The 17th annual Capitol Hill Block Party kicked off this weekend with sunny, mid-70-degree-weather that seemed especially ideal after last week’s streak of rainy days. (Check out our photo gallery here.)
This year’s multi-genre musical offerings have been hit (Chromeo!) and miss (A$AP Ferg…), with plenty of tickets still available for purchase at the gates and some older headliners like Spoon drawing noticeably modest-sized crowds to the normally overflowing main-stage area. But despite the less-than-capacity turnout, the fenced-off Pike Street corridor is still bustling with packs of trendily dressed teens and twenty-somethings (in addition to a few aging indie fans and a decent amount of cool parents with earplug-sporting babies in the mix) wandering, conversing, high-fiving, hugging, crying and displaying various degrees of public intoxication — with legal(ish) marijuana clouds wafting up regularly despite the fairly heavy police/security presence.
A$AP Ferg’s early mainstage set became a sea of tank tops, camo shorts and snapbacks as fans turned up for the performance, but it proved a bit of a letdown as he mostly just shouted his repetitive hooks, barely rapping his verses and even jumping around onstage while other artists’ songs played. Local electronic duo Odesza were also worth a mention — the Western Washington University grads have come a long way since their inception only two years ago, as they played a tight set of their buoyant atmospheric-sample beats to a fairly packed crowd that danced and vibed along. Following Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim’s performance tiptoed the line between fun and cheesy – they engaged the audience with banter and T-Pain and Lil Jon track segues between their songs, but led cringe-worthy R. Kelly and Biz Markie sing-alongs — but it’s hard to hate on that kind of positivity too much.
Corporate sponsorship is as present as at any major American music festival these days. Jameson is going extra hard this year by converting the entire Sole Repair space across from Neumo’s into a “Jameson VIP Lounge,” which serves all the free Jameson drinks one can imbibe as long as they’re willing to stand around watching an old guy with an unusual Irish accent perform a live infomercial-style demo showing how Jameson’s wooden distilling casks are made. (Apparently they do bring in DJs towards the end of the night to give the guy a break.)
But this year’s Block Party has an added, unshakable “modern Seattle” feel to it. Symbolically looming behind the 11th Avenue Vera Stage is a yellow, half-finished new condo building, and its attendant crane. And stepping into the clean, refurbished, connected-to-Lost Lake Comet Tavern to take a break from the mainstage multitudes is definitely a changed experience.
The third and final day of Block Party will wind down with Pennsylvania dad-rock quartet The War On Drugs and Harlem’s A$AP Rocky, a major-label signee who positions himself as an “alt-rapper” who is extremely popular with youthful rap dilettantes and dabblers, and a “Red Bull Sound Select Secret Show” starting at 10 p.m. at Neumos for those looking to get the most out of their #CHBP experience.