When Greg Lowenhagen produced the first Hopscotch Music Festival back in 2010, he did more than send shockwaves of music across Raleigh. In the span of a weekend, Hopscotch helped shift our city’s self-image and push the boundaries of our urbanization and growth.
Make no mistake: This is not the Raleigh you grew up in. Within the past decade, there’s been a burgeoning emphasis in developing large-scale downtown festivals and supporting local businesses that create the personality and unique flavor of the Oak City.
But Lowenhagen wasn’t initially looking to shake Raleigh’s roots. He just really wanted to go to a music festival — so he created his own. “I was looking for a bigger set of live shows or a festival to put on my calendar and look forward to,” he explains.
“I’d never booked a show before, I’d only been to a lot of them, which isn’t really the same,” Lowenhagen recalls. His make-it-happen attitude impressed Grayson Currin, the Independent Weekly (now, INDY Week) music editor, and Steve Schewel, the INDY’s founder, who helped Lowenhagen start Hopscotch.
Raleigh, he discovered, shared his desire for an eclectic downtown music festival. “I think we were most blown away by the reception and the feeling downtown during the weekend,” Lowenhagen says, describing the initial reaction. “The fans who came in 2010 — many of whom continue to come today — created the identity of the festival.”
A mere six years later, Hopscotch has become a fixture in downtown Raleigh’s buzzing September lineup of art and music festivals. Its diverse multiplex of music genres and local venues brings every generation of Raleighite together.
“We have an uncommon opportunity in Raleigh to learn from what other cities have done for decades and create our own future,” Lowenhagen observes. He acknowledges, however, the Oak City is experiencing growing pains as our downtown culture expands.
“Cities are lively places with lots of people, and that variety of lifestyles makes them special. Raleigh isn’t going through anything particularly unique — cities have boomed or busted for a long time. It’s just happening here now, so the challenges are new and different, and close to home.”
“It’s a cool time to be here, and important one too,” he adds.
Just as he turned his vision for a large-scale music festival into a reality, he believes Raleighites “will continue to dream up ideas for making it a more interesting place to live and hang out.”
Lowenhagen shares, “Probably like many people, I can remember most moments in my life as they relate to the music I was listening to at the time.” By creating our whole city’s soundtrack for one weekend each year, Hopscotch is imprinting on Raleigh’s memories. And when we go dance and sing along, we’re doing more than just supporting local arts and businesses; we’re building our city’s identity.