Every year that Capitol Hill Block Party returns, I can't wait to be uncomfortable with a bunch of sweaty people in the red-lit basement that is Cha Cha Lounge. That's not sarcasm. This year's lineup boasts some incredible headliners like Run The Jewels, Angel Olsen, Thundercat, Wolf Parade, and more. But this year's local lineup, in my opinion, is just as strong. Cha Cha has become the punk rock basement oasis (a very sticky and cramped oasis, mind you) for local bands — quite literally making them "underground" — but PNW acts show up on all the stages, from the outdoor stages to Neumos and Barboza. There's too much good stuff to seek out in the entire lineup, local and non-local, but we suggest making some time in your schedule to catch these acts.
Charms (Sunday, 7:45 pm at Cha Cha)
For a long time, noise-rock act Charms functioned almost solely as live act with little-to-no recorded material for fans to indulge in. They just recently released their debut LP, Human Error, but the fact that they were able to build such a devote following solely off of their live shows is a testament to how spectacular their performances are. With the help of projectionist Kevin Blanquies, their feverish songs turn into fever dreams. To use a tired cliche, it really must be seen to be understood.
Cosmos (Saturday, 2:15 pm on the Main Stage)
This year has been massive for the intergalactic hip-hop group Cosmos. The Sound Off! alumni released their Moonshine mixtape back in March and keep landing larger and larger gigs, including three performances at this year's Upstream Music Fest. And it's understandable. Donned in NASA jumpsuits, the group's infectious energy sends their crowds into frenzies. You can't help but jump, shout, and dance.
Gifted Gab (Friday, 8:15 pm at Neumos)
Gifted Gab called her last album Gab The Most High and it's an apt descriptor of who she is as a rapper. Her flow is visceral, eviscerating whoever dare block her path. Every confident rhyme exudes her excellence and she's not subtle about it. On "Trouble" she calls herself the Queen of Seattle and she makes a strong case for that every time she gets on the mic.
The Last Artful, Dodgr (Saturday, 4 p.m. on the Vera Stage)
Portland-via-Los Angeles rapper The Last Artful, Dodgr is blowing up. Her latest LP, Bone Music, saw her teaming up with PDX producer Neill Von Tally and the two are nothing short of a dream team. His adventurous, darkening beats against the raw timbre of her vocals play off of each other masterfully.
Mommy Long Legs (Friday, 7:45 pm at Cha Cha)
Barf-core, vomit garage, and fart-core. These vivid genre tags Mommy Long Legs opts to identify themselves as and they're pretty damn spot on. A Mommy Long Legs show feels like entering a portal into a dimension ruled over by Garbage Pail Kids with Gak coming out of the faucets. Meaning, yes, it's totally awesome. The band's colorful, bright aesthetics are only topped by their fuzzed-out riffs and shoutable mantras.
My Goodness (Friday, 11:15 pm at Neumos)
It's been fascinating watching how My Goodness has evolved over the years. Originally a garage blues duo, the band has built out their sparse sound into something even more lush and dynamic. They were always great churning out loud and aggressive rips, but their new album Scavengers sees them adding in new layers and doing some of their most exploratory songwriting yet. If you haven't seen My Goodness in a while, now might be a good time to catch up with the guys.
Prom Queen (Saturday, 4 pm at Neumos)
There's no one else I can think of doing anything like Prom Queen around town. Her hazy arrangements recall the scores of old films, with Leeni's smoky vocals lingering around the synths and shimmering guitars like a wine drunk hangover. It may be summer at Block Party, but let Prom Queen take you away into a Hollywood sadness far away.
Remember Face (Sunday, 2:45 pm at Barboza)
Perhaps Seattle's closest answer to Run The Jewels, Remember Face are on of the most aggressive and exciting hip-hop acts in the city. Comprised of Nu Era members Chima and Andrew Savoie, the duo always finds a way to up the ante. Whether it's Chima's venomous rhymes of Savoie's industrial beats, you'll want to get out of their way or risk being flattened by their massive sound.
Sashay (Sunday, 5:45 pm at Cha Cha)
It's hard to think of a local band that plays harder, louder, and gives less fucks what you think than Sashay. The queercore act pummels the audience with songs like "America's Next Top Bottom" and "Brosexual." They masterfully walk the line between classic punk angst and smart, fun lyricism. And, oh yeah, bring ear plugs. This might be the loudest band you'll see all weekend.
YourYoungBody (Saturday, 5:45 pm at Barboza)
Yeah, it's a summer festival but that doesn't mean you can't indulge in your gothic tendencies for a bit. YourYoungBody have been perfecting their dark electronic music for a few years now, only getting better and better. If their latest single "Devotions" is any indication, they're finding new ways to translate those harrowing, pit-in-your-stomach feelings. Dance those bleak thoughts away at this set and let YourYoungBody give you healing.
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Here's a piece of Capitol Hill Block Party trivia for you: Diplo is the only artist on the bill this weekend who has performed for 500,000 people at one time. At a free show in Havana, Cuba, in 2016, the first by an American artist since the US and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations in 2015, …
Every week, KEXP features a new local artist with an interview and suggested tracks for where to start. This week, we’re featuring Seattle industrial punks Haunted Horses, who play Capitol Hill Block Party this Friday evening.