Capitol Hill Block Party 2017
July 21-23, 2017
By Sean Jewell
In the Pacific Northwest, the inner city of Seattle is just as amazing and full of surprises as the out-of-doors. Music and art has existed so long here that it shapes the city during its growth. All of that is being stamped out by development as we speak, but one of the city’s greatest arts districts, Capitol Hill, hangs on. The area between Pike and Pine streets has given rise, if not birth, to most of the prominent Seattle art you can name. Nationally known acts like Carseat Headrest and Odesza, Reignwolf, Porter Ray, Father John Misty, Shabazz Palaces, Iska Dhaaf, Pickwick, and La Luz have all passed through these gates. Macklemore? Yep. Mixalot. Sure. Grunge. Of course.
Like the city, the 21-year-old Capitol Hill Block Party has its growing pains and glorious moments every year. Whatever days you attend, here are a few tips:
The porta potty situation on either side of the beer garden is always grim. Walk up a block where there are rarely lines.
If you need a break from the chaos, Capitol Hill is full of great restaurants, record, and book stores just outside festival gates. Try Everyday Music for records, or Elliot Bay Books.
Parking on Capitol Hill is abysmal, but our public transportation is improving. Maybe try the light rail?
The food truck corral has actually been pretty outstanding, try some food there so you can make it well into the night!
If you need a break from the sun try ducking in Neumos, or Cha Cha and catching a show. The main stage will fill up, so if you want to see an act like Run The Jewels or Diplo get there early!
There’s a ton to see, but here are some recommendations by day.
Noname: Chicago poet and MC Noname works through the difficulties in life via rhyme. Instead of relying on producers for beats and sampled hooks, she performs with a full backing band. Her material is a refreshing addition to the hip hop, and in line with the post-modern art that is the stream of consciousness and mental excursion Chicago rappers like Chance The Rapper, Kanye West, and Show You Suck have made the city famous for. Main Stage 5:15
Kyle Craft: Sometimes you think you’ve heard it all, then, inevitably a voice distinguishes itself from the crowd. Kyle Craft’s music is an amalgam of classic folk and rock (think Queen, Bowie), roxy music, and indie. With a gorgeous melodious voice and a flair for dramatic rhythms Craft will be a knockout on the Vera stage, and a great way to kick off the evening. Neumos 6:00
Thundercat: If you like anything from bop jazz to avante garde, Thundercat is your man. One of the most innovative musicians of our time and a magnet for talent, his band is aces (keep an eye on both drummers), and he turns complex music into a dance party freak out. Do not miss. Main Stage 6:30
Mommy Long Legs: For every person that hears Mommy Long Legs (#41for2016) sing, a feminist gets their wings. Glitter monsters that sting you with reverb and roll you over with tom-tom drums. Come to this show to stomp sweat and shout out loud. True punk music that sounds like surf rock smashed into the coral by waves of angst. Cha Cha 7:45
Cherry Glazerr: Ok first off they named their album Apocalipstick. If that’s not enough for you to want to check them out then why are you even reading this. Second, Cherry Glazerr captures selfishness, self-deprecation, and narcissism particular to our age in a nice rock ‘n’ roll package. Like the greats gone before they revel in being just who they are, right now, and that means anything could happen at their live show. This is the purpose of rock ‘n’ roll. Neumos 8:15
Gifted Gab: Listen, some famous rappers have come out of Seattle onto the world’s stage. We’re keeping the best to ourselves. Gifted Gab is one of the good ones. Smart ass stoner rhymes with production choices that fit as the missing piece between modern hip hop and its golden era. If the world had its priorities straight the first lady of Moor Gang would be a household name. Neumos 8:15
Wolf Parade: Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner is one of the most important musicians of the century. He refuses to disappoint in any project: with his ex-wife as The Handsome Furs, with Spoon’s Britt Daniel as Divine Fits, as his electronic alter ego in Operators, Boeckner is a consummate entertainer with a voice ranging from gruff to melodic, and a guitar stuck on 11. There is nothing he has done in the last 15 years that did not rock, and that began with Wolf Parade: a mash of guitar driven rock, and wavy synth. Main Stage 9:15
Katie Kate: Katie Kate, who had been mostly dormant since her outstanding releases Flatland (2011) and Nation (2014) released a great surprise EP this year. FLOOD sees Kate concentrating less on her ability to rap in vicious feminist rhyme schemes, and concentrates on her silvery, operatic voice flowing over electronic beats. Her past shows have been stellar visual and audio feats. Her new material is strong because of her vulnerability and this combined with her showmanship could prove to be explosive. A must see. Neumos 9:30
