If you're committed to going to Capitol Hill Block Party it's difficult to pick just one day of music. Saturday was by far the most packed day of the weekend thus far with rumors that Block Party sold out twice once the overlords decided to release more tickets upon demand. But before the evening, beer gardens, and streets were brimming with dazed-and-sunkissed showgoers, Ultimate Painting and Car Seat Headrest snuck in their gratiating sets before dusk while Wand totally lit up the 11th hour.Having just gotten off their US tour with Woods and now starting a new summer West Coast tour, Ultimate Painting's guitarists James Hoare (of Veronica Falls) and Jack Cooper (of Mazes) served up a handful of their feel good UK garage-pop with their backing musicians Will Young and Bill Roe. Named after an avant garde piece from a 60s art collective, Ultimate Painting used the airy clean hues from Veronica Falls and the Velvet Underground textures of Mazes to illustrate a colorful plein-air musical portrait at the Vera stage Saturday afternoon. With their chill-reverb shimmer, matching Gibson Dot guitars, and Elliott Smith-conjuring songwriting and harmonies (e.g. "Rolling in the Deep"), the crowd couldn't get enough. Literally. So much so that fans started yelling in between songs for more to make it louder! Unclear as to what they were saying, Jack Cooper had them repeat what they were yelling. Once he figured out the fans wanted the music to be louder he asked the sound guy, "Can we do that?" then correcting himself rebuttling, " Of course we can, give the people what they want!" - which needless to say sounded even cooler in his British accent and also needless to say that dished out what the people wanted.
Car Seat Headrest comes to Block Party as potentially one of the most in vogue acts of the weekend. Less then a year ago, the Strokes-meets-Pavement project was a relatively under-the-radar name playing in DIY houses, but after releasing their tenth LP Teens of Denial they have not only received deserved hype and awe from bigwigs like Pitchfork and Rolling Stone magazine, but high anticipation from those still wanting to see the up-and-coming, "bloomed-overnight" heavyweights for the first time. But of course they haven't bloomed overnight. Seattle frontman Will Toledo is one of the most prolific maestros for his young age, notorious for releasing twelve albums via bandcamp, which is obviously no small feat and it's time he got some credible recognition. Drawing from the traits of greats such as Dinosaur Jr. and Guided by Voices, Car Seat Headrest is an admixture of all that is vocally collected yet still cathartically personal and ruthlessly catchy. The brains behind Car Seat Headrest knew a tastefully established way to start a rock set, and we wouldn't expect anything less. Have drummer Andrew Katz alone on stage pounding the upbeat 4/4 tom-and-snare riff of "Fill in the Blanks" (Teens of Denial opener) then have the rest of the band gradually gait on stage to infuse their respective instruments into the song until the Toledo picks up his ax and all the members crash into the original arrangement. As Toledo blankly quipped, "We're playing singles first. Then we'll get to the deep cuts." Sure enough they hit the singles and escalated the rest of the set with deep cuts.
Car Seat Headrest (photo set by Melissa Wax)
The psychedelic sorcerers of LA-based Wand closed out the Vera stage Saturday night, competing with main stage headliner ODESZA, but not really because Wand is on a much different plane of musical territory. In the magical land and Hawkwind-rooted forest where you'd find acts like Thee Oh Sees, Meatbodies, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, and Ty Segall, you'll also find Wand epically slaying. Lead by guitarist and vocalist Cory Hanson (also in Ty Segall and the Muggers with drummer Evan Burrows), and backed by his ragtag army of noise conspirators, this Drag City band knows how to elegantly write sophisticated songs that flow in and out of head-banging overdrive chaos, softly pretty shoegaze, twinkling accents, and then back into harshly ripping solos that will either sober you up or heighten your stupor - or maybe even both. Being at a WAND show is a visceral experience. You know you're in the presence of something great no matter which song they are playing.
Wand (photo set by Brittany Feenstra)
Much talk surrounding Capitol Hill Block Party's 2016 notes the intentionally electronic turn that the festival made this year with its headlining choices. Of those, the crowning evening of the weekend had to go to Saturday night, where hometown heroes ODESZA played to maybe the biggest crowd ever …