Once again, Capitol Hill Block Party has come to a close. In the dark of the night, the cleaning crew will hit the devastated block on Pine between 12th and Broadway and by the morning, you won’t even know there was a festival there at all. But for those of us lucky enough to make it out to Sunday’s festivities, there will be plenty of pictures and memories to solidify the experience for years to come.
Playing perhaps the biggest set of the weekend, Oklahoma psych-rock band The Flaming Lips devastated the main stage in its final hour. As Frightened Rabbit’s set came to a close, the mood on stage changed very rapidly. The setup crew (which, as always, contained the Lips themselves) brought out endless amounts chrome spheres and tubing and lights and bigger lights and doohickeys until the stage had transformed into a universe all unto itself. The chromed out amplifiers and speakers and boxes all matched the dystopian singularity of the Lips highly conceptual new record The Terror. Lips fans will notice that very, very little of the band’s long-adored live setup was present. No massive human hamster ball and no lazer hands and no camera looking up Wayne’s nose. Even the band’s attire had changed to a more deathly, chrome approach (minus Michael Ivins, of course, who wore his atypically chill t-shirt, sunglasses, and Russian cap). For this tour, everything has been switched out to make for a more stylized performance. But in typical Lips fashion, nothing about the change seemed to hinder how excellent their show was.
As setup finished and the band re-entered, they started in on “Look… the Sun is Rising” to massive applause. The pulsing, beating heart of the static and the powerful mixture of atonal texture was a jarring experience for a couple new listeners in the audience, but the surprise quickly turned to intrigue and anticipation. Following with the title track of the new record, copious amounts of black confetti poured into the streets – the sky looked like it was raining ash. While equally cool, it was quite a bit of a change from the typical rainbow color scheme. But after drawing the crowd into their wild anxiety and animal energy with the first two tracks, Stephen picked up his guitar and ripped out the hook to “The W.A.N.D.” from At War With The Mystics - one of the Lips’ more danceable numbers. From here, it was a wonderful balancing act, showing that even with a more somber record dealing with the concept of mortality, the Flaming Lips’ consistent message to better the human race through peace and love and the understanding that life goes fast will never leave. The band bounced through records, playing “Silver Trembling Hands” from Embryonic, “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21” and “All We Have Is Now” from Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, and “Race For The Prize” from The Soft Bulletin. In the center of their set, they played a surprise treat cover of Devo’s Freedom of Choice classic “Gates of Steel”. After playing through more than half of the new record, the Lips encored with their ultimate piece of mantra “Do You Realize??”, which as usual, was met with massive crowd participation and a wave of love from everyone around. The Flaming Lips couldn’t have been a more perfect capper to this year’s Block Party main stage.
The Flaming Lips:
For those with any energy left at all, Block Party’s festivities concluded with the Red Bull Sound Select at Neumos. For those who RSVP’d beforehand, a last treat was in place with a show from 18 Individual Eyes, Pure Bathing Culture, and Dirty Projectors.
Portland indie dream pop act Pure Bathing Culture were a laid back delight. If you haven’t taken the plunge on this band yet, you should. Sarah Versprille’s voice is heavenly – it’s no surprise that they were chosen to cover Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” for Mojo Magazine’s Rumours Revisited. Her counterpart Daniel Hindman plays a smooth guitar and writes arrangements that pull from the best of downtempo 70s. Helping close a busy weekend off, Pure Bathing Culture gave us all a luscious, mellow experience before Dirty Projectors hit the stage.
Pure Bathing Culture:
Finally, the house was beyond packed and the night was at its pinnacle – Dirty Projectors were here to close out this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party. David and Amber and the gang waylaid the stage with a bass-heavy collection of their eclectic tunes. As always, the contrast between the high, melodious voices and David’s bombastic lead was surprising and delightful. It’s pretty incredible to see the band pull off arrangements as intricate as theirs on stage in front of an unforgivingly loud crowd. But the noise was a non-factor - Dirty Projectors were up to the task. Never a forgettable performance, they closed out this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party in the fullest possible form.