Hopscotch Handbook

Handbook 3 indie rock-01

It’s no secret that Hopscotch, a festival hailed as “wildly diverse” by The New York Times, offers fans an abundance of experiences. The four day event brings together artists who create almost every type of music, in a variety of hues. The Hopscotch Handbooks are one way of dividing the 2017 lineup to help make your scheduling choices more fun and manageable. Each chapter is essentially a small festival in itself, and many Hopscotch performers fall under more than one. Whether you’re discovering an act for the first time, or reconfirming them as one of your favorites already, we look forward to hosting you this Sept. 7-10 in downtown Raleigh.

Chapter 3: Indie/Rock

Future Islands — City Plaza, Friday, September 8

The years since the release of Singles have been transformative for Future Islands, catapulting the Baltimore-based band from cult favorites to synthpop icons. As addictive songs like breakout “Seasons (Waiting on You)” turned the world on to sublime pleasures a loyal fan base already knew, this hardtouring band plowed forward, playing their 1,000th show in July 2015 at Carrboro Commons and celebrating their 10th anniversary in February 2016. Now Future Islands returns at the top of their game with new album The Far Field, delivering twelve chest‐pounding love songs and odes to the road as only they can.

The Afghan Whigs — Lincoln Theatre, Friday, September 8

Evolving from a garage punk band in the vein of late 80’s college rock to a literate, moody, soul-inflected post-punk quartet, the Afghan Whigs were one of the most critically acclaimed alternative bands of the early ’90s. Although the band never broke into the mainstream, it developed a dedicated cult following, primarily because of lead singer/songwriter Greg Dulli’s tortured, angst-ridden tales of broken relationships and self-loathing. The Afghan Whigs were one of the few alternative bands around in the late ’90s to acknowledge R&B, attempting to create a fusion of soul and post-punk.

The Make-Up — City Plaza, Friday, September 8

Indie-punk subversives the Make-Up emerged from the ashes of the seminal Washington, D.C. outfit Nation of Ulysses, reuniting vocalist Ian Svenonious (also of Weird War and Chain and the Gang), guitarist James Canty, and drummer Steve Gamboa (who together also previously teamed in the short-lived Cupid Car Club, M.P. as well as the T.A.M.I. Show). Completing the lineup with bassist Michelle Mae, the Make-Up surfaced in early 1995 with their debut single “Blue Is Beautiful,” the first call-to-arms to spring from their self-styled liberation theology ‘Gospel Yeh-Yeh,’ a belief system advocating the oppressed masses to “get theirs” and “off the pigs in all their forms.”

Preoccupations — Lincoln Theatre, Friday, September 8

In late 2013, Preoccupations —then known as Viet Cong— released a small-run cassette EP only available on tour. Over the course of a year, Matt Flegel and Scott Munro worked in their basement studio with a mess of old and run down equipment to build a set of fresh material. Joined by bandmates Daniel Christiansen and Michael Wallace, the band completed work on an debut cassette. What emerged from the studio was a mixture of sharply-angled rhythm workouts and euphoric ‘60s garage pop-esque melodies, balanced with a penchant for drone-y, VU-styled downer moments, and became a hard-to-find classic.

Cass McCombs Band — Red Hat Amphitheater, Sunday, September 10

Over the past decade, Cass McCombs has established himself as one of our premier songwriters. It’s a career that’s twisted and turned, from style to subject, both between records and within them. His new record, Mangy Love, ventures into realms of experimental soul, twisted psychedelia, and straight-up rock, resulting in a sound that articulates his live show better than ever before.

Mary Timony Plays Helium — Red Hat Amphitheater, Sunday, September 10

No history of American indie should be written without a chapter on Mary Timony, who managed to straddle multiple worlds—among them Boston’s college-borne rock realm and Dischord’s DC-based DIY scene—over the course of her early career. In the Boston band Helium, Timony took center stage, playing rock and roll that was anything but straightforward.

