The Capitol Hill Block Party
July 24 & 25
By Kasey Anderson
From a journalistic standpoint, it makes sense to compare the Capitol Hill Block Party to Bumbershoot. Both take place in Seattle; both purport themselves to be celebrations of “culture” or some variation thereof; both offer their respective audiences a plethora of options in terms of live musical entertainment. For somebody at a mainstream publication (or decidedly mainstream-leaning publication claiming to be independent), the “Is the Block Party the New Bumbershoot” story pretty much writes itself, doesn’t it?
With a lineup including Sonic Youth, Built to Spill and the Jesus Lizard, this year’s Block Party makes the contrast even more pronounced, looking down its nose (or rather, over the top of its horn-rimmed glasses) at the lumbering, corporate-sponsored Bumbershoot, which will present Seattlites with an opportunity to see… wait for it… wait… Sheryl Crow! Jason Mraz! The Black Eyed Peas! (In fairness, it should be noted that Bumbershoot will also bring Dave Alvin, the Knux and Raphael Saadiq to Seattle.) Just to be sure I’m making full use of my opportunity to tread out the cliches, let’s spin the Northwest Musical Metaphor wheel and see where we land: If Bumbershoot is Sub Pop, the Block Party is K Records.
The point, I suppose, is that, as easy as it is to compare the two festivals, maybe we should just be grateful for the opportunity to see Sonic Youth AND ridicule Sheryl Crow-goers as you make your way to Todd Barry’s showcase. Without further editorializing, here’s a quick preview of the upcoming Block Party, broken into three categories, because what good is art if you can’t rank it?
Sonic Youth (10:30 P.M. Saturday July 25, Main Stage): After nearly thirty years together, Sonic Youth continues not only to endure amid the huddled “indie” music mass, but to play circles around musical American Apparel ads whose members were watching their mommies Jazzercise while Sonic Youth was churning out one of the best albums of the last twenty-five years (Daydream Nation). With, The Eternal, their blistering new record, Gordon, Moore and Co. offer even more incentive to catch a show you wouldn’t miss anyway.
Built to Spill (9:15 P.M. Friday July 24, Main Stage): Hey, any time you’ve got a chance to watch Doug Martsch and his beard tear through a twenty minute version of “Cortez the Killer” while some guy from Delta Tau Delta shouts repeated requests for “Distopian Dream Girl,” you jump at it.
The Jesus Lizard (10:45 P.M. Friday, July 24, Main Stage): Nine years after breaking up, David Yow’s gang reunited – original lineup intact – for a smattering of US shows. Little known fact: if you play any Jesus Lizard song backwards, Duane Dennison’s guitar is playing the melody line to “Jellicle Songs for Jellicle Cats.”
YOU’LL REGRET MISSING
Deerhunter (7:45 P.M. Friday, July 24, Main Stage): The Atlanta band responsible for Microcastle, one of the best records of 2008, is a tour de force live act. Taking nothing away from Sleepy Eyes of Death and Past Lives, if you’re anywhere near the Main Stage at Friday evening, prepare to have your mind blown to tiny little bits.
The Maldives (6:30 P.M. Saturday, July 25, Neumo’s Stage): Plenty of people will be packing together towards the front of the main stage Saturday night to catch the Thermals-Gossip-Sonic Youth triple shot, but those smart enough to hold off a while and catch the Maldives at the Neumo’s stage will be richly rewarded with a phenomenal set of smoldering whatever-people-are-calling-alt.country-now, as well as enough unkempt facial hair to drive Dough Martsch into a fit of rabid beard envy.
Starfucker (9:00 P.M. Friday, July 24, Vera Stage): If you’re not watching Martsch hypnotize yet another audience, you damn well better be watching one of Portland’s best bands light a fire under the shaking asses of the all-ages crowd at the Vera Stage.
GET THERE EARLY
Hey Marseilles (2:00 P.M. Saturday, July 24, Main Stage): Two in the afternoon may feel like seven in the morning for anyone who stayed out late enjoying the festivities of Block Party Day One, but Hey Marseilles (who will also be appearing at Bumbershoot) will make dusting off the cobwebs well worth your while.
The Moondoggies (3:15 P.M. Saturday, July 24, Main Stage): Hell, you’re already awake and at the Main Stage for Hey Marseilles, why not stick around and catch one of Seattle’s favorite bands?
The Dutchess and the Duke (4:30 P.M. Friday, July 24, Main Stage): If a band bills themselves as “Campfire Punk,” that means they play sloppy, thrashy versions of “Kumbaya” and “Cat’s in the Cradle,” right? Only one way to find out.
Enjoy the festival and remember, once the Block Party ends, there are only 67 grumbling days until Bumbershoot.
(For more on the author, read his interview with NadaMucho.com Editor Matt Ashworth.)