Capitol Hill Block Party Music Festival
Posted: Jul 21 2012
Photo: Jim Bennett
As thunder and rain gave way to patches of sun, Seattle's most subversive arts festival unfurled. The Capitol Hill Block Party kicked off with partiers in novelty shades with hands on their hips, milling towards the Main Stage to the sounds of alternative music on the P.A. System. Bartenders and vendors were seen cracking their knuckles and stretching their arms in preparation of a very busy day. The gates filled steadily until a large and eclectic crowd stood in head-bobbing anticipation.
Main Stage arched over the audience, a black, shell-shaped arena spotted with
undulating purple lights. Along the sides of the stage were murals reading “Support Marriage
Equality—Approve Ref 74.” Mounted cameras panned the crowd, and a camera
man was seen peering from backstage with a video camera on his shoulder. Event
Security dressed in black wiped sweat from their brows along the fences.
Tenants on the surrounding streets peer from their windows, clutching beers.
Youth Lagoon began to play. Trevor Powers (keyboards, vocals) and Logan Hyde (guitar) hunched over their instruments, and the air was filled with minimalist dream pop. Mr. Powers provided solid, chord-chunking Fender Rhodes chimes and an honest, detached vocal delivery. Think Atlas Sound-meets-Sparklehorse. As the songs spread into layered lo-fi atmosphere, Mr. Hyde brought crystalline, crunchy lead lines from a cream-colored Stratocaster. During many of the songs, Mr. Powers had extended stripped-down features, where the synth bass, loops, and guitar would cut out. Meanwhile, Mr. Powers tinkered kneeling at a pedalboard worthy of science fiction.The crowd hung onto every word, clapping to the beat, with a few partiers mouthing along to every lyric.
Photos: Suzi Pratt
By nightfall Allen Stone and his ensemble had taken the stage. Clad in an early-Dylan-esque periwinkle workshirt and a sunhat, Mr. Stone may not be what you imagined a soul-funk singer-songwriter would look like. His billowing straw hair and manic grin accentuated the uptempo, major-key soul arrangements. The band was a troupe of emphatic performers, mugging hugely at spectators and singing (often without microphone) along to the songs. A chopped Hammond B3 screamed through a leslie, intermingling with Mr. Stone's soaring trills, over a backdrop of Rhodes, tasteful soul guitar, huge drums, and old-school, Mo-Town bass-playing.
Though the Block Party is multi-faceted, it is clear that music is the heartbeat of the festival. No corner, closet, or bathroom is secluded enough to escape the swirling sounds. In these times of gloom-and-doom (especially in regards to the music industry), it would give even the harshest curmudgeon hope to see such vitality and enthusiasm in independent music.
The aesthetic of the Capitol Hill Block Party deserves some recognition. Posters by Stacey Rozich envelop the walls across Seattle, and notably Pike Place Market. Huge stencils of astronauts with boomboxes promote the event. Even the promotions for the Capitol Hill Block Party are worthy of a tourist photo-op.
As Friday at the Capitol Hill Block Party came to a close, partiers spilled out into the streets, where more music awaited them. A brass ensemble, complete with marching Sousaphone played arrangements of Who songs. Street guitarists strummed theatrically. Bars physically throbbed with dance-beats. Undoubtedly, the partiers continued partying into the night.
Contributed by Tim Mechling