Capitol Hill Block Party ushered in three days of music and insanity, flooding streets with crowds and sound. (Click on picture to see full slideshow)
Recounting last weekend at Capitol Hill Block Party
(Click on picture to see full slideshow)
A bearded man shaking his hips like Perry Farrel to folk rock, a small woman with jewels on her forehead and a Totoro backpack dropping so much bass it hurts your throat, and a mob of dancers on stage as a man in a bubble walks across the audience; this is Capitol Hill Block Party in a nutshell.
Between 10th and 12th Avenue on Pike Street in Capitol Hill, what is usually a bustling area for traffic and local eateries became the outlet for blog-buzz worthy musical acts. Local bands and national independent music success stories gathered for three days of synth-pop, hard rock, and rambunctious folk.
Local group Father John Misty (fronted by former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman) started things off with a late afternoon set on Friday. The only thing unfortunate about the band’s performance was the lack of audience. Playing so early, many people still hadn’t gotten to the festival.
“Thanks for taking off work early to see us,” Tillman joked on stage. Father John Misty’s music is decidedly different from Fleet Foxes, opting for pop melodies and sarcasm over otherworldly harmonies and solemnity. But their live performance is what really sets apart this project from Tillman’s previous efforts.
Tillman's hip gyrations and hand movements resembled a disco diva or Freddie Mercury reincarnate. It didn’t matter if it was a downbeat, slow swaying ballad (“Fun Times in Babylon”) or a raucous anthem (“Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings”), Tillman was going to be the showman Block Party deserves but not the one they thought they needed (a spoiler from the new film “Father John Misty Rises”).
Tillman and company proved to be the main highlight of Friday for those who got there early enough. Until, that is, the soulful Seattleite Allen Stone approached the stage with his invigorated backing band. Wearing his trademark grandmother glasses and long blond locks flowing, Stone’s voice soared as the sun began to set on the first day of the festival.
Locals continued to shine on Saturday as Beat Connection delivered a thrilling mid-afternoon set, bringing in a horn section for the special occasion. The group of University of Washington students performed a blend of electronic music with soaring pop arrangements that prompted much dancing in the crowd.
Before Twin Shadow performed, he was introduced by candidate for Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. Inslee sparked one of the best ongoing jokes of the festival as he said his new favorite song is “’The Same Love’ by The Macklemore.” George Lewis Jr. of Twin Shadow then introduced himself and joked that he was also running for governor.
Grimes, along with guest Blood Diamonds, had one of the most minimal stage setups of the weekend, each musician having just a small stand to hold their laptops and mixing boards. Though the setup looked innocent enough, once the music started the stage crew had to rush to the stage and duct tape Grimes’ monitors to the floor so they would stop moving from all of the bass vibrations. Security struggled to tame the crowd during the set; many spectators were pinned to the stage dividers with excitement while others crowd surfed their way to the front.
When singing, Grimes would dance around the stage and wave her dyed blond hair in every direction. Blood Diamonds stood stoically in his black cloak and hood, letting his gold chains swing with the little motions he made.
Lemolo had the largest draw on the smaller Vera Project stage. The duo, whose latest album The Kaleidoscope is a best seller at Sonic Boom on Market Street, were transfixed with one another the whole set of slow, but emotionally heavy, indie rock reminiscent of Beach House. Singer Meagan Grandall played barefoot as she switched intermittently from a solemn keyboard to a reverb heavy guitar. Drummer Kendra Cox focused on Grandall the whole time, eyes and mouth wide open with anticipation in every song.
Synth, heavy bass, and dance music kept going all the way through till the day’s headliner, Major Lazer. The group (which includes Diplo, a prominent producer and DJ who would play his own solo set late that night) drew the largest mob of the weekend. Major Lazer wooed the masses with flashing lights and lasers (obviously), a mix of popular hip-hop hits, Diplo walking into the crowd in an inflatable bubble, back up dancers (which at one point included Grimes), security pouring buckets of water on the crowd from balconies, and lots of shirtless dancing.
Sunday eased in with the soulful stirrings of Dam Funk but then erupted when Cleveland band Cloud Nothings hit the main stage. Utilizing a mix of punk rock attitude, pop melodies, and a Nevermind era aesthetic the group played the majority of their latest album Attack on Memory. During the slow burner “Wasted Days” the audience went from bobbing their heads to a full on mosh pit for the majority of the over-10-minute song.
Playing an intimate set for about 15 people at the Vera stage, local singer-songwriter Kris Orlowski and his band helped mellow things out in the late afternoon. As his set continued, more people wandered over to witness Orlowski’s buttery rich voice and blanketing melodies.
After three days of music and insanity, Capitol Hill returned back to normal by Monday morning as if nothing happened. Scraps of trash, photos, and memories would be the only remnants left of the festival.
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