Here’s what Sarah Shook & the Disarmers Have to Say About the Bill They Curated for Hopscotch

On Saturday, the Chapel Hill country crew will share a stage with Mike & the Moonpies, Kelsey Waldon, and Blue Cactus

When Sarah Shook—the delightfully sardonic leader of Chapel Hill’s rockabilly country crew Sarah Shook & The Disarmers—first performed at Hopscotch in 2016, guitarist Eric Peterson had to set up outside of a bathroom at Slim’s. That the stage literally wasn’t big enough for the Disarmers feels like a perfect metaphor for that moment in the band’s career. Just a few months after that performance, the band signed to iconic Chicago roots label Bloodshot Records. Since then, they re-released their 2017 debut EP Sidelong, followed by the critically acclaimed Years in 2018.

This year, Sarah Shook & The Disarmers curated a bill for Hopscotch that includes Mike & the Moonpies, Kelsey Waldon, and Blue Cactus. “Expect to see some of the best music in Americana/country/roots/punk country being made today,” says the band via email. We spoke to them about the band’s history at Hopscotch and their approach to curating this bill. 

Catch Sarah Shook & The Disarmers at the Lincoln Theatre at with Mike & the Moonpies, Kelsey Waldon, and Blue Cactus on Saturday, September 7. The show starts at 9:00 pm.

Hopscotch: What’s your personal history with Hopscotch? 

Sarah Shook & The Disarmers: We played Hopscotch in 2016 for the first time. We were at Slim’s, which was so tiny that our guitarist Eric Peterson had to set up in the hallway and play by the bathrooms because there wasn’t room for all of us on stage. He had to step aside all night to let people go pee. At first, there were a few people there, but by the end of our set, the place was packed to where you could barely get through the crowd to get back to our merch table up near the entrance. 

The show was right after we self-released Sidelong, but before we were signed to Bloodshot, so the crowd was crazy to us and it was really exciting and fun. After our set, a couple of us went out to the main stage and saw Anderson Paak—he was amazing! We also saw Beach House on the main stage, and they rocked it. In 2018, we played Hopscotch again, at the Lincoln Theatre, with Blue Cactus opening and the Jayhawks playing after us. The place was packed for our show, and it was really fun.

What is your favorite Hopscotch memory?

Eric’s favorite Hopscotch memory was seeing Television and Sneakers in 2016.  They played the night before our set.

Tell me about the bill you put together for this year’s festival. Why did you pick these artists specifically, and what sort of commonalities were you looking to highlight?

Our manager coordinated the process and asked us all to throw out ideas. Several bands were mentioned, but we quickly agreed upon Kelsey Waldon and Mike & the Moonpies. We’d seen Mike & the Moonpies in Austin at SXSW and were really blown away by their set, and Kelsey Waldon is someone [where] we just really liked the music she was putting out. Kelsey just got signed by John Prine’s label, Oh Boy Records, and Mike & the Moonpies just put out one of the best albums of 2019. 

The festival wanted a local opener, and Blue Cactus were a natural fit. Steph Stewart and Mario Arnez are good friends of ours and excellent musicians—they always play a tight, solid show. They’ve been opening for everyone from Lilly Hiatt to Junior Brown, and they’re about to put out a new record, so we think they have great things in their future.

What we should expect from your own performances at the festival?

Some of the best music in Americana/country/roots/punk country being made today. It’s gonna rock, and by the time we go on after listening to all that other great music we are gonna be so stoked we’ll blow the roof off of the place. The energy is going to be insane. We can’t wait!

What do you love most about being an artist in North Carolina?

The rich history of great musicians from our area. Eric has been playing music in North Carolina since he was 14—he and Dex Romweber played in bands together in high school, and then he toured with Lets Active and with the Flat Duo Jets. Later, he played with the dB’s, so we have some great connections. Our upright bassist Aaron Oliva toured with Thad Cockrell and the Flat Duo Jets, and Eric, Dex, and Robbie Fulks all went to Friends School in Chapel Hill. Years later, they all ended up being signed to Bloodshot Records. What are the chances of three dudes who went to high school together [getting] signed to the same record label? That’s gotta be a statistical anomaly.