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So that was basically it for Hopscotch 2011. I missed a lot. But felt like I saw mostly groups that I hadn't seen before. So that is a success in my book.
Going forward, Grayson Currin says he would like to expand to more stages next year -- adding at least one to three venues. "We kind of want to let the market dictate that," he says. "We have a really good thing going. People tell us their best weekend of their last few years has been Hopscotch. Why would we fuck with that?"
In the end, Hopscotch was a good reason for a road trip. Unfortunately, it also happened to be the same weekend as a big local music fest that was going on in Richmond. I hustled back and made it for the grand finale.
SUNDAY: RVA Music Fest
Got home on Sunday in time to make it down for the main event of Richmond's own inaugural RVA Music Fest, put on by RVA Magazine, that was happening in Shockoe Bottom.
Aside from a ridiculous no-re-entry door policy (ever heard of bracelets? What's the deal here-I'm trapped on 18th Street?), I thought the set-up was pretty decent for a small street festival. You had a great view of the city from the large main stage, and all of the bars along the street were open. However, the two main stages were so close that some of the music tended to bleed together in certain areas.
I didn't even venture into the opposite end tent, where techno music was pulsating. I saw a single person dancing with a glowing necklace. Personal Top 10 festival rule: "When you see glowing necklaces or Hula Hoops and techno music in broad daylight ... retreat. Or just go ahead and blow your brains out."
Still, the RVA Fest was a bigger set-up then I had imagined. You could enjoy the sunshine, beer trucks, and good local vendors like Nate's Taco Truck outside in the street. And if you got tired of the heat, you could go into McCormack's Irish Pub or Tiki Bob's and watch the Redskins beating the crap out of the hapless Giants. Not a bad deal. WRIR was even broadcasting live interviews with bands upstairs at McCormack's all day.
Main acts on the bill that night: Best Coast (meh. After seeing the Vivian Girls rock it in a small club, it was a let down) and Girl Talk, which always gets the crowd moving with live mashups, but has played the National and Toad's Place each in the last few years.
Comparing RVA Fest and Hopscotch would be pointless due to the scope. That's like comparing a ripe melon and a tiny bag of seeds. But one thing that jumped out was that the RVA Sunday shows seemed to be mostly populated by young people. I'd say the average age was probably 21. Sometimes with that, you get more people who are there to get drunk and party. They're young, what the hell can you expect.
In fact, the first thing I saw was the still steaming remnants of someone's projectile vomit, cascading down the center of 18th Street-a crowd quickly gathered like someone had just been stabbed and removed from view. That's right: There was a small crowd around a puddle of puke, simply because of where it was. Pretty quickly, a large security guy dumped a bucket of beer over it, washing it off the street, while other security people stood and laughed, clearly bored or suffering from sunstroke.
As the evening progressed, and I watched solid sets by local psych rockers the Diamond Center, and more straight ahead college rockers Trillions (sort of reminded me of the Strokes with prog flares), more drunks began to come out of the woodwork.
I saw a lot of young ladies who looked like they had been fed too much bovine growth hormone while growing up, bouncing through the crowd like dented weebles, wobbling. Saw a lot of backward cap-wearing, unoriginal tatted dudes who looked like they could care less what music was playing, but whose eyes never strayed far from the wobbling girls. Wild youth turned loose in the city.
You have to give it to RVA Magazine for supporting local bands. But the danger in having a festival filled with them is a lack of urgency to attend. Some people might think: "I could spend $30 bucks and support the scene, or go see the band I want to see for free in three days."
While the turnout did not appear to be full by any means, organizer R. Anthony Harris was pleased with the results.
"The festival came off great. The crowd there was young and diverse. Everyone was having fun and the bands lived up to the moment and blew people away," he said via a Facebook message. "On top of that, Girl Talk and Best Coast both loved Richmond and what's going on here . . . great community support and interest pushed it to where we were hoping."
Harris says that the festival "proved that the city is ready for new ideas."
"[We] would like to keep building it out. Get more local business and musicians involved together and get these people out to see them," he wrote. "Next year, we add art and film and expand it another day, so get ready!"
It just goes to show you how much fine tuning and work it really takes to put on a successful festival. How you need to mix the new with the old, the familiar with the unfamiliar -- always with an eye on building respect for your brand.
To me, that also means having respect for your audience. The best thing I saw at RVA Fest that day: the closing set on the local stage from our own No BS Brass Band, which was knocking it out, even for an initially small crowd. Local bands who regularly give it their all, no matter what size the crowd, really do deserve these kinds of large festivals.
It seems pretty clear after a few days in Raleigh: Richmond has plenty of local talent to hold its own major festival, it just needs stronger public support, a better mix of national bands that can pull large crowds, and the right ... fine tuning.
A little bit of luck never hurts either.