Artist spotlight: Hobo Johnson’s getting his groove back

Local alternative hip-hop artist returns to Harlow’s


Ruth Finch

Hobo Johnson came back to Harlow’s for a night of music and community benefit on Thursday, February 2, 2023. The money made from the show was donated to Camp Resolution, an autonomous camp of unhoused people in Sacramento. (Photo by Ruth Finch. Graphic made by Ruth Finch in Canva.)

Ruth Finch and Christina Mendez

An excited crowd stood shoulder to shoulder in the small staged venue at Harlow’s in Midtown Sacramento, with each opening act building a crescendo of comradery. A charismatic host tells heartfelt stories and thought-provoking poetry. 

Close on the heels of a radical reminder of the performance’s purpose, Hobo Johnson took the stage.

Frank Lopes Jr., known by his stage name Hobo Johnson, played a Camp Resolution benefit show on Feb. 2. Proceeds from the event were used to assist the autonomous camp of unhoused people located in North Sacramento, which used funds to help with food and supplies for the community. 

Lopes rose to fame after a video for his performance of “Peach Scone,” a submission for NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert, went viral online. 

Lopes would go on to release a series of albums after signing to Reprise Records. He saw further success with the release of “The Fall of Hobo Johnson,” which debuted at #99 on the Billboard charts for the U.S. 

After touring for that album, however, Lopes largely rejected the music industry.

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“‘The Revenge’ was literally him ditching everything about his career at that point,” said Drew Walker, lighting designer and former drummer for Lopes.  “His management, his label, the way he had been recording and writing, the things he had been writing about — he left all that s behind during the pandemic.” 

Lopes tried to go the opposite direction, into a more punk rock approach, and Walker talks about the albums that followed — “The Revenge of Hobo Johnson” and “Hobo Johnson Alienates his Fanbase.”  

“They offered him a million dollars for the Revenge and Alienates,” Walker said. “He turned it down and said ‘we’re doing our own thing.’”

Lopes seems to always have done his own thing. SpaceWalker, an artist who has known Lopes for 10 years, said they admire this authenticity.

“Just the way that he embraced every part of himself,” SpaceWalker said. “If there was an awkward moment he was wearing that shit like a garment.”

Watching one of Lopes’s shows feels like a collaboration with the audience, especially with the deafening sound of the whole crowd knowing every word. At Harlow’s, he gave a crowd-sourced “hype man” the microphone to help cheer him on through a spoken word poem he performed.

Collaboration is a huge part of the way Lopes operates. 

“He ended up wanting to go on the road with me,” Drew Walker said. “He was trying to build a team of as many local people as he could, very much trying to take his boys along with him on the ride, and he did.” 

The host of the show, poet laureate Andru Defeye, brought up members of Camp Resolution to speak with the crowd.

“This energy right here is some real f—— magic, y’all,” Defeye said. “Y’all’s f—— love is so big and palpable right now.”

Camp Resolution has occupied a vacant lot on Colfax and Arden for over four months. The money made from the show was donated to the community.

“I think housing is just one of those things that’s so important and so necessary and so important to having either an upbringing or a stable life,” Lopes said. “It shouldn’t be subject to market fluctuations.”

Lopes recently released a new Instagram video titled “Sacramento 12 Step,” where he talks about his struggles with love and alcoholism.

“Yeah I don’t know,” Lopes said, “I gotta find my voice again.”