Observations From a Capitol Hill Block Partier

posted by Kelsey Stoulil on July 31, 2014

The Budos Band at CHBP; All Photos by Kelsey Stoulil

Seattle, Washington -- The sights and sounds of any festival are usually a bit out of the ordinary, compared to boring, old, everyday life. In the confines of the festival ground, people are free to let loose and get a little (or a lot) crazy. I spent the past weekend at Capitol Hill Block Party without too much of an agenda. I had a list of bands I wanted to see, a few people I might meet up with, and that hankering for a cocktail that arrives at the end of the work week. Other than that, I left myself open to explore and take in my surroundings. Here are a few of my observations: 

Bucket Hats Are Back

Headwear is a big deal at festivals. You've got the flower crown, braided headband, the not so PC Native American headdress, wide brimmed sun hats, felt hipster hats, baseball caps, and the occasional beanie despite the heat of summer, just to name a few. But a large number of people at Block Party had donned one piece of headwear that has had a pretty bad rep since the early 2000s: enter the bucket hat. Personally these hats always remind me of my Hungarian step-grandmother who used to wear them when she would take her morning hikes to feed wild dogs in the hills outside of Palm Springs, but to many they were simply a casual way to cover one's 12-year-old head from the sun.

After several years of hibernation, I believe it is safe to say the bucket hat is back. Not the hawaiian print kind you used to buy at Old Navy, no, these are much trendier bucket hats. Solid colors, tribal prints, tie-dye, the list goes on. Just be sure to stay away from khaki ones, unless you like resembling Dale from The Walking Dead.

Childbirth is Awesome 


Comprised of members from well known Seattle bands that also bear unusual names (Tacocat, Chastity Belt, and Pony Time), Childbirth is a local punk supergroup that revels in the irony of today's pop culture ideals. The three ladies took the stage dressed in hospital gowns, sunglasses, and phrases like "Cool Slut" written across their hands in Sharpie. An enthusiastic crowd (especially for 5pm on a Friday) bopped along to the rough and catchy riffs of songs like "I Only Fucked You as a Joke," and "Breast Coast," the band's tribute to the Best Coast album about "hanging out with your boyfriend, or whatever." The perfect combination of talent, sarcasm, and general absurdity - they won me over big time.  

If You Get the Chance, Go See Kithkin

Ian McCutcheon of Kithkin

Despite having read their name dozens of times, I had yet to see Kithkin perform live until Sunday. Coming into their show with relatively no idea what to expect, I was pleasantly surprised to say the least. Straying from the standard "jeans and t-shirt" uniform of most performers, all band members wore bright, patterned outfits very reminiscent of a 60s psychedelic band, and their stage presence was just as loud. Singer Ian McCutcheon spentan entire song on top of a bass drum, after which he thrashed about, making some seriously intense faces (such as the above). The infectious intensity of the band spilled over into the crowd, who began throwing themselves into each other. I found myself bopping along as I head to catch the next band on my list, the catchiness of their raw punk songs beating through my head. 

It Actually Can be Fun Watching People Behind Laptops


I am usually a bit skeptical of performances that involve people standing behind laptops. Sure they occasionally have cool visuals or intense light shows, but I can be a bit of a purist when it comes to live music. I wouldn't quite say that that all changed this weekend, but I definitely did have a great time watching the two particularly talented lap-toppers of Odesza. Their songs offer that perfect laid-back summer soundtrack, while at the same time keeping a level of suspense, waiting for beats to drop or twist that the song may take. Their Block Party set didn't have too much in the way of lighting, but that was perfectly alright; their music offered up so much that the visuals were not even missed. Both Clay Knight and Harrison Mills were so in tune with what they were doing, their intensity and passion shone through so immensely that they were all an audience needed to see. These two are on the verge of something big, just wait and see. 

Brass and Woodwinds Are In

The Budos Band

There was quite a lull on the festival circuit when one would struggle to find more classically oriented instruments being played. If you did see a trumpet or saxophone, it was usually just for one song at the stage reserved for obscure folk bands. Thankfully, the times they are a changin'. As a former middle school clarinet player (yeah, I've dabbled) I am totally onboard with the incorporation of woodwinds and brass instruments. 

The Budos Band, which features tenor and baritone saxophones and trumpets, had a powerful set Saturday night on the main stage. An interesting choice to lead into Chromeo, the Budos had the crowd jiving along with every jazz-funk tune. From solos to full force musical stampedes, the dips and dives of their set took everyone to just the right level. Had the band played the same slot five years ago, the response would have been quite different, and I for one am quite glad to embrace such diverse back-to-back sets. 

Sol's set earlier that evening also incorporated some classical instruments as the Seattle JazzEd teen musicians program, along with the Washington High School Drum Line, joined the rapper onstage. Not only was it awesome to see such an array of musical fusion happening, but it shed light on the ongoing lack of arts education, an issue that Seattle JazzEd is tackling here in the 206 by offering classes to anyone of any age, regardless of their ability to pay. It was really something to witness a group of kids that are truly passionate about the music they play getting to take over the main stage and collaborate with such a talented, local musician. 

Scarf Man is at Every Festival

via Seattle Rex

If Seattle has a summertime mascot, it would be scarf man, aka Boe Oddisey. A fixture at every festival, Boe dances to whatever music is playing and always has a cart full of bright colored scarves in tow, waiting for those willing to dance with him. Block Party was no different this year as Boe, dressed in one of his eccentric outfits, set up shop outside of a burrito joint near the entrance. Festivalgoers would stop, grab a scarf and twirl for a moment, then continue on their way, but Boe never stopped. A giant smile plastered on his face, our beloved scarf man was out there busting a move until the very end of the day, reminding us all to lighten up and have a good time.

I Will Never, Ever, get Enough of The Thermals 

Kathy Foster of The Thermals

The Thermals are one of the bands I will see every time they come to Seattle, no matter what. I have literally canceled plans and reworked my schedule to make it to some of their shows. They have their live show worked out to a science, but it never gets stale or repetitive. You know what you are going to get at each show, but it's so good that you don't care if you've seen it before, it's that loyal flavor of ice cream, your favorite old t-shirt, your solid go-to. Part of what makes their lives show so outstanding is their fans. They draw an eager crowd that is just itching to be there and be a part of the energy that they put out. Saturday night was no exception. They tore through their opener "Hardly Art" with that same veraciousness that you hear on every one of their records, kicking off the set on a high note. That energy pushed on throughout the set, in crowd surfing and stage diving, leaving everyone exhausted but thoroughly satisfied with their Saturday night. 

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