by Ian Robinson and Jacob Webb
Absolute Monarchs – 2:15 – Main Stage
Describing noise rock duo Lightning Bolt’s noon set at an installment of All Tomorrow’s Parties, Steve Albini said their loud thrashing was “the best alarm clock I’ve ever had.” It’s likely that the sleepier residents of Capitol Hill had a similar feeling about Absolute Monarchs‘ early afternoon set. Only stopping to take a breath in between songs, Absolute Monarchs’ booming set was like a freight train to the main stage audience, hitting every person with the full force that comes with two blistering guitars, thundering bass, pounding drums, and Joel Schneider’s throat shredding howl. It was a welcome return for a band that made their debut at Block Party two years earlier.
Nude Pop – 3:00 – Vera Stage
Sometimes a band disregards all aspects of a theatrical stage presence and lets their music do the work for them to put on an incredible show. This seemed to be the case for Spokane’s Nude Pop, who absolutely lived up to the hype of the local press. Formerly known simply as Nude, this year’s winners of the Sound Off! competition killed their afternoon set at the Vera stage yesterday with their familiar yet original sound, balancing whispery, screeching vocals (think Thom Yorke as a starry eyed twenty-something) with swirling post-punk guitars dancing intricately amongst one another. Be sure to download Nude Pop’s new single, released yesterday, here.
Beat Connection – 4:45 – Main Stage
Seattle’s own Beat Connection offered up what turned out to be the most crowded main stage performance of the festival up to that point yesterday afternoon, bringing out guest vocalists and a horn section to beef up their funky electro-pop sound. Outfitted in a bunch of really cool shirts, the Seattle duo and friends completely turned around the energy after an interesting but somewhat trying set by Spoek Mathambo, turning reluctant head-bobbing into full fledged dancing throughout the audience.
Twin Shadow – 6:00 – Main Stage
If you’ve seen either of the two most recent Twin Shadow videos you know frontman George Lewis Jr. is somewhat of a bad ass. He carried his larger than life personality (contained neatly in his too-cool-for-school persona) onstage in what was likely to be one of the best performances of the entire festival. Playing songs from his new critically acclaimed album Confess as well as his debut album Forget, Lewis gave a live energy to his 80’s pop ballads that both invigorated the crowd and proved he’s not just a studio musician with some cool clothes. Be sure to catch Twin Shadow for a live KEXP in-studio session August 13.
Grimes – 7:30 – Main Stage
I personally always think it’s cool when a musician helps set up their own equipment, and even cooler when a musician has trouble doing so and proceeds to get embarrassed in front a large crowd screaming in anticipation. Thanks to some help from a friendly stage technician, Grimes was quickly able to get all her synths in order and launch into an incredibly powerful set. Accompanied by producer and friend Blood Diamonds, the 24-year-old Canadian improvised hits from her most recent album Visions, turning the crowd into an instant dance party and crowd surfing frenzy. It was the first time the main stage bouncers seemed to have anything to do besides harass festival goers with water guns.
Lemolo – 8:30 – Vera Stage
“We used to play here in Capitol Hill for $5 in tips,” said Lemolo singer Meagan Grandall. “So this is really incredible.” Drawing the day’s biggest crowd at the Vera Stage, Lemolo were one of the few bands on the Vera whose audience knew most of their lyrics. Currently one of Seattle’s buzziest bands, the duo are quickly learning how to play to bigger crowds who will pay more than $5 to see them. In addition to their adoring crowd, their set was bolstered by having one of the day’s best sound mixes, which lends itself well to their shimmering, atmosphere-heavy songs. Charismatic and glowing, it was clear on Saturday night that Lemolo were enthralled to be at Block Party, and if they keep the momentum they have at the moment, they’ll be on the Main Stage very, very soon.
Aesop Rock with DJ Sonic and Big Wiz – 9:00 – Main Stage
Before the release of Skelethon earlier this month, Aesop Rock hadn’t released an album in five years, but on Saturday night, he confirmed his comeback. Tearing through most of Skelethon with Rob Sonic and the technically impressive DJ Wiz, Aesop’s set was light on the gimmicks and heavy on pure showmanship. His stage banter was sharp and his crowd interactions were engaging (he’s probably going to be the only act at Block Party to give an audience member a haircut.) Combined with El-P’s successes with Killer Mike and his latest solo album, it’s been a red-letter year for former Def Jux members.
Major Lazer – 10:45 – Main Stage
Aspiring DJs, take notes. Now that Major Lazer has essentially become “Diplo and friends”, he’s taken his show to a new level. Where Diplo (the DJ) for an effortless cool, never breaking a sweat, Diplo (in Major Lazer) is a full-on party animal, often outpacing the crowd in terms of energy spent. (How many other DJs crowdsurf during their own show?) Much like Fitz and the Tantrums’ headline set on Friday night, it was an unforgettable party that carried on well beyond the end of their set.