review by Chris Estey
May life richly bless David Meinert. Fortunately the Block Party shaman, guru, co-organizer, etc., was there when the gates were due to open and the lines forming were getting agitated for pretty much no reason. He took care of the situation, imposing order diplomatically, de-escalating frantic business owners and customers, and setting up the second day of the Stranger’s annual Capitol Hill Block Party with class and optimism. From that moment forward, nothing seemed completely out of hand, and mostly good vibes were shared by all. My first show was seeing singer-songwriter Kristen Ward play out live on the KEXP-sponsored and broadcasted Neumo’s stage at 2 PM, and her whiskey-kissed anthems of romantic entanglements getting the boot and the lust for the road were a joyful musical start for my day. I really need to check out her two albums, especially if stage-sharing Kevin Suggs is playing pedal steel on them as well as with her live, because his wailing notes are pure gold. The rest of the band were no slouches either, putting in a rugged rhythm to some very polished tunes. Great combination. After that, I caught the Cave Singers mellowing out and massaging the crowd beneath the moody weather, and the sweetness and loveliness was evinced on every level. Though someone commented behind me that “all the songs sounded the same,” this consistency in the band’s unusual combination of raw honey back porch harmonizing by Pete Quirk with the steady, minimalist insistence of his guitarist and percussionist didn’t once fail to move the rest of the crowd.
Right after this, I watched Ari Spool get hit in the face with pies at the cost of five dollars for reasons I didn’t catch before catching a long, beloved set by southside hip-hoppers The Physics. They repeated for me the essence of the show I’d seen when they opened for Cancer Rising (hey! Cancer Rising! Why didn’t you play this weekend?) of taking the home-made love of rhyme and drenching it in the details of every day Seattle life. Probably the least high maintenance hip-hop band we have in Seattle (and almost as charming as the more pop-based TSK). While I was mingling, I got to meet Kip from Tell All Your Friends publicity and he turned me on to the band he’s working The Dodos, who I fell madly in love with. (Thanks, Kip!) In the VIP area, D. Vox and Sonic Smith from Thee Emergency were hanging back and chatting up with the crowd, and people with such proclivities played the free Guitar Hero games provided, drank up on the free beer AND WHISKEY SHOTS! and got flirted with by the cigarette promotion girls in leather boots.
I hit the King Cobra next to see the Whore Moans make a wacky mix of old school punks and beleaguered festival goers go crazy. A large crusty punk fan told me “these guys are perfect proficient punk” and I couldn’t quite understand what that meant but maybe you do. Philadelphia’s own The Loved Ones followed, and part of me really wants to love their infectious hook-filled sunny punk catchiness, and part of me wants to wish hardcore never hit the OC. But they wear it well, and the bits of Johnny Cash and The Clash in there don’t hurt at all.
A while later, I caught See Me River, The Weirdlords, and Triumph of Lethargy Skinned Alive to Death (whew!) in the glittering, decadent basement of the beautiful Cha Cha Lounge and was able to go out on some very high notes for this year’s Block Party. In the interest of discretion, I will admit to being See Me River’s co-publicist (with the lovely Ashley of Wig PR), but Eric Grandy and Jonathan Zwickel were there and they seemed to enjoy the band too. People who were fans of lead singer-guitarist Kerry Zettel’s previous band, Das Llamas, seemed very pleased at his new work. The Weirdlords were awesome, blending thrash, space rock, the apocalypse bop, SST sludge, Voivod intricacy, Krautrock flare gun bursts, et al. It was messy and mesmerizing and beautiful, with gnarled power bass played by a backwoods-killer lead man type (whose name might be… Filthsnake?) and drummed clipped metal-disco mercilessly by a small blond woman completely covered in tats. Wow. My final show of the night was Triumph of Lethargy, who I have seen many times, but had no idea how much better they’ve gotten. I’ve always loved them (since their first release, a seven inch of Leonard Cohen covers) for the female drummer-driven, noise-threnody madness Spencer and Joel and their chaotic art-music terrorist cell create, but somehow they have found a batch of amazing songs to put in the mix as well. Performance after performance of catchy choruses with perfect experimental accompaniment have me drooling in wait for their next album. Soon, please!
I left the Block Party then, after catching a few songs by The Hold Steady and getting squeezed mercilessly by its worshipful audience. “The Zeus Is Close” was written on the Weirdlords’ lead singer-bass player’s stomach, and with that energy going out over the crowd as THS played, I felt like he prophesied the whole weekend in a brilliant time loop.