After two tiring days of standing, milling, and shuffling around in the sun and paying $5 for glorified Dixie cups of High Life, not to mention two short nights of little sleep, it was a miracle we made it to the Block Party on Sunday prior to the festivities getting underway.
The first order of business was to check out Harlem, who kicked off the final day’s Main Stage lineup at 2:00. When we got to there, it was three of them on stage, one playing a short-scaled Mustang bass, another on guitar, and a third sitting behind the biggest kick drum I’d ever seen and wearing a peppermint striped Porky Pig shirt. After a song the guitarist and drummer switched places, with Porky Pig taking over the guitar and vocal duties for the rest of the set. Harlem plays eccentric, carefree indie rock with a garage-y psychedelic edge and elevated by beautiful spot-on vocal harmonies. They were comfortable on stage and in front of the Sunday afternoon crowd, openly discussing between themselves and with the audience which songs they should play. As their set was wrapping up they played “Psychedelic Tits,” which my friend claims they introduced as “Psychedelic in the South of France.” This was one of the songs I had remembered liking after checking out their MySpace, and it sounded even better live. They played another equally good song to close out the set and bid Block Party adieu. Thumbs up for Harlem. They were a perfect band to see early in the afternoon to reinvigorate our senses and make us realize we still had a lot of good music to see.
After taking a lap up and down Pike Street, we headed back to the Main Stage for The Maldives, who were set to come on at 2:45. Anybody at all concerned with the country/folk goings on around Seattle should be familiar with The Maldives by now. The Ballard based alt-country collective has been frequenting venues around the city with regularity as of late, and they never fail to disappoint. They didn’t at Block Party either, and I have to admit I wasn’t especially excited to see them play, probably due to the fact that I was already familiar with their live show. They sounded great though and I was disappointed when, after two or three songs, front man Jason Dodson announced they would only be playing one more. What I didn’t know was that the last song would be an extended, jammed-out version of “Blood Relations.” The entire 15 minutes or so that it seemed like they were playing blew me away, and the guitar ripping and interplay during the jammier portions was thoroughly kickass and reminded me how great this band is.
More time killing was done after The Maldives before we stopped to watch a bit of Mad Rad from afar. We stayed for a solid minute or two during which we heard nothing but “Fuck you! This is how we do!” yelled over and over again, so we decided to make our way over to the Vera Stage to see Ravenna Woods, who were scheduled to go on at 4:15. Ravenna Woods is a custom-made three-piece band with lead man Chris Cunningham playing acoustic guitar, usually sitting down due to his complex and speedy style of fingerpicking, while Matt Badger played the drums standing up and adding in some xylophone at times. Ravenna Woods is worth seeing solely for the uniqueness of their setup and Cunningham’s style of guitar playing; there were more people packed in front of the tiny Vera Stage than I had seen all weekend. Their music consists of emotional lyrics and repeated, stop and start changes of pace as Cunningham alternates between furiously fast finger picking and playing chords and singing. They were happy to be playing Block Party and were a great band to see at the more intimate Vera Stage.
Now it’s time for the home stretch as the afternoon sun on Capitol Hill is starting to hint at evening time. Ahead I’ll be making my way from Grand Archives at the Vera Stage, to THEESatisfaction in the Bean Room, then down to the Main Stage to catch the Blue Scholars and get in prime position for Sunday’s headliner the Dead Weather who I’m ready to be blown away by. Jack White and Alison Mosshart might finally be the ones to rile the crowd to the point of bringing down precariously perched and overcrowded balcony to the right of the stage. Let’s hope for everything but that.