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Dancing in the Streets: CHBP 2013

posted by Kelsey Stoulil on August 01, 2013

Photo: Pickwick by Kelsey Stoulil

Seattle, Washington -- Capitol Hill Block Party threw down this past weekend, giving festivalgoers a weekend, and probably a hangover, to remember.

A large player in the Seattle music scene, the Capitol Hill neighborhood has evolved quite a bit in the last few decades. Once home to punk rockers and the burgeoning grunge scene, the "hill" is now a musical melting pot, catering to a variety of genres. Enter Block Party. The tiny local music festival that has grown into a destination fest, while still holding on to its Seattle roots, acting as a showcase of local talent. This year's lineup was rife with hometown acts, from hip-hop to psychedelic, electronic to indie, as well as larger names, making for a much-anticipated weekend.

Day One:

Friday afternoon started out perfectly. I got a great parking spot (usually impossible on Capitol Hill), the sun was out, and I could hear the beautiful sounds of Telekinesis as I made my way into the Capitol Hill Block Party. I took in the last few songs of their upbeat set from the beer garden and happily headed to Neumos for Fly Moon Royalty.

The soulful duo had drawn a decent sized crowd for an early Friday evening, making the already warm room even warmer. By the end of their set I was ready for more, and ready for some air conditioning. Multiple signs throughout the venue advertised such a commodity downstairs, at Barboza, one of the other Block Party Stages. The Young Evils, a local group fronted by KEXP DJ Troy Nelson, had just started, so my timing was perfect, or so I thought. Descending the stairs, I could already feel the heat. The narrow venue space was packed so tight I worried about adequate oxygen flow. Aforementioned air conditioning was useless against the warmth of so many sweaty, moshing bodies, and for the sake of my camera's safety, I ran.

Once outside in the marijuana filled air, I was (sort of) able to breathe again and make a new game plan. I headed to meet some friends, and we groove out to the sounds of Dillon Francis while the sun went down behind the main stage. From their we quickly filed in to Neumos to see Bear Mountain. The Vancouver BC group had the crowd on their toes, bopping along throughout their entire synthie set, closing day one of Block Party on a very upbeat note.

Day Two:

Saturday did not prove as fortunate in the parking department, as I circled a four block radius around the festival for over 45 minutes, missing out on La Luz, one of the acts I was most looking forward to. However, by the time I got to the main stage, Rose Windows had finished their sound check, and by the end of song one my chipper disposition had returned. The septet of "hard hitting hippies" worked their magic on the crowd as usual. Front woman Rabia Qazi even gave a little Big Freedia preview, showing off her twerking skills.

By the time Rose Windows had packed it in, my stomach was the one doing the twerking, so I headed for the food trucks. While there were only six vendors, each offered a unique cuisine, filling almost every niche. Bratwursts, pizza, pad thai, fry-bread tacos; the options were overwhelming. However, the smell of smoked meat is not something I can easily pass up, so I decided on a BLT from Hitchcock, a small restaurant/charcuterie from my hometown of Bainbridge Island. Now, I love pretty much any piece of bacon, but this particular bacon was so above and beyond, it could easily turn a vegetarian. But alas, the smell of meat had driven them away, meaning more bacon for me.

Now that I was thoroughly satisfied on pork products, I headed for Neumos to catch Phox. Having never heard of the band before, I was surprised to see another seven-piece group in the same day. To my delight, they were poppy, yet soulful, with a slight edge, all topped off by adorable front woman Monica Martin's smooth voice. Their set reminded me that one of the best parts of the festival experience is discovering new artists, and what better way to do that than through their live show.

Stepping out into the main stage area after Phox was like entering a whole other world. Killer Mike and El-P's new collaboration, Run the Jewels, had just taken the stage and people were lighting up left and right. Killer Mike took the time to comment on Washington's legalization of marijuana, stating that the special cookie he had earlier in the day was stronger than expected and now he wanted to "call his momma." That didn't stop him and El from launching into an impressive set, full of passionate lyrics and entertaining dance moves.

Later on, local favorites Pickwick took the stage, just after dark. One of the most celebrated Seattle bands of the past year, the six-member band threw the crowd into a frenzy. Full of passion, singer Galen Disston led a flawless set. Feeding off the energy built up throughout the day, the hometown band brought Block Party to the pinnacle of the weekend, capping off Saturday with blissful vibes.

Day Three:

My lazy Sunday morning consisted of me wandering from set to set, taking in the atmosphere, which was pretty mellow until later in the afternoon. Early evening I made sure to get to Barboza early (see above debacle) to catch The Comettes . This Seattle based three piece blazed through surf-esque riffs and haunting vocals reminiscent of psychedelia, and despite their short set, it was one of the best of the weekend.

From the calm atmosphere of a basement venue, I made my way to the Vera Stage, where Sam Lachow and Raz Simone had a whole block waving their hands. The duo, who were accompanied by many of their friends on stage, had the crowd beaming with hometown pride as they chanted along to every song.

By then the crowd gathered for The Flaming Lips was easily the largest Block Party had seen all weekend. The windows on either side of the street were teeming with spectators, and people poked their heads out of bars as far as they could, while still holding their beers inside the establishment. When Wayne Coyne appeared, sans giant hamster ball, but plus one baby doll, the crowd lost it, however the bands tame performance didn't seem to be what the audience was expecting. Some shuffled back to the bar, while others stuck it out, enjoying this new side to the band.

My friends and I decided to head for the line into Neumos to catch Pure Bathing Culture. As we queued up for the already packed venue, rumors began to ripple through the crowd. After Macklemore's "surprise" video shoot the week before, many were convinced that the Seattle rapper would be making an impromptu appearance later that night. However, the sweet lullaby of Pure Bathing Culture had put me at ease, and sleep was inevitable. I had to forgo the possibility of a Macklemore appearance, and hit the hay.

Luckily for me, the rumors were just that.

And with that the 2013 Capitol Hill Block Party came to a close. The glow sticks were thrown out, the beer cans recycled, and all those that had danced the night away on Pike Street retreated to their beds.

Thanks for a weekend to remember, Block Party. We'll see you in 2014.

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See Also:

Photo Gallery: Capitol Hill Block Party 2014
36 Hours in Portland, Oregon
Sub Pop's Silver Jubilee: Celebrating Seattle's Favorite Label