Capitol Hill Block Party
July 19-21, 2019 in Seattle, Wash.
Day 1 Recap: Friday, July 19
By Todd Terry
Photos by Casey Brevig, Eric Tra, Jake Hanson, Marcus Shriver, Maurice Harnsberry, and Todd Terry
The sun was high in the sky as I headed out to fulfill my citizen journalist duty and cover day one of the 2019 Capitol Hill Bock Party. I knew the journey would not be easy, but armed with earplugs, a spiral bound notebook, and a whole lot of patience, I was confident I would persevere.
Over the years I have come up with a sort of blueprint for maximizing my personal block party experience, and this year I was determined to stick to it. Please note that this approach may not be appropriate for all attendees.
- Go early on a Friday afternoon and try to see at least a few songs from a lot of different acts.
- Don’t plan on being close enough to see what is happening on the main stage after about 8:30 p.m. It’s nuts. And I have been burned by that a few times in the past.
- The only appropriate Block Party beverages are cheap canned beer and water.
- When in doubt always go to the Cha Cha Lounge, but be sure to get there before the band starts so that you can get to the front. Since the Cha Cha does not have a stage, the sightlines can be challenging for those of us who are less than statuesque.
My first stop was the media lounge because I wanted to see what sort of elaborate ice sculpture and sandwich bar would be greeting the hard working journalists this year. After following a series of signs with seemingly contradictory arrows, I discovered that the lounge was actually a kind of small room filled with slightly grumpy looking people with cameras editing their photos. Good to know. On to the music.
First up, I caught Secret Superpower (not “Super Secretpower” as I mistakenly referred to them on Twitter) on the Vera stage. Their harmonic garage pop and shimmery black dresses made a great start to the day but, unfortunately the stage lost power a couple songs into their set. Too bad their superpowers did not include electrical repair.
I made my way to the main stage where Crooked Colours were playing their electronic dance rock in the afternoon sun. The crowd was relatively small since it was still early in the day, but the band got the kids moving nonetheless. I have a feeling that in Australia teenagers have posters of these guys on their bedroom walls. What would a Durranie for Crooked Colours be called?
JPEGMAFIA was up next and his set was truly a roller coaster-like experience. I’m not talking about some Puyallup Fair roller coaster either – this was some Magic Mountain level shit. The rapper/producer entered the stage looking disheveled and announced loudly “I am so tired.” He explained that he forgot his laptop, so all the beats were going to be played from his phone. Not exactly and auspicious beginning. But then the music started. The bass rattled, his shirt came off, and he began rapping/shouting with such intensity that it was mesmerizing and just a little bit scary. JPEG (as I hope people call him for short) threw himself all over the stage, crowd surfed, told funny rambling anecdotes, freestyled, and did stretches between songs. It was all kind of messy, but also pretty thrilling.
I ventured downstairs to Barboza to check out the first couple of songs from Among Authors (#41for2017). Apparently the band and their electric piano sounds were a last minute addition to the lineup. The Seattle band’s set alternated between pretty and heavy, often in the same song, and there was whistling, which is always a plus. Then I made like the Bellamy family and headed upstairs to Neumos where Mirrorgloss (#41for2019) were representing Tacoma and electro pop. The two best friends sang over electronic beats and managed to be, in their own words, “sexy and sensual” and, in my own words, “hilarious and entertaining” at the same time. These ladies were not afraid to call each other out on their bullshit, and they were loving it.
Illuminati Hotties were up next on the Vera stage, which had since regained power, and the L.A. band’s set was an absolute joy. Their brand of “indie pop with just enough of a punk edge” was made for gorgeous summer evenings like this one. They tuned to videogame music for inspiration, had some sweet guitar action, and enthusiastically lead the young people in singalongs of refrains like: “You only like me when I’m sad,” “You’re alright but I wanna keep yr dog,” and “Ooh, I’m payin’ it all off.”
I followed my own recommended Cha Cha protocol and got up front for Actionesse (#41for2017). I had heard good things about them from fellow NadaMucho.com contributor Andy Bookwalter and his son Jake, so I was excited to get to see them live. And holy shit if their horn-filled post-hardcore (there has to be a clever way to shorten that) wasn’t right up my alley! Their set blew me the fuck away. The music was heavy, the vocals were gravelly and urgent, the horns wailed, and the band was a blur of movement and energy. Actionesse are totally my new Rocket From The Crypt. The singer guitarist was wearing a Drive Like Jehu shirt, so I am guessing that the band is familiar with the work of the amazing John Reis and won’t mind the comparison.
Next up, it was back to main stage to check out New York City performer Mitski, who’s stage setup included a very simple table and chair ala Spaulding Gray. Instead of an extended monologue, Mitski delivered a set that combined beautiful sounding songs, dance, aerobics, and performance art. The table and chair were her stage on the stage. She seemed to completely embrace the eccentricities of the performance as she unapologetically told the festival crowd that “this is the set.” Toward the end of her performance I realized that it was time for me to leave the main stage area, as the bikini top and glitter crowd were starting to descend en masse for Big Wild.
I saw a couple of songs by local band Blood Drugs at the Cha Cha, but the only note that I took was that that singer was wearing a sweater vest, and that he was totally pulling it off.
I have to admit that the main reason I checked out Peach Pit on the Vera stage was because they share a name with the iconic diner from Beverly Hills 90210. The Vancouver band’s somewhat jammy tunes did not make much of an impression on me, but visually they made an impact. The singer had a whole Ned Flanders / Kyle Mooney thing going on, the guitarist was wearing an orange turtleneck, the bassist was in overalls, and I’m pretty sure that drummer was wearing a Jansport backpack. I could not figure out if they were “nerdy cool” or maybe “cool nerdy?”
My block party evening ended with Wimps’ pure punk rock fun at the Cha Cha. I am pretty sure the singer/guitarist said she was pregnant and was lamenting the fact that she could not drink tequila for 9 months, so let me just say congratulations to her. ((If this proves to be incorrect and I misheard her down there in the tiny confines of the Cha Cha amidst all the slam dancing (or do I still have to call it “moshing?) then I truly apologize to everyone at Wimps Inc.)) At one point the audience chanted “Dave! Dave! Dave!” and then the drummer sang what I think was a song about other people’s pizza. It turned out to the band’s last song and that seemed like a great note to end my Capitol Hill Block Party 2019 on.
Drink of Choice
$2 Rainier at Sam’s Tavern and $5 Tecate tallboys at the Cha Cha.
From the Stage
“I need a strong, powerful white man to lean on.” – JPEGMAFIA
“Dude it’s ok for you to think I’m hot and be straight at the same time.” – Peach Pit
Most Valuable Player
The trombone player from Actionesse who played the whole set barefooted. Dude, I personally do not want my feet ever touching the floor of the Cha Cha, so that was a bold choice my friend.
With so much to see, the NadaMucho.com team spread out across the festival’s many stages and captured more photos of the action below. Check our full photo album from CHBP 2019 on our Flickr page.
CHBP Day 2: Everyone is Batshit Crazy for Lizzo
CHBP Day 3: Sunshine & Shakey Sightlines