Japanese Breakfast — Neptunes, Saturday, September 9

There’s discernible pain in the phrasing, Michelle Zauner recognizing limitation, a lack of control, but then subverting the feeling, creating her own musical language for confronting trauma. Where Psychopomp introduced the world to Japanese Breakfast, Soft Sounds dives deeper. It builds space where there is none, and suggests that in the face of tragedy, we find ways to keep on living.

Sunflower Bean — Pour House, Thursday, September 7

Marked by two vocalists who often take turns within a song, Sunflower Bean is an indie pop trio out of Brooklyn. Formed in August 2013 with singer/guitarist Nick Kivlen, singer/bassist Julia Cumming, and drummer Jacob Faber – all teenagers at the time – they quickly earned attention for their alternately rock-edged and dreamy guitar tunes, and were invited to open on tours for the likes of DIIV and the Vaccines beginning shortly after their first EP, Show Me Your Seven Secrets.

Har Mar Superstar — The Basement, Friday, September 8

Sean Tillmann (aka Har Mar Superstar) is an American songwriter & performer who makes R&B / Pop / Soul music. What started as a one-man show in 1999 has grown into a full-band revue. Often noted as a premier live act, Tillmann works the crowd and earns his keep with sweat equity. A grueling tour schedule has made this Minneapolis, MN outfit a show not to miss.

Ó — Neptunes, Friday, September 8

New York electronic pop musician Gabrielle Smith, who performs under the moniker Ó, has put out a lot of music: roughly one record per year since she started recording in 2007. Her last last full-length, 2015’s O.K., was named an album of the week by Stereogum, who praised it for “danc[ing] beautifully between worlds.”

NE-HI — Pour House, Thursday, September 7

Garage rock outfit NE-HI generated buzz in 2014 with a promising self-titled debut, but their return this year with Offers shows the band maturing and coming into its own. Pitchfork’s review of the record saw them “shaping their wiry garage rock sound for larger stages while still honing their musical personalities.”

gobbinjr — Neptunes, Thursday, September 7

“I just wanna be perfect/ Anything less is shameful,” goes one song on gobbinjr’s forthcoming EP, vom night. Encapsulating an artist’s ethos into a singular mission statement is a futile exercise, but if you were to attempt such a feat for Emma Witmer’s endlessly inventive synth-pop project, that would come pretty damn close. Her music chases the unattainable goal of perfection; her lyrics comb over the painful process of wanting to be wanted, of wanting enough.

Snail Mail — Neptunes, Friday, September 8

Snail mail is the lo-fi bedroom pop project of singer-songwriter Lindsey Jordan. She’s a thoughtful lyricist who tends to buck the ‘woe is me’ cliche in favor of a wider, balanced perspective focused on forward motion. This refreshing view is shared over dreary textures, slow moving guitar work and Jordan’s effortlessly melodic vocal presence.

Jenny Besetzt — Red Hat Amphitheater, Sunday, September 10

Jenny Besetzt does not shy away from a cathartic release. Just listen to the title tracks from their two full-length records—Only and Tender Madness—and it’s clear that the lean economy of their post-punk underpinnings is bursting with a poignant vulnerability. Maybe it’s the history of Romanticism encoded in vocalist John Wollaber’s DNA—he was born in Germany to an opera singer—that explains the band’s affinity to soften the sharper edges of their sound with cavernous vocals and dreamy synth arrangements.

Beverly — Deep South, Saturday, September 9

Since the summer of 2014 and the release of Careers, which Stereogum dubbed an “exceptional shoegaze-pop debut album,” the main driving force behind Beverly has been Drew Citron. The Blue Swell out May 6th, 2016 on Kanine Records represents a fresh start for the band. As Pitchfork describes, it “careens from venomous, angry punk to jangly, mild lust to blown-out emotional hangover.”

