Capital Hill Block Party Review (words and photos by Rhoades Clark)
Reviewing Capital Hill Block Party has been an exercise in self-reflection. I was not familiar with many of the artists on the lineup. I’m not cool anymore is a thought I had with alarming regularity throughout the weekend. Not that I need to know every single artist on the lineup, but how can I evaluate three days of music when I don’t feel as connected to new music as I used to? Is this festival even for me? *
It turns out, CHBP is for me. I left feeling like it’s for everyone. You just need to look hard enough.
Celebrating its 20th year, 2016’s lineup had the best of most worlds: underground punk bands, emerging emcees, electronic pop groups, indie bands and club-scene rock favorites.
That range of genre feels right in a neighborhood like Capital Hill. It’s the loudest neighborhood championing integration and acceptance in Seattle, and in New Seattle, we need stuff like this to remind us what Seattle’s all about.
Yes, CHBP is an expensive event in an already too-expensive neighborhood where its people rightfully complain about the rise of techbros and cost of living. Still, I can’t ignore how good it felt to wander around in the middle of the street buzzed off a few beers, taking in the vape clouds and dodging hacky sacks.
Iska Dhaaf’s Nathan Quiroga ended a song early in the set with a charming nod to his upbringing on Capital Hill. “Thank you for fucking up with me, and growing up with me,” he said. “I can’t wait to make some more mistakes with you all.”
That set the tone for a fast-paced, in-your-face performance at The Vera Stage. Iska Dhaaf merges hard rock and technology in a way I’d never heard before, incorporating smart melodies with heavy rhythm.
DoNormaal at Neumos was easily the coolest shit I saw all day. I went in knowing absolutely nothing about her, other than that some say she’s the next big thing in Seattle rap. I believe that. I don’t know how to talk about rap without sounding like a dork, so just see her when you can and feel warm, free and happy.
I didn’t stick around for Washed Out because I only know them from Portlandia, I work a 9-to-5 and I’m tired all the time.
I did a bit more research for Saturday and discovered that, hey, I really like Carseat Headrest. It’s the sort of smart indie music you discover in high school that you show to someone you like so they think you’re cool. Look at what good taste I have in Music. Their set did not disappoint, despite the guitarist’s brand new guitar breaking during the performance. That led to him playing air guitar and awkwardly standing at his mic for his backing vocals, which actually just added to their appeal. He also smashed the guitar at the end, so that’s cool.
Earlier I made sure to head to Barboza to see The Good Wives, who’s chugging, stomp-rock grooves blend well with light, inoffensive guitar hooks. I don’t mean that in a bad way — The Good Wives have a killer knack for songwriting and often surprise with many deviations from the verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure.
That night I went back to Neumos to see The Grizzled Mighty. Where The Black Keys and The White Stripes did the garage-blues thing while still appealing to the masses, The Grizzled Mighty leans way in and gets loud and messy, and they don’t care if you think it’s too much. They also kicked off their set with an adorable high five.
Sunday was me hanging around the main stage so I could get up close for CHVRCHES. I get the sense from my music-y friends that it’s not cool to like CHVRCHES, but I don’t care: Lauren Mayberry sings songs that make me want to write passive-aggressive tweets about people that piss me off. They’re rad. Being two or three rows from the front was the perfect way end a long weekend.
It also helped that they were welcomed by a one-two punch of strong performances from Seattle rapper Dave B and the dance-rock stylings of STRFKR.
The latter walked out on stage with a crew of dancers dressed as astronauts. Their pseudo-psychedelic electro-pop grooves energized the crowd. At one point astronauts crowd-surfed atop inflatable flamingos to the tune of the band’s cover of Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which would have been cringe-inducing if it wasn’t so damn good.
Other stuff I liked that you should check out: Sassyblack, Tangerine, Porter Ray, Thunderpussy, the guacamole from Poquitos, two slices of pizza for $6 at Big Mario’s, Crystal Castles.