Fitz and the Tantrums bring their stylish and soulful selves to the Capitol Hill Block Party. (photo by Tony Kay)
Somewhere along the line, The Capitol Hill Block Party has ballooned from a quaint little celebration of one of this town’s most charming ‘hoods into a mini-monster of a music festival.
The Block Party ain’t cheap–$30 a day, or an $85 full-weekend meal deal–but it consistently sells out (get an early start, kids), and is so stacked with amazing music that admission should pay for itself pretty readily. As always, the musical line-up can’t be faulted.
I could rattle on about the whole of the Party, but it seemed more helpful (and expeditious) to just jump right in and cover the highlights–big, small, and wild. If you need more, the CHBP website sports a complete line-up list and all of your care-and-feeding instructions for the weekend. There’s lots of great stuff to be heard at the Block Party, to be sure, but these are the things that leapt out at first sight for me.
Friday (hey, that’s tonight!):
The Best Big Shows: The final three acts on the Main Stage tonight should all be pretty phenomenal. San Francisco’s Thee Oh Sees deliver gloriously bat-shit crazy kiddie-cartoon-music psychedelia with the shambolic vigor of Dr. Seuss on major pharmaceuticals (7:45pm, Main Stage). Blue eyed local soul charmer Allen Stone’s magnificence as a live act is unassailable (9:15pm, Main Stage), and the soul sounds continue well into the night with Fitz and the Tantrums, who’ve always backed their considerably natty style with seriously catchy retro warmth and a certifiably jumping onstage presence (10:45pm, Main Stage).
The Best Little Shows: Crystal Stilts wear their Velvets/Jesus and Mary Chain influences on their sleeves, but deliver great tunes and a reputedly sterling live experience (Neumos Stage, 5:15pm, Neumos Stage). Local metal mavens Black Breath combine the battery-acid gargle of the most extreme death-metal vocals with the chunky, big-belt-buckle directness of Motorhead (6:30pm, Neumo’s Stage). And Fresh Espresso prove that P Smoov’s knack for bumping beats and catchy soundscapes of original and sampled melodies doesn’t just begin and end with Mad Rad (10:15pm, Neumos Stage).
Wild Card: I’m still not on the very crowded Father John Misty bandwagon quite yet, but his deconstruction of current alt-folk (and the innovative notion of adding some–gasp!–theatricality to the genre) should make for an interesting hour-plus, at least (4:00pm, Main Stage).
Saturday, July 20:
The Best Big Shows: Right outta the gate, the Main Stage is hosting the abrasive-but-irresistible post-punk of Absolute Monarchs at 2:45pm. After that, Sub Pop’s latest dance-music/hip-hop find Spoek Mathambo should turn Pike Street into one big ol’ dance hall (3:30pm, Main Stage).
The Best Little Shows: Brent Amaker and the Rodeo know how to charm the socks off of any audience with their black-hatted country gone Spinal Tap (4:00pm, Neumos Stage). And like a lot of folks in this town, I’m pretty much head over heels for dreamy-creamy pop duo Lemolo (3:30pm, Vera Stage).
Wild Card: Silly Goose is a Blink 182 cover band (not my cup of tea) featuring members of Carissa’s Wierd and Grand Archives (both of whom, resolutely, are my cup of tea): That duality makes it hard to know what to expect (3:45pm, Cha Cha Stage)? And electro-pop artist Twin Shadow’s work has polarized the rock press to an astonishing degree–he’s either a genius or an utter charlatan, depending on who/what you read. Anyone provoking that kind of reaction in these apathetic times can’t help but intrigue (6:00pm, Main Stage).
Sunday, July 21:
The Best Big Shows: Phantogram‘s sleek dance pop with siren vocals sounds like Portishead minus the mopey grandiosity and plus a pulsing lust-filled heart (6:10pm, Main Stage). And are you really going to let yourself miss the Patsy Cline-gone-chanteuse brilliance that is Neko Case (7:45pm, Main Stage)? Thought not.
The Best Little Shows: Don’t Talk to the Cops have achieved mythic status around here for their laugh-out-loud onstage antics and their terrific stoopid/smart jams (12:25pm, Neumos Stage). I also kinda love The Coathangers‘ lacerating yet somehow-playful shout-and-pout art-punk (2:15pm, Neumos Stage). Lesbian, meantime, pound out instrumental metal that also dips into the realms of prog and film-soundtrack grandeur, all with hair-flipping majesty that honest-to-God soars onstage (8:45pm, Cha Cha Stage).
Wild Card: Mama Utah references Tim Curry and vintage synth pop in their MO. They’re one of the few acts that don’t have a presence on YouTube or any music-sharing sites (tho’ member Thomas Hunter’s also part of a really good indie rock project called White China Gold). It’ll be that rarest of experiences–a live show by a band you’ve likely never heard or heard of–but I’ll lay money it’ll be extremely entertaining (2:45pm, Cha Cha Stage).