Capitol Hill Block Party 2015 Sunday brought two things: rain and totally incredible music, and both in plentiful volume. But hey, this is Seattle right? Naturally, everyone has a jacket in their back seat/pocket and nothing about the festival seems to be missed under grey skies. The drop in temperature and the insane amount of great performances were both something to write home about, especially those with home town roots. Father John Misty played the main stage later in the evening to a massive crowd, showing off his incredible character study in excess and leaving no one unconvinced. Over on the Vera Stage, Chastity Belt helped break the sun through the clouds with an incredible set that only sees them growing more comfortable with ever increasing crowds. Rising local rapper Porter Ray played a packed house at Neumos in the early evening that blasted down the street with the doors closed. And while they aren’t from Seattle, Baltimore act Lower Dens sure made us feel at home with a rainy set of impeccably good new wave in the grey afternoon. All in all, Capitol Hill Block Party weekend finished up with every facet of the beloved festival showing its stripes – another year of magic down for the books.
As the heaviest of the day’s rain fell, a Northface-heavy crowd packed out the Vera stage for an appearance by Baltimore post-punk act Lower Dens. This year, the band released their second LP for Domino Recordings (and third overall) Escape From Evil, and it’s a doozy. Building on the post-punk and krautrock foundation of Nootropics, Escape dives headlong into new wave and does incredible stuff with it. As the crowd witnessed today, Lower Dens like to keep as much of their textured sound live as possible. As the band blast through insane bass lines and jangling guitar, Jana Hunter holds an almost Ian Curtis-like command over her crowd and her performance, never needing to shuffle feet from her planted position, but communicating 100% of the emotion of every track with simple hand motions and a commanding power over her own range. Lower Dens broke through the heavy rain and warmed the crowd up wonderfully – a set absolutely worth getting soaked for.
As per the usual, at CHBP on Sunday, Red Bull Sound Select takes over Neumos to promote a series of carefully selected local acts that we all already know and love to death. Packing a huge crowd into Neumos on Sunday evening was Sub Pop signee Porter Ray, who brought JusMoni and his full crew out for a lively performance. Porter Ray is still yet to drop an official release of Sub Pop, but judging by his ever improving live presence and command over his mixtape back catalogue (including the great Fundamentals), I doubt it will be long before we see him just headlong into the fold. As per the usual, JusMoni adds the perfect sung counterbalance to Ray’s cool raps. Meanwhile, his DJ and two onstage hype men keep the party going as he focuses on delivery perfection. Porter Ray is still settling into his sound and his stage persona, but it won’t be long before he’s ready to take on the big leagues. Until then, he’ll have a packed out house in Seattle whenever he wants it.
As the rain cleared up at the Vera stage, a huge crowd turned out for Seattle’s rising indie darlings Chastity Belt. The band’s March LP Time To Go Home has put the band on a much larger playing field, gaining global acclaim and taking the band from tongue in cheek jokes to heavy-handed social commentary on their own neighborhood. Today’s show played fairly well into the band’s rapidly evolving onstage dynamic. As time goes on, it seems like lead singer Julia Shapiro is sharing more and more duties evenly with lead guitarist Lydia Lund, whose live aura only grows more electric by the day. With the two trading the frontwoman spot back and forth, not a single song goes by without a newfound spark. The stark irony tracks like “Cool Slut” and “IDC” are given a fair counterpoint with “Time To Go Home” and “Joke”. All around, it’s evident that Chastity Belt aren’t having too many growing pains in their rapid rise to acclaim. Plus, check out that Sleepless in Seattle shirt – pretty much boosts them to hero status without question.
Before RATATAT closed the book on Capitol Hill Block Party 2015 with bang, Father John Misty did his damnedest to deface as many pages as possible within the confines of an hour long set. Yes, his new album I Love You, Honeybear does tend to take the character he introduced on Fear Fun and give him some development, space work, and attainable context, but that doesn’t mean that the FJM we see on stage needs to do any of that shit. No, Josh Tillman’s alter-ego is still one of the funnest, most polarizing live acts you’ll see in recent years. It’s been several years since Father John Misty has taken the live stage at CHBP, and even in the few years he’s been away, Tillman recounts his experiences on Capitol Hill with incredible and unnerving sarcasm. He peers over the crowd and points. “I used to puke over there… and there”, he mumbles to himself, “This is one fucked up neighborhood”. For “Bored In The USA”, he decries RATATAT then forgets half his lyrics. For “True Affection”, he seems more distant and pop-ridden than ever. Father John Misty is a lovely mess of intentional paradox. He’s a blast to watch because Tillman just doesn’t let up, ever. I can’t think of a more fun way to wrap up the day before RATATAT came along to destroy what was left of the stage.
Father John Misty:
Check back to the KEXP blog for coverage of other bands from this year’s Capitol Hill Block Party experience!