Live Review: Capitol Hill Block Party, Day One

blockpartycrowd.jpgBlock Party crowd surfing
photo by Gregory A. Perez

written by Eric Mahollitz

While Day One of the Capitol Hill Block Party got off to a slow start, it didn’t take long for the throngs to fill the streets with their dancing shoes, tallboys, and good vibes. I arrived a little late myself having to work but appreciatively showed up in time to see The Shackeltons, a rowdy quintet from Chambersburg, PA, known for their blistering live shows. The rumors proved true; Mark Redding (vocals) danced maniacally around stage, peppering the crowd with sweat and water from his hair. At one point he produced a telephone from somewhere on stage, began singing into it and twirling it recklessly, wrapping it around his arm. Perhaps it was still too early in the day, but the crowd unfortunately appeared a little too sun-drenched to give much signal of their appreciation.

mattandkim1.jpgMatt & Kim
photo by Gregory A. Perez

Following The Shackeltons’ set, I headed back into the sun to see Brooklyn duo Matt and Kim on the Mainstage. After Matt, the very upbeat spokesman of the duo, warned the audience that he had a number of Pabst before taking the stage, he (on keyboards/synths) and Kim (on percussion) sauntered through their highly regarded dance-punk numbers, taking time to talk of baseball, Harry Potter, and stories from the road in between each cut. At one point, Matt took his shirt off, being sure to comment on his pit stains and then turning it into a don’t care what anyone else thinks speech. Their unpretentiousness and nerdiness were irresistible and welcome during the warmest time of day. Read their post-show review of the crowd, and their pre-show travails at The Stranger’s Line Out.

bluescholars_bp.jpg
Geologic of Blue Scholars
photo by Gregory A. Perez

Though I wasn’t outside during the Silversun Pickups show, I can’t imagine the streets any more packed than they were for Blue Scholars. Geologic and Sabzi have spent the last few years playing countless shows in and around Seattle, and the size of their crowd at the Block Party was proof that it has paid off. Throwing in samples of Green Day and Peter, Bjorn and John, Blue Scholars delivered crowd favorites along with material from the breakthrough new album Bayani. The hand-waving, sing-along crowd was more than content with their place in time; besides, going anywhere else was not an option (10 minutes to walk 1 1/2 blocks).

vivavoce.jpg
Anita of Viva Voce
photo by Gregory A. Perez

Around 8:45pm, 45 minutes into Blue Scholars, I decided to head back inside for Viva Voce and for fear of what so many people experienced, missing Girl Talk (I’ll discuss this more later). Viva Voce, a husband and wife duo from Portland, turned out to be the most impressive band of the day to that point. Even though the body heat was starting to mount in Neumo’s and the ground floor bathrooms smelled like a monkey house, people packed it in for an hour of melodic and often dark psychedelia with more layers than most three-piece bands can deliver. Festivals oftentimes become experimental grounds for musicians; Viva Voce debuted two songs during their set, both continue in the vein of Get Yr Blood Sucked Out and both received heavy applause.

cancerrising1.jpg
Judas and Gatsby of Cancer Rising
photo by Gregory A. Perez

Cancer Rising followed Viva Voce, bringing the Blue Scholars vibe indoors, where those freshly beaten by the sun were in need of relief. (I caught one woman reading the latest Harry Potter book sitting in a chair towards the back.) It was a tough time slot to fill with the Silversun Pickups playing simultaneously outside. Nevertheless, even in the face of technical difficulties, the trio of Gatsby, Judas, and DJ TilesOne delivered their rock and soul flavored hip-hop with tenacity.

Venturing out to the beer garden for the then cool breeze and a much needed chair was like entering an alternate universe. For lack of non-Miller products, I never roamed far from the Neumo’s beer garden, where open seats were rare, but the thought of the abounding well-dressed hipsters occupying my spot during Girl Talk forced me back into the sweatbox.

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Marissa of The Trucks
photo by Jim Beckmann

Back inside, I had no idea what to expect from the next group, Bellingham’s The Trucks, an all-female quartet who inject their fun electro-punk sound with all sorts of sass. The lead singer, who apparently likes to flash her removable front teeth, danced spastically around the stage in classic Mick Jagger fashion while she and the rest of the band enlivened the fans, who were now tired, hot, and in turn, irritable.

girltalk2.jpg
Greg Gillis (aka Girl Talk)
photo by Jim Beckmann

Finally, the long-awaited and most controversial portion of the evening came -- Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis took the stage. The entire time I was Neumo’s, I positioned myself an equal distance from both doors, allowing for maximum air flow while staying away from all of the through traffic. This spot gave me a great vantage point of the line outside that gradually got bigger and bigger and rarely moved. The Stranger, one of the events sponsors and host to the event’s official website, has already received several complaints against the event’s organization. Needless to say, at that point in the day, with all the ingested beer and vitamin D, the crowd inside got a bit rowdy.

Gillis’ set began with approximately 40-50 people joining him on stage, as is typical at his shows. While something like that could not have been unplanned, security was a problem. Eventually the number of people on stage dwindled as the show went on, though not all were kicked off until towards the very end and only after several stage-dives, once by Gillis himself, and crowd-surfing on stage and off. It seemed impossible that these shenanigans didn’t result in more sound problems than they did. Gillis added several new jams to his previously stellar array of mash-ups, including a remix of Peter, Bjorn and John’s Let’s Call It Off, making PB&J and Harry Potter the most recurring references throughout the day. Sadly, all things must end, and in this case, it ended quickly with security and local police clearing the place with determination, surely with the thought of preparing for Day Two fresh in their minds.

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