EZTV — Deep South, Saturday, September 9

EZTV has a whole lot of affection for Midwest power poppers like Shoes and Dwight Twilley, but also a definite love for left-of-the-dial bands from across the pond like Orange Juice and The Go-Betweens. Ezra Tenenbaum’s chiming guitar riffs ring perfectly within classic pop song structures, while Shane O’Connell and Michael Stasiak provide groovy, dynamic rhythm and keep the sneaky hooks and riffs clicking like the gears of a fine watch.

Advance Base — Lincoln Theatre, Saturday, September 9

Walking the line between electronic music & traditional singer/songwriter forms, Owen Ashworth writes minimalist, heavy-hearted, nostalgia-obsessed songs of longing and regret. His conversational, baritone vocals sing stories of hard-luck Midwesterners and their demons amid swirls of electric pianos, Omnichords, drum machines & samples.

Hoops — Deep South, Friday, September 8

Hoops thrive in the in-between. The Indiana quartet craft hyper-melodic songs, built around power-pop chords, deceptively complex drum patterns, and rock-anthem sentiments that hide some tellingly dark thoughts. Their full-length debut, Routines, sound both warmly familiar and jarringly distinctive. A kernel of ache lies at the heart of each verse and chorus: nothing cynical or pessimistic, just bittersweet and honest.

Bellows — Neptunes, Friday, September 8

Started in late 2010 in a college dorm room, Bellows has since blossomed from solo recording experiment into a large-scale rock band, employing the help of friends to bring Oliver Kalb’s intimate home recordings to life on stage. Bellows’ second record “Blue Breath” was recorded over the course of three years, in five bedrooms across the country, and was released in 2014 on Dead Labour Records. The record was recorded by layering dozens of strange sounds over would-be humble folk songs, the result being a soaring pop record that treads the line between minuscule and gigantic.

Flock of Dimes — Red Hat Amphitheater, Saturday, September 9

Seeking to expand her songwriting ability beyond the success of her band Wye Oak, Baltimore’s Jenn Wasner started a pair of bands, the dance pop outfit Dungeonesse and the more subtle solo effort Flock of Dimes. In 2016, she finally released the latter project’s debut album, the lush and glowing If You See Me, Say Yes; Under the Radar called it a “refined work of indie-pop beauty ready for road trips or daily life.”

Peaer — Slim’s, Saturday, September 9

Performing with a rotating lineup of musicians, Peaer is an object set in motion, staying in motion. Songwriter Peter Katz has an understanding of dynamics, amplitude, and melody as they interact as physical bodies, pushing, pulling, peaking and falling. Consequently, Peaer produces songs about communication as a force on a linguistic and kinetic level communication between individuals, between yourself and other self, between your heart and your brain.

Cones — Deep South, Thursday, September 7

Cones are brothers Jonathan and Michael Rosen. Jonathan is an acclaimed hand-drawn animator. He has created music videos for such artists as Toro y Moi, Eleanor Friedberger, and Delicate Steve. His rock and roll dream was born on the set of HBO’s Vinyl, when he played the role of Johnny Thunders. Michael is a commercial/film composer and experimental sound artist. His fiercely technical brain works in collaboration with his heightened ear to create beautiful and strange sonic environments.

Moon Racer — Neptunes, Thursday, September 7

It’s difficult to make drum machine bedroom pop sound fresh and moving, but that’s exactly what Autumn Ehinger has done in her first couple of releases as Moon Racer. Formerly known as Cassis Orange, Moon Racer’s Two Songs EP and self-titled four song EP cassette, both released in the latter half of 2016, are promising starts in the vein of Ó and Frankie Cosmos.

Laser Background — Deep South, Saturday, September 9

For the better part of the past decade, Andy Molholt has been creating music as Laser Background. With each release, Molholt has come closer and closer to a unified vision, a musical explanation of how he sees the world. With his new LP, he has come closer than ever before, and titled the result Dark Nuclear Bogs. Originally conceptualized while thinking up anagrams of Laser Background in order to play a secret show, Dark Nuclear Bogs is the classic ‘self-titled LP as mission statement’ flipped on its head, seen from the unique, kaleidoscopic perspective that Laser Background is known for.

