Every summer, the crowds pack into Pike street between Broadway and 12th to throw a party unlike any other. Capitol Hill Block Party is a tried and true block party, rocking the streets until 12:30 in the morning, showering them in confetti, and giving both attendees and nearby Capitol Hill apartment dwellers a show to remember for months to come. This year is no different! Check the KEXP blog for coverage of the full weekend’s experience!
The second day at my first Capitol Hill Block Party could not have been more sublime. Friendly faces, stellar shows, and free KIND bars greeted my baggy eyes as I passed through the main gates. I spent the majority of my time shuttling myself between the Vera and Main Stages, whose large crowds made me feel the familiar camaraderie that filled me up all of yesterday!
The Vera Stage’s first show kicked off to a rocky start as feedback blared through the speakers. Otieno Terry played right on through the volume adjustments until he and his band’s comfortable vibe shown through like the sun they kept singing about! Together, the soul singers persuaded the tiny early-bird crowd to sway to the sweet movements of the beautiful band behind them. The group topped off sets of slightly-dissonant chord progressions with nothing but familiar melodies. This contrast created an inspiring tension that drew our attention to the stories unfolding from Terry’s lyricism.
Halfway through the performance, he decided to give up the lead to the stunning Ariana DeBoo, whose voice seemed to draw from the soul singers of R&B’s past. As her vocals grew in volume, the band followed in suit. Depuy’s voice remained rooted in the wailing guitar and bass and, by the time Terry joined in to the melody, the audience was teeming with excitement. Every break in the music provided a canvas on which we painted our appreciation for the performance unfolding in front of us. All the while, the drums kept us a dancing until Ariana led the band in a funky, rhythmic rendition of Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” to close out the set.
California DJ, Kamtin Mohager screamed into the mic to greet us with a warm and welcoming, “What’s up, Seattle?!” After that, he only got more excited as he and the rest of The Chain Gang of 1974 put on a performance that the undersized Vera Stage couldn’t manage to contain. From their first word to their last breath, The Chain Gang made the most of the energy contained within the early attending audience.
Despite their cohesive sound, the band never played one song like another. As the musical styles shifted through the set, Mohager switched instruments to build a unique sound for each and every song. The music became progressively more up-beat and, as the sun blazed down on us, the crowd moved in encouragement – dancing in response to every kick, snare and electronic drum beat. Mohager’s musical talent, along with his wacky demeanor, kept us and the rest of the band highly entertained.
After taking a short nap next to Poolsides’ dreamy performance, I made my way back to the Vera Stage to catch the overly-talented young group, Special Explosion. Bassist Lizzy Costello opened the show by thanking us for coming to their stage since the main stage “stole all [their] people.” With a laugh, the audience moved towards the performers in curiosity as Lizzy’s younger brother, Adam, finished tuning his guitar. Despite his young appearance, Andy made us feel like we were watching an old soul spell out his emotions carefully through painstaking lyrics and an uproarious guitar. In moments of deep focus, he would turn his back to us, building off the energy of the band behind him. Throughout the set, Lizzie would look at the rest of the band with a sense of satisfaction.
The three other members did much more than just hold up the frontman, Lizzy’s bass never failed to bring us back into the music after Andy would take his time tuning and snapchatting us between songs. Guitarist Sébastien Deramat, meanwhile added volumes of intricate arpeggios to pierce through Andy’s ever-blending guitar. The drums played constantly as Jacob Whinihan ticked and tacked between songs. His creative beats kept the set moving as the band prolonged their song breaks to interact with us as much as possible. They thanked us profusely throughout the entire set. With just five songs, Explosion never lost their momentum as they caused us to laugh, dance, and sing along.
We clapped as the blonde-hair bombshell approached the mic. Katie Kate opened her mouth and words began to overflow. Two sets of drums and a digital audio workstation provided the beat on which Kate ebbed and flowed. She and her DJ pumped us up with a series of chants, choruses, and creatively timed shouts! Though she spoke nicely during breaks between songs, Kate’s rapping voice made her sound meaner than a junkyard dog with four sucking pups! Yet, as her voice rang out during the choruses, we couldn’t’ help but be enamored by the awesomely confident figure dancing behind the microphone.
“Look at how many people there are!” she yelled with excitement as she introduced herself as a resident of Seattle. The filled street screamed in response as one percussionist switched to her bass guitar. The set’s sound relied heavily on the contrast between digital and analog tones as, when the DJ entered the mix, Katie Kate’s voice grew in intensity. To prepare for the finale, she picked up a Stratocaster to change up the sound. Her saturated solos above the pop-y bass-line allowed us to easily follow her commands to dance. We continued to move as the last song began – the catchy chorus quickly dropping into a Nikki Minaj-like verse whose intensity matched the two distinct drum-lines. Between rap articulations and choral vocalizations, Katie Kate surprised us with her fluid changes in rhythm at every twist and turn!