Run The Jewels: Of course. It’s a must see, but be warned. This street will be chock-a-bloc packed, it’s going to be late, squishy, and sweaty. You need to position yourself at the end of the beer garden or towards that end of the street early since there is no one alive who does not appreciate Run The Jewel’s woke rap flows and defiant personas. Main Stage 10:45
Skating Polly: Oklahoma has been good to us. I’m hoping Skating Polly comes with the screams and distinct growl that makes their punk so awesome. Vera 2:00
Master Bedroom: Festival attendance is the best kind of music discovery. Master Bedroom make the kind of music will save some kid from starting a reggae-EDM fusion band by making them consider the texture, and autonomy of Lo-fi and DIY recordings that make music great. Cha Cha 3:45
Prom Queen: In my opinion the generation who grew up with both David Lynch movies and MTV, libraries of music on demand, and the courage to identify as they desire has created the greatest musical generation. Some folks may not see it because the recording and press industry behind musicians collapsed, but you can, by catching Prom Queen’s rock and doo-wop created in a world all her own. Neumos 4:00
Manatee Commune: Bellingham’s best export. An excellent composer and live act. The rare electronic artist who doesn’t just play a laptop live – Manatee Commune composes loops on guitar and violin that are a synthesized nature; full of burbles, pops, and waves of joy. Main Stage 4:45
Lizzo: Worship Lizzo’s specific brand of positive hip hop by dancing and singing along to her endless lexicon of hooks: “where da hell my phone? how I’m ‘posed to get home?” / “I kill it, I kilt it” / “I don’t see no.body.else., scuse me while I feel myself”. You don’t need to know this artist to have a good time, she’s here to make sure you do. Main Stage 7:30
ILLFIGHTYOU: Tacoma’s grittiest, perhaps the NW’s most talented rap group calls themselves ILLFIGHTYOU. UGLYFRANK’s verbal assault is frightening, repugnant, but his cadence is like no other and he raps so well you want the world to hear him. Hopefully GLENN is out of jail or rehab or whatever the hell it is now, and KHRISP can get these two to the show to rap over his singular, mesmerizing beats. Neumos 7:45
Naked Giants: Naked rock ‘n’ roll. There is no excuse for you to be missing this show. Naked Giants are a power trio finding it’s potential. Vera Stage 8:30
Newaxeyes: Moody, ethereal, loud experimental. Entertaining and unpredictable live, Newaxeyes (#41for2016) are an unconventional band playing everything from bedroom produced hip hop beats to experimental drone. 3:15 Neumos
The White Tears & Pearl Dragon Is Dead: The most exciting live act from the scene that gave birth to Macklemore was a duo w/producer called Champagne Champagne. One half of its rappers was Pearl Dragon, a rhyme master with a pyrocastic lyrical flow and crowd frothing stage presence. I have no idea what this is, but if Pearl is involved it’s going to be good. 3:45 Barboza
Year Of Death: Here’s a chance to see the Porter brothers, Scott (aka VoxMod aka MemWav) and Kyle (Unsound America, Lazer Kitty) assisting Alicia Amiri (Nightmare Fortress) in an electro goth project. 4:45 Barboza
Diet Cig: One of the most exciting bands in recent years, Diet Cig took their time releasing their last full length I Swear I’m Good At This and lost some momentum to the swiftly moving tide of music today, but the drum and guitar duo make enough noise to be remembered, and their melancholy pop punk is infectious. Vera 5:00
Danny Brown: If you can find a place to stand for this within a two block radius I’ll be surprised. Let me know. But it would be worth finding a wall to lean against within earshot to hear Detroit MC Danny Brown’s revolutionary rap, from his beat choices (more Joy Division than Metro Boomin) to his intricate story telling (more Slick Rick than Young Thug). 5:15 Main Stage
Sashay: This group does hardcore as it should be, one minute and thirty seconds to get your point across. Part punchy, grinding guitar, part guttural vocals, part hilarious lyrics, all hardcore. Cha Cha 5:45
Torres: Torres is the voice pop music needs, the antithesis to mainstream vapid pop pap, complete with catchy hooks. Vera Stage 6:10
Mykki Blanco: A sweetheart of rap’s avante-garde, Mykki Blanco’s hip hop –a mashup of genderqueer gangster rap and dystopian Baroque visual design– has seen the artist working with Kathleen Hannah, Bjork, and Princess Nokia. Blanco’s chameleon image and sound change constantly from noise to punk and hip hop to pop. The absolute most exciting artist at CHBP. Vera Stage 7:30
CHARMS: Human Error (#41for2015) will be the best album to come out of Seattle this year. Bravely experimental rock music that organically incorporates synthesizer into heavily experimental guitar and odd time signatures bringing a feeling of dread to driven, exciting rock. Go see CHARMS. Cha Cha 7:45