Shepherds — Deep South, Thursday, September 7

Shepherds’ 2015 record Exit Youth seamlessly blends Berlin trilogy-era David Bowie with soulful psychedelic pop, led by Atlanta mainstay Jonathan Merenivitch (Janelle Monáe, Del Venicci). The band’s latest release, a 7” called “Moment / Violent Violence,” focuses on the “existential dread of being black in America, and confronting the idea that in any moment your life or the lives of your loved ones could be taken away because of the color of their skin.”

No One Mind — Red Hat Amphitheater, Sunday, September 10

No One Mind’s psychedelic pop explodes at you from the beginning snare hits of “Folk Wagon,” the first song off their debut self-titled LP. It never lets up, either; even in the stripped-down “In the Valley,” the band is busy, and things seem just a bit off. It’s a solid debut effort that INDY Week called a “glorious collection of fractured, imaginative songs.”

Okey Dokey — Deep South, Thursday, September 7

You can’t fully appreciate the long history of recorded music without taking the time to look at the breakups. Whether it’s for good or for the season, Okey Dokey is the product of that natural reformation that occurs when musicians part ways. Fronted by visual artist Aaron Martin and The Weeks’ guitarist Johny Fisher, these two former band mates made the rare decision to revisit creating music together in Fisher’s small cabin about 20 miles outside of Nashville, TN. What they created was a well blended mix of everything they loved about classic Motown combined with a dash of their psychedelic storytelling roots.

Aunt Sis — Neptunes, Friday, September 8

No member of Asheville’s Aunt Sis are from the western Carolina city they call home. The band’s outsider perspective has allowed them to patiently mature all aspects of their self-proclaimed indie Americana. This uniqueness is good news for Asheville, which has gifted these students of Weezer and Pavement with its native taste for expanse sonics, classic finger-picking, and the core of psychedelia still left undamaged by noodling jam bands. If you see Aunt Sis in concert, you’ll end up dancing mostly, and maybe welling up inside occasionally, even if you weren’t planning on it.

Beverly Tender — Neptunes, Thursday, September 7

Beverly Tender describes themselves as a “Christmas tree falling over in slow motion,” and surprisingly, that’s not a bad description. The two-piece’s last EP, Lord Mayor Makes 1,000 Speeches, is catchy DIY pop reminiscent of a more stripped down Hop Along or P.S. Eliot.

Truth Club — Neptunes, Saturday, September 9

Formed less than a year ago, Truth Club’s first EP Interest Meeting is a solid effort that brings to mind both the roarous punk of Car Seat Headrest and the restrained emo of Everyone Everywhere. They just completed their first tour of the full East Coast.

Happy Abandon — Pour House, Thursday, September 7

Happy Abandon trade in high drama. From soaring songs to string-laden production, the aforementioned light and fog that accent the mood and set the scenery for their live shows, to the way Vance, Ellis and Waits talk about their music – with determined passion, vivid detail and engrossing vigor – they bring with them a sense that much more is at stake than just writing and playing songs. There is something deeper at play here, something far more important.

The Kneads — Deep South, Friday, September 8

Greensboro’s The Kneads play an infectious brand of pop punk that is equal parts The Minutemen and The Cure. Shiny Grey Monotone described the band as, “a sound that defined an era, pays proper homage to it, and goes forth into the night with torch in hand to show the way for a new generation.”

Absent Lovers — Deep South, Saturday, September 9

Absent Lovers formed out of a mutual love for science fiction and post-punk. Both of those things are readily apparent on the band’s self-titled EP, which conceptualizes William Gibson’s 1984 classic Neuromancer as a UK-style new wave record, and a two-song 7”, “Project 2501” / Who Goes There?