Jammed between chain-link fences on the bar- and venue-lined Pike Street, you push through a sweaty crowd while inhaling secondhand cigarette smoke, feeling the vibrations of amplified noise coming from all directions. As you approach the tucked-away VERA Stage (one of five stages) at Capitol Hill Block Party, a face-painted 22-year-old spills beer on your foot:
“Whoa, sorry — hey, you got any molly?”
Get out of the way, kid!
Eventually properly situated to take in the loud rock music of Naomi Punk (not too close to the speaker), the Olympia trio you’ve heard compared to Nirvana — you’re spotted by a co-worker. And now he’s in your face highly recommending you turn around and slog back through that river of humanity to the main stage, to see A-Trak, the superstar Canadian deejay.
“He’s incredible! Perfect Block Party act!”
Are you in the right place? There are roughly 100 bands at this festival, after all.
This is acute FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), one of the chief hazards of Block Party — which starts Friday and runs through Sunday, headlined by longstanding alternative/psychedelic rockers The Flaming Lips.
Sixteen years since it started, Block Party has shed the intimate feel of its namesake. It’s a big festival now. And hip as most of the bands are, it’s not an underground thing. Everyone goes. That’s good for its existence — big festivals are one of the few places the music industry is financially thriving. But as a concertgoer, you have to know how to handle it.
Aside from FOMO, tinnitus and sunstroke, there are also drug overdoses and alcohol poisoning to consider. And yahoos. But we deal with it all because we love floating through a daylong rush of concerts, and being together in a fun-seeking mob. The Festival Experience.
One good way to strategize your attendance is to consider that the Block Party booking team is savvy with local, rising bands. This summer, the sound of the Pacific Northwest pop underground is more rocking than it has been in quite some time, and Block Party provides a good 101: Check out ultimate surf band La Luz; hard-hitting Walla Walla transplants Chastity Belt; grunge scholars Naomi Punk and FF; and knuckled-up, rock-star rappers Jarv Dee and ILLFIGHTYOU.
A good rule of thumb: Pick three performances per day. (See my picks here.) Stake out your spot on the pavement for those. And make one of them early. Block Party crowds are easier to manage (and the whole place is cleaner) early in the day. Apart from your three chosen concerts, go with the flow. See whatever. Drink a ton of water. And use public transportation.
Andrew Matson: email@example.com and @andrewmatson