Capitol Hill Block Party got started with a bang last night. Too many incredible options to count, this year’s festival has already been one for the books. Check out the first half of our photo coverage from day 1 below:
Seattle indie rock band Telekinesis help build great energy on the main stage early in the day. This year, Michael Benjamin Lerner has three records under his belt as Telekinesis. Released in April, new LP, Dormarion, brings us more of the same strong song-writing and catchy pop melodies we’ve come to expect from this Lerner. Leading the band behind a drum set, Lerner steered the band’s stage energy with ease. His band fed off of his eclectic presence really well, and as his set went on, numbers at the main stage steadily grew – a successful afternoon act if there ever was one.
Over on the Vera Stage, up-and-coming Nashville guitar god William Tyler played arguably the most Zen set of the day. “I’ve been driving 500 miles a day for like a week”, Tyler said, opening his set with a smile. The road is intertwined into Tyler’s music. His solo guitar expositions are an emotional rollercoaster of traveling blues. Using a guitar looper and all types of noise and reverb effects, Tyler kept busy up on the stage, though he almost never looked up from the guitar. Playing some excellent cuts from new Merge Records LP, Impossible Truth, Tyler had the audience captivated in a road-ready conviction. As the set closed, the consensus was obvious on the faces of everyone present – very difficult to find anything to complain about.
Next up on the Vera stage was Waxahatchee, the divine solo project by Allison Crutchfield. Crutchfield’s new record Cerulean Salt hit the shelves with some incredible reviews earlier this year. Her melancholy songs of personal exegesis and relational development are all channeled through a melodic garage rock that puts her in her own category. Together with a drummer, Waxahatchee’s live set was a delight. Crutchfield’s careful attention to simple detail and delicate grasp on her own material was as convincing as any great performer hopes to be. With the end of each song, a wry smile on the corner of her mouth formed as it seemed like a wave of euphoria swept over her. It’s fun to get to see artists who resonate so heavily with their own material. But Crutchfield didn’t stick to Waxahatchee material alone – she also pulled out a great cover of “Knocking on Heaven’s Door”. Altogether, Waxahatchee was a joyful addition to the Capitol Hill Block Party event this year.
Seattle based Hardly Art band Grave Babies must be working hard to maintain their status as the city’s best kept secret, because it’s ridiculous that these guys haven’t blown up yet. It might be their publicized aesthetic – album artwork tends to be spooky (pig heads on sticks and the like) and their demeanor is gothic to the core. But take all presumptions away and see a Grave Babies show and you will truly find what they are all about: excellent songwriting and more than excellent performance. As the booming industrial drum beats clang and the distorted, echoing guitar fills the room, Danny Wahlfeldt steps to the microphone and lets an animalistic howl rip through the air. Though the level of noise and raw energy may distract you up front, Grave Babies are all about songwriting and harmony between distinct, disjoint parts, and they do it incredibly well. Together with a wickedly good job done by the Neumos lighting team, this Grave Babies show was one of the best yet.
Portland psych rock band STRFKR just keep getting better. Hard to believe it has already been two years since the excellent Reptilians came out, but thankfully, this year, the band gave us an even better record with Miracle Mile. The synth melodies herein are as powerful and commanding as any of the best pop groups out there. Problem is (as it always is with the indie scene), their list of opportunities to play for a massive group of people is pretty short. So this year, finally, STRFKR takes the second to last spot on the main stage at Capitol Hill Block Party and gets the attention they deserve. The band was on their A game Friday night, pulling out all the stops for one of their most interactive and visually enticing events yet. By the time they got to their all time classic “Rawnald Gregory Erickson the Second”, the place was madness. Hopefully, tonight’s performance will begin an ongoing trend of STRFKR getting the attention they deserve.
Closing out the night on the main stage was the closer of all closers: Pittsburgh mashup pioneer Girl Talk. Say what you will about prerecorded sets or laptops or art and what isn’t art - no one at Capitol Hill Block Party cares. Greg Gillis began and ended his Seattle set the same way he always does: with a bang so loud and so intense that you don’t really even know what to do with it. The list of mashups could go on forever - Kanye vs. Marilyn Manson, Daft Punk vs. Michael Jackson, Basement Jaxx vs. Waka Flocka Flame, and many, many more. Gillis actually stayed incredibly distant from his released list of material, only pulling from the mashups we know from his stellar records All Day, Feed The Animals, and Night Ripper on occasion. Most of these were fresh as the new day. In typical tradition, the stage was decorated with dozens of happy people, metric tons of confetti and toilet paper, and enough sweat to fill the Pudget Sound. Things weren’t much different in the pit. Well intentioned crowd crush, endless cheering and screaming, and the occasional dancing to your favorite hip hop beat in ten second intervals all abounded. An hour into his set, Gillis cut the music and stood on his table. “Can we keep going, Seattle?” he screamed across the chasm of people. There wasn’t much of a choice - you either get on Greg Gillis’s level or you don’t. All day.
For those with an ounce or two of energy left after the Girl Talk set, Pennsylvania avante-garde songwriter Daughn Gibson closed out Friday night at Neumos with all of his usual finesse and oddity. Gibson is one of the newest members of the Sub Pop family, just releasing new album Me Moan last month. Gibson’s combination of country western, trip hop, electronica, and shoegaze is one of the most refreshingly shocking offerings you can find right now. He is unlike anything else out there (really), and if you can wrap your head around that, Gibson’s tunes are a rewarding and delightful bunch. It was fun to see the production-heavy Me Moan translate to the live setting with a full band. Last time Gibson swung around town, he was opening for Yeasayer at the Neptune and relied more heavily on a backing track. But this time around, a three piece setup made Gibson’s tracks come alive live nothing else. Introducing his guitarist as “Big Jim and the Twins” and drummer “Reefer”, Gibson and the band brought the house down. “Kissing on the Blacktop” showed off some brilliant steel guitar work that could have had its own set altogether. Just goes to show, Daughn Gibson could wow you within the social standard if he wanted to, but he wants to freak you out, and that’s a good thing.
Catch more Capitol Hill Block Party coverage tomorrow!!!