By Stephanie Dore
There was a moment on day one of the 19th annual Capitol Hill Block Party when I could’ve sworn I was surrounded by Macklemore doppelgangers, From the hipsterish thrift-store duds and slicked back locks to the penchant for pointed toe loafers, the crowd at a scan starts to blend together into a mashup of freaky resemblances. But thank god they don’t all sound like him. Not that there’s anything wrong with the emcee, but with rampant homogeneity in the music industry and surrounding culture these days, it’s small, locally focused festivals like CHBP that serve to remind us of the wide variety of tunes out there for the taking.
I started off day one at a panel discussion where local experts, artists and advocates broke it down on topics like how to market your music (have a plan), gender equality in the music industry (where Adra Boo asked “Can we get more boobs in the room please?”), and the future of Seattle music (should we be partnering with the tech boom instead of rallying against it?). This was also my introduction to the bright light of Hollis Wong-Wear, whose thoughtful responses and wit were a great addition to the gender equality panel until she had to run out for sound check. Why? Because her local electronic pop/R&B group The Flavr Blue was set to open the main stage for CHBP shortly thereafter. And open it they did, with bright, sultry grooves and a guest viola by way of Manatee Commune (née: Grant Eadie).
We kept it synthy moving into Neumos for Seattle noir-pop duo Murder Vibes. Their layered, atmospheric tunes are full of dark heartbreak, but they showed a sense of humor teasing the early crowd about standing so far away. I got eyeballed by other fans for getting up close and personal, but why have people still not gotten this concept? The artists don’t mind.
Flexing the CHBP locals only section, we meandered downstairs for the indie dream-pop of Whitney Lyman (who also guested with Theoretics and is jumping in Saturday with Zoolab), backed by a full band of friends; then one of Sub Pop’s few hip-hop acts Shabazz Palaces who zigged and zagged through their set between rhythmic erraticism and smooth soulfulness. The sun broke out of the gray northwest sky just in time to shine on them before we ran back inside for Acid Tongue. Their retro-vibey, psychedelic surf played well in the cool, rainbow-lit basement of Barboza.
New Zealand stepped into the ring with electro-pop brother-sister duo Broods. Their of-the-moment, sparklingly monotonous sound seemed to be all the rage. But so was Strange Wilds, a local three-piece garage punk outfit that packed Barboza for what was essentially their album release party. Cop their Subjective Concepts for some grungy, future-looking jams.
Big question of the day – what’s the deal with Jamie xx? The hubbub at the mainstage signaled his earned popularity, but his reticent demeanor undermined his production expertise for what was really just a DJ set under a giant disco ball. Sure, he pulled out some retro Motown and hip hop mash ups tinged with spangly electronics, but to watch – kinda boring. Everyone was super amped, so maybe I’m missing something.
Deep Creep warmed up the red-lit Cha Cha Lounge for a tiny but rollicking set before we wandered to the all-ages Vera stage for the Detroit quartet Protomartyr, who seemed a bit lost. Frontman Joe Casey inexplicably rocked a full suit (maybe that’s just his thing) for their deadpan, post-punk set. Electronic, experimental hip-hop outfit Theoretics brought out all the guest appearances, while downstairs Black Whales’s harmonic psych-pop was bursting at the seams. Northwestern indie rock forefathers Built To Spill, supporting their Untethered Moon release, had the crowd walking memory lane.
I’m still trying to figure out what BADBADNOTGOOD are all about. Canadian jazz-funk? Like a high-school marching band after hours when they jam on hip hop grooves, inventing ambitious arrangements.
The night began to close out with the guttural dark-wave of local Grave Babies. Their heavy tunes have recently taken a cleaned-up turn, but retained some rough edges in the depths of the Cha Cha, packed in tight with the crowd. Headlining the main stage was TV On The Radio, whose Tunde Adebimpe opened with “It shall be fun. We shall take it up.” And up they went, with what bordered on the new arena rock: a spectacular light show, Adebimpe’s quirky moves, and a soaring, foot-stomping, compellingly danceable set.
Halfway through TVOTR I decided not to miss Thunderpussy, and discovered a waiting line to get into the capacity crowd at Neumos. After a few minutes, the admirably tolerant bouncers let me in and I witnessed the locally renowned ladies doing what they do best, all spangly outfits, thrashing guitars and Molly Sides practicing her role as the new voice of rock and roll.
But the night was not quite over until Hobosexual brought their beards out for some badass two-person driving rock. And then I had to get some sleep. Stay tuned for notes from the rest of the fest, good or bad, rain or shine.
- Third Opinion: AJ on CHBP Day 3
- Second Opinion: Cameron on CHBP Day 3
- Capitol Hill Block Party 2015: Day 3 Recap
- Second Opinion: Cameron on CHBP Day 2
- Capitol Hill Block Party 2015: Day 2 Recap
- Second Opinion: Cameron on CHBP Day 1