Toward the end of Superchunk's Saturday evening Hopscotch set, Mac McCaughan stopped singing during "Digging For Something" and started talking. He said that Superchunk had never played Raleigh much over the years, but he'd come to a lot of shows here -- mostly at clubs that no longer exist, including the Brewery and Fallout Shelter. And as he looked out over the throngs in front of the City Plaza stage, McCaughan opined that it was mighty cool to have some punk rock happening outdoors in downtown Raleigh.
I'll say. From all appearances, Hopscotch's second edition could not have gone better. The weather was great, the vibes better (everyone seemed to be on their best behavior, on both sides of the stage) and the programming first-rate. South By Southwest is the gold standard for festivals like this, but I would say I saw more bands I really liked at Hopscotch than at South By Southwest this year.
Superchunk was a highlight, opening for Flaming Lips with an hour-long set that seamlessly integrated songs from the current album "Majesty Shredding" with older songs going back two decades. So were the Lips, with a psychedelic spectacle that turned City Plaza into the world's freakiest high-tech rumpus room. And earlier Saturday, I saw fine performances by Hammer No More the Fingers, Shirlette & the Dynamite Brothers and Youth Lagoon at a day party outside the Lincoln Theatre. I would have seen more, but I was beat after the Lips and called it an early night.
So after a highly successful year two, now comes the tricky part for Hopscotch's management: How do they manage growth in a way that makes the festival better, improving on (or at least keeping) the good things about the experience? Word of mouth about this year will be overwhelmingly positive, which means a lot more people descending on Raleigh for next year's event. That certainly has its upside, because growing the festival will allow Hopscotch to get better. But unchecked growth can also render a festival a gridlocked, unmanageable mess, something that South By Southwest seems perilously close to becoming.
We'll see. But for now, all that needs saying is: Well done.