical music? Answer: The seven-piece feminist femme fury that is Durham’s Gown. Composed of Whitney Jewett on vocals, Nelle Dunlap on bass, Alex Armor on keys, Alex Craig on drums, and three cellists, Emma Dunlap-Grube, Leah Gibson, and Lindsay Wilson, Gown has been deconstructing what it means to be a heavy metal band and is sure to make heads turn. Described on their website as “bloody orchestral glam metal by a bunch of sparkly druids,” the band released the album Skin on September 1st, available for purchase on cassette. There’s no way I want to miss them.
Thursday, Sept. 6 @ 8:30 p.m. – Neptunes
By far one of the most incredible artists to grace the stage, Gudiya is every radical brown girl’s dream muse. One half of the duo Sandpact, Gudiya is the solo project of visual artist, musician and Raleigh native Kaanchee. Industrial beats blended with Indian pop and personal recordings make up her sound, which she describes as “bhajans, babies and bloodbath.” She works to make electronic music more accessible to those in her community and considers her work the “archive of a quiet but angry brown girl living in the South.” (We stan a Queen about her people!) While this isn’t her first go round at the festival, I don’t expect this experience to be like any other–that’s what keeps me coming back.
For more Hopscotch goodness, check out the full 2018 schedule or take a look on Ill Vibe’s website for a complete festival guide and playlist. See you at the shows!