Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne, amidst a blizzard of confetti and smoke effects Sunday night, declared the 16th annual Capitol Hill Block Party “a riot of love,” and the crowd indeed loved him in return. Beginning Friday afternoon and lasting through the weekend, the festival proved yet again to be one of Seattle’s loudest, most sunburned, most crazed parties. (For full photo coverage of the bands, check here. For documentation of Block Party style, check here.)
If you came for the scene, you were not alone: 130 security guards and 30,000 music fans crammed into two fenced-off city blocks, pulsing to more than 100 pop-music acts blaring on five stages. For music fans, think 22-year-olds screaming into phones trying to find their friends. Many appeared fully inebriated by 6 p.m.
If you came for the music, you could have witnessed an exciting group of young Pacific Northwest rock acts. Rock ’n’ roll hasn’t felt exciting here for a while (hip-hop had the juice, as they say), but it’s definitely on the upswing.
La Luz was tour-tight with its slowed-down surf rock on the main stage Saturday afternoon. (The band got in from Boise at 7 a.m.) The four-piece engaged the crowd in an exuberant “Soul Train”-style dance line down the center of Pike Street. Olympia’s Naomi Punk rocked hard and had the most original thinking of Saturday, according to audience member and former Seattle Times music critic Patrick MacDonald. Chastity Belt from Seattle moaned about emotions in a totally cathartic way, and White Lung from Vancouver ended every song with an exclamation point during their Friday set. It was all new and good.
The main stage area, near Broadway, was mainly for dancing. The big moment for that was when New Orleans rapper Big Freedia requested local ladies get on stage to bend over and shake it — the trademark movement for bounce rap. Among them was Rabia Qazi, singer for Rose Windows, who had performed shortly before.
“I’m from New Orleans and this is what we do, said Freedia, smiling in the early evening. “We always love to have a block party.”
Freedia’s up-tempo beats were warmly received. Hence, full participation on the call-and-response of: “I got that gin in my system/ somebody gonna be my victim!” If you can imagine it, the lyric felt full of love.
Early Sunday afternoon, Chastity Belt’s label mates (Help Yourself Records) Ubu Roi, from the U-District, played the most dude-ly punk rock imaginable, with songs about pizza and drinking and brotherly love.
Later, inside the 21-and-older Barboza, Tacoma rap trio ILLFIGHTYOU led a few hundred people through the stomping anthem “Threats,” and a new regional hit was born.
An in-your-face spirit drove the slightly less than family friendly alternative to Bumbershoot at Seattle Center. Block Party started out as an actual block party 16 years ago. Now it’s like Sasquatch! and Coachella: a slick, moneymaking festival. But it still has those morsels of do-it-yourself togetherness, and when you glimpse that, it’s the best party in town.
Andrew Matson: firstname.lastname@example.org and @andrewmatson