After being infected by Katie Kate’s rhythm and poetry, I headed over to the main stage to experience SOL. Today, Seattle native and rapper extraordinaire returned to CHBP 3 years since his band’s inaugural performance at this very festival! He opened with a number featuring the Washington Middle School band, representing the idea and twitter movement of what makes Seattle a #CreativeCity. As the kids’ horns and reeds blared, SOL and his band entered the stage – dancing along with us to the amazingly talented group of young musicians both in the pit and above our heads.
A natural performer, SOL effortlessly interacted with the crowd. We followed his movements as he led us in song, dance, and celebration. He seemed to represent every class and culture when he explained the many ways that music has changed his life. As he removed his sunglasses and stared out into the crowd, he connected with every audience member who raised their head to greet his gaze. Alongside him were his friends: members of his band, residents of his city, and guest stars like Shaprece. Together they led us in chants that would eventually become crowd-sung choruses. Every moment of the performance was soaked in nostalgia and pride as the members of SOL’s band danced around the stage and smiled gleefully in amazement. As he stated in his verse, “This is so much more than 16 bars,” this is SOL’s city and we’re so proud of him.
Reverberating throughout the street, Nicole Miglis’ voice eased me into another unforgettable performance from the Florida indie group, Hundred Waters. This soothing sound looped beneath the band while Miglis added an intoxicating array of lyrics. The last few words of each line became warped and distorted by various effects as they became a symphony all on their own.
The amount of activity in the music enticed our ears and kept us impressed and intrigued. The culmination of each band member’s digital instruments left us not knowing what else to expect besides an all-around pleasant experience. The addition of a beat quickly drew a crowd as our bodies depended on its deep-rooted connection to the multiple bass-lines. Miglis’ vocal range eventually overpowered the effect-ridden microphone – creating a unique tone that could only be caused by the speakers’ constant clipping. As in their studio performances, not one part of the band took precedence over another. Instead, the instruments combined into a single unit – the ever-present bass molding together the music across all octaves and levels of intensity. Despite no particular sound standing out from the others, each band member continuously showcased their individual talent. From Paul Giese’s and Trayer Tryon’s multi-instrumental solos to Miglis’ amazingly diverse vocal range, nothing seemed to challenge this quality quartet! Their music increasingly intensified before ending all at once, together in silence as synchronously as they performed.
I waited around the Vera Stage for Pillar Point, the self-proclaimed vintage-based group “from right down the road.” As they began their set late, I didn’t even realize they had started playing – the combination of Scott Reitherman and his band’s synths on the stage fitting so perfectly into the vibe of the sunset-lit street. Reitherman took turns playing the various instruments in front of him while the other two band members rocked along with us. Simple progressions built up a crystalizing collection of dance-worthy pop songs.
Occasionally, he would look at us out from underneath his thick-rimmed glasses when he wasn’t too busy closing his eyes or smiling at his bandmates. Scott’s fellow synth player attacked the persistent beat as his set of disco sounds travelled from his machine towards our welcoming ears. All the while, the drummer’s break beats continually coerced our aching joints - begging them to move just a while longer until Point’s gracious finale.
Strobe lights flashed and distortion covered the stage in a blanket of noise. Loud and on-point, The Thermals played with a simple three-person setup: Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster, and Westin Glass – the newest member of the three piece lo-fi rock group (replacing the late, Joel Burrows in 2008). Harris’ vocals caught our ear as they introduced a series of powerful bass-lines and abrupt guitar solos. His energy flowed through the rest of the band as they looked at one another during each member’s turn in the limelight.
The band took turns engaging the audience – forcing us to clap, dance or do whatever we could to match the excitement teeming from the stage. Since they rarely stopped playing in-between songs, we were forced to cheer whenever we could. Following each section of intensity, the ever-enlarging crowd added to the growing levels of energy. Eventually, the tension between the performers and the attendees became too great for Hutch to handle! Just 15 minutes in, he jumped into the arms of the audience – mangling his guitar setup in the process. While he plugged in his electrical-taped replacement, Foster smiled at our cheers and said, “I’m glad you guys still like rock and roll!” As the sweat dripped from their brows, the band encouraged us to dance to their final song. The Thermals ended their set as abruptly as it began – despite our quickly-fading chants for an encore.