by Ian Robinson and Jacob Webb
Dam-Funk – 2:15 – Main Stage
It’s a shame that Dam-Funk, the champion of modern west-coast electro-funk, had to get caught in traffic and was forced to shorten his set, but it’s not at all surprising how smoothly he handled it. Getting started close to half-an-hour after his set was scheduled to begin, Dam-Funk (pronounced “dame funk”) kicked off the jams before his keyboardist/bassist was even ready, bringing some incredibly funky jams to the sleepy Sunday crowd gathered at the main stage. By the time the full band was ready and the group transitioned into their hit “Hood Pass Intact” a sizable crowd extending back to the beer garden had appeared out of nowhere and was ready to boogie. Despite playing an incredibly shortened set, Dam-Funk did not fail to disappoint, giving the audience a giant pick-me-up and closing with a rendition of “Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me Girl),” complete with his own lyrics updated for 21st century heartbreaks.
Cloud Nothings – 3:30 – Main Stage
Despite a sparse crowd and (perhaps appropriately) cloudy weather, Cloud Nothings stole the show on Sunday afternoon. Even after playing a set at Barboza only a few hours earlier, the band still had plenty of energy, which was no doubt assisted by the small mosh occurring at the front of the stage. The Steve Albini-produced Attack On Memory sounds even better live, and as the band tore through most of the album, it was clear that the relatively few people who were there were already confirmed members of the church of Dylan Baldi, screaming the Cleveland songwriter’s lyrics at the top of their lungs as they bounced around the pit. No band at Block Party came close to matching the band’s furious intensity, and if it wasn’t for their abrupt set ending, their show may have gone down alongside their rain-drenched Pitchfork Music Festival set as one of the summer’s defining moments.
The Lumineers – 4:50 – Main Stage
In what was personally the most surprising show of the festival for me, The Lumineers put on an incredibly intimate performance, using their indie-folk sound to calm down a swarm of pissed off Seattleites standing around me who were upset by the sudden influx of people. Despite enjoying the show as “standing sardines,” as one particularly bitter woman next to me noted, it was hard not to be affected by the comfortable and familiar sounds. While my biggest problem with The Lumineers has been my inability to find anything that significantly distinguishes them from any of the other million indie-folk revivalists around today, all my snobby critiques seemed stupid and irrelevant during their set, and I too eventually joined in the (very restricted movement) handclaps along with everyone else.
Kris Orlowski – 5:00 – Vera Stage
Singer-songwriter Kris Orlowski may have had the unfortunate circumstance of being scheduled against the Lumineers, but the audience that did show up was mostly composed of people who were seemingly only at Block Party to see him play. (Not many artists on the Vera stage had audiences who actually called out requests for older songs, only to have them performed impromptu.) Orlowski may have not brought his usual backing string quartet, but his live band was more than an acceptable substitute, and beyond pleasing the faithful, Orlowski probably gained a few fans too.
Phantogram – 6:10 – Main Stage
Despite a nearly 15-minute delay to the start of their set, Phantogram made the most of their time onstage, and gave one of the festival’s biggest crowds a fitting ending to the weekend for those unable to make Neko Case’s show. The New York-duo cut through a handful of new tunes and tracks from their two releases (although, sadly, there was no mention of their Big Boi collab), with the biggest cheers given to the songs from last year’s Nightlife EP. Having a live drummer adds a lot of punch to their songs, and combined with a heavier emphasis on Josh Carter’s guitar, the electronic sounds on their records took on a hip-hop feel on Sunday night. Regardless of genre, their show was far removed from the nighttime sounds of their records. Instead, it was a bumping party that is only going to get bigger by the next time Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter come to Seattle.
Neko Case – 7:45 – Main Stage
When considering the party-starting antics of the two other Block Party headliners this weekend, it becomes more and more apparent that Neko Case was an odd choice to close out the festival. Her music is generally not built for outdoor festivals (something she noted multiple times throughout her set), she was missing longtime onstage foil Kelly Hogan, and it was cold and windy throughout her generally dancing-free set. Despite seeming out of place Case made the most of the situation though, and as she tore through cuts from her now fifteen-year deep catalogue, the audience lingered on her every move (and her one-of-a-kind stage banter about hallucinogenic cupcakes.) Her voice remains as stunning as ever, and for the devoted crowd that stuck around after Phantogram’s monster of a show, there was probably no better way to close out the weekend.