Here we are again. Back in a midsummer night’s potentially overcrowded dream, Capitol Hill Block Party is upon us again to bring us a solid three days of music. This weekend, a healthy smattering of acts will descend upon a few cordoned-off blocks in what is historically one of Seattle’s biggest nightlife hubs (and the bars and music venues therein) with thick pineapple vape clouds wafting the air. In this correspondent’s humble opinion, Block Party’s lineups these past couple of years are as good as they have been in years.
Similar to (but not exactly like) I did last year, I have chosen four recommended acts for each day of the festival; enough to get your money’s worth but not too many as not to offer a chance to explore (which is always the best way to approach a music festival). Thus, there are some really excellent acts narrowly missing the cut here, by virtue of having been written about recently — most frequent readers of the site pretty much already know they should see JPEGMAFIA and Tres Leches; the former of which I recommended for March’s Treefort Music Festival and the latter I’ve seen about half a dozen times in the past year and will not hesitate to see again. With that said, here are some acts I enthusiastically recommend you check out at this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party.
Mirrorgloss’ live set at Upstream Music Festival last year was one of the best surprises of my experience at the festival. I wrote: “Let's just say it takes a lot for a writer to dance by themselves in front of other people with their face in a notebook, but Mirrorgloss definitely did it for me. As the venue started to fill, the basement soiree vibe was deeply affirmed; bodies moving in sync with the Tacoma trio's extraordinary blend of R&B, house, and electro-pop — party-starting songs about duplicitous, callous lovers and all the problems being in love brings.” I’m certain they’re going to deliver the goods in front of a much larger festival crowd ready to kick their weekend off with a great dance party.
If a proverbial shot in the arm is what you need to kick off Block Party weekend in earnest, Actionesse will most certainly get your adrenaline pumping. Seattle’s self-described “post-horncore” band recently released their newest album, The Deep, Bright Below, a heavy slab of punk-rock made heavier with brass and squealing saxophone. At equal turns nihilistic, dystopian, pummeling, defiant, vehement, cynical, worrying, bone-crunching, squalling, and whip-smart — Actionesse’s set exists to snap you out of whatever reservations you have about elbowing your way through the densely packed crowds you’ll encounter this weekend.
I’ve made no bones about the fact Wimps have been solidly, local or otherwise, one of my favorite bands of the past decade; there’s a verve, singularity, and deeply identifiable sense of humor to the songs they write that lives fully within navigating everyday life. Last year’s pizza-swiping, bee-conserving, laundry-ignoring Garbage People was, at turns surprisingly and at others definitively not, the best record of their career, and hearing these songs live to enhance their power. Word on the street is this will be the last Wimps show for a pretty long time, so it’s safe to see they’ll be sending themselves off for the remainder of the foreseeable future in predictably rousing fashion.
Yeah, yeah; I know I wrote about them in last year’s Block Party preview, but the profile of the band has raised significantly since then, as evidenced by they’ve been upgraded in size from the Barboza Stage to the Neumos stage this year. Part of it could be that there are still folks in town who listen to Audioasis religiously but have yet to see its host Eva Walker’s band play a live show. More of it could be attributed to the excellent full-length Eva and her twin brother Cedric released earlier this year, Cobain and Cornbread. Regardless of the scheduling upgrade, the Black Tones have easily become one of the surefire best live acts in town; their songs are dirty, loud, fun, and most certainly meant to be witnessed in a live setting.
He put out one of the best albums of the year (last month’s Bobby Ro$$). His live shows are immersive and interactive experiences where audience members are sometimes invited onstage to paint. Even if you don’t get the opportunity to hold a paintbrush in your hand, you can simply bounce around while “Bust That” or “Cruise Control” pulsates from the speakers and soak in the evocative, vibe-heavy beats and Perry’s star-level charisma. (Also, something very cool is in store for his set that I will decline to reveal in this space.) The next time Perry plays Block Party, it can be at least slightly expected that he’ll be playing the Main Stage, so enjoy him on the slightly smaller Neumos stage while you can.
