Though the weather doesn’t want to admit it, it’s that time of year again — for long, beer-soaked summer nights and sweaty, over-capacity music festivals. If you’re living in Seattle, there’s no question which of these you’re most excited for this year: the 2011 Capitol Hill Block Party boasts one of the fest’s best lineups to date, hosting over 70 of the best bands in the Northwest and otherwise. The amount of music, added onto the obscenely low ticket price (by today’s standards) makes CPBH a must-attend for any music lover. Oh, and did we mention that it helps raise money for local businesses (including The Vera Project and a funny little station called KEXP)?
The Party goes down this weekend, starting Friday the 22nd and continuing through Sunday the 24th. 3-day ticket holders will face a bevy of nigh-impossible decisions: The Head and the Heart, Fucked Up, or Shad? Austra or Best Coast? Cults or Ra Ra Riot? Baths or TV on the Radio? Battles or Tacocat? All-ages attendees will already have most of their decisions made for them, but for the rest of you, read on.
FRIDAY, JULY 22
The Vera Stage kicks off the weekend with a hodgepodge of local acts gracing their stage, opening with one-two punch of Gravebabies and BOAT, two young Seattle bands that are clawing their way into the music scene. The latter recently popped by the KEXP studios for an in-studio session that showcased their danceable garage rock. Meanwhile, the Main Stage plays host to acclaimed Seattle rap duo Fresh Espresso (featuring P Smoov also of Mad Rad), who’ll bring the beats and get the crowd grooving before Sonic Youth‘s Thurston Moore takes over at 6:15.
If Moore’s solo schtick doesn’t suit your fancy, be sure to stick around for Ra Ra Riot, Wes Miles’ troupe of eloquent folk-poppers who’ll rock out on strings and guitars alike. Of course, if you’re not in the mood to gawk at the sexiest cellist alive (Alexandra Lawn), and provided you’re 21, you can head over to the Neumo’s Stage to catch the 60’s pop throwback outfit Cults. Hot off their acclaimed debut, the Manhattan duo will croon and sway and possibly even break a sweat, with hits like “Go Outside” and “You Know What I Mean” causing the Neumo’s floor to bounce.
Speaking of bouncing, the post-Cults double whammy of Canada’s best hardcore export Fucked Up and London’s noise rock aficionados Yuck is going to be insane. Either one of those bands can throw a mosh pit that’ll destroy your knees for the day, and stacking one after the other is a little more than cruel. If the flying elbows and bloody noses get to be too much for your delicate, plaid sensibilities, there’s always new Seattle love-children The Head and the Heart, who’ll rollick the Main Stage at 9:15 to a surely overpacked street – get there early or watch from the beer garden. Closing the night is another duo, the glam’d out electro-rock/new wave fusion Ghostland Observatory, a Northwest favorite despite their Austin origins. Get your dancin’ shoes on, because these synths will melt your eyes down your cheeks.
SATURDAY, JULY 23
Saturday begins with local hip hop favorites Champagne Champagne, who’ll rock a hopefully-sunny Main Stage as early as 2:15. The trio of two MC’s and one producer are known for their onstage antics, including walking on the crowd and climbing virtually everything they can. If that’s less your style, show up at 3:30 for the melancholic acoustic rock of another local artist, Fences, renowned for his aching, rasping vocals, best shown on his self-titled debut that was produced by Sara Quin (of Tegan & Sara). Stick around for Handsome Furs at 6, whose synth-powered new album Sound Kapital will ensure an exhausted, sweaty dance party.
7:30 finds Best Coast cooling off the crowd on the Main Stage, but if her stoner-rock isn’t your fancy, head on over to Neumo’s at 7:45 to catch more electronic jams, this time in the form of the operatic goth synthpop trio Austra, performing in support of their acclaimed debut Feel it Break. Of course, if you do, you’ll chance missing the phenomenal chillwaver Teen Daze, crashing the Vera Stage at 8:15. His debut EP Four More Years was a stunning blend of cascading synth pads and thudding beats that call to mind waves washing up on a beach.
Following Teen Daze are fellow chillwavers Beat Connection, featured live on KEXP earlier this year. Between these two back-to-back surf-psychedelic artists, it’d be astonishing if fans didn’t start showing up in swimsuits. Closing out the Vera Stage at 10:45 is one-man dance party Baths, who turned Chop Suey into a glitch-tastic pseudo-rave back in March. But if you’re a traditionalist, the Main Stage features the closing one-two punch of Les Savy Fav and TV On the Radio, both critically acclaimed indie rock bands with phenomenal stage presence and catalogs to kill for.
SUNDAY, JULY 24
Opening the Main Stage at 2:30 on the final day are the blues-rock duo My Goodness, a pair of KEXP live performance graduates who lean towards The Black Keys in their rawest form. Over at Neumo’s, there’s the always-entertaining Lisa Dank at 2:15, which is probably the earliest she’s ever played. Expect an interesting turnout. At 4:15 on the same stage are local folk-rock act Campfire OK, who’ve been riding the Pac-Northwest hype wave pretty hard of late (though not as hard as their fellows The Head and the Heart).
4:50 sees the Main Stage play host to Battles, newly invigorated from the loss of their lead singer and touring in support of their new full-length Gloss Drop. Expect a lot of keyboard squiggles. Following Battles are Seattle stalwarts The Cave Singers, the indie rockers who rose from the ashes of seminal art-punk group Pretty Girls Make Graves (who in turn have their roots in The Murder City Devils). If neither of those bands go hard enough for you, run on over to Cha Cha for a blistering half-hour set by electro-thrash act The Pharmacy at 7:45.
If you’re lusting after a Campfire OK/Head and the Heart substitute for the evening, look no further than Grand Hallway, the massive orchestral chamber pop band who’ll be closing out the Vera Stage at 7:30. The band was founded by Tomo Nakayama, formerly of Asahi and Jen Wood, and also features members of Voyager One and local favorite Sleepy Eyes of Death. The swirling strings and shout-along choruses should be more than enough to ring an end to the festival, but the party doesn’t end there. Post-rock legends Explosions in the Sky will crescendo the Main Stage from 7:45 until 9, riffing until your brain melts and you flee to the Neumo’s Stage closing party, which features glam-rappers Mad Rad and a DJ set by Beat Connection, among others. That side of the party will run until 1:30 – just enough time to stumble home and sober up before work!