Capitol Hill Block Party Day 3 Recap
Saturday, July 22, 2017
By Ian Bremner, Old Rookie
A weekend of sun, music, street food and various amounts of alcohol may sound like absolute bliss, but even for the highly experienced festival-goers, by day three you need a pretty solid strategy to make it through to the headliners.
Depending on your strategy, Sunday at Capitol Hill Block Party – the 21 year-old event that takes place each July in the heart of Seattle’s most artistic neighborhood – can mean a couple of different things. If you go to the festival for the “Party” aspect of “Block Party,” Sunday can be a struggle. If you go to Block Party for a certain collection of bands, Sunday can be the best day. There’s more of a focus on the music, which seemed like a perfect strategy this year given Sunday boasted such a great lineup.
Early afternoon sets this year were fairly sparse, but with very focused and attentive crowds of music listeners, making it easy to maneuver between the various bars and stages to catch every act on my list. Attendees flowed in consistently throughout the day and, as the streets crew busier, you could feel the energy raise several notches. It was interesting to witness the entire ebb and flow of this sunny day on the ‘Hill.
I walked in around 2:30 p.m. through the main entrance at 12th and Pike, placing me just in front of the VERA Stage, where a lovely electronic duo named Trace was playing to about 40 people. With so many bands taking a stab at the “dream-pop” genre it’s hard to pave a unique path, but something about Trace’s set seemed like they might just pull it off. The music was ethereal and dreamy, sucking me in close to the stage for a very enjoyable set. It was not as catchy as say, genre-mates like Sylvan Esso, but it was darker and moodier. Trace definitely left Seattle with new fans.
Originally from New York, Julie Byrne has spent most of her time in Seattle over the last few years. We’re glad to have her, as she makes beautiful, complex guitar tunes and sings with a gentle, minimalistic voice, which created a warm, lovely way to start the action on the mainstage.
A 4-piece garage band from Cleveland, Ohio, Cloud Nothings got the energy flowing for the midday crowd. A nice, loud, rock n roll set went down nicely with my first two Modelos of the day. I could even hear front man Dylan Baldi’s screams from the beer garden.
This 2-piece band from New York has made some great strides in the indie world, becoming a 2017 festival favorite. Now that I’ve witnessed their energetic live set, I can see why. Diet Cig Singer Alex Luciano may be small, but she has twice the energy of most people twice her size. Drummer Alex Bowman provided the thrashing backbeats for their pop-punk tunes.
By the time Cloud Nothings and Diet Cig got people inside CHBP worked in to a mild lather a bunch of additional guests must have come through the gates, because it seemed like legions and legions flocked into the main stage area awaiting the arrival of Detroit MC Danny Brown. Often cited for his antics both onstage and off, Brown’s become a favorite festival fixture on the circuit over the last several years. His Motor City grit comes through in his music and his stage show is must-see whether you’re a hip hop fan or not. He took stage to a Black Sabbath song (instant cred) wearing a wildly colorful suit and just launched into things. He didn’t say much between songs, just let his beats and odd-ball flow stay front and center.
Without question, the biggest highlight of the entire weekend.
With an 8 p.m. set just before the festival closer on the main stage, the St. Louis artist played to a large crowd in 2017. Many were unsuspecting teens trying to get in front for Diplo, but for the most part, she had the crowd in the palm of her hand.
Olsen’s 2016 album, My Woman, was on nearly every Year-End list… and for good reason. Once seen as a lo-fi singer/songwriter, Olsen now has a killer backing band that can stretch songs out in the style of Crazy Horse all while her haunting, powerful vocals shine through. Her “hit” “Shut Up Kiss Me” was the second song of her set and it seemed like she was getting it out of the way so she could let the rest of her tunes burn slowly. The hour long set flew by, as each song elicited even more and more emotion.
Dry and jokey between sets, Olsen even smiled during the songs, but when it came time for the vocal prowess on tunes like “Sister” and “Woman,” she hit each note on the head and made this listener hold his heart and fight back tears. Still smiling.
Fresh off the heels of his fourth record, No Shape, Mike Hadreas – aka Perfume Genius – has been gaining more and more notoriety with each release. Call it chamber pop or indie folk, Perfume Genius blends it all smoothly with breathy, fragile lyrics and vocals. For folks who did not care about Diplo or could not stay up late enough for locals Country Lips, Perfume Genius was the closing set for the weekend. Live, Hadreas’ songs take on a louder, boulder sound that provide even more emotion when combined with his passionate, expressive front man stage command.