Capitol Hill Block Party
July 22-24, 2022
By Andy Bookwalter; Photos by AJ Dent and Sunny Martini
The Capitol Hill Block Party bookers have an amazing talent for programming three days of music performed by musicians with names I dimly recognize, if I’m lucky. I don’t think they do this on purpose to screw with Ole’ Andy, though, as that would make no sense. In previous years I often found myself wandering the streets searching for the sound of actual guitars, because I’m kind of a rock guy. Each and every year there is rock music to be found, but this year I kind of hit paydirt. (More on that later.)
Speaking of aimless wandering, I’ve gotten quite used to festival websites or apps with band bios telling me what to think. I had no such guide this year. (What, do you expect me to just walk around wherever my heart leads me, discovering new artists that I might not otherwise give a second thought to? Nerts to that, Block Party.)
OK, fine. It actually worked out pretty well just following the inertia toward artists and stages that sounded interesting.
More troublesome was the fact that, at some point between my last festival assignment (Timbrrr! 2020) and now, I completely lost the ability to walk through crowds. It took most of the night to get it back.
Friday was a beautiful day and the entry line moved fast, so everything was coming up Andy.
Beach Bunny, one of the bands I knew of – and was happy to arrive in time for – delivered perfect sunny Friday afternoon indie pop. The Chicago group has lots of upbeat, happy, and very crowd-pleasing songs about relationships gone bad, which we all know is an infinite well of artistic inspiration. After their set I spent a solid 90 minutes looking for a big sandwich and just barely missing bands. All I know about Electric Chair’s set at the Cha Cha stage is that they used A LOT of fog juice. I’ll bet I would have liked to see that. (I went with a pretty good Italian Grinder, BTW.)
Small Paul always makes me think of Small Ball Paul, a band name that still cracks me up to this day, even though I had to look them up to confirm that I didn’t make them up. Small Ball Paul was a great St. Louis 90’s grungy, punk adjacent band. The kind that the Midwest has always churned out. Small Paul, meanwhile, features a Moondoggie (folk pop country rock), a guy from All Star Opera (hip hop/soul), and Chris King from Chris King and the Gutterballs (indie rock/soul). It doesn’t sound exactly like any of those groups… and I liked it. Frankly I was just happy not to miss them entirely.
After Small Paul I went 180 degrees in the other direction, into the land of scary punk guys that tell the audience to “fuck off.” There is no situation that can’t be improved with loud punk rock and the more it sounds like Zeke the better. Lysol fit the bill. And they blew me away. Ever see a band rock so damn hard they use up all the electricity and the tiny, crowded basement goes dark? They did it TWICE. I got drinks thrown on me, I had to pick up several clumsy moshing guys (it’s ALWAYS guys), and I finally got to see a band at CHBP that made me regret leaving my hearing protection at home. I woke up this morning with a slight ringing to remind me to see Lysol again. If you believe in the Stooges, the MC5, and mustaches, I’ll see you there.
You can’t see 70’s style proto punk without wishing you could chase it with a cowboy singing Kraftwerk and Devo covers, so off to see long time West Seattle Mayor Brent Amaker and his band The Rodeo I went. It was only one flight of stairs away, up on the Neumo’s stage.
Brent Amaker and the Rodeo is the exact opposite of every other band or genre that played on Friday. The confusion on the faces of the people who wandered by on their way to the bathrooms was so rich and sweet you could pour it on waffles. There were plenty of us that got it, and it was the only space where I could look around and see people who I’m pretty sure were older than me. (Less and less of us every year.) If you like Orville Peck, you’ll appreciate Brent Amaker. Less torch, more twang, a lot more Cash but the voice will grab you. When he wrapped up (covering Devo’s “Gut Feeling”) it was beautiful culture shock to fling myself out the door just as Charli XCX started up.
I am not a big Charli XCX person, nor am I in her demographic, but I can appreciate a good show and the British electropop star came through. I stayed through to the end, even though I’m an old guy and old guys love to leave things early to beat traffic.
Overall, this was my favorite Block Party so far, including a million years ago when it was small and free.