“What band are you in?”
My Uber driver mistakes my urgency in giving directions to the QFC on Broadway for something bigger. He knows I’m headed to Capitol Hill Block Party and doesn’t hesitate to see who might have just stepped into his Camry.
I don’t mean to brag, but I work in Everett so my commute back to the city involved speeding down I-5 to Future’s 56 Nights in my girlfriend’s Hyundai Accent in an attempt to make it by Jamie xx, so there was anxiety in my voice for many reasons.
I say I’m not in a band and that I’m covering the festival all weekend.
“Like a journalist?” He looks in the rearview and I can tell he’s disappointed. “They still have those?”
He asks who’s playing this year and I tell him not to miss Jamie xx or Protomartyr, and that I hope ‘The Really Big One’ hits during their overlap.
“Don’t joke, man,” he says, “Once that hits it’s the end times. People will kill you in the street for a chocolate bar.”
I hop out and scramble into the festival ground, a familiar oasis of youth culture, just in time for Jamie’s set. The British production phenom casually strolls out to the cheers of a packed Pike and 10th intersection and serves up “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” three different ways, which is more than appropriate considering it’s the song of the summer. Young Thug’s second verse starts with “I’m gonna ride in that pussy like a stroller” and everyone yells along. It’s the opposite of end times.
Jamie xx blurs his discography with flawless articulation. Young Thug’s voice merges with Gil Scott-Heron’s, which forms a magnificent Frankenstein of spoken word excellence, the inherent beauty of language, and common threads that connect the past and present. An immediate blunt-wrap fogbank forms overhead.
The Vera Stage is, once again, doing the Lord’s work by hosting bands like Protomartyr. The Detroit-based champions of post-punk make it easy to leave Jamie xx early. Frontman Joe Casey possesses such conviction when he performs it’s almost hard to watch. Have you ever seen someone wrestle personal demons with abandon and in public? Every song begins with a deft hopelessness and a subtext of “Fuck you.” They are the greatest band on the planet.
From what I hear, Built to Spill works some miracle during their set to make rain appear during a guitar solo but I am too young to have appreciation for any artist that doesn’t start with “A$AP” so I reside in VIP. Three very tall, very slender gentlemen ask if I’m there alone and if I want to go dancing with them at Cabana. I say fuck the Seattle Freeze myth but I also decline and go see Chimurenga Renaissance.
Tendai Maraire tends to do the heavy lifting during Shabazz Palace’s live sets and his side project, which seems rooted in dancehall and dub, is an extensive workout. Chimurenga Renaissance is a well-oiled orchestration of many small pieces. Neumos is surprisingly roomy but the space is occupied by bodies in motion.
I descend into Cha Cha for Grave Babies (pictured above.) We are underground in a tiny hot room filled with red lights. I become a literal grave baby during their set, which not only exhibited impressive growth and maturation, but also solidified the murky greatness of their latest LP. I realize they are the second Hardly Art band I’ve seen so far and it’s still the first night. I tear up.
I join the living in time for BadBadNotGood at Vera. They have a sizable crowd for an act that’s like 20 percent jazz squad, 80 percent high school band enthusiasts who never gave up the dream. Bros are absolutely giddy off their Premium #Vibez and one bounces around the perimeter of the crowd during their set like a tie-dyed archangel. The same young man stands motionless, mouth agape for the beginning of Deafheaven.
When Deafheaven’s frontman, George Clarke, takes the stage, he has what can only be described as “goblin-like” movements. He hunches and scowls and motions for everyone to come forward with mute conviction. “Come, my children of the night!” he seems to say, “witness me obliterating my vocal chords!” Their performance negates my baptism.
I revisit Neumos for Thunderpussy, self-described as “Seattle’s diamond in the muff.” They cover Led Zeppelin but their original songs are better and they dress like a superhero team from the 80s. “My dream is for them to kill me on-stage,” I overhear someone say with sincerity. Same, tbh.
- 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
- Capitol Hill Block Party 2015: Day 1 Recap