Though proudly self-defined as a grunge band, Wild Powwers don’t explicitly conjure the image of Capitol Hill’s distant past (where you might have seen a group of people sitting on the curb doing heroin on the corner of 10th and E Union), but that’s definitely for the best. Every track on Skin, their very good 2018 album, played live are heavy and propulsive, and the band’s appeal, in general, is pretty undeniable. If you are one of the few in town yet to see this magnetic band in a live setting, you will have the opportunity to correct that error this weekend.
If any weird punks still attend Block Party (and most assuredly those in bands playing the festival), I’d be willing to make a friendly wager most of them will be in attendance for this set. Vaguely psychedelic, herky-jerky post-punk ferried into the harbor by pulsating beats from a drum machine, DYED sounds like an unholy, unsanctioned union of Memphis rippers Nots and prolific, short-lived, would-be legends Desperate Bicycles (wiped blurry with a little Kleenex) — forged in micro-dosed mushrooms and the type of humor required to title their most danceable song “Foot Fetish.”
The thing about music festivals is that depending on who you talk to, the question of who is the true headliner is hardly ever unanimous. Depending on who you talk to, this year’s Block Party is no different — but in my personal, unofficial polling of friends, acquaintances, and teenage children of each, Lizzo has been the definitive answer by a landslide. If she’s not already a pop megastar in the making, she’s damn close. I doubt I have to sell anyone on this too hard, as Lizzo was the only act most people wanted to talk about when chatting to them about this year’s Block Party.
There’s nothing like a collection of breezy, open-hearted indie-rock songs to get a person through the doldrums of starting the final day of a music festival. Thankfully, Sloucher has those in bountiful supply. About their 2018 album Stay True, I wrote: “Here's a painfully obvious fundamental truth: Sloucher is far from the first band to drown many of their insecurities in volume. Their deft touch with dynamics is a well-worn practice, but in sifting through them for relief always makes for an intriguing full-length. Stay True is the sound of a band striving to find their voice and create a singular identity while dwelling in old, familiar houses that always sparks something inside of us because a few of us know the feeling of being in those rooms.”
What’s that smell? Steamed vegetables will most certainly be in the air while the 20-year-old transatlantic rapper does some substantial soul searching over thumping, lo-fi beats. MIKE’s bellowing voice will cut through the thick fog of smoke, his circular rhyme patterns will provide a hypnotic element for those whose lungs are flooded with such smoke, and there might be quite a few attendees mouthing lyrics about tragedy, trauma, being slow to trust, and possessing radical self-love.
Razor Clam are perhaps my favorite Seattle band whom I’ve yet to write about for this site. When I saw them at Stallion’s Bunkhouse BBQ Brawl and Rock ‘n Wrestling Rager 2, they took the stage clad in metallic spandex and painted faces and the force of their incredibly fun half-hour set equaled that of the bodyslams which took place in the ring later on. Less than a month ago, they released an excellent EP titled Vicious Sea Cows, finding the quintet branching out from the rabble-rousing garage-punk of their earlier work for something more expansive, dramatic, and soaked in clarity It's like waking up from a fever dream on a dirt-caked floor and finding yourself in clear, blue ocean water.
Hopefully, they bring Nacho Picasso out like they did at last year’s Upstream Music Fest. From that live review: “I don't know how effective it is to get to a rap show early, but here we are. I've certainly been to more than my share of rap shows where the DJ was spinning music that wasn't nearly as good. Call it the blessing of the Street Sounds stage. Greg Scott and Eff is H eventually took the stage along with DJ Crescendo, leading the crowd into a bass-heavy bounce leaning into choice selections from this year's excellent 2KFG. The energy of the songs (and the rappers onstage halfway-maniacally reciting them) bled into the crowd in a big way, everyone shaking off the Sunday night doldrums for one of the livest sets of the festival. Scott and H traded the prom suits and gold balloons of the 2KFG for seafoam green locks and a Beyonce Formation Tour tee, but a party is a party regardless of the dress code. Hometown legend-in-the-making Nacho Picasso joined the duo for ‘Risin',’ arguably the most turnt moment of the turn-up, and possibly the entire weekend.”
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