Capitol Hill Block Party 2011: Friday

I took a fairly mellow approach to the first day of the 2011 Capitol Hill Block Party. With the rainy and cool gloom of the past couple weeks finally dispelled, it was a good day to wander about with a friend, enjoy the sunshine, and casually catch a few songs at the various stages. And the Block Party delivered appropriately summery music from bands such as Fresh Espresso, BOAT, and Craft Spells.

Fresh Espresso—photo by Dave Lichterman

Fresh Espresso seemed very aptly named, getting the afternoon started on the main stage with a little kick of good times. Their DJ and live drummer combo sounded great, and the rappers were rousing.

BOAT—photo by Dave Lichterman

Over at the Vera stage, BOAT were playing good pop rock for a summery day.

Wandering back by the main stage, I wondered who was playing the really good Southern-tinged art rock I was hearing. I checked the schedule and it was Kurt Vile and the Violators, a band I’ve definitely heard before but not paid much attention to. Clearly I need to pay more attention.

Thurston Moore—photo by Dave Lichterman

I stuck around the main stage after Kurt Vile to see Thurston Moore, one of the artists I’d been really looking forward to. With a backing band including violin, harp, acoustic guitar, and drums, Moore played a mostly sedate set of songs in one of two tempos, mellow or nervous. The music could be described as minimalist post-punk art rock; it rewards listening for the little differences and subtle details. And Moore is hardly an easy-listening crooner; he and the band ended the set by breaking down into a short burst of freestyle noise.

Craft Spells—photo by Philip LaRose

Thurston Moore’s set ended much too soon, so I headed back to the Vera stage and caught Craft Spells. I didn’t recognize the band by name, but hearing particular songs—in this case “Party Talk” and “After the Moment”—made me say “oh, these guys!” Their ringing guitars and breezy tunes were perfect for the late afternoon.

I stepped into Neumos briefly to hear the start of Yuck‘s hard-edged rock set. Although it promised to be good, it wasn’t fitting my mood, and I also felt it was too stuffy and steamy (if it’s possible to be both) inside, so I headed back outside just in time for Ghostland Observatory.

Ghostland Observatory—photo by Jim Bennett

With the sun down and the evening cooling off, Ghostland Observatory kept things warm with their laser-powered dance party music. They generally kept things upbeat with their agitated disco, but took time for a long slow sexy jam in the middle of the set, too. Singles such as “Move with Your Lover”, “Piano Man”, and “Heavy Heart” were sprinkled about the set, and the audience roared with appreciation, but nothing was anticipated as much as “Sad Sad City”, which they saved to almost the end. It was great to hear it, and yet I think I actually enjoyed more the pretty stomping techno song they played for an encore. In any case, it was a great ending to the first day.

photo by Dave Lichterman

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